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Described as "a brilliant and imaginative picture of the later Roman civilization" Edward Bulwer-Lytton's classic novel filters the gods and values of ancient Rome through the lens of Victorian England, creating a flowery, idiosyncratic story that culminates in apocalyptic devastation. The novel uses its characters to contrast the decadent culture of 1st-century Rome with both older cultures and coming trends. The protagonist, Glaucus, represents the Greeks who have been subordinated by Rome, and his nemesis Arbaces the still older culture of Egypt. Olinthus is the chief representative of the nascent Christian religion, which is presented favorably but not uncritically.

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