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A series of historical fiction novels by author Colleen McCullough:

  • The First Man in Rome (1990)
  • The Grass Crown (1991)
  • Fortune's Favourites (1993)
  • Caesar's Women (1997)
  • Caesar (1998)
  • The October Horse (2002)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (2007)

Set in Ancient Rome (between 110 BC and 27 BC) this epic seven book series covers the fall of the Roman Republic and ends with the rise of Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus). Noted for their intricate research of Roman life and McCullough's use of Deliberate Values Dissonance with even clearly sympathetic characters. Also sex, quite a lot of it.

While there are hundreds if not thousands of named characters in these books, broadly speaking several major if unrelated story arcs stand out. The first two books are dominated by the friendship and later rivalry between brilliant general Gauis Marius and the icy but brilliant aristocratic Lucius Cornelius Sulla while most of the later works focus on the careers and lives of Pompey, Crassus, Cicero, Cato, Octavian and Mark Antony and above all Gaius Julius Caesar whose pivotal life makes him the central character of the whole story.


Provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts/All Women Are Prudes: Fascinatingly inverted with Brutus and his mother Servilia; one of the (many) reasons Servilia has difficulty comprehending her son is that she has a very strong sex drive while Brutus is naturally prudish and much more sentimental than lustful.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores (Marius' legion)
  • Arranged Marriage (Just about every marriage in the story. Some turn out fairly well, others disastrously; but the only two fathers that allow their children to marry for love are regarded as crazy by everyone else).
  • Author Appeal (McCullough evidently has a thing for fair skinned, blonde and red haired men - Sulla and Caesar are constantly described as being extremely good looking, as to a slightly lesser extent are Pompey, Octavian and even Cato)
  • Badass Bookworm (Bookworm might be pushing it, but Cato is a character who is almost never seen outside a political or social context so it is easy to forget he is an incredibly strong and tough ex-soldier. On one occasion he effortlessly seperates two armed veterans who have come to blows, on another he knocks a far taller, heavily built man unconcious with a single punch breaking his jaw in the process).
    • Caesar is a good example too. People tend to get so focused on his military career they forget he was a brilliant lawyer first.
  • Blondes Are Evil (Gaius Verres)
  • Brainless Beauty (Pompeia Sulla, whose own mother describes her as 'absolutely ravishing' but 'abysmally stupid'.)
  • Break the Cutie (While not technically a cutie, Sulla was always noted as being extremely handsome. Until he gained and lost two hundred pounds, lost all of his teeth, his hair fell out and his face almost got sunburned off. All of this happened in about three months)
  • Broken Bird (Cato is a rare male - and very masculine at that - version.)
  • Bus Crash (The end of Mithridates VI of Pontus is a little disappointing considering his importance and big role in The Grass Crown - not so much his actual death, which is a matter of historical record, but the way we hear about it in a letter).
  • Death by Materialism (Caepio Junior)
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance (Selling your daughter for political pull and cash, murder, crucifixtion, slavery, murder, adultery, murder, arson for profit and of course murder)
  • Depraved Bisexual (Sulla will have sex with anything)
  • Designated Monkey (Marcus Brutus)
  • Doorstopper (seven books, of which the shortest is 576 pages and three are over 1000 pages long. A good example of their length is that it takes 270 pages before Marius and Sulla are even introduced to each other, even though their interaction is the main story in the first book.)
  • Enemy Civil War (from the viewpoint of outsiders the multiple Roman civil wars look like this and they try and take advantage accordingly. It doesn't work.)
  • Eunuchs Are Evil (The Alexandrian palace cabal)
  • Even the Guys Want Him (Both Sulla and Caesar are so beautiful as youths that more than a few male characters openly lust after them)
  • Evil Albino (Sulla has very, very pale skin and very pale eyes)
  • Evil Matriarch (If you thought Servilia was warped on Rome wait till you see the Masters of Rome version)
  • Evil Redhead (Sulla. Cato is also a redhead but while he has an antagonistic role you can't real call him evil.)
  • Face Heel Turn (Marius after his stroke, Pompey after Julia dies)
  • Fiery Redhead (Caesar's Gallic mistress Rhiannon. Subverted by Caesar's actual wife Pompeia Sulla who is a redhead in hair colour but a Dumb Blonde in personality.)
  • Gaius Julius Caesar (The man himself. Born at the end of The First Man in Rome he a appears in every book bar Antony and Cleopatra (set after his death))
  • The Greatest History Never Told (Partially averted; true the series covers the familiar era of Caesar and Octavian but the first three books cover things like the Cimbri invasion and Italian War that are very rarely depicted anywhere else.)
  • Heroes Want Redheads (Caesar's Gallic mistress is a redhead and her magnificent hair is the thing he finds most attractive. On the other hand his own wife Pompeia Sulla is also a stunning redhead and he is completely cold towards her because she's an shallow idiot).
  • Hero Antagonist: It's diffictult to call Vercingetorix or Quintus Poppaedius Silo anything else since they are fighting for their peoples respective freedoms against Roman domination.
  • Historical Domain Character (Nearly all the main and most of the minor characters are real people)
  • Historical Fiction
  • The Horde (The Cimbri and Teutones)
  • Impoverished Patrician (Literally the case with Sulla and to a lesser extent with Caesar)
  • Knight Templar (Cato about conserving the old Roman ways and his hatred of Caesar. There's a good chance that the civil war wouldn't have happened had he not been around. Also Octavian whose determination to see Brutus and Cassius pay pushes Rome into another civil war.)
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Magical Realism (Martha's prophecies and a few other minor aspects)
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin (A deliberate example, Caesar seduces the wives, sisters and in some cases mothers of his opponents)
  • Odd Friendship (The young Pompey and Cicero. Marius and Sulla too in a way.)
  • One Steve Limit (Averted due to historical neccesity - there are are at least three important characters named Gaius Julius Caesar for instance. In the books they are generally distingushed by nickname based on age - 'Caesar Grandfather', 'Caesar' and 'Young Caesar' in this case)
  • Out of Focus (Mithridates, a major pov character in The Grass Crown, is frequently mentioned in the next two books but doesn't appear 'onscreen' again).
  • Prophecies Are Always Right
  • Purple Eyes: Aurelia's remarkable eyes are quite a plot point.
  • Revenge Before Reason (Octavian. After the assassains of Caesar have already been defeated ad killed he is sufficently murderous to have Cato's (totally harmless) best friend killed for the 'crime' of being friends with Caesar's old enemy).
  • The Roman Republic
  • Self-Made Man (Marius, and in a very diffent manner, Cicero)
  • Two Lines, No Waiting (Due to Loads and Loads of Characters and Loads And Loads Of Pages all the books have multiple interweaving storylines)
  • Villain Protagonist (Sulla)
  • Villain with Good Publicity (Octavian is beloved by legionaries because of his charm and resemblance to Caesar and also enchants Cicero amongst others; he is also hideously cold blooded about killing or ruining anyone who gets in his way or tarnishes the legacy of his beloved adopted father.)
    • ("Beloved" because Octavian was using his adopted father's good publicity to promote his own political career in the eyes of the Romans. Anything that would slander Caesar would slander Octavian, as the latter tried to rub himselt with as much Caesarian clout he could think of. Including deifying Caesar and having people call him Divi Filius - Son of God).
  • Wild Card (The oily, yet strangely likable Lucius Marcius Philippus, Rome's most honestly corrupt politician - that is to say anyone can buy him but he stays bought.)
    • His father/grandfather, also Lucius Marcius Philippus is bribed by Marius in the first book, and offers his service for life. He later becomes a political enemy of Marius, which costs him the consulship when Rutilius Rufus points out he should be bound by his bribe a decade previously. Though this might be the same Philippus mentioned above. Most families have only one character kept through the generations.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity (Several. Marius after his stroke seizes Rome and kills most of his friends and enemies. Subverted with Sulla who had perfectly rational reasons for seizing power and killing a whole lot of people.)
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