This review is of the book: All Gods Lead to Rome, by Elizabeth A. Leeper. Published in 2012 by Black Rose Writing – http://www.blackrosewriting.com. (345 pages)
When I read the Narnia Chronicles to my youngest son he did not want to hear the final book. He did not want the story to end. That’s what I felt about All Gods Lead to Rome. Unfortunately this book had to come to an end.
No cookie-cutter characters inhabit this chronicle of Christians and others in the hostile world of second century Rome. Justin, a Christian philosopher, and Atlus, a Christian slave in the household of Claudius narrate the story. Their relationships with each other and with others are complex and filled with both inner tensions and external threats that gripped me and compelled me to keep reading and reading and reading.
Justin journeys to Rome to establish a Christian school of philosophy. On the boat he meets and becomes friends with urbane Crispan who considers Christians abnormal and the God of the Jews impotent. Throughout, the two engage in friendly disagreement. Victor, a member of the Christian community advocates the views of Valentinus which appeals to Crispan, much to Justin’s display.
Claudius, a conflicted Christian, hosts the community alongside his faithful wife, Vestia. Within the household conflict abounds among the slaves and within the congregation vital struggles surface as the church seeks to find its way.
Readers will be surprised that the Christians, with some ambivalence, attend the games of the Ludi Romani, in honor of Jupiter. Atlus takes us behind the scene and describes in some detail the inner workings of Nero’s Colloseum as well as the bloody spectacle of slaughter. Later we are not spared the agony as Atlus and others watch the deaths of members of the congregation who had declared their faith publicly.
Framing the story is dialog among the gods of Rome (and other foreign gods as well).
All Gods Lead to Rome is too rich and complex to fairly describe in this short review. You will have to read it for yourself. I am waiting for Elizabeth Leeper’s next book!