SUMMARY: The fourth and the last book in Emperor series is about Caesar’s final years. This time Caesar faces the worst opponent ever – Rome itself. But Pompey, the dictator, flees to Greece to gather an army to stand against Caesar’s loyal legions which follow him through Greece to Egypt.
Power corrupts people. Pompey, once and ardent defender of the republic and an advocate of the division of authority, becomes unwilling to renounce his dictatorship. Instead of showing Caesar upon his return form Gaul the deserved respect, he sends to him and indecent summon to come to Rome alone. Caesar, aware of the danger he would face obeying the order, refuses to do so. He leads his legions across the river Rubicon and Pompey escapes to Greece. After Caesar is elected a consul and re-establishes the rule of the law in Rome, he follows him, leaving the command of the city to Mark Antony.
The wish for power alone corrupts people, too. Brutus, Caesar’s best friend, is always living in his shadow, knowing there can be only one leader. But Caesar’s putting Mark Anthony in charge of Rome, spills the cup of Brutus’ envy over. Brutus cannot understand what is clear to the reader: that Caesar could not leave him behind in Rome, because he needs him at his side. Brutus’ hurt pride turns him into a traitor. However, when they meet in battle on the opposite sides and Caesar wins, he forgives Brutus and pardons him for his reason. But, for Brutus, this is even more unbearable than death.
Caesar’s clemency to his enemies proves him a generous and noble man. He does not want to become like his predecessors Sulla and Pompey who sowed death among their opponents. He has a vision of a different kind of world, but not even he can escape the curse of power.
I believe the final downfall for Caesar was Egypt, where he saw kings being worshipped as gods. This and the beautiful Cleopatra poisoning him with the wish for an empire for their son made him blind to the fact that Rome turned into the same corruptive and dangerous city as it had been in Sulla’s and Pompey’s time.
It was sadder to read this book than the rest of the series, because I knew I had been approaching the tragic end. But the book is, as the other three, beautifully written, full of suspense and a great insight into the characters’ mind.
There is an extensive appendix at the end of the book, explaining the reasons for including or excluding particular historical facts and their fictionalization. Iggulden also provides additional historical data, which is very interesting to read.
RECOMMENDATION: This book appropriately rounds up Emperor series. It is a gripping historical read.