When I purchased “Antonius: Son of Rome” by Brook Allen, I was excited to read the novel about the early life of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), an enigma in Roman History. Though the book is fictional, it captures the true essence of the controversial Roman figure, whose reputation was smeared by his enemies and Augustus Caesar. The story begins when the eleven-year-old Marcus Antonius grieves for his father who has died in disgrace. His mother soon marries Publius Cornelius Lentulus, a consul in Rome. As a teenager, Marcus possesses the promise of military talent, but he succumbs to the excesses of whoring, gambling, and drinking that leads to calamitous consequences. Even so, Marcus shows unyielding loyalty to his step-father, Publius Cornelius Lentulus, who is executed for leading the conspiracy to murder Cicero and set fire to Rome. He also demonstrates undying love for Fadia, a slave he frees and marries. After he is forced to leave Rome to escape creditors, he is educated in Greece where he adopts many of their beliefs and lifestyle. To redeem himself, Marcus joins the military staff of Aulus Gabinius, the Proconsul of Syria, as chief of the cavalry. His reputation as a military leader rises when he successfully fulfills his mission to defeat rebels in the middle east. His accolades pave the way for him to serve with Julius Caesar in Gaul (to be continued in the next book).
Author Brook Allen has written an engaging story of a young Roman nobleman born into a family that has fallen from grace. Although Marcus Antonius has major character flaws, his attributes as a military leader and his courage and loyalty to those he loves are qualities that help him on his journey to greatness. The author has masterfully weaved the historical accounts of Antonius into a tale that rings true. The story is suspenseful and provides insight into Marcus Antonius and Roman politics.
“Antonius: Son of Rome” is one of the best historical fiction books that I’ve read. I highly recommend this novel to those who relish reading historical fiction set in ancient Rome. I’ve purchased the second book, “Antonius: Second in Command,” and look forward to reading it.