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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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So, Caesar died today.
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
A part of my adolescence ends sometime tomorrow, when I finish The October Horse by Colleen McCullough, culminating a series that I started reading when I was fourteen years old, picking up a paperback copy of The First Man in Rome at Wal-Mart. I got the last yesterday and am almost finished, with Octavian and Mark Antony joining forces and doing some really icky things to Cicero, proscribing (that concept blows my mind. I can't even wrap my mind around it), and I'm about fifty pages from teh end and it *hurts*. It's the last one.

Christ, that was over half my life ago.

But God, do I remember falling in love with Rome. And with genealogy as my chief hobby, a hobby I've sadly neglected for several years. But yes. Rome. Republican Rome, pre-Augustus, before Nero and Messalina, where the word king was anathema. It's also where I picked up my aversion to certain periods of history, because I didn't want to be *spoiled*. Beat *that* for being spoilerphobic! So today, I know how Cicero died, and yes, I knew how Caesar died, stupid Shakespeare, but now I know the names of all the men that did it. I also learned, in six books, the thousand horrific ways a man can kill another man. Cause whoa, the thing with swallowing hot coals? I just *wish* Shakespeare had imagined it.



Historical fiction is my *thing*, only fantasy beating it in the end, and sometimes not even then. Dead people RPF if you will, though really, being twenty-nine and a slasher now makes my view of all those extremely fit, scantily clad men wandering off to war alone a much brighter one. And slashing Octavius and Agrippa (male) is a very pleasing pasttime.

It's--kind of odd, actually. When we're taught government, at least in Texas, there's a lot of time spent on the Greek model, and Plato, and idealism, waxing eloquent on the United States being the first true heirs to democracy, give or take a little representativeness in our style of government. And Republican Rome wasn't precisely a hotbed of democracy itself, but still. It worked. It worked for a very, very, very long time. Oligarchy is the right word? I'm no expert, but it fascinated me, the combination of democracy among the rich, and how extremely *variating* the rich could be. The horror of the very concept of autocracy and kingship even among the most autocratic of men, making them hiss like the word "Communism" did to my grandfather. I kind of wish we'd covered some of this then, or the facts that there were some other ancient republics in existence before the US.

The books started with the rise of Gaius Marius and ends with the rise of Octavius, almost sixty years of history I read in the course of fifteen years, watching the death throes, messy indeed, of the Republic, and dammit, she stopped here, and I want to see the moment that Octavius became Augustus. The second where an indoctrinated Roman nobleman became an emperor, what changed in him, what made him take that step--hell, what makes anyone take that step. I can read the history, but let's all face a simple fact--novels make history a hell of a lot more fun. Cicero puts me to sleep, Thucydides made me yawn, and I just realized something I'd read, that there weren't, at the time of Caesar, a million publishd books in the world. Catullus was boring, and Homer is better than Ambien. I have no patience for philosophers, because they don't do anything except think, and I have no patience with autocrats, becusae they only *do* and sometimes forget not to behead the messenger, which really makes me look at my Lex writings in a brand new lights, cause man. Yeah.

It also reminds me of a paper I did for Western Civ I, where, armed with as much of the Roman section of the library I could cite, I persuasively argued the death of Gaius Gracchus was the first tremors of the end of the Republic. And I never did cite Colleen McCullough for putting that into my head either. Hmm.

There weren't a million published books in the world.

See, that still stuns me silent.

I'm geting over that. Really, really slowly.

Anyway.

I have complaints--teh characterization, except for Caesar and Marius and maybe Sulla, curiously, variates hugely between novels. I walked out of Caesar with no idea Mark Antony would lose his mind so completely. Yes yes yes, she's working in history, I get that, but give a girl a better transition than Somewaht Loyal Minion With Future Pretenions to Outright Idiocy between books, kay? Cause wow. That was weird. Not to mention Decimus Brutus and Trebonius, and that little bastard made me cry because he was Caesar's friend and turned UltraMurderingAsshole like, on a flick of his sandals. And what the hell happened with Terentia, cause suddenly, she's divorcing all over the place and Dolabella is being a bitch to Tullia after proclaiming his love for her to his friends, and I so wasn't ready for that. My biggest problem with this book was teh fact that it covered a *lot* of events way too fast, unlike her earlier ones, which were far, far better paced. Yes, that's the word. Paced. I didn't even get to really cry over Caesar's death--though I took a moment to stop reading and hurt for his death, so *messy* (also, Brutus, stabbing his cock? Not of the valiant there). Caesar's death? That was a Damned Dramatic Moment, woman. GIVE ME MY PATHOS, DAMMIT. I'VE BEEN READING ABOUT HIM FOR SIX BOOKS, I'VE KNOWN HIM LONGER THAN MOST OF MY FRIENDS, SO I WANT PATHOS!

Other Things on the Oddness of Colleen's Interpretation

1.) She never said it outright, but if she was setting the stage for the Caesars become incesty, whoa doggies, she did a good job. Caesar and Octavius both with their focus on their aunt, sister, mother, or daughter. If there was one thing she emphasized, the boys were kinda hung up on family.

2.) If she was actually saying that Octavius and Agrippa were not fucking like bunnies, she was lying. She *set that up*. Omg the adoring looks! The loyalty! The admiration! The omg he's my best friend and I want everthing for him! Uh huh. And lingering over their physical dissimilarities--Agrippa all big and manly and strapping and hot and Octavius slight and slender and beautiful--she's said this about the poor kid for *three books*--seriously. What am I to do with that, I ask you?

*sighs* I'm so a slasher.

I lvoe my books. I am going out next month and getting them all in hardcover, so this one doens't meet teh same end as the rest--pieces so well read I can recite chapters. God, I'm going to miss this.


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This made me smile - I haven't read the whole series, but I did read First Man in Rome, and I remember reading the one it may be that one) which introduced Caesar's parents - his mother fascinated me in particular, with her intense devotion to practicality and common sense, and her role model Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi. She made Sulla amazingly multi-faceted, with as many bad points as good ones, too.

*nod* She worked a lot to make her characters very *round*. It's refreshing, though sometimes a little jarring. And yes, Aurelia was wonderful.

One of my favorite scenes in the whole series (or what of it I've read, as noted below) is the one where Aurelia comes to Sulla to beg him to cut young Caesar a break and triggers his love of theater so that he starts arranging the petitioners like a choreographer or stage director before getting "back into character" to grant her request.

I used to read that series -- can't recall if The October Horse was as far as I've gotten, and I kept telling myself that what I need is to A) buy the whole series and B) sit down and reread in order before moving on to the last few. Depressing, though, and a large part of why I wasn't too motivated to go hunting up the end of the series was knowing that shit turns out pretty badly -- your saying that it gets rushed doesn't make me any more eager to do so, since that's a peeve of mine when someone spends several thick books building up to something and then rushes the ending.

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