The Death of Kings

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The Death of Kings
The Death of Kings (Conn Iggulden novel).jpg
The Death of Kings first edition cover.
AuthorConn Iggulden
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesEmperor series
SubjectJulius Caesar
GenreHistorical novel
Publication date
5 January 2004
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages551 pp (first edition)
Preceded byThe Gates of Rome 
Followed byThe Field of Swords 

The Death of Kings is a novel by British author Conn Iggulden, and is the second book in the Emperor series, which follows the life of Julius Caesar.

The book was released in the UK in January 2004, published by HarperCollins.

Plot summary[edit]

Exiled from Rome by the new Dictator, Sulla, Gaius Julius Caesar is serving with a naval legion. After playing a crucial part in liberating a Roman fort in Mytilene under the command of rebels, Julius receives the honour wreath and increases his standing among his men yet further. Despite this success, his war galley is attacked and captured by pirates, with Julius himself receiving a serious head injury. The alliance between Mithridates and the pirates of Cilicia, forged during the Second Mithridatic War, allowed piracy to thrive in the Mediterranean. Julius' household fares no better with its head serving at sea: Cornelia, Julius' wife is assaulted by Sulla despite being heavily pregnant. Julius and Cornelia's daughter is born and named Julia in honour of her father.

Marcus Brutus meanwhile has finished his term with a legion in Macedon and is causing trouble with the locals on his return journey to Rome. He and Renius manage to meet jealous husbands and vindictive fathers before returning to the city. In the city itself, Julius' estate manager Tubruk swears revenge on Sulla and schemes to sell himself back into slavery in order to enter Sulla's household. Tubruk then successfully poisons Sulla before managing to escape the city before he can be traced. Antonidus, Sulla's right-hand, promises to track down Sulla's killer and tears Rome apart in his search.

As Julius and the survivors of his galley gradually recover while detained on the pirates' ship, their captors demand a ransom. While the men attempt to negotiate lower ransom prices, Julius demands a much high price than the one proposed, defying the pirates and declaring that he will re-claim whatever is paid anyway. Eventually the survivors are left on the north African coast when the ransoms are paid.

After returning to Rome and the estate where he and Julius grew up, Brutus asks Tubruk for the whereabouts of his mother, Servilia. After visiting her home, he gradually comes to know the woman who abandoned him as a child, as well as forming a reluctant acceptance of her life. In delight of her new-found relationship with her son, Servilia uses her influence with Crassus, one of the richest men in the Senate, to re-form the legion of Marius (Primigenia) under Brutus' command. Antonidus believes he has narrowed down the list of culprits for Sulla's murder to three: Cinna, father of Cornelia; Crassus; or Pompey, a renowned general and rising star in the Senate. With the backing of Cato, one of the most powerful men in the Senate, Antonidus hires an assassin to kill a loved one of each of the three. Pompey is the first to suffer Antonidus' misplaced vengeance, with his daughter murdered in Pompey's garden.

Marching across north Africa, Julius calls for volunteers and, where necessary, presses young men into service to assist in the finding and destruction of the pirates. Risking the wrath of the Roman authorities with Ciro, one of Julius' recruits, accidentally killing a soldier and then Julius and his men stealing a ship, the small force sets out to find the survivors and recover their ransom money. Eventually the pirates are found and destroyed, with a huge hoard found on the pirate's ship, and Julius resolves to land in Greece and return to Rome. Upon landing in Greece, Julius discovers several Roman forts lying destroyed with their inhabitants killed, and learns not only of the return of Mithridates, but also of the death of Sulla.

While Cato and the supporters of Sulla delay the Senate's decision to appoint a leader to confront Mithridates, Julius decides to confront Mithridates himself, and recruits many surviving veterans to fight alongside him, calling them the Wolves of Rome. Conducting several major hit-and-run attacks on Mithridates' forces, the Wolves eventually defeat the forces of Mithridates before the forces sent by the Senate even arrive in Greece. After delivering Mithridates' body to the approaching legions, Julius leads the Wolves to Rome and finally returned home.

While home at his estate Julius meets his daughter Julia for the first time and learns of Sulla's assault on his wife. In his fury he comes close to killing Tubruk, one of his oldest friends, before learning Tubruk was Sulla's killer. Swearing revenge on Sulla's associates and followers, Julius publicly allies himself with Crassus and Pompey, who publicly denounces Cato as responsible for his daughters death. Tension also flares briefly between Julius and Brutus when Julius demands Brutus hand over Primigenia to him, until Brutus acquiesces and puts his friendship above his pride. Julius' marriage also suffers, with Cornelia feeling increasingly ignored by Julius. When Cato's son is forcibly signed up to Primigenia and is forbidden to withdraw from his service, Julius gathers another opponent.

Crisis strikes Rome again when a gladiator known as Spartacus leads a slave revolt and destroys two legions in the north. Infighting in the Senate leads to indecision as to who will lead the legions north leads to Crassus being given command, despite his perceived lack of skill as a general. Knowing this, Crassus makes Pompey his second in command and Pompey responds by summoning Julius and Primigenia. Primigenia marches north and performs admirably, though it is forcibly merged with another legion. Julius remains in command of the newly formed legion, and names it the Tenth. Tragedy strikes Julius before he can see the end of the campaign.

Cornelia is murdered on Cato's orders, with Tubruk dying trying to protect her. Julius returns to his estate with Pompey and Brutus, and Pompey discovers Cato's involvement in the murders of Cornelia and his daughter. Cato however commits suicide before he can be executed. A grief-stricken Julius returns to his troops in time to see Spartacus and the slave revolt crushed. Pompey however begins to see Julius as a threat and arranges for him to take up a position in Spain.

Differences from historical persons[edit]

Although it is a work of fiction, many of the characters and events are based on historical sources. Iggulden added a historical note to the book in which he explains the differences between his novel and history.

In particular, the dictator Cornelius Sulla, who was based on the dictator Sulla, is shown to have been murdered; in reality, Sulla apparently died in retirement of his excesses. Sulla's loyal general appears to have been based on Lucullus.

It should also be noted that the person known as Cato in this novel and his life bears little to no resemblance to the historical Cato the Younger who was Caesar's political opponent from about 60 BC.

Nor was Servilia a high-class prostitute as she is shown in the novel; according to most historical sources, she was twice married and committed adultery only with Caesar himself. She was a wealthy and well-respected Roman matron in this particular decade of Roman history (when Caesar was under thirty).

Caesar did not distinguish himself through a march through Africa (something that Cato Uticensis did shortly before he committed suicide). Some of his earlier military exploits are attributable to other Roman commanders.

Another inaccuracy: Caesar serves on board the War Galley as a non-commissioned officer (tesserarius) reporting to a centurion. The Julii were member of the Patrician class who started their military service as Tribunes. Only Plebeians would have served in such a low rank.