Fortune's Favourites is book 3 of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. The series (somewhat) does for the Republic what Gibbon did for the Empire. Even though this is fictionalized history while that was history, the fact that Gibbon liberally sprinkled his opinions into his work making its historicity eminently readable makes this work comparable.

The book was fascinating reading; showing a harsh world full of cruelty both casual and deliberate. This was a world where the paterfamilias could kill his wife or child for any reason or no reason. Where a slave could be killed for sport or spite. Where a Roman could do anything he wanted to any non Roman that was under the power of Rome. Women were chattel. And Roman senators treated the rest of the world as a snack bar, taking what they wanted, when they wanted.

There is a sentence in The Passport of Malam Iliya, a popular Nigerian story for teenagers, that says "this was a time when men were men, and women were won by those who deserved them." The men of the Roman Republic were men. Ruthless, willful, focused. This book covered the period 83BC - 69BC. From the dictatorship of Sulla to the end of the consulship of Pompey and Crassus. Like the 2 books before it, it is full of events - mostly wars and political maneuvering - designed to show how the politics of the (somewhat) democratic Republic led to it becoming an autocratic empire. It doesn't have a main character, but the focus is mainly on Sulla, Pompey and Caesar. That said, it does a good job of showing the trend of events. Caesar would not have been possible without Pompey, who would not have been possible without Sulla who was enabled by Gaius Marius.

I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it (and indeed the entire series) to people who like history or who like a book whose plot isn't readily apparent. The book reads a bit like a history text book. And even though it has rich characters, there are too many of them. I don't know if it is as bad as Tolstoy's War and Peace (which I haven't read despite having it for about a year. It has too many characters). Regardless, I really enjoyed it.

The other books in the series are:

The First Man in Rome (published 1990); spanning the years 110–100 BC,
The Grass Crown (1991); spanning the years 97–86 BC,
Fortune's Favourites (1993); spanning the years 83–69 BC,
Caesar's Women (1997); spanning the years 67–59 BC,
Caesar (1998); spanning the years 54–48 BC,
The October Horse (2002); spanning the years 48–41 BC, and
Antony and Cleopatra (2007); spanning the years 41–27 BC.

I first came across the series about 22 years ago, in university when I bought The Grass Crown in a second hand bookstore. I really enjoyed it but since Amazon was not readily available then, I eventually forgot about it. I read the other books out of order and only got Fortune's Favourites last year when I ordered the entire set. I have a habit of rereading books that I enjoy and I am looking forward to rereading the entire series.

Iron Noder 2020, 4/30

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