Series: Vespasian 9
My version: Hardback
Genre: Historical Fiction, Rome, Vespasian, the four Emperors
Publisher: Atlantic Books Ltd
First published: 2019
From the cover:
AD68. Vespasian is tasked with the impossible. Should he quell the revolt in Judea, as Nero the Emperor has instructed, or must he resort to the unthinkable and sabotage his own campaign? If his conquest succeeds, he risks becoming the sole object of the mad Emperor’s jealousy. If he fails, then his punishment will be severe. The fate of his men and his beloved son, Titus, all hang in the balance.
But unknown to Vespasian, Nero has committed suicide, catapulting Rome into political turmoil. Sabinus, Vespasian’s brother, is caught between the warring factions of Aulus Vitellius, a cruel opportunist, and the noble Marcus Salvius Otho, who finds himself severely outnumbered. Seeing no aid on the horizon, Sabinus must rely on wit, and wit alone, to ensure the safety of his family.
With a contested throne and an army at his disposal, now may finally be Vespasian’s time – to ascend, to conquer, to achieve what countless prophecies have foretold and take control of Rome itself. Will Vespasian, at long last, the the one to wear the purple?
Well, as you may know, it is time to say goodbye to Vespasian. We knew it was coming (!), but in all the weaving and wefting of his life and Rome, we kind of didn’t notice that he wasn’t getting any younger. And neither was Magnus. To be suddenly confronted with it then, is more than a little sobering. And, well, if you’re anything like me, you begin to look at your own life and realise, it ain’t gonna go on forever.
Here, it’s as though Vespasian almost ‘grows a pair.’ He’s never been one, as you know, to shy away from a fight, however, without a sword, a plan of attack and Magnus at his back, the devious depths of Roman politics has had him hiding in the corners, letting others get their heads chopped off. Lately, he has come round to thinking he ‘really should do something,’ and as this book goes on, that turns into a ‘why not me? Why not?!’ This is, of course, helped by his ‘rivals’ (though at the time neither he nor they knew they were rivals), beating each other up all over the empire, until there is a general feeling that even the Romans have had enough. Suddenly, being out in the Middle East backwaters is looking a very fortuitous decision indeed. This is also the time to get the final piece out of the prophecy that has plagued Vespasian since he was very, very young. Fortunately for Vespasian and us, Sabinus relents and confesses all.
I did have a bit of a feeling of dread all the way through, every time Domitian appeared or was mentioned. I, like many I guess, thought no matter how fair and principled Vespasian was, it was all going to go to hell in a handcart. However, I really should have what I have read popped up since I finished the book, that Domitian wasn’t the crazy imbecile we/I’ve thought him to be. See here: “After his death, Domitian’s memory was condemned to oblivion by the Roman Senate, while senatorial authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Suetonius propagated the view of Domitian as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Modern revisionists instead have characterized Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat whose cultural, economic, and political programs provided the foundation of the peaceful second century.” If I’d read that before I read the book, I would have looked at it in a much different way.