Caligula: The Tyranny of Rome

Written by Douglas Jackson
Review by Sara Wilson


The third Roman emperor was the one they called Caligula, infamous in equal part for his cruelty and his insanity. He was an emperor to stay well away from, but such is not to be the fate of the slave known as Rufus. Assistant to an animal trainer, he has learned to prepare exotic creatures to face death in the gladiatorial arena, and here he has befriended Cupido, greatest gladiator of the day.

His skill with caring for his unusual charges comes to the attention of Caligula, who requires a keeper for his pet elephant. Unfortunately for Rufus, the royal court is riven with intrigue from which the young slave and his friend cannot escape. Assassination is on the agenda, but just who will die in the bloodbath to come?

Caligula effortlessly transports the reader into ancient Rome. The sounds, smells and sights are all vividly rendered – there are some truly stunning descriptions and details deftly interspersed through the murderous plot.

It should be noted that this gory and visceral read is not for the faint-hearted – the blood-spattered descriptions verge on the stomach-churning at times. Those who persevere are well rewarded for their efforts with an engrossing historical thriller.

Caligula would be a good buy for any fans of the film Gladiator and the recent Rome television mini-series.