And Ephesus, the metropolis of the Eastern Empire, lies in ruins, shattered by a mighty earthquake. Its citizens live in fear as the mob overwhelms the city, baying for blood to avenge the gods who have punished them. Yet an even greater threat to the Empire advances from the North: the barbaric Goth tribes, determined to pillage the city. Only Ballista, Warrior of Rome, knows the ways of the barbarians, and only he can defeat them. In a relentlessly gripping and richly authentic tale of ancient warfare, The Caspian Gates is an adventure for Rome enthusiasts and scholars alike. Widely acclaimed for his Warrior of Rome series, Harry Sidebottom "provides a well-constructed, well-paced, and gripping account . . . which, as a good series should, leaves the reader eagerly anticipating the next installment" (Times Literary Supplement).
Book four of the Warrior of Rome series follows Angle-turned-Roman soldier Marcus Clodius Ballista as an earthquake and an emperor still angry over what happened in the last novel propel the stalwart member of the equestrian order out of Ephesus northward to the Caucasus to try to stave off the barbarian Goths attacking vulnerable outposts of the empire. Ballista leaves wife and children behind, forming new alliances, including an intimate connection with Pythonissa, a beguiling Hecate-worshipper engaged in a fierce sibling rivalry with her brothers. Accompanied by ever-loyal Maximus and Hippothous, Ballista fortifies the famous Caspian Gates while proving himself a master of battlefield tactics and hand-to-hand combat. Battista makes enemies and blood feuds mount. Noted Oxford classicist Sidebottom offers maps, glossary, biography, and bibliography, but his fiction rises above the research, bringing history alive in gory detail. He envisions military life down to the bad jokes that define male camaraderie. Set in the third century C.E., with the Roman empire unaware of its ascension, this novel places one man between civilized and uncivilized societies both east and west to negotiate the differences. Sidebottom remains consistently meticulous about detail, old-fashioned about storytelling, and astute in portraying political backstabbing worthy of the modern arena.