Heard: The Death of Kings by Conn Iggulden, 2004, Overdrive.com download.
I finished this a while ago and am catching up on my book notes. An important note: this is not meant as fictionalized nonfic. Iggulden's author notes - maybe they were online - detail the differences between Iggulden's characters versus the real Romans he based the characters on. Anyway.
Julius Caesar has been sailing around the Med on a Roman ship after fleeing Sulla's bloody wrath. Caesar is an infantryman and an attack by his ship on the pirates gets Caesar, and other ransom-worthy Romans, captured. Caesar's family raises the ransom money but Caesar refuses to return to Rome. Caesar and Co. are left on the shore of North Africa and Caesar recruits the rest of the stranded crew to help him recruit North African Romans so they can all attack the pirates and recover the ransoms.
Caesar grows as a leader. Caesar makes a couple enemies. Caesar finds the pirate, recovers the gold, lands in Greece, puts down a Greek rebellion, rescues a Roman governor, receives an honour wreath and returns to Rome.
Meanwhile, Marcus Brutus has finished his tour with a Legion in Greece. He returns to Rome, lives on Caesar's estate, meets his high-price prostitute mother, has Marius's Legion reformed, and starts getting political.
Caesar returns and teams with Brutus. There is some friction but the two join together and their new Legion marches against Spartacus. Along the way Cato plots against Caesar and several Senators. Cato pays for assassins. Cato is slimey. Roman revenge is bloody and ruthless and just as slimey. Caesar and Brutus survive the slave rebellion but Caesar's family is murdered.
1. A good part of the book is a clear argument against the brutality of slavery. You'll grit your teeth thinking of the nitwits who say slavery wasn't so bad.
2. A reminder that Romans were assholes compared to today. Steven Saylor's (no relation) novels highlight the same inequalities as shown here. The rich make the rules.