Synopses & Reviews
Having no personal commitment to either of the new consuls,, Gaius Julius Caesar and his sons simply tacked themselves onto the procession which started nearest to their own house, the procession of the senior consul, Marcus Minucius Rufus. Both consuls lived on the Palatine, but the house of the junior consul, Spurius Postumius Albinus, was in a more fashionable area. Rumor had it Albinus's debts were escalating dizzily, no surprise; such was the price of becoming consul.
Not that Gains Julius Caesar was worried about the heavy burden of debt incurred while ascending the political ladder; nor, it seemed likely, would his sons ever need to worry on that score. It was four hundred years since a Julius-had sat in the consul's ivory curule chair, four hundred years since a Julius had been able to scrape up that kind of money. The Julian ancestry was so stellar, so august, that opportunities to fill the family coffers had passed the succeeding generations by, and as each century finished, the family of Julius had found itself ever poorer. Consul? Impossible! Praetor, next magistracy down the ladder from consul? Impossible! No, a safe and humble backbencher's niche in the Senate was the inheritance of a Julius these days, including that branch of the. family called Caesar because of their luxuriantly thick hair.
So the toga which Gaius Julius Caesar's body servant draped about his left shoulder, wrapped about his frame, hung about his left arm, was the plain white toga of a man who had never aspired to the ivory curule chair of high office. Only his dark red shoes, his iron senator's ring, and the five-inch-wide purple stripe on the right shoulder of his tunicdistinguished his garb from that of his sons, Sextus and Gaius, who wore ordinary shoes, their seal rings only, and a thin purple knight's stripe on their tunics.
Even though dawn had not yet broken, there were little ceremonies to usher in the day. A short prayer and an offering of a salt cake at the shrine to the gods of the house in the atrium, and then, when the servant on door duty called out that he could see the torches coming down the hill, a reverence to Janus Patulcius, the god who permitted safe opening of a door.
Father and sons passed out into the narrow cobbled alley, there to separate . While the two young men joined the ranks of the knights who preceded the new senior consul, Gaius Julius Caesar himself waited until Marcus Minucius Rufus passed by with his lictors, then slid in among the ranks of the, senators who followed him.
It was Marcia who murmured a reverence to Janus Clu-sivius, the god who presided over the closing of a door, Marcia who dismissed the yawning servants to other duties.The men gone, she could see to her own little expedition.Where were the girls? A laugh gave her the answer, comingfrom the cramped' little sitting room the girls called theirown; and there they sat, her daughters, the two Julias, break-fasting on bread thinly smeared with honey. How lovelythey were!
It had always been said that every Julia ever born was a treasure, for the Julias had the rare and fortunate gift ofmaking their men happy. And these two young Julias bade fair to keep up the family tradition.
Julia Major -- called Julia -- was almost eighteen. Tall and possessed of grave dignity, she had pale, bronzy-tawny hair pulled back into a bun on the nape of her neck,and her wide grey eyes surveyed her world seriously, yet placidly. A restful and intellectual Julia, this one.
Julia Minor -- called Julilla -- was half past sixteen. The last child of her parents' marriage, she hadn't really been a welcome addition until she became old enough to enchant her softhearted mother and father as well as her three older siblings. She was honey-colored. Skin, hair, eyes, each a I mellow gradation of amber. Of course it had been Julilla who laughed. Julilla laughed at everything. A restless and unintellectual Julia, this one.
"Ready, girls?" asked their mother.
They crammed the rest of their sticky bread into their mouths, wiggled their fingers daintily through a bowl of water and then a cloth, and followed Marcia out of the room.
"It's chilly," said their mother, plucking warm woolen cloaks from the arms of a servant. Stodgy, unglamorous cloaks.
Both girls looked disappointed, but knew better than to protest; they endured being wrapped up like caterpillars into cocoons, only their faces showing amid fawn folds of homespun; Identically swaddled herself, Marcia formed up her little, convoy of daughters and servant escort, and led it through the door into the street.
They had lived in this modest house on the lower Germalus of the Palatine since Father Sextus had bestowed it upon his younger son, Gaius, together with five hundred iugera of good land between Bovillae and Aricia -- a sufficient endowment to ensure that Gaius and his family would have the wherewithal to maintain a seat in the Senate. But not, alas, the wherewithal to climb the rungs of the cursus honorum, the ladder of honor leading up to the praetorship and consulship.
Father Sextushad had two sons and not been able to bear parting with one; a rather selfish decision, since it meant his property -already dwindled because he too had had a sentimental sire and a younger brother who also had to be provided for-was of necessity split between Sextus, his elder son, and Gaius, his younger son. It had meant that neither of his sons could attempt the cursus honorum, be praetor and consul.
Brother Sextus had not been as sentimental as Father Sextus; just as well! He and his wife, Popillia, had produced three sons, an intolerable burden for a senatorial family. So he had summoned up the necessary steel to part with his eldest...
With astounding narrative power, Colleen Mccullough--author of the internationally acclaimed #1 bestseller "The Thorn Birds"--sweeps the reader into the whirlpool of pageantry, passion, splendor, chaos and earth-shattering upheaval that was ancient Rome.
When the world cowered before the legions of Rome, two extraordinary men dreamed of personal glory: the military genius and wealthy rural "upstart" Marius, and Sulla, penniless and debauched but of aristocratic birth. Men of exceptional vision, courage, cunning, and ruthless ambition, separately they faced the insurmountable opposition of powerful, vindictive foes. Yet allied they could answer the treachery of rivals, lovers, enemy generals, and senatorial vipers with intricate and merciless machinations of their own -- to achieve in the end a bloody and splendid foretold destiny ... and win the most coveted honor the Republic could bestow.
About the Author
Colleen McCullough is the author of The Thorn Birds, Tim, An Indecent Obsession, A Creed for the Third Millennium, The Ladies of Missalonghi, The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortune's Favorites, Caesar's Women, Caesar, and other novels. She lives with her husband on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.