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Roma Eterna [Mass Market Paperback]

R Silverberg
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 6 2004

No power on Earth can resist the might of Imperial Rome, so it has been and so it ever shall be. Through brute force, terror, and sheer indomitable will, her armies have enslaved a world. From the reign of Maximilianus the Great in A.U.C. 1203 onward through the ages -- into a new era of scientific advancement and astounding technologies -- countless upstarts and enemies arise, only to be ground into the dust beneath the merciless Roman bootheels. But one people who suffer and endure throughout the many centuries of oppressive rule dream of the glorious day that is coming -- when the heavens themselves will be opened to them…and the ships they are preparing in secret will carry them on their "Great Exodus" to the stars.

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From Publishers Weekly

In Hugo and Nebula winner Silverberg's epic alternative history, as grandly sweeping and imaginative as his celebrated Majipoor Cycle (Lord Valentine's Castle, etc.), the imperial Eternal City (aka Roma) takes 2,000 years to decline but not quite fall. Starting with a scholar's recollection of a failed Hebrew exodus from Egypt centuries earlier, this unusually moving novel depicts 10 crucial historical moments, each centering on the personality of a fictional emperor seen through the eyes of an engaging lesser figure, like an imperial bureaucrat, a luscious and wealthy widow, a brave legionary commander, a conscientious architect, a hunky son of a Celtic chieftain, or even barbarian children who unwittingly bring down the last emperor. Silverberg seamlessly interpolates glimpses of Rome's real history in this handsomely crafted fiction, whether looking back to the ideals of the ancient Republic-duty, honor, country-or inventing a captivating cast of might-have-beens. He unifies his narrative with unusual but convincing historical theory: that Roma's vaunted religious tolerance, in turning the sacred into a mere instrument of governance, had sown the seeds of revolution-a spiritual and intellectual upheaval that here leads the children of Israel to a second and glorious trek to the stars. Guided by the sure hand of an old master, these many roads lead to a fascinating city of multitudinous souls.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Silverberg's magisterial alternate history is likely the coda to his ongoing exploration of a Roman empire that survived in some form to a time contemporary with our world's present. The turning point in his version reflects Gibbon's view that Christianity undermined the later empire, though Silverberg disposes of Christianity long before its this-world birth by preventing the Jews' escape from Egypt. (He also eliminates Muhammad and Islam.) His development includes a good many realistic features, such as fairly constant tension, sometimes erupting in warfare, between Greek and Latin cultures within the empire. He also plays dating games for the historically literate with a calendar reckoned from the founding of the city in our 753 B.C.E. Inevitably, the book reads like a squadron of short stories flying in close formation (in fact, many parts of it have been published as individual short pieces). They are very good stories, though, full of Silverberg's seasoned expertise in historiography, characterization, and world building, and they offer something to satisfy most readers' tastes. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The newly arrived ambassador from the Eastern Emperor was rather younger than Faustus had expected him to be: a smallish sort, finely built, quite handsome in what was almost a girlish kind of way, though obviously very capable and sharp, a man who would bear close watching. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars It Doesn't Get Much Worse Than This.... July 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Three characteristics recommended this book to me: 1) I am a fan of Roman history 2) I love SF short stories 3) Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors. With this combination, I figured I couldn't go wrong and bought this book on a whim without looking at Amazon's ratings, which I have come to rely on increasingly. I'll detail why all 3 of these characteristics failed this book and forced me to rate it 1 star, the lowest rating I have ever given a book. Normally, I don't finish books that bad but my mistake was to take too few books with me on my 3 week vacation (which was a Danube cruise followed by a week in Constantinople/Istanbul since my hobby is visiting all the current countries that made up the Roman Empire at it's greatest extent). Therefore, I didn't have enough books to read and, once I finished everything else, I had to read this book or nothing during my cruise.
1) I expected Silverberg to be more knowledgeable about Roman history; reading this book, my illusion disappeared quickly but I assumed he'd learn more than a few place names and dates and the barest outlines of the empire. At least he must have visited a few of the well-known Roman sites like Tivoli and Capri since he constantly refers to them but the problem with that is he, well, constantly refers to them.
2) The SF extrapolations and even simple plot elements are virtually non-existent. These "stories" are more vignettes with the last few pages wrapping up what plot elements there are.
3) Silverberg's writing is strong, if slightly mannered. His characterization is thin and his plots, as I mentioned above, don't exist.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but not at all what I was expecting. June 28 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When I saw this book at the library and read the synopsis on the book jacket, I thought it looked like a really interesting concept. I was expecting a story set roughly in the present in a vast all-encompassing Roman Empire that never fell. I wanted to see the differences of culture an technology and how they would be different in modern life if they had evolved out of such a mighty empire. However, what I got instead were several short stories set in a constantly decaying, but never quite falling, Roman Empire.
Despite being a little disappointed that this was a book of short stories, instead of what I had expected, I still thought it might be interesting to see some of the things that I mentioned above, as the Empire evolves. However, while a couple of the stories were pretty good, most were just ok, and a couple (including the last) were terrible. Instead of telling stories about the greatness of the Empire and how it expands throughout the years, and the technology that comes along with it, the stories are more about how the Empire just barely hangs on (or doesn't, temporarily) despite many factors that threaten it. And the technology that I thought would be particulary interesting was barely mentioned at all. There are passing mentions of a printing press and picture postcards, and some talk of building an elevator that is never realized, but no discussion of how technological advancements were made in this alternate version of history. I was also particularly disappointed by the fact that the technology that was mentioned in the stories pretty much corresponded to when those things came about in actual history.
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3.0 out of 5 stars mistaken assumptions May 16 2004
Basically a seried of vignettes, not a cohesive story at all, Roma Eterna falls victim to a couple of mistaken assumptions. The first of these is that without Judaeo-Christianity and Islam the Empire would have stood. The empire fell more from its own weight than any "outside" influences. The second, and, for me, much more glaring one, is Silverberg's assumption of an industrial revolution without any of the pre-conditions necessary for one. As stated by S.M. Stirling in his review of another work, without the Aquinan worldview adopted by post-medieval Christianity, there is no scientific or industrial revolution. The Romans were notoriously incurious about what made the world around them tick and their system of gods and goddesses had no rationality. Without those two elements, you have reason or basis for the kind of systematic research which led to our world of today and simply cannot have the last third of the book. Still a nice read, but not anywhere close to Silverberg's best
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By John Kwok TOP 500 REVIEWER
"Roma Eterna" is a collection of 10 different short stories masquerading as a novel, that raises some tantalizing questions to answer the central, overarching question in this book: What if the Roman Empire never fell, but not only survived, but endured to the present as the foremost empire on the globe? It is not Silverberg's best work of fiction (His finest works include early novels such as "Shadrach in the Furnace" and his critically acclaimed series, "The Majipoor Chronicles" which began with "Lord Valentine's Castle".), and yet remains a compelling collection of tales which should interest alternative history fans. The best tales include "Waiting for the End", where a Romanicized Greek bureaucrat awaits the conquest of the Eternal City by Greek Byzantine forces sent from Constantinople, attempting to unify the divided Latin and Greek halves of the empire, "Via Roma", where a young aristocratic Celtic Briton witnesses in Rome the bloody downfall of the Empire and the rise of the "Second Republic", and "Tales from the Venia Woods", where two Teutonic children unknowingly reveal the hiding place of the last of the Caesars, the last Roman emperor. The final tale, "To the Promised Land", about Hebrews building spaceships to escape Earth and an inevitable collapse of the Second Republic is among the least effective in this collection. And yet, to Robert Silverberg's credit, he has written a future history almost as compelling as Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Years of Rice and Salt".
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Does not meet expectations
While the book is well written, the plot outlined in the blub takes place in the last few pages and is terribly disappointing. Read more
Published on May 19 2004 by Terry Mixon
3.0 out of 5 stars Good diversion, but minor Silverberg
Robert Silverberg, with fifty years of writing and hundreds of books behind him, has been in the business too long to write a really bad book, but this collected short story series... Read more
Published on April 27 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun
This is a fun book: just suppose the Roman empire had continued for another 1500 years...? The stories are light and are written with the shallow depth of a young writer (which... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2003 by tertius3
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, very good....
The only thing you need to know you have from the other reviews for the book, except that the scene with Moshe holding the law was in a dream. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2003 by rjones2818
3.0 out of 5 stars Best not read in one go
Hmm, well I have been a great admirer of Silverberg's short stories in the past, and there are one or two more than decent ones here. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars none
A brilliantly realized alternate history of a Roman Empire that never fell, as only the equally brilliant mind and imagination of Silverberg could envision it.
Published on Aug. 16 2003 by Gary S. Potter
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment from a master
Robert Silverberg is my favorite author of sci-fi/fantasy/alternate history, and Rome is one of my favorite fictional subjects. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2003 by Michael L Stephens
3.0 out of 5 stars a bundle of earlier work - fuzzy
Its easy for Silverberg to skip through the history, changing the facade to fit the "Roma" title. Aah generally I am very disappointed in this work. Nothing exciting. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastical Author - formula writing
I was disappointed. I have enjoyed all Silverburg's writing..going back muchas anos (I'm a'gettin' old). But, this one is too formulistic. Read more
Published on July 21 2003 by J. Nachison
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