Thunderstorms were common in Sarantium on midsummer nights, sufficiently so to make plausible the oft-repeated-tale that the Emperor Apius passed to the god in the midst of a towering storm, with lightning flashing and rolls of thunder besieging the Holy City.
This is the first of a series. It has mild fantasy elements to it, but I think it would appeal to those who liked The Pillars of the Earth. It felt very similar to me. This book isn't as outright amazing as Under Heaven, but I'll be getting the next one.
There are multiple titular lines in this one. They jumped out a bit because I was watching the '70s series I, Claudius, during the same period in which I was reading this book. A character in that show noted that "Sailing to Rome" had become a euphemism for having an appointment with death.