Iggulden, Conn. Emperor: The Death of Kings.

NY: Delacorte, 2004.

This is the second volume in this novice author’s quadrilogy about the rise of Julius Caesar, and it has the same fundamental problem as the first one — Iggulden’s willingness to rewrite and pervert the known facts of history for his own convenience. The action here follows the supposed early careers of Gaius Julius and his closest friend, Marcus Brutus (the documented biography of whom Iggulden almost completely ignores), as they go off to posts as junior legionary officers following the death of the Consul Marius and the dictatorship of the Consul Sulla.

Julius was, in fact, captured by pirates, insisted on his ransom being increased beyond what his captors intended, and promised he would pursue them and crucify them when he was released. It’s one of the most fascinating true stories in the early life of a truly key figure in Western history, and Iggulden does a pretty good job of it, showing how Caesar’s magnetic personality developed. I thought perhaps he had learned his lesson from readers’ reactions to the first volume, even though Marcus Brutus continues on a course as a bluff warrior on the frontiers rather than the subtle urban politician he actually was.

And then there appears in the plot a ragged, impoverished ten-year-old boy, little more than a beggar, the thieving son of a deceased money-lender, at a time in the story that would have him born about 85 B.C. — and his name is Octavian. Yep. The future Augustus, great nephew of Julius Caesar and the first real emperor of Rome. Except that the real Octavian was born more than twenty years later and was a member of the lesser nobility. His father was an equestrian who had been governor of Macedonia and his stepfather was the former governor of Syria. He was, in fact, raised by Julius’s sister, Julia — who never appears in the story at all. (Iggulden apparently couldn’t be bothered with her.)

Enough is enough. I came close to flinging this volume against the wall in disgust and outrage, and I greatly resent any author who could cause such a reaction in a book-lover like me. I won’t be reading the third volume, nor will I bother to attempt Iggulden’s later series about Genghis Khan. And I recommend you don’t either.


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