Conn Iggulden’s books are good examples of historical fiction that give you a vivid and compelling insight into the lives of people during that time in history. Iggulden has this knack of being able to transport his readers to the time and setting of his novels. Just like I enjoyed my journey through the Mongolian plains in the brilliant Conqueror series, I loved the vivid imagination and storytelling in Gates of Rome (Emperor #1), as Iggulden takes us on a breathtaking journey through the hallowed streets of Rome.
Against the intriguing backdrop of ancient Rome, two friends, Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus, grow up together in a farm with dreams of battles, fame, and glory. They are taught battle strategy, including reenactment of key battles such as the Punic Wars against Hannibal’s Carthage using figurines. The boys are taken to visit colossal arenas where gladiators are pitted against African lions, before one of Rome’s most fearsome gladiators is recruited to train them in the art of combat. The boys eventually travel to Rome, where they bear witness to a Triumph, a grand religious ceremony that is held to celebrate the success of Rome’s military commanders. With a trip planned to Rome later this year, I cannot wait to visit the Roman Forum and walk along the Via Sacra. (edit: Thanks to the Coronavirus, I don’t see it happening)
While Iggulden paints a great picture of Rome, with many insights into the ways of the people, I never found Emperor as imaginative or captivating as Conqueror, which charts another legendary figure, Genghis Khan’s rise to power. Another beef I had with Emperor, similar to Conqueror, were the historical inaccuracies. With the consensus on Goodreads being that it gets worse as the series progresses, I’m planning to pick up Simon Baker’s Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire (BBC Books) to continue my lessons on Roman history.