The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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yes, this is exactly as rambling as it looks
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
During my increasingly driven episodes of life not work, I've been re-reading The Masters of Rome series, aka Gaius Marius right through seconds before Octavius becomes Augustus. And I continue to marvel about Gaius Julius Mary Sue Caesar and how very much I don't care because he is just that damn awesome.

ETA: In my defense, this kinda got away from me with the lists. Just for the record.



Gaius Julius Caesar Mary Sue

It occurred to me, however, during my reading of Fortune's Favorites (Book Three, Caesar Is Old Enough to Get Laid and Kill Enemies of Rome and Be Accused of Trading His Ass For Lots of Warships) that at least part of the reason the Mary Sue is hidden is that Caesar is both the most consistent characterwise, but he's also everyone that hates him hates him because he's too perfect in every way, a universal genius who....dum dum dum:

1.) writes plays and poetry better than writers (Cicero--who hates him--weeps bitterly over something Caesar wrote that's not only better than anything he's done or could ever do, but spends about a paragraph talking about the flawlessly grammatical Latin)

2.) engineers better than engineers (especially shows up in Caesar and The October Horse where there are pages about his revolutionary engineering skills.)

3.) writes laws so utterly perfect that even his enemies spend paragraphs talking about it's flawless subclauses. Work with me here: flawless subclauses. (From Caesar's Women through The October Horse, all his laws are breathtaking.)

4.) is a better lawyer than the advocates (Cicero, Hortensius, et al) (Fortune's Favorites and Caesar's Women mostly, but it comes up again even when he's not lawyering).

5.) is a better orator than the orators (Antonius Orator, Cassus Orator, Cicero)

6.) speaks like, every language ever (there's a page or two that goes into detail on how easily he can understand anyone, anywhere, ever, in Fortune's Favorites, but there's a lot of Caesar abruptly breaking into Aramaic or one of the German or Cimbric dialects or some obscure patois of Greek or Hebrew, Pisidian). Wait, he actually says he doesn't speak Persian once. Pretty sure he fixed that one evening when he had some free time.

7.) reads at a glance (this is apparently a thing of awe; like the size of Caesar's cock, it comes up regularly)

8.) also, right, has the biggest cock in Rome (competition with Antonius)

9.) can get any woman to fall madly in love with him, commit adultery, and then break her heart (every woman in Rome and possibly most of the Mediterranean world)

10.) is always immaculately dressed and clean

11.) doesn't drink wine and doesn't overindulge in food

12.) is a better horseman than the cavalry officers.

13.) is the best general ever born or will ever be born.

14.) is utterly, perfectly charming.

15.) is flawlessly beautiful.

16.) writes breathtakingly fascinating commentaries from Gaul about his war against the people there so good everyone not only reads it, his enemies are first in line to buy the new editions (seriously).

17.) is the best lover ever (Explicit text.)

18.) he is totes not homosexual (and boy does she nail that in) but he thinks being gay is fine and shouldn't be penalized or criminalized because it destroys careers (see The October Horse and the chat with Octavius, where Caesar is very explicit about how not wrong it is but Octavius can't indulge in it or he will enver be consul, it's fascinating how hard Colleen worked combining "It's okay to be you" with "but do not do it or you will be ruined forever").

19.) descended from the gods.

20.) the highest born and member of the oldest family in Rome.

21.) actually is worshipped as a god in parts of the world before his death (textual, there are statues to his godhead and in Egypt they think he's the manifestation of Orsiris on earth).

22.) becomes a god after his death (a Roman god, that is. As well as Egyptian.)

23.) as a teenager, he singlehandedly gets King Nicomedes a.) to give him all the ships he needs for some battle or other and b.) to will Rome the entire kingdom of Bithynia when he dies childless (Nicomedes is in love with him. *sighs* Of course.)

24.) Mithridates Nyssa, daughter of Mithridates, wife of the satrap of Cyprus and sister of Cleopatra Tryphena who is the mother of Cleopatra the Pharaoh, gives up her virginity to him and falls in love with him in like, a week. This is only significant because....

25.) Cleopatra, last Pharaoh of Egypt, her niece, also falls desperately in love with him, offers up her virginity to him (explict text, not kidding), thinks he is a god, and marries him (by Egyptian law), which leads to...

26.) The goddamn Egyptian priests immediately think he's wonderful and take him to see the Super Secret Treasure that no one ever sees or can touch but the Pharaoh.

27.) He loves women for their minds and their personalities. And for being an actual blood relative or a surrogate relative.

Okay, my hand hurts now, so we'll stop here instead of going into his unprecedented and amazing work ethic, how little sleep he needed, how he was the most awesome Pontifex Maximus ever, his brilliant sense of humor, his prodigal musical talents, and how his consolation letters to people when someone in their family dies are flawlessly comforting and brilliantly written and how Rome almost destroyed itself at Caesar's death and how his murders became hysterical when they realized they killed him and ran away and cried and had hysterics for days in one of the temples. Cried. For. Days. With. Hysterics. And...okay, really stopping.

While that would normally be off-putting, well:
a.) we saw him born and grow up being brilliant and adorable. Tiny adorable Caesar is adorable.

b.) people are so mean to him because they are bitterly jealous (that's text, not implied. Everyone who hates him hates him because they are jealous.)

c.) he is magically all about the equality of all men, he's friends with everyone even if they're not Roman (and learns their language, food, and customs so well he can tell them if their food is prepared correctly. Colleen was very very explicit about how much Caesar admired the Jewish people who lived in Rome and how much they adored him, and then he goes to Egypt and boom, all the Jewish people love him. It's pretty much a theme).

d.) he's not snobbish, elitist, or deliberately conscious of his specialness, but it simply radiates from him like, IDK, fog.

e.) he's consistently loyal and awesome to his friends and family and is always willing to be buddies with an enemy if they'll only just let him (but they are way too jealous, you see. Explicit text. Jealous.)

I do not know why this works. It just does.

Marcus Livius Drusus Mary Sue Minor

The next highest consistent one is Livius Drusus, who even had this entire plot and emotional arc that followed his sudden growth as a person and maturity and brilliance. I'm pretty sure he was Colleen's other crush; once he started Being a Good Man, he was wonderful and perfect and never did a dishonorable thing ever.

a.) generally regarded as the most brilliant young senator around.
b.) best lawyer ever.
c.) utterly brilliant.
d.) flawlessly honorable.
e.) the perfect husband
f.) a protective and proactive brother (part of his personal growth).
g.) doggedly, ruthlessly determined
h.) incorruptibly honest.
i.) great orator
j.) abandons virulent classism and prejudice for A Greater Good
k.) impossibly loyal

(like Caesar, he is murdered for being too awesome. God.)

Others

Pompey is pretty consistent as a giant baby who is very good and everything but not a genius and Public Clodius is pretty consistent in that he's utterly insane, and I do mean insane, so he's not a good comparison. The villains hate Caesar and silently want to be him and it's. Fucking. Weird.

But then there's the rest.

Whiplash: 1.) Antonius in Caesar, The October Horse, and Antony and Cleopatra-like three different very large penised people (this is seriously a character point. Man has a huge dick. So does Caesar, for that matter. Like, from birth. It's mentioned every book. Okay, stopping now). It's goddamn bizarre. 2.) Trebonius abruptly hating Caesar for no reason. 3.) Cicero changes personality like his toga. 4.) Octavius is weird. 5.) Okay, to be fair, Marius had a whole bunch of strokes before he went from Awesome Man Who is Awesome to Let Us Paint Rome With Blood, Literally. 6.) Sulla was--why did anyone like him?. 7.) Brutus and Cassius are downright freaky; on one hand, honorable men, on another, locking people in houses and burning them alive for not paying back their loans on time. 8.) Decimus Brutus--apparently had a brain transplant between Caesar and October Horse.

Roman nobleman in general serious breaks with both personality and reality. Which I wonder is actually because of the problem of politics and explaining historical actions that aren't explicable or records of senators doing truly bizarre things and then turning around and being normal and then like, hanging out with Antonius Hybrida (of torturing people to not-death fame) when like, they were crying over their dead fish five pages ago. So not kidding. Crying over pet fish.

(I am not saying fish aren't worth love; I'm saying Hybrida mutilates and tortures people for fun, wtf Rome?)

Women of Rome

In general, they seemed to fare a little better.

Servilia was extremely consistent from The Grass Crown through The October Horse and God was she vicious and ick, but you did get into a groove with her. Most of the women fared very well characterwise. Julia (Marius' wife) is smart, sweet, kind, and resigned to whatever life throws at her, Julilla (Sulla's wife) is crazypants, Julia (Caesar's daughter, Pompey's wife) is smart, sweet, kind, dutiful, and honorable, Marcia (Philippus' daughter, Cato's wife) spends all the books desperately in love with Cato (that's pretty much her entire characterization and you honestly to God have no idea why. I mean, no idea why.), Fulvia (Gracchi granddaughter, Clodius' wife) is brilliant, dramatic, shocking, energetic, devoted, a fan of demagogues, and crazy, and Aurelia (Caesar's mother) is defined by being sensible (we hear about it a lot). Livia Drusa was weirdly half-consistent; The First Man in Rome she hated her husband but then became resigned and found she was happy with him because he may be ugly and stupid and had short legs, but he was faithful and kind and loved her; Grass Crown, apparently the author forgot that entire touching moment of emotional growth and maturity. And her husband abruptly began beating her during sex for no reason I can quite work out.

Porcia was textually insane, so she stayed pretty consistently that throughout.

[So that was a long digression. I swear this was an afterthought to the below bit.]





Currently re-reading Antony and Cleopatra to remind myself there is life outside testing. This book frustrates me, though. No matter how many times I read it, I still am completely shocked that Agrippa isn't all over Octavius like Zeus on Danae. It's wrong; every scene they have together is filled with touching and heartfelt speeches of love of each other and thinking about how wonderful and perfect the other one is and how they're totally not fucking, and Octavius totally isn't into that (except it's mentioned three separate times in this book how the seed (yes, the seed) of that sort of thing is in him for Agrippa, which, well, yeah, who wouldn't?) and then, just to top it off, Livia Drusilla shows up to marry Octavius and they go on about each other in a sickening fashion and then she's thinking about the perfect wonderfulness of Agrippa and right, you don't see him thinking about her like that, just everyone else comments on it pretty consistently.

I mean, holy God, why aren't they all fucking? It's not healthy to live under this amount of sexual tension and someone not have someone bent over a couch or up against a peristyle wall. Octavius, you are fighting Antonius and Pompeius is pirating your grain. GIVE IN ALREADY. You'll feel better!



Okay, it may not seem like it, but I do recommend Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. Each book is very long, and it has a massive cast, and people call each other cocksuckers in Latin in the middle of senatorial debates, which makes it sound very classy and awesome. And lots of random bouts of mass murder. Which makes you seriously wonder how anyone survived to the seventh book.

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I think I kind of want to marry your list of reasons that Masters of Rome!Caesar is a Mary Sue. Because it's so true. And it's never occurred to me that I should care, because I love him to bits. Colleen made me a shameless Caesar fangirl—to the point where reading academic texts criticising his character actually annoys me. *laughs*

I'm thinking I should maybe reread the series too. It's been many years. Hm.

You have an eboook reader?

Also.

Colleen made me a shameless Caesar fangirl—to the point where reading academic texts criticising his character actually annoys me. *laughs*

Oh thank God. I get hostile. I still can't watch the HBO show Rome; I get all "OCTAVIUS WAS NOT LIKE THAT AND OCTAVIA WAS AMAZING" and just. Yeah.

*grins*

I have a Kindle, does that count? :)

I've watched all of Rome, but I've often gone, "DD: WRONG" Octavian, man, totally wrong. Cicero amused me, though! (Mr. Collins!) And Anthony was somewhat similar to the books, which I often found entertaining. When Pompey was introduced to Octavia, I couldn't help remembering the "She shits in the same latrine as a Julian" line and whatnot.

I have them in mobi format if you want them.

Oooh, shiny. Would it be possible for me get copies, as well? My email address is es.helene@yahoo.com.

Yes, exactly! Mr. Helene and I tried to watch Rome together because--well, it's a cable series about Republican Rome, WHY WOULDN'T YOU? But we had to stop after 2 eps because my endlessly patient and longsuffering husband couldn't deal with the amount of yelling I was doing at the screen. Even leaving aside the historical inaccuracies (and I knew going in they would be legion), the characterization was wrong, wrong, wrong. If you like Masters of Rome, that is. I was all "THAT'S NOT CAESAR, OCTAVIUS WASN'T LIKE THAT, WTF ARE YOU DOING TO ANTHONY!!"

I'm so glad someone else shares my unhealthy affection for this series. Colleen McCullough may be partially responsible for my Classical Civilizations minor. Maybe.

What is this Masters of Rome series that you speak of? O.O



7.) reads at a glance

Reading scriptio continua is hella hard.

IMAGINEREADINGTHISWITHNODIFFERENCEBETWEENMINISCULEANDMAJUSCULELETTERSANDNOPUNCTUATIONATALLBETWEENCLAUSESCEASARMUSTHAVEREADALOTTOREADSOMETHINGLIKETHISATAGLANCE

Miniscule letters weren’t invented yet and although there were interpuncts to distinguish words, the greeks dropped them because they liked being forced to read out loud and the romans being grecophiles did the same. To greeks and romans of the era, interpuncts and punctuation were things you put in for children and other barely literate adult poor people.

Oh, I love you. There were a few (weird) attempts at description but I couldn't figure out what she meant. I could not figure out why it was such a big deal. i kept thinking lack of standardization in handwriting or just differences in education or application.

Ooh, Masters of Rome is the seven book (huge book) series covering Gaius Marius and Sulla through the death of Mark Antony. And everyone in the world ever.

The First Man in Rome is the first one. Then The Grass Crown, Fortune's Favorites, Caesar's Women, Caesar, The October Horse and Antony and Cleopatra.

I love these books. I really really hope she at least writes one more so we can see Octavius crowned as Augustus. My life will be complete.

Is the explicit stuff really explicit? Not that it matters, I already know I’ll love it.

OMG. The fact that she knows that people then had no concept of reading silently tells me she did her research. Thank you for the rec.

Only in the parts that require it (mostly war or attacks), and it's not lingered on or glorified or anything.

Man, I loved those books when I was around 11-13 years old. I think I gave The First Man in Rome to, like, three different people in the hope they would read the series and, please god, be able to talk about angsty Roman dudes with me. (Never worked.) And now I'm extremely hazy on them, except that, yes, baby!Julius Caesar was adorable, and also fantastically Gary Stu.

I am now wondering if I should do a reread just to see how bad the whiplash is between these books and I, Claudius. Could be amusing.

Hah, I was just reading bits of Caesar - I reread the entire series every once in a while. I have a sad, sad addiction to them...I'd have to, because no other author could get me to read in-depth arguing about fine points of Roman law. I even wrote Octavian fic for Yuletide last year!

And yes, put me down as another shameless Caesar fangirl.

So, your list of why Caesar is a Mary Sue = not totally historically inaccurate.

Especially that bit about his field notes from Gaul. The Senate opened them up and started reading and were like . . . What? What is this? Who put the LITERATURE in the FIELD NOTES??!!

I mean, my heart is always with Alexander, but I would still do Caesar.

You jsut reminded me I'm on the internet and I can finally look around for them.

The neat part about Caesar was he really was that brilliant. I think that's part of the reason I just love those books ridiculously.

I just re-read his funeral where Rome went crazy. It was amazing. I'm totally with them KILL ALL THE LIBERATORS NOW. It's disconcerting to be affected by mob mentality from literature about someone who died over two thousand years ago. And yet.

I love Master of Rome series. And I feel the same way about Agrippa and Octavius as you do. Even in serious academic text, it sounds like they should be getting it on.

In my heart I know that Agrippa/Octavius/Livia Drusilla totally happened like whoa. A lot.

SO TRUE.

Caesar is such a Mary Sue and I hated that she erased his bisexuality. She handled Sulla better.

Also: she does everything she can to make Brutus despicable, even thoguh Plutarch had a very good oponion on him. But he kills her precious Creator's Pet so he must be evul! Honestly, any Brutus that isn't Shakespeare's is usually a disappointment but Colleen's is the worst.


I'm actually surprised she handles Cato relatively well. Probably because he's a red-haired man.

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