The Year of Five Emperors
by Robert Eckert
BookSide Press

"Then let each do his duty, as the gods give us light to see our duty."

At the dawn of 193 AD, political factions in Rome—the Praetorian Guard, the City Legion, and the Senate—vie in a virtual civil war as various nations surrounding the Empire present their own unique challenges. The murder of the controversial Emperor Commodus on New Year’s Eve 192 by Laetus, commander of the Praetorian Guard, is the first of the bloody murders to darken the halls of the royal palace or Senate, and the remaining narrative is focused upon this everchanging center of power. The death of the morally bankrupt Commodus is an almost celebratory affair, and the Senate immediately elects Pertinax to the throne. However, he soon falls into disfavor with his thrifty state spending cuts. Pertinax is soon dispatched, and Didius Julianus buys his emperorship from the Praetorian Guard. Julianus’ hold on power is tenuous, and he is soon followed by Pescennius Niger, Septimius Severus, and Clodius Albinus.

Behind the scenes, the author visits the home fronts of Roman nobility and their free servants and slaves, where the feminine wiles, gossip, and spiritual beliefs of highborn wives and daughters hold sway, providing many fascinating details of everyday Roman life. The well-researched sections and extensive “Dramatis Personae” ensure the reader's ability to keep the many historical figures mentally sorted, and the afterword (that perhaps should be an introduction) also sheds more light on this turbulent year in Imperial Rome. The crisp, accessible prose and many youthful characters bring this era to life, making the tale appealing to a wide swath of young adult, new adult, and adult readers. The focus on both male movers and shakers and the women who love or disdain them also makes the tale appealing to all genders. Fans of Roman Empire-centered historical fiction will enjoy Eckert’s challenging, sweeping tale of powerful families and dramatic political intrigue.

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