Gods and Legions

Written by Michael Curtis Ford
Review by Pat Maynard

The Romans produced many memorable historical figures and this novel, set during the last years of the Roman Empire, is about one of them: the Emperor Julian. When Julian, a naïve young philosophy student and the only living heir to Emperor Constantius, is summoned to court in the year 354 AD, he answers the call with trepidation; Constantius has already eliminated the rest of Julian’s family to safeguard his throne. On Julian’s arrival at court he is shocked to discover that the emperor’s purpose for calling him is to make him Caesar of the Western Empire–although, considering his scholarly background and lack of military expertise, Julian’s chances of success in this regard are obviously slim to nil.

In this instance, however, truth really does turn out to be much stranger than fiction because Julian succeeds in overcoming all of the obstacles in his path. In so doing, he eventually becomes a major force to be reckoned with throughout the entire Roman Empire. Alas, Julian had one fatal flaw that ultimately became his undoing: his firmly held pagan beliefs in a mostly Christian world. Had he succeeded in carrying out his most ambitious goal, which was to conquer the powerful Persian Empire, he might well have changed the entire course of history.

Thanks to the author’s excellent research of both his subject and era, the reader experiences this great man’s transformation step by determined step. Highly recommended.