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Contention By Paul Cunningham

What happens when an emperor dies without an heir?  Who takes his place?  Who decides who the new ruler should be?  Contention takes a look at one of the bloodiest civil wars that Rome had ever seen, 69 A.D., the year of four emperors.

Tacitus was a Roman senator and is famous for his histories of the early Roman emperors.  Contention is the work of his slave, Actis.  While researching for his master, Actis decides to write his own history, a much more condensed version than his master.  Actis met with slaves, whores and soldiers (people that Tacitus could not be seen with), he gives us their first-hand accounts from the death of Nero to the Vespasian’s consolidation of power.

Contention works like a collection of short stories, all tied around this crucial year in Roman history and neatly worked together in chronological order.  These stories are pulled together through Actis’ narration and his discussions with Tacitus.

Paul Cunningham stayed true to his goal in telling this story as first-hand accounts of these events.  Each section is from a different perspective and gives us insight into what the common person would have seen during these turbulent times.  Yes, there were times when the story may have dragged a bit, I prefer the battles and the action over the back room deals and lounging on dining couches.  But all of this is a part of what makes history so colorful.

I truly enjoyed Contention, it was an innovative way of bringing to life this piece of our past; different points of view and drawing our attention to some fascinating characters who only had fifteen minutes of fame to make their mark. These men are so easily over shadowed by rulers who benefited from the stability that followed the year of the four emperors.

4 Stars