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The ordeals of the journey enhance the lustre of the destination.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS is part saga and part race-against-time adventure, weaved around historical fact, and centered on the splendour and intrigue of the Circus Maximus, the greatest sporting arena in history.
The sombre and stoical Corax of Campania (a.k.a “the Raven”) and the flamboyant and cocksure Alector of Arcadia (a.k.a “the Rooster”) are two champion charioteers for the Green Faction in Imperial Rome. The first half of the book, which spans four decades, covers their exhaustive training, their rise to prominence, their unlikely friendship, their falling out over the sublime Greek slave girl Xenia, and their banishment from Rome for refusing to lose an exhibition race against the emperor Caligula (a chariot racing fanatic and would-be charioteer -- true).
The second part, which spans just nine weeks, is set against the chaos of the Year of the Four Emperors (A.D. 69). In a symbolic bid to shore up his power, the tyrannical new emperor Vitellius (a Blues acolyte -- true) aims to annihilate the Green Faction in the Circus Maximus. Corax, now a fifty-five-year-old horse breeder in Spain, and Alector, a trainer of charioteers in Syria, are separately called upon to return four champion racehorses – the so-called Andraemon Team – to Rome to save the Greens from extinction (during Nero’s reign the horses were split up and sent abroad for their own safety).
Corax and his dwarf assistant Magnus now escort the heavily disguised trace-horse Andraemon a thousand miles across Spain, Gaul and Italy – negotiating fierce snowstorms, surging rivers, perilous rope bridges and warring Roman legions. Alector and his daughter Selene meanwhile transport the other three other horses by ship, first to Greece and from there to Italy, surviving storms, earthquakes, attacks by bandits and encounters with wild beasts.
The two rival charioteers – once the firmest of friends – arrive just in time to participate in the final races of the Plebeian Games, the outcome of which will determine not just their own fates but that of Rome.