- Paul Chrystal
- ARRSE Rating
- 5 Mushroom Heads
Without over-sensationalising these acts, author Paul Chrystal deals with each subject in chronological order. It seems that the time span covered in the book sees the worst of the atrocities committed by the leaders of the leading civilisation at the time. There is, however, a chapter or two about what went before. Under Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, an army comprised of mainly slaves were promised their freedom if they brought the General a Carthaginian head. Mass decapitation commenced. By the end of the battle, the Carthaginians lost 16,000 men to the Romans two thousand!
The story of Spartacus and the slaves rebellion is also briefly touched upon. Pompey captured 6,000 slaves alive. All were crucified and displayed on crosses on the 150 mile long Via Appia. The corpses were gradually eaten away by wild dogs and carrion. A further 5,000 survivors were slaughtered.
The first subject is Emperor Tiberius (42 BC - AD 37), one of the worst of a bad lot. An emperor who left the empire in the hands of his Consul, Sejanus 20 BC - AD 31) and moved to the Isle of Capri; setting up sex club where every degrading act was permitted. Tiberius was often seen walking naked while 4 and 5 year old boys fellated him. He would also allow breast-feeding babies to suckle him or fellate him. He sodomised two boys on an alter and indulged in various obscene acts with young boys, girls and animals. Indeed, there was no perversion he would not try.
Tiberius' consul, Sejanus was just as bad. Acting effectively as Emperor, he had executed over 500 members of families who opposed him. He also raped and murdered any person he took a fancy to, whether man, woman or child! Caligula followed the same example after moving to Capri to be with Uncle Tiberius. Caligula's exploits are well-documented. From the worst sexual excesses, to torture, castration, rape, decapitation and murder, (and that was just his own family) Caligula can be said to have tried it all!
Without giving up too much of the book, there are 14 chapters, one for each of the "monsters". Women also have their part to play in the book. Salome, famous for serving her mother the head of John the Baptist; Agrippina, mother of Nero and also his seducer; Valeria Messalina (AD 20-48 ), little more than a whore and an adulterers, committing gross sexual acts in public and sitting as a prostitute in the imperial palace. On one occasion, she challenged a veteran prostitute to a 24-hour sex marathon. The empress won with a score of twenty-five partners! and finally, Theodora (AD 500-548 ) the prostitute who became an empress but still bedded 10 to 30 men a night!
While some of these perversions may seem excessive, in the days of the Roman Empire, sex was not as restricted as these days. We have had years of Victorian morals thrust upon us, believing that sex was something only married people did. With the advent of free love and the permissive society of the sixties certain taboos disappeared and as we moved into a third millennium, homosexuality and lesbianism is just as normal as so-called "straight" sex. That being said, society has always despised the user of children or animals during the sex act. Rape has also, always been abhorrent to most right-thinking people.
The acts of violence committed by these "monsters" can be excused to some extent as lessons. Teach an enemy a harsh lesson and he will think twice about attacking you. There are however, some exceptions. The murder of women and children and non-combatants would cause cries of outrage, as would releasing wild animals onto a group of people who have different religious beliefs. The Romans were not angels but lived their lives within a set series of strict parameters. During periods of relaxation, the average Roman drank to excess and partied as if it were his last day on Earth.
The author has used original sources and evidence in the compilation of this book and it is to his credit that he has not glorified what to us, would be shocking acts. He has, instead, brought about a balance between the shocking and any mitigating circumstances. By avoiding the gratuitous and sensationalised versions of each story, Paul Chrystal has got as close as possible to the truth of each of their lives.
I found the book thoroughly compelling, hard to put down and fascinating in its depictions. The author has done an excellent job of research into his subject and presents his facts in a true and fair way.
I would recommend this book to any student of Roman life and also anyone else interested in the genre.
Rating - Excellent.