The October Horse

The October Horse

A Novel About Caesar and Cleopatra

Book - 2002
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Baker & Taylor
A novel of the final days of the Roman Republic explores the love affair between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, the assassination of Caesar, and the struggle for power that leads to the rise of the Roman Empire.

Simon and Schuster

In her new book about the men who were instrumental in establishing the Rome of the Emperors, Colleen McCullough tells the story of a famous love affair and a man whose sheer ability could lead to only one end -- assassination.

As The October Horse begins, Gaius Julius Caesar is at the height of his stupendous career. When he becomes embroiled in a civil war between Egypt's King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, he finds himself torn between the fascinations of a remarkable woman and his duty as a Roman. Though he must leave Cleopatra, she remains a force in his life as a lover and as the mother of his only son, who can never inherit Caesar's Roman mantle, and therefore cannot solve his father's greatest dilemma -- who will be Caesar's Roman heir?

A hero to all of Rome except to those among his colleagues who see his dictatorial powers as threats to the democratic system they prize so highly, Caesar is determined not to be worshiped as a god or crowned king, but his unique situation conspires to make it seem otherwise. Swearing to bring him down, Caesar's enemies masquerade as friends and loyal supporters while they plot to destroy him. Among them are his cousin and Master of the Horse, Mark Antony, feral and avaricious, priapic and impulsive; Gaius Trebonius, the nobody, who owes him everything; Gaius Cassius, eaten by jealousy; and the two Brutuses, his cousin Decimus, and Marcus, the son of his mistress Servilia, sad victim of his mother and of his uncle Cato, whose daughter he marries. All are in Caesar's debt, all have been raised to high positions, all are outraged by Caesar's autocracy.

Caesar must die, they decide, for only when he is dead will Rome return to her old ways, her old republican self.

With her extraordinary knowledge of Roman history, Colleen McCullough brings Caesar to life as no one has ever done before and surrounds him with an enormous and vivid cast of historical characters, characters like Cleopatra who call to us from beyond the centuries, for McCullough's genius is to make them live again without losing any of the grandeur that was Rome.

Packed with battles on land and sea, with intrigue, love affairs, and murders, the novel moves with amazing speed toward the assassination itself, and then into the ever more complex and dangerous consequences of that act, in which the very fate of Rome is at stake.

The October Horse is about one of the world's pivotal eras, relating as it does events that have continued to echo even into our own times.

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2002
ISBN: 9780684853314
0684853310
Branch Call Number: FICTION MCCUL...C
Characteristics: 792 pages ; 24 cm

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whitcombs2do
May 22, 2017

I'm tacking this review onto all of the books in McCullough's Masters of Rome series:

I'm interested, in a layman's way, in the history of Rome, so this entire series (books listed below) was riveting for me.

Masters of Rome series:
1. The First Man in Rome (1990) - The narrative begins in 110 B.C. with the story of Gaius Marius.
2. The Grass Crown (1991)
3. Fortune's Favourites (1993)
4. Caesar's Women (1995)
5. Caesar (1999)
6. The October Horse (2002) - Originally intended to be the final book of the series, the narrative carries us through Julius Caesar's death on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., and ends after The Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian (Caesar's great-nephew, and adopted son) and the forces of the tyrannicides Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus.
7. Antony and Cleopatra (2007) - Somehow McCullough was persuaded to add one more book to the series, tying up loose ends, perhaps? Or maybe it was just hard for her to imagine life without The Masters of Rome? I had secretly hoped she'd carry on further into the reign of Augustus.

Julius Caesar appears in each of the first six books. If you're interested in popularized Roman history, this is a treasure. The writing is good, if not quite up to the standard of Robert Graves two volume set "I, Claudius," and "Claudius the God," or Robert Harris' Cicero trilogy. If you have read and enjoyed any of these, however, you MUST read them all - in chronological order, of course. It is particularly interesting that McCullough seems more or less in the Caesar-worshipping camp. He was a prodigy; he was too good at too many things, which in the end had a lot to do with his downfall. But what a magnificent creature he was!

However, Cicero was Caesar's mortal enemy, and Robert Harris' books tell much of the same story as we find in McCullough - from a diametrically opposed point of view.

Be forewarned, these books are packed with lengthy Roman names, so will in some ways read like Russian novels. Hard to keep track of the cast of characters without a program, which the author naturally provides, along with detailed hand-drawn maps, and her own line-drawing fanciful portraits of the principle characters. Not very good drawings, but somehow rather endearing. She was quite a character herself.

P.S. It gets easier to keep the characters straight on the third and fourth readings. Yes, the books are that good ………

ElGuapoLives Mar 30, 2017

All books preceeding this one in the Masters of Rome series seem to be written in a totally different style (far more preferable).

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