… otherwise entitled “An Informal Book Review.” Because it is, but not quite.
More or less, I’ve been doing Rome in my schoolwork. Good old Rome. The course I’m doing this year for school is actually a full overview of the history of the Church, from the very start through the persecutions, and onward. It’s very interesting. With a lot of complicated names.
So, in the literature section, I had a book come up. The Flames of Rome. A couple of Caesars, the senate, togas and a great fire. Onward!
Turns out, Ancient Rome was more or less a bunch of really lawless people trying to keep a country together. It didn’t really work well, especially when Nero came into power. Man. He was bad news, from the time he was a kid.
The book is mainly about Flavius Sabinus, a tribunal, so returned from the wars in Britain (hence our discussion on the Eagle the other day.) He gets into Rome and sees what a royal mess it is…and can’t really do anything about it. And Christianity starts creeping into Rome. Of course that wormy emperor couldn’t have it happening the way it did. Things went sour. Like, vinegar in the milk.
I was a tad sceptical as to whether I was going to enjoy the book itself. I mean, omnipresent with half a dozen different narrators… not that I think it’s a bad style, just I’m not used to it. But the point of view changes were really quite smooth — usually with a double spaced gap, I think — and the style was really good. The dialogue felt realistic, the way normal adults would talk. Not startlingly modern, but far from Old English. It’d put it as a well written book. Definitely.
It’s written from a more Christian angle, though Sabinus wasn’t a Christian…actually, only one or two of the narrators were, and that’s when we get angles from Paul the Apostle or…maybe Aquila (as in Aquila and Priscilla).
But this book isn’t going to sit on any one’s shelf as a pretty Christian book where everyone gets converted and we’re all good. Far from it. This book is unique in that it didn’t mask the details. Any of them. Like, the kind of sexual immorality that went on all through the empress’ courts. (The scenes weren’t what you’d call innocence-ruining descriptive, but more shockingly frank.)
And violent. Ouch. The Christians got blamed for the Great Fire of Rome, and were punished accordingly, in decidedly unpleasant ways. The book is fairly nonviolent (blood and gore wise) until the second-to-last part, where they throw the innocents into the arena and we all know that nasty things are going to come next. Like, really nasty. People say The Hunger Games is violent. It’s based off Rome, people! Read this account of Nero’s persecution, and you’ll never feel the same way about The Hunger Games again.
As a recommendation, I won’t give an age, because I know people would say it’s an MA15+ book, and I’m not fifteen for a few months yet. I won’t say that its violence and connotations are reserved for an older audience. A mature one, definitely.
I would say anyone who has the slightest interest in Roman History for whatever reason should read this book. For historical details, great writing, smilable characters (and loathable ones, too — plenty of those), and extremely thought-provocative matter. And it’s even got a whole documentation list at the back to show you exactly how reliable all the information is.
Find The Flames of Rome on Goodreads