Review of The First Man In Rome by Colleen McCullough

Review of The First Man In Rome by Colleen McCulloughThe First Man In Rome by Colleen McCullough
Series: Masters Of Rome #1
Published by HarperCollins on 2008-11-11
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Pages: 1152
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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110 BC:

The world cowers before its legions, but Rome is about to be engulfed by a vicious power struggle that will threaten its very existence.

At its heart are two exceptional men: Gaius Marius, prosperous but lowborn, a proud and disciplined soldier emboldened by his shrewdness and self-made wealth; and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a handsome young aristocrat corrupted by poverty and vice.

Both are men of extraordinary vision, extreme cunning and ruthless ambition, but both are outsiders, cursed by the insurmountable opposition of powerful and vindictive foes.

If they forge an alliance, Marius and Sulla may just defeat their enemies, but only one of them can become First Man in Rome.

The battle for Rome has just begun.

The First Man In Rome by Colleen McCullough is a door-stopper of a book. Without the 100 page glossary, it clocks in at 931 pages. The premise of The First Man In Rome is that it details the rise to power of Gaius Marius, also known as the third founder of Rome. There’s politics, sex, and war. Really, you would think the First Man in Rome would be right up my alley and take a short time for me to read. Eh, wrong.

It took me from September to December to finish the First Man In Rome. It’s not that this is a horrible book or that it’s not very engaging, I just didn’t have the focus while student teaching to let myself be absorbed by this book. I would say that in order to really enjoy the First Man In Rome, you have to allow yourself to become wrapped up in it, you should give yourself more time to read it per night, rather than just reading during lunch breaks and sporadically. I am glad I waited until a good time for me to read The First Man In Rome, because too often I wind up disliking a book because I read it at the wrong time for me in my life.

The characters are unforgettable. I liked the political maneuvering within the book. Much of The First Man In Rome by Colleen McCullough centers on the senate and the tribune of the plebs and just how much palm-greasing was required to get some legislation through. There’s also corruption. I loved it. Also, you’ve got the character of Sulla whose been through some bad shit, and also does terrible things, but somehow I’m still compelled to read more about him. The main character, Marius is fabulous. He’s strong, militant, can be funny, and sort of makes me think of Russell Crow in Gladiator. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t be picturing actors for characters, but really Marius and Russell Crow look the same in my mind.

I feel like I learned a ton about Rome as well. I learned about the cursus honorum which is basically what you have to climb to gain power. I learned about the importance of grain to the Roman economy. Also why the tribune of plebs is important. The First Man in Rome is incredibly researched. McCullough’s scholarship is impeccable.

I do recommend The First Man In Rome if you’ve got the time to dedicate to it. I also think you should pick it up if you find Roman history/ancient world history interesting. Also think you might like if you are into historical fiction, or historical politics. One of my interests outside of book blogging is politics. I mean, obviously I’m not going to try and convert you all to my political ideology, but if you do find that sort of thing interesting, by all means check this book out! While reading the First Man In Rome, I recommend drinking wine of course! What sort of wine? White riesling. It was first made by the Germans who are an important factor in this book. It smells good and tastes pretty sweet, it’s definitely something I could drink glass after glass of.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. A Bookshelf Monstrosity says

    Congrats on finishing your tome of Rome! I'm hoping I won't get too bogged down with student teaching this semester and will steer clear of lengthy books until May 🙂

  2. Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) says

    I am very impressed with you. I was wondering when you would finish it. I saw it on your sidebar for a little while!

  3. Fantastic review. I don't think I would've stuck with this one if I were you!

  4. Wow you must feel a real sense of accomplishment with this one! I bet from a historical standpoint you really learned a lot too! Great review!

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