Mention the name Colleen McCullough to most readers and the first thing they will mention is “The Thorn Birds”, her masterpiece turned into a mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain at the peak of his popularity.
Few will know that McCullough is also the author of one of the greatest historical fiction series, Masters of Rome, where she meticulously writes about the time period of 110 BC through 27 BC. Talk about epics, this series has it at, and it all begins with “The First Man in Rome.” Logging in at approximately 1,000 pages, this follows the careers of two mostly unknown, but yet highly important individuals, Gaius Marius and Sulla. Both of these men were not your typical patriarchal leaders, yet both men rose to prominence by marrying into the Julius Caesar family (no not that Julius Caesar but his grandfather). From there the two men proved their intelligence and cunning as they led Rome to amazing victories against Jugurtha in the African Wars and then against the Germanic Barbarians. The Germans had over 800,000 troops, yet despite overwhelming odds Gaius Marius and Sulla led Rome to amazing victories. Despite being Italian, and loving Roman history I was completely unaware of these two men or these battles. So I was enthralled by McCullough’s writing.
Considered by many as the premier pure historical fiction authors, he depth of research reminds me of Michener, but what makes her stand out is that she uses only historical characters in this series. It is truly massive and wonderful and you get not just fiction, but you learn so much history along the way. There are seven volumes in this series, and while I have all of these in my physical library, they were difficult to read. So, I bought all of these on Kindle and it really made a big difference. Most every book is close to 1,000 pages and so there is a lot of reading and a lot of history, but if you enjoy historical fiction, the works of Michener, Rutherfurd, Follett and others than you will truly enjoy this entire Masters of Rome series and also look at Colleen McCullough in a whole new light!