Blood & Steel: Throne of the Caesars

Written by Harry Sidebottom
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 238 AD, twenty-one months after Maximinus Thrax becomes Emperor of Rome, two men in Carthage, Gordian the Younger, a Legate, and his elderly father Gordian the Elder, former Governor in Africa, proclaim themselves co-emperors. Maximinus is from Thrace, not a descendant of noble Romans as are the Gordiani, and has been purging his enemies back in Rome to obtain financing for fighting the Germans in the north. Called by many in the Senate as “big, ugly, stupid, violent and barbaric,” he uses his influence over the military to maintain his power. The Gordiani send two men to Rome to convince the Senate about their legitimacy as emperors.

This novel is second in a series. I read the first book (Iron and Rust) prior to reading this novel and found it helped me understand who the many characters are and the factions involved in this turbulent period of Roman history. There is a “cast of hundreds,” and thankfully the author provides the reader with character lists. All these Roman names can become confusing at times, but I was able to discern the differences between the major characters.

This novel is informative and well written. The author has done a tremendous amount of research – the many maps and appendices provided are helpful. Mr. Sidebottom paints a rich and thorough picture of the Roman world; the dialog is especially appropriate to the time period. He has written another series of novels about ancient Rome (Warrior of Rome) and is known as an expert on Roman history. I highly recommend this book for those with an interest in Roman history.