A MAN AT ARMS by Steven Pressfield

From the publisher:

From the acclaimed master of historical fiction comes an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith.

Jerusalem and the Sinai desert, first century AD. In the turbulent aftermath of the crucifixion of Jesus, officers of the Roman Empire acquire intelligence of a pilgrim bearing an incendiary letter from a religious fanatic to insurrectionists in Corinth. The content of this letter could bring down the empire.

The Romans hire a former legionary, the solitary man-at-arms, Telamon of Arcadia, to intercept the letter and capture its courier. Telamon operates by a dark code all his own, with no room for noble causes or lofty beliefs. But once he overtakes the courier, something happens that neither he nor the empire could have predicted.

In his first novel of the ancient world in thirteen years, the best-selling author of Gates of Fire and Tides of War returns with a gripping saga of conquest and rebellion, bloodshed and faith.

Steven Pressfield very aptly brings us back into the tumultuous world of the Roman Empire at a time when Christianity was spreading throughout the known world. The period was the second century A.D. with Rome actively attempting to crush the spread of the religion due to the feeling that belief would negate loyalty to the empire. The protagonist used by Pressfield as the principal character is Telamon of Arcadia. Telamon is a veteran of army service with one of the Roman legions in which he spent almost 20 years as a mercenary. He fought wherever he was sent and against anyone selected as an enemy of the Roman empire. It is important to note that the Roman legionnaire undoubtedly was the best trained in the world at that time. Telamon is currently in Judea which was conquered by Rome and found almost impossible to administer.     

The story begins with a young boy named David spots Telamon being arrested. The warrior drops his kit while being taken away and David picks it up following him. During his arrest Telamon is approached by the commander of the legion he served in and offered money to do a certain job for Rome. A man and his young daughter who was deaf and dumb had been arrested at the same time as Telamon but had seized a horse and escaped. The commander of the Roman troop broached that Telamon would be well paid if he went after the escapees and brought back a letter held by the father and which had a great value due it’s attachment to the new religion.     

David took the opportunity to bring Telamon’s kit to him and succeeded in attaching himself to the man. Later, when the warrior came upon the girl and her father, the girl also became part of the small group when it was learned that it was her not the father who had the valuable letter. Along with a lady named as “witch” and not totally in sync with the others the four travel throughout the world around Judea. Their adventures and findings are certainly within the range of very probable based on the research evidenced on the part of the author for this book. He has written other well received books in the past and is famous for the quality of the research going into his novels. It has been too long a period since his last book and I would hope that we will see his next work in due course.

4/2021 Paul Lane

A MAN AT ARMS by Steven Pressfield. W. W. Norton & Company (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-0393540970. 336 pages.







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