May 5, 2021

Book Review


Steven Saylor

AD 165. Rome has two emperors: Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher, who rules the city, and his brother Lucius, who rules.

Rome has reached its pinnacle, with lands stretching far and a prosperous city. But now the ravages of disease weighs heavily, and it seems as there are two plagues going on, one that kills and the other that brings charlatans and false prophets who take advantage of the situation. Among them are those who call themselves Christians—and one of them is named Justin. He refuses to worship gods and he aggressively recruits young Romans into his cult. When Lucius Pinarius, senator, confronts the man, he unnerves him. Justin comes across as being right about everything, which would make others, including the emperors wrong. When Lucius tries to reason with Justin, it is to no avail. There is no way you can reason with someone who knows he is right. Lucius cannot save Justin from his punishing sentence. “The law must follow its course.”

Commodus becomes Marcus’s successor and is given the title Augustus. He is not interested in wars. He wants to enjoy the fruits of peace. After the great fire, Commodus who has a great passion for gladiators and chariots has even more reason now to build an amphitheater. Commodus makes himself unpopular with high-born people, but popular with low-born ones. The Roman Games will offer an entertainment to the poor as never before seen in Rome.

As the story spans 160 years, it brings in many emperors, some of them wanting a return to the sound government of the past, and others bringing chaos from the start. Some are bold claiming only one god, something that doesn’t sit well with the others. Some are hardly old enough to rule an empire.

Dominus encompasses many changes within the empire, including religious believes. It brings a vivid portrayal of Christianity which is viewed as something to fear and needs to be eradicated at first by some emperors and later tolerated by others. At the end, being embraced by one emperor who changes the world forever. It also depicts, where the passion for gladiators and chariots, comes from. It gives a detail depiction of everyday lives and customs. The thread that connects all those changes involves generations of Lucius Pinarius family.

The constant changes in the empire keep readers on edge with rivalry among men and scheming among women. The historical background is rich in details giving readers a vivid picture of ancient Rome and its tumultuous period.


More Historical Suspense