It’s a book I read when I was about 16. I decided to reread it when I was in my 30s. And at the end of 2020, I determined to make my way through the 700 pages a third time.
Taylor Caldwell’s A Pillar of Iron depicts the life of Cicero–who saved Rome once but was unable to protect the republic from its eventual fall. Cicero wavered between hopelessness for his nation and wonder about the Jewish prophesy of the coming Messiah.
Caldwell presents a pessimistic prediction of the inevitable descent of all republics into democracy, more accurately, mobocracy, the oppressive manipulation of the crowd to garner power for the greedy.
Her views are consistently conservative, a bit less compassionate than those of G.W. Bush in 2000, with Cicero’s acknowledgment that some within the mobs had reason to protest. And, as with many predictors of history, (see also Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto) Caldwell’s accounting of Cicero’s Rome comes more closely to resemble our nation as time goes by.
A blurb on the cover of the 1965 edition (first edition) states, “Were Cicero alive in the America of today, he would be aghast and appalled.”
That’s what she thought in 1965. At the time, we had yet to go through the sexual revolution. JFK had already been assassinated, but we had not yet suffered the riots and other violence, including more assassinations, of the late ’60s. And remember the hyper-inflation and terrorism of the ’70s?
Caldwell’s Cicero is a complex character torn between his love for his childhood friend Julius Caesar and his disdain for Caesar’s quest to be the absolute power broker of Rome. Current readers will find parallels in her mentions of Caesar expanding the courts to ensure rulings would go his way as well as the cancel culture Cicero endured before, during, and after his exile.
An important feature of the book is that Caldwell flew from America to Rome and translated Cicero’s letters (to and from others) and his speeches herself. What she includes from Cicero’s own words is the result of her own work.
Despite her pessimism about our nation’s future, she finishes the work on an optimistic note.
Rome fell into tyranny. But before she shattered, the Messiah would come.
And He remains our hope today.
20 Replies to “A Pillar of Iron: A Picture of Our Times?”
I haven’t yet read that book, but I’d love to. It’s so true that no person or form of government can save us. Only Jesus can save us!
Amen, Jessica. Thanks and God bless!
Wow, Nancy – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
You inspire me to broaden my to-be-read stack!
Thank you, Ava. Happy reading. God bless!
And our Messiah does remain our hope today. Each generation has its problems and we think ours is always worse than others. But such is the world we live in. It won’t be better before He returns but when He does that kingdom will rule in righteousness.
Amen, Barbara. And that kingdom will be wonderful. Thanks and God bless!
Very insightful. Yes, no matter what we see happening around us, Messiah has come and will never leave us, and that gives us lasting hope.
He is our only hope. Thanks and God bless!
I have not read this book but so understand how history repeats itself. I put all my hope and trust in God no matter what becomes of our nation. I learn so much from your post. Thanks.
Thank you, Yvonne. God bless! Glad to be informative for you.
Love the ending phrase, Christ does remain our hope today.
Yes, He does. Thank you, Karen. God bless!
I haven’t read this book. Need to add it to my bucket list. We need to put our hope in Jesus.
Indeed we do, Janice. Thanks and God bless!
These glances back into history reveal to us how common sin is to humankind. No matter the epoch, it seems that manipulative politicians remain the same. No matter how much time passes, human nature remains the same. Ancient history reveals humanity to never progress much beyond the selfish sinfulness of our own natures. Thanks for making us think each week, Nancy!
Thank you, Melinda! It’s true that Rome and America have many features producing mirror images. God bless!
This is a profound truth through the ages. Thank you for this glimpse back through time. For those who have eyes to see, Jesus Christ alone is our only hope.
Amen, Melissa. He is our only hope. Thanks and God bless!
Wow – what a powerful ending! I do start to wonder about the return of Christ with the world where it is today. What I know for certain is that He is coming one day sooner than He was yesterday. I need to be ready.
As do we all! Thank you, Joanna. God bless!