Saturday, February 1, 2014

Unto Caesar by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

This slow-moving historical novel set in Ancient Rome is something to read when you have the time and patience for the heavy descriptive blocks, and the "thees" and "thous" that fill the dialog.  That was the style when the book was written, to have people from the past speak more formally than the present.

Here is a excerpt of when we first encounter the male protagonist of the book:
And among them all Taurus Antinor, praefect of Rome, with his ruddy hair and bronzed skin, his massive frame clad in gorgeously embroidered tunic, his whole appearance heavy and almost rough, in strong contrast alike to the young decadents of the day as to the rigid primness of the patrician matrons...

Christianity spread through the Roman Empire despite the fear and oppression it provoked in the multi-god, superstitious and sadistic Roman culture.  It brought compassion to the cruel society.  It condemned slavery, torture, blood-sports, cruelty of all kinds, including infanticide and animal torture.

Writers have long enjoyed imagining how Christianity made its way around the Empire and into the palaces of the Emperors, up to the time when the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire.  This is one such novel.

A noble woman, possessed by Caligula, falls for a man who is secretly a Christian.  Her world is turned upside-down by his strange ideas.  The ideas are in direct contrast to what she has always known, but deep down in her heart, she comes to recognize that his ideas are right.  His Christian ideas of love, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, and faith in a greater God, one God, shake the woman out of her sinful existence.

Her conversion is complete by the end of the book, and she sets forth with her lover to proselytize to the world, to convert others to the new religion that was born when Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead after His crucifixion, and ascended into Heaven.

If you are not a believer, then this book will strike you as odd and antiquated.  If you are a Christian, then you may enjoy the fervor of the author's faith that comes through in her writing.  In fact, the baroness dedicates the book to "To all those who believe".

You can download a free e-book of Unto Caesar from Project Gutenberg, the grand-daddy of free e-book websites.

Some people have created paperbacks from the Project Gutenberg text of Unto Caesar.  Here are some of the books at

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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