Death on the Appian Way

Written by Kenneth Benton
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

This book begins in 63 BC and tells the story of Rome through the eyes of Marcus Caelius Rufus. The Roman Empire has spread and now encompasses all the civilised world around the Mediterranean, but corruption is rife, and the author quotes Cicero, who is said to have remarked that ‘men who should have been its leaders were only interested in keeping their fish ponds stocked’. The book goes on to feature the early career of Cicero and the lives of Pompey and Julius Caesar and leads up to the murder of Clodius.

Much of the story is taken from the history of the period which has survived in Cicero’s letters and speeches, which were collected in the Loeb Classical Library and later published by Harvard University Press. However, this is a story mainly about Cicero, and although some parts are fictitious the author maintains that they are ‘compatible with his (Cicero’s) character and motivations’.

I enjoyed this book very much. I have read many books concerning AD Rome, but this is the first novel I have had the pleasure to come across featuring its earlier history. There is a useful map at the beginning and a glossary at the back. Well worth reading.