Book Review: The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden

28 Mar

Book cover: The Gates of Rome (Emperor 1)Genre: Historical fiction

Series: Emperor #1

Publisher: Dell Books

Pub date: Feb 2004

Source: Personal copy

The Gates of Rome is the first novel in the Emperor series. The four-book series is a fictionalized account of Gaius Julius Caesar – his life, philosophy, the general, the son, the husband.

I had just watched the HBO series Spartacus: Blood and Sand and close on the heels of that heard about this series by Conn Iggulden. Ancient Rome is another obsession for me, so there was no doubt I was going to try this series.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

As young Gaius and Marcus are trained in the art of combat–under the tutelage of one of Rome’s most fearsome gladiators–Rome itself is being rocked by the art of treachery and ambition, caught in a tug-of-war as two rival generals, Marius and Sulla, push the empire toward civil war. For Marcus, a bloody campaign in Greece will become a young soldier’s proving ground. For Gaius, the equally deadly infighting of the Roman Senate will be the battlefield where he hones his courage and skill. And for both, the love of an extraordinary slave girl will be an honor each will covet but only one will win.

The two friends are forced to walk different paths, and by the time they meet again everything will have changed. Both will have known love, loss, and violence. And the land where they were once innocent will be thrust into the grip of bitter conflict–a conflict that will set Roman against Roman…and put their friendship to the ultimate test.


The Roman Republic was in a state of turmoil with slave uprisings and civil wars at the time that Julius Caesar was a young boy. The struggle for power was brutal and bloody and dirty fight to the death. As a young man, Julius gets to observe the jostling for power up close.

The story of Julius Caesar itself is very well known, so I was not really expecting to be surprised by the outcome or where he lands up through the series. But Iggulden adds just enough colour and excitement that takes you along on a thrilling journey. The characters who are around Julius Caesar are also interesting and eccentric and add to the story. The story deals with the lives of the politicians and generals as well as the slaves.

In this retelling of the life of the first Roman Emperor, Marcus (Brutus) and Gaius (Julius Caesar) grow up together on Gaius’ father’s estate. Marcus is an orphan while Gauis is the son of a Senator and a rich man. These two best friends are trained by a legendary gladiator and grow into competent warriors. But during a civil revolt, Gaius’ father is killed, and he is forced has to leave his estate in the able hands of Tubruk the estate manager and go Rome. There he joins his uncle Marius, a very powerful man who has managed to get elected to the council multiple times.

While Marcus joins the Legion and is sent to Greece, Julius is caught in the political struggle between his uncle and his powerful rival, Sulla.

From what I can tell, the personal details of Cesar’s life, characterizations and events themselves are in no way accurate, but the life and times and socio-political details seem to be true to history.


Very satisfying read. If you’re squeamish about blood and violence, this is not the book for you. If accurate history is what you want, you will definitely not enjoy this book/series.

Read for a fictionalized account of a very famous historic figure and for a look at the life and times of the powerful and others in ancient Rome.

I will definitely be reading the second book of the series as soon as I can get to it.

Rating: 4*

*See my Rating policy

Do you agree with my review, or do you think I’m way off? Just want to say hi? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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3 Responses to “Book Review: The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden”

  1. Man of la Book March 30, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    This looks like a great book. I’ve read several history books about Julius Caesar and the era (my favorite was Caesar’s Legion by Stephen Dando-Collins) and this one looks like an entertaining companion.

    • stargazerpuj March 31, 2011 at 7:12 am #

      I enjoyed it. But I did come across many reviews where people were angry about the liberties the author has taken with history!


  1. Historical Fiction Challenge 2011 Wrap-up « Stargazerpuj's Book Blog - December 27, 2011

    […] The Gates of Rome (Emperor #1) by Conn Iggulden […]

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