This is an imposing series of six novels by the author of The Thorn Birds. It chronicles in extraordinary detail the time when Rome lost its Republic, from the creation of armies loyal to generals rather than the state to the series of civil wars that ripped the place apart. The core character is of course Julius Caesar, who is presented as a politician trying to prevent the loss of the Republic, but in the process he catalyzes the rise of Empire.
I found the parallels to today disturbing. The essential problem of the Republic -that the politics of a city-state were obsolete for an Empire, an Empire which fell to Rome somewhat reluctantly at first – may be foreshadowing our current dilemma, that the US seems ill-prepared in its new role of nation building and being the sole superpower. Caesar saw this failing and attempted to fix it, but fell into a bitter fight with the landed aristocracy (which had held power for 500 years). Caesar proposed sensible reforms: to allow better governance of overseas provinces, to maintain the army under the control of the Senate (through land reform to give veterans property to farm when they retired), and to broaden the ruling class to include provincials. In the end he took the expedient path of Dictatorship to institute the reforms, and the Republic was lost.
We have been handed, somewhat reluctantly, the responsibility of Empire. Our military power is unprecedented. But we seem to lack the talent & disposition to manage multinational organizations. Like the little Roman city-state, our leaders still listen to domestic politics to get elected. The Unilateralists, who support unchecked American power, are in control. Shades of the Roman aristocracy! With Homeland Security we have handed the Unilateralists the power to restrict domestic liberty. Whether we have a Caesar who can rise to the challenge of bridging the US into a truly multilateral world without losing the Republic is very unclear.
The Masters of Rome series is best read from beginning to end, beginning with the best book in the series, The First Man in Rome.