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Conn Iggulden - Emperor

Updated on June 7, 2013

The Emperor Series

The Emperor  series is Conn Iggulden's set of historical novels chronicling the rise and fall (death) of Julius Caesar over a series of the four books: The Gates of Rome, The Death of Kings, The Field of Swords and The Gods of War.

The Gates of Rome introduces us to two young boys, as close as bothers as they grow up just outside of Rome.  Gaius is the son of Julius, a Senator in Rome and Aurelia while Marcus is the adopted, illegitimate son of a prostitute.  The Gates of Rome follows them as they grow up, with Gaius taking his father's place as a Senator after his death and Marcus entering military service in the Fourth Macedonian Legion.

The Death of Kings follows Julius Caesar as he assumes the mantle of leadership and assumes commmand of men in battle.

Having joined the Roman navy, Caesar serves as an officer on The Accipiter. Lured by pirates into an ambush, The Accipter is sunk and Caesar, along with a number of Roman Officers, are captured and held for ransom. Once the ransom is paid, Caesar and the other officers are released along the African coast.

Gathering together an untrained fighting force, Caesar assumes command of the group and leads them against the pirates, capturing their ransom, the Legion funds, as well as the remainder of the treasures on the pirate ship. On their return trip to Rome, they discover a rebellion led by the greek King, Mithridites and engage in a series of guerilla actions to reduce the numerical advantage of, as well as demoralize, the Greek army.

With the defeat of Mithridites and his army, Caesar returns to Rome to find that Brutus has had the Tenth Legion, Marius's old command, re-instated and assumes command, resulting in the first rift in the relationship between Caesar and Brutus, having disastrous results for Caesar later in his life.

The Field of Swords predominantly addresses his campaign of conquest in Gaul and, subsequently, Britain. After being elected Consul of Rome, one of two, he negotiates an agreement with Pompey and Crassus allowing him the time and freedom to undertake his campaign. Having conquered most of Gaul, he turns his attention to Britain. Shortly after initiating his campaign there, the indigenous population of Gaul rise in rebellion, with the majority of the Roman forces in Britain.

Caesar returns, successfully suppresses the rebellion and is then recalled to Rome by Pompey. Suspecting treachery, Caesar elects to return at the head of his four Gaulish Legions.

The Gods of War concludes the four part series of the life and death of Caesar. Caesar pursues Pompey's army to Greece and, although badly outnumbered, wins victory, united the Roman legions under his leadership. He forgives Brutus his treason and pursues Pompey himeslf to Egypt, where he meets Cleopatra and begins to consider himself as a king, signaling the beginning of the end. He returns triumphant to Rome and, shortly afterward, is assassinated at the hands of the Senators (as made famous by Shakespear), as well as Brutus, in the ultimate betrayal.

(Note: photo from "Julius Caesar - Wikipedia")

Emperor: The Gates of Rome

Emperor: The Gate of Rome is the first book in the Emperor series and follows the rise of Julius Caesar, one of the most famous historical figures and, arguably, best known of the Roman caesars.

In The Gates of Rome, we are first introduced to Gaius and Marcus, living as brothers, however, Gaius is the son of Julius, a member of the Senate, while Marcus is the illegitimate, adopted son of a prostitute. Nonetheless, they grow up with a very close bond with one another.

After the death of his father during a slave revolt, Gaius assumes his rightful place as head of the household and enters the sphere of his uncle Marius. Recognizing he is a naive young man, Gaius solicits the support of his uncle in order to successfully assume his place in the Senate, As a result, Gaius becomes involved in the political machinations and intrigue between Marius and another Roman General, Sulla, for control of the Senate and, ultimately, Rome.

Marcus, with the former gladiator Renius accompanying him, leaves to assume a postion in the Fourth Macedonian Legion with a recommendation from Marius in hand. With no position due to family, he must earn his way in the world and military service with the recommendation of a highly regarded General provides him with a good start.

Sulla is cleverly out-maneuvered by Marius and takes his legion to suppress a rebellion under the leadership of Mithridates. In his absence, Marius strengthens Rome's defensive positions in anticipation of his eventual return. On the day Sulla's Legion is sighted a day's amrch from Rome, Gaius Julius Caesar marries Cornelia and assumes his adult name, Julius. Later that afternoon, when Sulla's legion approaches the walls of Rome, Marius is, in turn, out-maneuvered and in the subsequent battle, he is killed and his Legion is annihilated. Sulla spares Julius Caesar on the condition he leave his new wife and the city of Rome. Together with his aides Tobruk and Cabera, a healer, Julius heads to the port west of Rome and, there, decides to seek a position in the Third Partica Legion in Egypt.

In the Fourth Macedonian Legion, meanwhile, Marcus Brutus signs on for a further two years of military service, concluding Book 1.

The Gates of Rome is the introduction to the Emperor series and, as such, is integral to the natural progression of Conn Iggulden's historical novel comprising his interpretation of the life of Julius Caesar. It provides the necessary introduction to, and background for, two of history's best known figures, Julius Caesar and his close friend Marcus Brutus and their eventual rendevous with destiny.

The Death of Kings

The Death of Kings is the second book of "The Emperor" series, covering the life of the great Roman leader Julius Caesar. Julius Casar has been banished from Rome by Sulla, after defeating Marius and his legion for control of Rome. Only just recently married, Julius passes into exile without his wife, joining a ship in the Roman navy heading toward Egypt. As should be expected in a series, The Death of Kings picks up where "The Gates of Rome" (Book 1) left off.

The Death of Kings opens with the seige and capture of Mytilene, a Roman fort captured by a hostile group. The Roman detachment, under command of Gaditicus, must re-capture the fort and, if possible, rescue the Governor. With the luck that accompanies Julius Caesar throughout the series, it is Caesar himslef who rescues the Governor, thus earning the right to wear the "Honour Wreath" in recognition of his bravery and courage.

In Greece, Brutus slept with the wife of a local man and incurs the wrath of the husband (understandably) who, together with outraged townspeople capture and tie him in the town square for subsequent punishment. Renius helps him to escape and they are chased into the hills by the husband and a group of supporters intent on punishing them.

Meanwhile, on the Accipiter, their ship is lured into an ambush by pirates and captured in battle. In the course of battle, Julius takes a severe blow to the head which leaves him with episodic epileptic fits decrease in abundance and severity over time. In addition to Julius, a small group of the Roman officers are captured and held for ransom, spending time in captivity of the pirates until the ransom is paid. Upon their release, Caesar promises the pirate captain that he will hunt him down and kill him.

Back in Rome, Julius's wife, Cornelia has caught the interest of Sulla, particularly since she is the wife of Julius Caesar, and uses the power of his office to force his "attentions" upon her. Almost immediately after giving birth to their first child, a daughter she names Julia, she is summoned by Sulla.

When Tubruk finally discovers that Cornelia has been the victim of Sulla's attentions he takes action on behalf of Caesar to avenge their name and honour. With Sulla dead, his second-in-command, the General Antonidus, tears Rome upside down in his attempt to discover the identity of the person or persons responsible for Sulla's death, resulting in his alienating many of the Roman Senators.

Caesar, meanwhile, released upon a barren section of shoreline on the African coast, together with the rest of the officers, decide they can't return to Rome with the dishonour of their capture over their heads. Therefore, as they move along the coast from Roman settlement to settlement, they gradually recruit a number of the residents (predominantly young men with no prospects) into a "fighting force", gardually training them in the basics sufficient to face combat (but little else). As part of this recruitment, Caesar gains Ciro as one of the recruitees.

Back in Rome, Brutus has discovered the identity, Servilia, and location of his mother, a prostitute (escort) to some of the cities elite, particularly the Senators. Having found each other, they begin their relationship as mother and son as Brutus tries to find his roots. Given the power of Servilia's knowledge, Brutus is able to secure the authority to revive Marius's legion, struck off the register by Sulla.

Julius and his freshly recruited soldiers illegally secure a ship and track down the pirate, exacting their revenge and recovering their ransom money (as well as the remainder of their treasure). Intent on returning to Rome and pleading their case, as well as returning the stolen legion funds, the discover that the Greek King, Mithradites, has risen in rebellion once again. In a brilliant campaign, Caesar reduces both the number of Greek troops in addition to their morale before engaging them in direct battle.

Julius then returns to Rome, where Brutus has re-instated Marius's legion and enlisted new recruits while awaiting the return of Julius Caesar. Having sworn, as a boy, loyalty to Caesar, Brutus, as First Sword and secodn in command, is obligated to relenquish leadership of the legion to Caesar upon his return. This act signifies the first tear in the relationship between Brutus and Caesar.

The Field of Swords

Continuing the four part historical novel of the Life of Julius Caesar, The Field of Swords (Book 3) picks up where The Death of Kings left off.

Julius Caesar has assumed command of Marius's old legion, The Tenth, and is nearing completion of his assignment to Spain. After the death of Cornelia at the hands of assasins, he has lost the ambition and enthusiasm that characterized his early career. He is merely putting in time while fulfilling the requirements of his posting.

This mood changes with the visit of Servilia, who comes to Spain to set up a brothel and to visit her son, Brutus. Keenly attracted to Caesar, Servilia soon arouses his passions and ambitions, resulting in Caesar leaving his spanish posting early and returning to Rome, along with his legion, to campaign as Consul for Rome.

As with many poliitcal campaigns throughout history, Caesar's is filled with intrigue as other Senators conspire against his victory. Eventually, Caesar wins a position as Consul, however, it must be jointly shared with Bibilus. Shortly after the elections, Caesar uncovers damniing information regarding Bibllus, thus removing him as a poilitical force.

In addition, Caesar negotiates a deal between Pompey, Crassus and himself so as to ensure legislation he desires will be passed through the Senate in a minimal amount of time. In return for their support, he grants Pompey an effective position as Dictator after a period of six months and Crassus a five year trade license. Caesar's part of the negotiated agreement is complete freedom to undertake a campaign of conquest in Gaul.

The remainder of the book addresses the difficulties and successes of Caesar's campaign. In the meantime, the crime rate and, as a result civil unrest, in Rome has substantially increased due to the influx, and development, of factions within the Senate. In particular, two rival factions have developed, each represented by what are, essentially, gang leaders. Clodius and Milo, having a bitter rivalry in the Senate, are tearing Rome apart as they take out their anger at events within the Senate on the streets of Rome. When the fighting between the riivals factions (gangs) reaches a climax and breaks out into the streets of Rome, with accompanying destruction of both private and public buildings (with accompanying loss of life), Pompey seizes the opportunity to have the Senate declare him Dictator.

Caesar moves his campaign of conquest from Gaul to Britain only to have the Gauls rise in rebellion once the bulk of the Roman army has departed. Caesar returns to Gaul to suppress the rebellion and regain control of the lands for Gaul.

The relationship between Caesar and Brutus continues to slowly deteriorate as Caesar begins an affair with Servilia (Brutus's mother) and appoints Mark Anthony to a position of power. Many of the people instrumental in the life of Caesar, as documented historically, are introduced and woven into the fabric of the novel, characters such as Octavian, Mark Anthony, Ciro (one of his generals), Pompey, Crassus, Serevilia and many more). The historical basis of fact (allowing some latitude for author's license) is incrementally included in the story as it progresses through the series.

Book 3 concludes with Pompeys demand that Caesar return to Rome, alone. Suspecting the demand as an attempt to remove Caesar, who has become renowned and, therefore, a political threat, Caesar ponders the manner of his return with his trusted advisors.

The Gods of War

By refusing to return to Rome individually, but rather at the head of his 4 Gaulish legions, Caesar is deemed by Pompey to be an "Enemy of Rome". With no equivalent force within Rome, or even in close proximity to Rome, Pompey has no choice but to flee Rome for Greece with the Senate. Once safely in Greece, Pompey can gather those legions "loyal" to Rome with which to defeat Caesar's legions.

Once having returned, once again, to Rome, Caesar appoints Mark Anthony to rule in his absence as he pursues Pompey to Greece. This is the final disgrace to Brutus, who feels betrayed in his loyalty to Caesar. Riding swiftly toward the port at Ostia, Brutus comes across two cohorts, representing the guards from the roadside forts to Rome, marching toward Ostia so as to join Ponpey's army. Taking command, Brutus leads them, eventually, to the port at Tarentum, where he able to secure a galley sufficient to transport his men to Greece.

In order to legally assume control of Rome, Caesar declares an election in which he and Mark Anthony are elected Consuls. Thus securing leadership of Rome legally, with Pompey and much of the former Senate in absentia in Greece, Caesar is free to initiate his campaign against Pompey and begins construction of a fleet sufficient to transport his army.

In a daring move, Caesar crosses the sea to Greece in the winter months, risking the possibility of severe weather in order to achieve an uncontested landing on Greek soil. Avoiding the galleys of Pompey and arriving at the coastline at dawn, Caesar is able to land his army successfully at Oricum.

Thus begins Caesar's campaign against Pompey in Greece. As Caesar's army is approximately half the size of the army Pompey is able to field, Caesar cannot allow his army to be engaged in a direct conflict and so undertakes a guerilla campaign, largely in order to allow himself time for his propaganda campaign to affect the morale of Pompey's army. Nimbly avoiding a battle by leaving the field a dusk, Caesar's army is able to force march to Dyrrachium and capture critical supplies of grain necessary to sustain his army.

Pompey displays great caution in his straegy to engage Caesar's army in battle, which Caesar works to his great advantage. In fact, as a result of a failed sneak attack at night, Caesar is left holding his standard, alone, within sight of Pompey and elements of his army. Suspecting some sort of trap, Pompey allows Caesar to retreat in the dark, enabling his return to his army.

Caesar's propaganda campaign, coupled with Pompey's huge initiative to build a defensive wall around Dyrrachium, begins to show success in the progressive demoralization of Pompey's army. With daily executions of soldiers caught attempting to defect to Caesar, as well as loss of life amongst the soldiers building defenses, the soldiers in Pompey's army become increasingly demoralized, setting the stage for the decisive battle.

With Pompey's army defeated, Caesar and his favoured Tenth legion pursue him to Egypt where he meets Ptolemy and his sister, Cleopatra. With his meeting of Cleopatra, Caesar enters the final stages of his lifestory, which is well addressed in "The Gods of War".

Emperor: The Gods of War (The Emperor Series)
Emperor: The Gods of War (The Emperor Series)

The series is well written, with all four books integral to the story as a whole. The series comprises a four part historical novel, based on the life and death of Julius Caesar, with some historical license taken in the interest of readability.

I thoroughly enjoyed the series, as well as his trilogy "The Great Conqueror" based on the life and death of Ghengis Khan. I have no reservations with respect to recommending either, or both, series to readers interested in historical novels.


Conn Iggulden - The Great Conqueror Series

The Great Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden follows Genghis Khan, from his youth when he and his family is banished from the Wolf Clan through his conquest of much of China and the Middle East to his death.

The history and accomplishments of the Mongol Horde, united under Genghis Khan, is remarkable and was preserved in their history entitled "The Secret History of the Mongols". No original copies remain, apparently, and our only record is through a phonetic Chinese copy, subsequently translated into English by Arthur Waley.

Using this as his foundation, Conn Iggulden weaves The Great Conqueror series into a well written and fascinating historical fiction of the growth and development of Temujin into Genghis Khan who, as leader of the Mongol Horde, attacked more than 90 cities in a single year during his campaign against the Chinese.

Have you read any of the books comprising the "Emperor" series? Have you read any of Conn Iggulden's other books, all of which are worthy of reading? What did you think? Leave your opinion.


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    • Dynamic1 LM profile imageAUTHOR

      Dynamic1 LM 

      7 years ago

      @SusannaDuffy: I really enjoyed both series - Emperor and The Great Conqueror. He is a really good author.

      Have you read any of the books by Jack Whyte? Another author offering very interesting historical fiction series (prequel to King Author, the Templars and William Wallace). I welcome you to check out my other lenses for brief summary introductions.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Fabulous series! I was particularly taken with the Great Conqueror series on Genghis Khan


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