5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, thought-provoking and historical
Quo Vadis is one of my favorite all-time novels. Quo Vadis is interesting and worthwhile for many reasons - in describing the activities and lives of early Christians, in detailing the gradual conversion of a Roman patrician to Christianity (and, thus, describing plainly some of the principles important to Christians), in illustrating the history, activities and...
Published on July 16 2004 by Ingrid Snellings
3.0 out of 5 stars A religious tome
I wish someone would have warned me before I read this book that it is essentially religious propoganda. It was worth reading though, because it's a nice historical novel (apart from the fact that it's historically inaccurate - eg, I read in a very reliable source that it is quite unlikely that Nero caused Rome to be burnt) in that it gives you some idea of what it...
Published on Feb. 2 2000 by Michael W. Chesser
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5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, thought-provoking and historical,
5.0 out of 5 stars Nero and the Christians,
Quo Vadis takes us back to the days when Christianity was fresh and new and shows us just what kind of world it was then that caused such a movement to flourish. This alone would make it an excellent novel, but it works wonderfully on all levels. The characters are superbly drawn, the setting is realistic, the plot crackles along, and, perhaps most importantly in a novel with this subject matter, it never becomes preachy or didactic, instead maintaining an objective perspective throughout.
Rome was the greatest of the ancient empires, yet despite all of its glorious achievements, it was truly a barbaric place. The concept of human rights was non-existent. Slaves--of all races--were property, and could be used in any way one saw fit, including the most vicious or depraved. The rule of law, while discussed in philosophical terms, was only sporadically and occasionally applied. The law instead came and went at the whim of the powerful, and if the powerful happened to be someone like Nero--the ruler of Rome during the course of this novel--then the law was sadistic, cruel, wicked and unpredictable.
We see the effect that living this kind of society has on the two main characters of the novel, both of whom are members of the upper crust: Petronius, a courtier; and Vinicius, a military officer. Petronius, as Nero's confidant, can never let his guard down. He must flatter, cajole, deceive and manipulate Nero every minute of the day, for his very life depends on it. It is a life, "drained and listless and detached," as we are told in the first sentence of the novel. Vinicius falls in love with a captive Christian female, and through his love we see how Christianity changes his life. But it is an unbelievably difficult and dangerous undertaking--with the demented presence of Nero and his sycophants looming over everything--to form an attachment with a person and then a cause such as this.
It gradually dawns on us how the Christian movement began in the first place, and why attempts were made so mercilessly to stamp it out. Instead of dishonesty and cruelty, it called for honesty and kindness. Instead of privilege for the elite, its promises were made to all. Instead of arrogance, it preached submissiveness. Perhaps most importantly, it simplified one's life, and allowed one to live without fear.
Rome is burned, possibly at Nero's orders, incredibly, so that he can experience suffering as he believes a true artist must. To divert the anger of the Romans, he blames Christians. Thousands of men, women, and children are rounded up, put in dungeons for months, then on successive festival days were crucified, burned alive, mauled by gladiators, and, as we know, attacked by wild animals. Their fate is so hideous that in time even the jaded Romans became sickened by it.
These historical events, and the actions of the characters during them, are what make up the bulk of the novel. To say the least, it makes for very compelling reading; indeed, some parts are difficult to bear. And as mentioned, it is presented in a very objective way. Not all of the Christians are presented sympathetically--one, in fact, is a fiery, all-will-be-damned type--and not all the Romans are presented harshly. The noblest character in the novel may very well be Petronius, who uses his influence as much as he can to alleviate the suffering he sees around him. And although he recognizes to some degree the power and decency of the movement, he himself does not wish to become a Christian. He can not abide the idea of being required to love his fellow man, most of whom--the unwashed, ignorant mob--he detests. He is a magnificent creation.
The book is a real eye-opener, a good reminder of what the world was like before the birth of Christ, and a sobering reflection on what being a Christian truly means. At the same time it is also a superbly researched and entertaining piece of historical fiction, and the kind of thing for which historical fiction buffs are constantly on the alert. Great stuff.
(I should mention that this review is of the Kunizak translation.)
5.0 out of 5 stars I like it.,
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!,
This review is from: Quo Vadis (Hardcover)Having been a huge fan of Robert Graves' I Claudius and Claudius the God, I was always sad that Graves did not write a sequel to highlight the reign of the last Augustan ruler. Many times reading Quo Vadis, I felt like this was that book. It does give a good insight to the decadence of Nero's reign along with some references to his predecessors. It also clarified some often-misrepresented assumptions like all gladiatorial competitions taking place in the Colosseum. We learn that Nero pre-dated the Colosseum and in fact, the battles were staged in a large "wooden" arena.
Some of the action has some good vivid descriptions such as the burning of Rome and some of the gladiatorial fights. The book also gives a glimpse at what Christianity could have been. We see how the disciples Peter and Paul worshipped their religion in a way that is totally unlike anything today.
The characters are excellent and the book never gets boring.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels of all time,
5.0 out of 5 stars Quo Vadis: A magnificent novel,
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and religion, or the religion of love,
A very entertaining and rewarding novel, it is also a fictional testimony of the early years of Christendom. My favorite character is Petronius, a liberal, magnanimous and "cool" Pagan Roman who finds disgrace for protecting those he loves. very recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY OR RELIGION?,
This review is from: Quo Vadis (Hardcover)This is an outstanding historical novel. When I was reading it a few years ago I asked myself a question: Is it a history or just a religious story? Well, it is a story, that's for certain. But what a story. It is well developed and extremely well written. Mr. Henryk K. Sienkiewicz was one of the greatest Polish writers and he should be known and remembered for his work.
4.0 out of 5 stars Nero fiddles . . . and fiddles . . . and fiddles,
This review is from: Quo Vadis (Hardcover)When one of the Italian volcanoes erupted in the hey day of the Roman Empire, a Roman Centurian was caught and suffocated in the ash. In the subsequent conflagration, his corpse remained remarkably preserved.
Despite his height and weight, obviously being quite smaller than us, the presence of muscular tone and apparent physical strength is both startling and revealing. National Geographic did an extraordinary photo-essay on this about 15 years ago.
Needless to say, these men and women were at least physically the same as us 2000 years later.
Sienkiewicz describes for us the debauchery of ancient Rome under the aegis of Emperor Nero and the blossoming of Christianity.
The dialogue of the early Christians is, while not disturbing, distracting. By example, Stephen Pressfield's dialogue between Leonidis and the emissaries of Xerxes in Gates of Fire is wholly conjectural. Likewise, Vinicius' coversations with Paul of Tarsus and Peter are also guesswork.
Yet, this is a brilliant story of societal conflict, love and treason. One is reminded of some of the correspondence between Lord Acton and the Pope of Rome hundreds of years later. Acton wrote, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
And the backdrop of this remarkable love story between a Christian Princess and one of the battle weary Tribunes of Rome is one of total immorality and corruption.
Additionally, we get to read a novel over a 100 years old. The first printing of Quo Vadis is in 1896 so we see a great historical romance in a style a century old. No quips here. No witty remarks between Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. It's hard times with Super Bowl-like events in the Coliseum where the losers get eaten.
It's great read. You really can't go wrong with one of the first "best sellers" ever written. A little PG-13 caveat. It is quite gory.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Christian Fiction,
This review is from: Quo Vadis (Hardcover)Sienkeiwicz weaves a masterful tale of early Christian experience during the reign of the Emperor Nero. While the facts relating to this novel are wrapped around a love story, this novel is really a witness to the power of conversion to Christ; particularly when such a conversion could easily meet with death.
Sts. Peter and Paul appear as characters in this novel. The author's attention to detail is obvious from the very beginning. He makes the depravity of Nero come to life without making an obvious gross caricature of the man. I found the author's portrayal of the Augustan court in a time when Rome is ruled by a tyrant who has obvious self-control and self-esteem issues quite fascinating.
In sum, this novel is a great bit of historical fiction. The story flows quite naturally and does not diverge into several "hard to follow" story lines. Rather, Sienkiewicz keeps the reader enthralled from beginning to end with this witness to Christian faith. This novel is, in short, inspiring.
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Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Hardcover - Sept. 1 1999)
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