Render Unto Caesar Paperback – Jul 15 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
In this fine historical thriller set in Rome in 16 B.C., Hermogenes, a well-to-do Greek trader from Alexandria, travels to the capital city to collect a debt owed to him by a powerful Roman consul, Tarius Rufus. When Hermogenes attempts to dun the general, Rufus physically attacks him, then seeks to worm out of his obligations through legal loopholes. Hermogenes will not relent; his uncle was ruined and his father met his death as a result of the debt, and Hermogenes has come seeking justice. When Rufus sends goons to waylay Hermogenes, the trader is rescued by Cantabra, a former female gladiator (in an author's note, Bradshaw informs us there were, indeed, women fighters in the arena during this era). Cantabra becomes Hermogenes's bodyguard. Hermogenes next tries to sell the debt to the duplicitous Pollio, Rufus's principle creditor. While at Pollio's compound, Hermogenes overhears a plot between Pollio and Consul Rufus to assassinate Titus Statilius Taurus, the Prefect of Rome, to incite riots, and then to quell them-all as a way of gaining favor with Caesar. Cantabra knows Taurus from her gladiator days, and she and Hermogenes manage to convince the prefect that Pollio and Rufus are in cahoots against him. Bradshaw's Rome is superbly rendered, with all the sights, sounds and-particularly-the smells of the period. Unfortunately, her Greek trader is a bit of an anachronism whose perpetual concern for the well-being of every slave he owns or meets seems more akin to modern liberal compassion than to the attitude a man of the period might possess. Nevertheless, Bradshaw has produced a solid evocation of fascinating and dangerous times.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Bradshaw's characters are masterfully drawn."See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
And my measure of a books success - I had great difficulty putting it down until I was done! Highly recommended for fans of the Roman era and lovers of a well-told story.
Hermogenes, a Romanized Greek banker from Alexandria, travels to Rome to collect a debt that he inherited from a relative. He has no reason to believe that everything won't go according to law. After all, the man who owes him is very wealthy. Why would he miss such a paltry sum? Unfortunately, the debtor, now a powerful consul, sees no reason that a "true" Roman should pay the likes of a Greek. This sets off a wild ride for Hermogenes as he runs a round Rome just a step ahead of his enemies trying to collect his money and go hom in one piece.
The best part of the book is the setting. Like many ancient history fiction books, the plot need not as important as the scenery. There is plenty of historical "eye candy." Ancient Rome really comes alive -- the government buildings, prisons, centurions, city walls and gates, and even the different types of housing, both tenements and high-class villas.
This isn't to say that the plot suffers -- it is very good, too. All the characters play their parts well -- the golden=hearted Hermogenes, the loyal Maerica, the merchant Crispus, the fair but tough Taurus, and the properly rotten Pollio and Rufus.
With both the Emperor and his right-hand man, Agrippa, absent from Rome, we get to see the rest of Rome -- its consuls, prefects, and businessmen. The plot begins quite simply, but even when events go crazy, I still understood them. There are not too many characters, and they are well-developed. I especially liked the scenes in Crispus' house, describing the people who work there.
I admit that the story is very pat with a "happily ever after" ending. Also, Hermogenes is often too good to be true. Then again, everyone keeps calling him a "strange man."
All in all, this is a very good book -- a good view of the ancient world and a good story.
Set in the mid-period of Augustus' reign, Hermogenes, a young Greek merchant from Alexandria who has "purchased" and very proud of his new Roman citizenship, comes to Rome to settle the problem of a debt, inherited from his uncle, from a wealthy Roman who, it turns out, is now Consul of Rome Hermogenes thinks, as a respectable Roman citizen, he can politely demand payment under Roman law and all will be well. What happens, however, when he asks the powerful Lucius Tarius Rufus for his 450,000 sesterci debt, sets a plot in motion that is as enticing as any thriller while full thought-provoking historical questions that will intrigue and puzzle. Bradshaw's book is centered in a very real sense of just what real life might have felt like in ancient Rome, from what a wealthy man ate at a dinner party to the refuse and fleas of a fourth-rate insula room for rent. Hermogenes is a fascinating and ultimately admirable character, deeply committed to the idea of Roman justice, proud of his citizenship - yet a Greek from Alexandria in the generation just after Actium and Cleopatra when Greeks were despised as effete and Egyptians as subhuman. His adventures and dangers in Rome feel satisfyingly three-dimensional, without any of that unfortunate trend towards setting a "2003 plot in a toga" that mar some Roman efforts. Bradshaw's scholarship is impressive, and invisible.Read more ›