The Daughters of Palatine Hill is a standalone historical fiction, set in Rome at the time of the ruling of Augustus. Please note that this discussion contains spoilers! If you haven’t already, check out my review on this book, which is spoiler-free.
I gave this book a 4/5 stars. I learned a lot about Rome at that time, and the book made me feel a swell of emotions. The author, Phyllis T. Smith, obviously did her homework. She did a great job at being true to the historical facts, and giving believable personalities to the people of Rome.
Livia and Augustus were known in history as a power couple. Their marriage was based on true love, even though it had its unusual start. I thought it was a bit strange that Augustus married Livia even though they were both already married to other people, and Livia was pregnant with her husband at the time. You do you though.
I though Livia was interesting. She seemed smart and knew what was going on with Julia and Cleopatra Selene, but at the same time she was blind to Tiberius’ brutality. I know that she had an inkling of it, but I think that she might have been burying her head in the sand. I guess no mother wants to know that her child is basically a prick.
The author wrote a book before The Daughters of Palatine Hill, titled I Am Livia. It focuses on Livia’s story starting as a young girl, like Julia and Selene in this book. I’ll definitely be picking it up when I’m in the mood for historical fiction again.
Oh, Julia… I felt so bad for her. I think the author did a great job of writing her perspective because in history, she is largely disliked and viewed as someone who was rebellious and promiscuous. Sure, she was actually promiscuous, but as we saw in the book, she had a legitimate reason for it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone the cheating she did at all, but I simply understand why she did it. It must have been suffocating being continuously used as a political pawn.
I loved her first marriage, so I was so sad when Marcellus died and Julia had to marry Agrippa. It’s just so… Weird to marry someone who’s your dad’s best friend. Then there was Tiberius. My heart was crushed reading about that marriage. All I wanted was for Julia to be happy. I think Augustus was a hypocrite to not let Julia marry Jullus. But then again, I understand that it was seen as a threat since Jullus was the son of Mark Antony, so I guess Julia didn’t really have a beacon of hope because of the political circumstances.
To top it all off, I learned from my own research that Julia died of slow starvation when Tiberius exiled her once he became emperor after Augustus died. Welp.
Cleopatra Selene’s background is very sad. She was the only daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and she was forced to live with her parents’ murderers.
I was so happy for her when she married Juba and had a marriage of love. That seemed all too rare during this time period. The pair made a really great king and queen of Mauretania.
I would say that Selene was my favorite character throughout the book. I was really impressed by her fortitude, and the way she handled herself in a variety of situations. The only part I didn’t particularly enjoy was when she put a knife to her own throat and would’ve killed herself if Livia hadn’t approved of her and Juba… But I guess everything at this time was fairly dramatic.
The people of this time are brutal. I suppose people are brutal throughout history, but for instance, I didn’t know that Cleopatra (Cleopatra Selene’s mom) killed her own sister since she was in her way of becoming queen. Couldn’t there have been other ways to solve that issue? Well, I suppose not because trust wasn’t very prevalent… But I still think that situation was just so sad.
I want to know more about Vipsania Agrippina (the first wife of Tiberius). I did more research on her after reading the book, and Tiberius apparently really did love only her, and resented Julia. However, I couldn’t find anything about whether Vipsania Agrippina returned the feelings.
Overall, this book makes me want to learn more about Egyptian and Roman history.
What did you think about this book, or even that time period of history if you’re familiar with it?