I purchased and read this book on the strength of "Winter Quarters" by the same author. Three's Company deals with the second triumvirate of Rome, that of Augustus Caesar, Marcus Antonius, and Lepidus. It spans a time period from Caesar crossing the Rubicon to the denouement of the second triumvirate and is told from the point-of-view of Lepidus. This has both strength's and weaknesses...Lepidus has always been nominally interesting to me because he seems like such a non-entity in other materials and he is virtually unheard of today except by those with a keen interest in Roman history. While most people have at least heard of Marc Antony and Augustus (it is hard to get through high school without at least hearing those names) how many people today recognize the name of Lepidus? Even historians pay little attention to him. In this book you more or less learn why; Lepidus is somewhat of a dull boy with little imagination and a mediocre intelligence at best, and not a lot of people paid attention to him even when he was Triumvir.
It can be difficult to tell an exciting, dashing story when your protagonist is such a plodding fellow and if the book has a weakness, this is it. Despite it being a difficult task, the author actually does a pretty good job though. I liked the book, and finished it in a long day. The book does something very well that was fascinating: it showed the strengths of the Roman republican system and of the people who made it work before the transition to empire. Even though Lepidus is not the brightest boy, his very lack of imagination and his cleaving to traditional republican ideals actually made him a pretty handy fellow to have around sometimes. Immune to bribery, patrician, not very imaginative, strictly schooled in the way things should be, he goes about and does his job as he has been reared to do, and, like many of the Republican era, did more than pay lip service to the notion that service to Rome came before service to self. In his pedestrian way, Lepidus tried very hard to be a good leader of soldiers, conscientously looked after them, ascended the cursus honorum as he should, and actually governed extremely well in both Rome and Africa giving those places the best governance and prosperity they would enjoy in his generation. He was plodding and a little dull, but in the end this tortoise beat the hares when it came to good governance, a fact forgotten by many. But then again good governance doesn't leave much for the historians to talk about. There was a reason that Rome worked as a republic for nearly four hundred years and the reason was men like Lepidus. Caesar is a far more fascinating person, had more raw talent and intelligence in a fingernail clipping than Lepidus had in his whole body, but as a civilian in that era I would have preferred to live under Lepidus' rule. It's that old Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times". Lepidus wasn't a very interesting fellow really, but it made him the better ruler for all that. This book is fascinating in the way it manages to convey that point and it does a great job of covering the key events of the period, including many of the military engagements and political maneouverings. This is a worthwhile read helps bring more depth and understanding to a complex and turbulent period.