After years of fighting on the battlefield, Sertorius returns to the city and family he fought for, to find them far different than he remembered.
Rome, 100 B.C.
The northern menace has been annihilated. Rome has no more foes to conquer, her borders are secure. But the Republic has never been closer to collapsing.
Sertorius has returned to Rome after more than five years of fighting in the north, and Marius has plans for him. Marius has plans for all of Rome, actually. At the height of his power and with the love of the people, Marius is a few political connections away from ruling the Republic. Will the august body of the Senate be enough to stop him?
Corruption, betrayal, and violence spread throughout Rome like a fire in the Subura as Sertorius does everything in his power to maintain the peace within the Republic and within his home.
Even though I knew the Republic was corrupt at the end, this book lays it out in all its shocking manifestations. Our protagonist, Quintus Sertorius, has been raised up to Senatorial rank by Marius despite the illegality of his promotion. Already he feels unmistakable twinges of discomfort, but his loyalty to Marius overwhelms his suspicions. Unfortunately, unlawful—or at best, questionable—activities between Marius and his disreputable friends continue to build up until there is no longer any doubt that they are planning a coup. Sertorius is torn by his loyalty which shreds in proportion to Marius’s obvious mental deterioration; Rome’s famous commander is no longer the man he once was. The Populares—as their political party is called—crossed the line when they resorted to violence to remove a man who threatened to derail their proposed legislation:
I reached for my sword, instinctively, which of course wasn’t there.
When I looked up again, a group of hooded men in tight formation was ascending the steps of the Rostra. Lifted swords glimmered in the sunlight. The tribune-elects were jumping over the edge like sailors on a breached ship.
But Nonius was too late. I caught sight of him as he was swallowed up by glistening swords.
Even then, Sertorius tried to rationalize the murder, trying not to blame it on Marius. But his own self-respect demanded that he assert himself, and Sertorius does his best to rein in the worst excesses of the party he is associated with. But things have gone too far. Rome is tearing itself apart and the mob rules. Murder has become the order of the day. Which disreputable leader will save Rome? We’ll have to read book four to find out. Great reading!