Friday 26 August 2011

Caligula:The Tryanny of Rome by Douglas Jackson

I was delighted to be given the chance to read this as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge

I’m part of the Transworld Book Group!’

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating : 0 paws - he passed on this one.

Set against the magnificent backdrop of ancient Rome, this story focuses mainly on Rufus, a young slave, who, as the keeper of Caligula’s Imperial elephant, becomes embroiled in the machinations of the Emperor’s court. Bringing together the sights, sounds and smells of ancient Rome, the decadence and depravity of Caligula’s rule is expertly described, and whilst the underlying brutality is never far from the surface, the book is never just gratuitously violent. However, Caligula is at times a very dark story; the spectacle of violent death is never far away, with scenes of animal and human cruelty which some readers may find distressing, yet, all are perfectly placed within the historical perspective, and the context of the story.

It’s not easy to portray Caligula as a person with feelings and sensitivities, but the author has done meticulous research, and it shows in the quality of the writing and in the fine attention to detail. The complexity of Caligula’s deviant personality permeates throughout the story, and yet, with some of the other characters, there are genuine moments of tenderness, a sense of friendship pervades, and despite the violence, love and life carry on.

On a personal level, I found the story to be a gripping and exciting read, without being overly complicated with too much historical detail. Teeming with intrigue, the pace is fast and furious, with an underlying sense of menace that continues until its powerful conclusion.

Caligula is the first book in a proposed trilogy; I hope the next two books will be equally as compelling.


  1. I read this and another Caligula book after it and whilst I did enjoy it the talk of what happened to the animals was quite upsetting (albeit the normal in that time).

    Lainy (

  2. I agree with you Lainy - the cruelty was hard to read - but perfectly placed within the time.


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