When it comes to Roman fiction, I find that authors tend to go to that transition period when Rome went from being ruled by the Senate to the Emperor. This period is filled with great fodder for intrigue, drama, and characters that scream for attention (I’m talking to you, Caligula). We tend to forget that Rome was growing, expanding, and thriving for over seven hundred years before Augustus consolidated his power; additionally, Roman power continued for nearly another five hundred years after Augustus (fifteen hundred years if you want to include the Byzantine Empire). Are we supposed to believe that during these twenty-five hundred years there was only a couple hundred with all the necessary plot lines for great fiction? Well, Gore Vidal didn’t think so!
Julian was the Emperor of Rome from 361-362 A.D. His life (as I read it from Gore Vidal) was filled with intrigue, drama, and lots of threats. I appreciate how Vidal left that Julio-Claudian period well behind, he gave me something new and interesting to enjoy. I learned quite a lot about the tumultuous period without feeling like I was being taught.
Gore Vidal’s writing, as delivered by the cast from Brilliance Audio (yes, I listened to the Audible version of the story), was captivating; the back and forth between the characters really helped to pull me into the story.
While I was listening to Julian, I was reading Mythos by Stephen Fry. I found that it actually helped to put Julian and his views of Christianity into perspective. The novel came off as almost a commentary on Christianity, the contradictions of it and how many of our “Christian” traditions were: stolen, hijacked absorbed from (pick your poison) pre-existing religions. I really don’t know where Vidal stood with regards to organized religion, but I was left with the impression he felt that the organized Christian churches are chameleons, taking on the aspects and traditions to make people feel comfortable, while at the same time their only concern is/was expanding their power and influence. Julian was really a book to make you think.