On My Bookshelf: The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

April 04, 2016

In The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith, three women of ancient Rome struggle to find the balance between family, power, and love. Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar wants peace for Rome, Julia, daughter of Augustus Caesar, wants to feel like more than a pawn, and Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, wants peace for her new family. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
Basic plot from Amazon: Two years after Emperor Augustus’s bloody defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he triumphantly returns to Rome. To his only child, Julia, he brings an unlikely companion—Selene, the daughter of the conquered Egyptian queen and her lover.

Under the watchful eye of Augustus’s wife, Livia, Selene struggles to accept her new home among her parents’ enemies. Bound together by kinship and spilled blood, these three women—Livia, Selene, and Julia—navigate the dangerous world of Rome’s ruling elite, their every move a political strategy, their most intimate decisions in the emperor’s hands.

Always suppressing their own desires for the good of Rome, each must fulfill her role. For astute Livia, this means unwavering fidelity to her all-powerful husband; for sensual Julia, surrender to an arranged marriage and denial of her craving for love and the pleasures of the flesh; for orphaned Selene, choosing between loyalty to her family’s killers and her wish for revenge.

Can they survive Rome’s deadly intrigues, or will they be swept away by the perilous currents of the world’s most powerful empire?

Why I liked it: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I loved Phyllis T. Smith’s first I Am Livia, a novel told from the point of view of Augustus Caesar’s wife. I liked it so much that I even gave a copy to my mom, the highest form of literary compliment in my world. So imagine my delight when I started reading The Daughters of Palatine Hill and discovered that not only was it also written by Phyllis T. Smith, but it picked up Livia’s story line not long after I Am Livia left off.
In The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith, three women of ancient Rome struggle to find the balance between family, power, and love. Livia, wife of Augustus Caesar wants peace for Rome, Julia, daughter of Augustus Caesar, wants to feel like more than a pawn, and Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, wants peace for her new family. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom use.
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However, instead of just focusing on Livia, the novel alternates between her, Julia (Augustus Caesar’s daughter from his first marriage), and Selene (the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony). All three women are well developed and relatable.

Livia continues to guide her husband, known as Tavius by his family and friends, in both his personal and political decisions. She is constantly trying to balance what was best for her family members versus what is best for Rome.

Julia finds happiness in her first marriage, but after her husband’s death she does not find the same happiness in her second or third marriage and begins to look for love in other places. While others disapprove of Julia’s promiscuity, she ignores their judgment and is tired of being used a pawn in her father’s political maneuverings.

Selene pledges her loyalty to Livia when she helps her wed the man she loves and with whom she is expecting a child. This bond pays off later when Selene informs Livia of a plot to overthrow Tavius. Like Livia’s desire for peace in Rome, Selene’s desire for her family’s safety takes precedence over her relationship with her half brother.

Classroom application: This novel would be perfect for reading with or after Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and doing a comparison of men and women’s roles in Roman society.


If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Daughters of Palatine Hill for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:


Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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