David Blixt did a masterful job with word pictures of Rome and the Romans in a troubled period. I agreed to review this fine book for a blog tour although it is not my usual epoch to read. What a surprise and a delight to find characters who leapt off the page and engaged my imagination. My three years of high school Latin and Junior Classical League also served me in good stead, although I surely learned things about Nero that Miss Cooper never shared with us.
Nero's suicide threw the Empire into the first Civil War in just about 100 years, surely the result of his erratic and despotic rule, which prompted many Senators to declare him an enemy of the State. Enter Galba, then Otho and finally Vitellius who was a disaster. Each of them had their supporters, regions and Legions to back them, albeit briefly. The gens Vespasia which Blixt embodies as not one but three men named Titus Flavius Sabinus, I,II and III, emerges from this unrest as a steadfast family who serve the Empire well.
The book begins with the younger brother of Titus Flavius Sabinus the eldest being named as general of the war in Judea. Several Christian executions such as Symeon ben Jonah, Marcus and Saul of Tarsus also feature prominently in the opening chapters and their remaining friends and family appear throughout in sympathetic fashion. Cultures begin to mesh together in a time of civil unrest
Eventful and sometimes brutal events transpire throughout the telling of this tale which is not always my preferred choice of novels but such were the times. Ritual suicide, which surprised me to read of was explained by the Roman belief of a "good death" being as important as a life well lived.
The family Vespasian had it's ups and downs but remained essentially true to one another, with the possible exception of Sabinus Major who had a serious case of sibling envy. The book closes with Vespasian being chosen as Emperor by the Senate in December 69 after being declared by the armies in Egypt and Judea in July of that year. This family prevailed and ruled the Roman Empire until 96 AD.
For more about David and his novels, visit www.davidblixt.com.