“Antonius: Second in Command” by Brook Allen is the second book in the Antonius Trilogy, spanning the period of 54 BC to 41BC. The saga of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) continues in this book at the time he is accepted as a military officer under the command of Julius Caesar. Marcus demonstrates his prowess as a strategic, courageous military leader that Roman soldiers can enthusiastically follow on the battlefields of Britannia and Gaul. With undying loyalty to Julius Caesar, Marcus becomes second-in-command to the renowned Roman general. However, when Marcus assumes political power in Rome on the behest of Caesar, his reputation and marriages flounder. Even though Caesar repudiates him for his political blunders, Marcus remains loyal. After winning Caesar’s trust again, Marcus becomes consul and adeptly administers Rome through chaos after Caesar’s assassination. However, he then faces his greatest challenger, the nineteen-year-old Octavian and adopted son of Caesar. He eventually allies with Octavian to wreak revenge on Julius Caesar’s assassinators at the battle of Phillipi, where the third book of the series will continue.
Author Brook Allen masterfully weaves battle scenes, family drama, and political conspiracies into the saga of Marcus Antonius. There is no doubt that Marcus is a formidable military commander with flashes of brilliance in the political arena. Yet, his womanizing, gambling and drinking continue to lurk him at critical times which his political rivals can use against him. The epic storytelling is engaging and addictive. The battle scenes are described with vivid details. The characters pop off the page, particularly Flavia (Marcus’s third wife) and Octavian. As a fan of the HBO series, “Rome,” I found this book even more intriguing with its rich historical background. One of the most fascinating incidents is when Marcus Antonius has to exchange his young son as a hostage so he could negotiate a truce with the senators who murdered Julius Caesar.
I highly recommend this superb series for fans of historical fiction set in Rome. The essence of Mark Antony and Roman politics rings true back then as it does in modern politics today.