Book Review: Caesar’s Daughter-Julia’s song

“It was a paranoid time in the City. Politicians were more concerned with denying glory to their rivals than with solving problems. Everybody was stabbing everybody in the back. There was no legitimate economy-it was characterized by exploitation and unsustainable debt. Discontent among the masses was rising-there were high levels of unemployment, and great resentment toward the rich. All the fat cats hired bodyguards.
“But enough about Washington. This book is about Ancient Rome.”
As usual, Alex Johnston’s book hits the nail on the head when it comes to the Late Roman Republic. In fact, much of the action takes place at the Hang Up Tavern, where the main attraction is a lightly used cross on which overly inebriated clientele are strung up for the entertainment of the other patrons. Sketches are made and sold to the victim when he sobers up. One of the regulars is Lucius, a huge ugly man who wouldn’t hurt a flea, but is readily believable as an executioner when provided with hammer and nails.
As usual, Marcus Mettiius’s difficulties start with a letter from Julius Caesar, this one wanting him to visit his daughter Julia and get her to arrange for a meeting with Caesar, her husband Pompey Magnus, and Crassus to re-cement their alliance. During one of their meetings Julia gets a little drunk and treats Marcus to a rendition of her hip-hop song. I won’t quote that here, you will have to read the book.
This brings Marcus to the attention of the thuggish Clodius, whose menace is deterred only by the presence of the aforementioned Lucius.
In dealing with the Roman movers and shakers, however, Marcus does have one ace in his deck-his slave and sommelier Vinus. Vinus can make or break a patrician’s reputation as a viticulturist. An example of a bad review: “Hints of field slave and carcass are joined by a heady compliment of shitsponge in the nose. Bursts with the exuberant zesty aroma of a streetwalker’s crotch, while also exhibiting an array of week-old shellfish and spoiled pork flavors that finish with a crisp note of barbarian ass. Drink it standing near a fuller’s piss pot for a nice balance to the wine’s rich, lively flavor and smell. I give this vinegar five ‘Angry Grapes’ if you’re looking for something to throw in an enemy’s face or to dissolve shackles. Otherwise, leave it alone.”
Obviously, if you are a wealthy Roman with a wine making concern, you do not want to upset the master of someone like Vinus.
As with Alex Johnston’s other books, Caesar’s Ambassador and Caesar’s Emissary, there is a belly laugh or two on every page.

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