Book Review: The Arms of Quirinus

The Romans left behind written records of their affairs beginning with the founding of the Roman Republic in 509 B.C., but the era of kings is shrouded in myth. In her historical novel, The Arms of Quirinus, Sherrie Siebert Goff has taken these myths and woven an intriguing tale of the founding of Rome. Even in its infancy, Rome was characterized by military excellence and an indomitable spirit.
The Arms of Quirinus is divided into five parts, each with a different narrator. The first narrator is Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, the king of Alba Longa who is deposed by his evil brother Amulius. She is compelled to become one of the Vestal Virgins who watch over the eternal flame in the hearth of the Goddess Vesta. Rhea Silvia, however, has participated in the Lupercalia and one of the priests of the Luperci has blessed her with firtility. She bears twins and claims to have been impregnated by the God Mars. Her uncle Amulius orders that the babes be taken to the Tiber in a basket and abandoned to the current.
The next tale is told by Faustinus, the shepherd who finds the babies as they are being suckled by a she wolf, and takes them home to his childless wife Acca. The couple raises them as their own.
The third tale is told by Tarpeia, the daughter of the general Spurius Tarpeius. Tarpeia is infamous in Roman lore, a symbol of greed and treachery, but the author has a different slant on the story and allows the nymph-like girl to tell the story in her own words.
The fourth tale is told by Romulus himself, who relates his trials and tribulations as the founder and first King of Rome.
The final tale is told by the priest, Talassius, who inadvertently began the stream of events by blessing Rhea Silvia with firtility. These five stories weave into a coherent narrative and we follow the development of Rome from a collection of shepherd’s huts to a vibrant and militarily defensible young city.

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