This fascinating historical novel brings to life the ancient Roman Empire with all its decadence, vice, virtue, courage, splendor, and magnificence. Told from the first-person point of view, and closely following actual historical events and personalities, this is the story of Minutus Manilianus, a Roman knight who comes to manhood during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Skillfully recapturing the essence of the period in its vast tapestry of color, drama, beauty, and menace, Waltari weaves a masterful plot beginning in the eastern Mediterranean port city of Antioch. From there we follow Minutus as he makes his way to Rome and his first love, his travels to Britain where he is enlisted with a legion fighting the savage Celts (where he is also involved in another love affair), and eventually back to Rome and Greece. In the background, always veering in and out of the story, are the fervent followers of a cult named for a Jew who was executed in Judaea many years before. With the passage of time, these fanatical followers of Jesus continue to emerge around him...some among his own family. Meanwhile, Minutus becomes ever more tightly enmeshed within the circle of friends surrounding the young Nero, heir apparent to the throne. Follow along as Mika Waltari leads you on a fabulous journey to Ancient Rome.
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The Passion of the Roman
The story revolves around the early church from the perspective of a noble Roman.
Mika Waltari misses the mark with this piece of historical fiction. I enjoyed his other work "The Egyptian" however, though I was able to complete this work, I found myself more often than not waiting for the story to progress in a meaningful way in relation to the protagonist to no avail.
The introduction is strong, as Waltari has a wonderful style that lends well to the description of youth, ignorance, intelligence, passion, depression and courage. Midway into the story the theme comes into focus and shines a heavy light on Christianity. The classical historical perspective is lost and the tale becomes a kind of Christian church history in the time of Claudius and Nero. The trials and tribulations of the Christians takes center stage and envelops the narrative several times, completely eclipsing the secular classical history.
I think this could be an enjoyable tale for someone who is uplifted by tales of Christianity. Tales of the church do not inspire me in any way, no matter how fond I may be of the authors style.
Beware of the dated references to negroes and of the jews. Waltari applies the racial thinking of his time directly to the time he writes about it seems.