Roma Sub Rosa
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Roma Sub Rosa is the title of the series of historical whodunnits by Steven Saylor set in, and populated by noteworthy denizens of, Ancient Rome. The series is noted for its historical authenticity. The phrase "Roma Sub Rosa" means, in Latin, "Rome under the rose". If a matter was sub rosa, "under the rose", it meant that such matter was confidential.
The detective is known as Gordianus the Finder, and he mixes with non-fictional citizens of the Republic including Sulla, Cicero, Marcus Crassus, Catilina, Catullus, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony.
For an ancient Roman, Gordianus has an unconventional family:
- Bethesda, his beautiful Egyptian slave purchased from a slave market in Alexandria. Bethesda and Gordianus have a mutually affectionate relationship and are later married.
- Eco, his oldest adopted son, was a former mute who followed in his father's footsteps as an investigator.
- Meto, his second adopted son, was a slave of Crassus who became a soldier serving under Julius Caesar.
- Rupa, his third adopted son, brother to Cassandra, a mute.
- Diana, his intellectual and headstrong daughter (by Bethesda).
- Davus, his son-in-law (Diana's husband) who was Gordianus' former slave and bodyguard.
- Aulus, his grandson (by Diana).
- Little Bethesda, his granddaughter (by Diana).
While the books were written in a different order, they are set in the order shown here:
- Roman Blood (1991)—80 BC: Gordianus accepts a commission from Cicero to investigate a murder while Rome is under the thumb of a brutal dictator. The client is Sextus Roscius, who was accused of parricide. The novel is derived from Cicero's Murder Trials and features Marcus Tullius Tiro among others.
- The House of the Vestals (1997)—First collection of short stories. Includes Gordianus' journey to Alexandria' his purchase of beautiful, intelligent Bethesda as a slave/concubine and their acquisition of her sacred cat Bast. In one story, a Roman (barbarian) kills a sacred cat—a capital offense—and is pursued by a mob dedermined to expedite his execution.
- A Gladiator Dies Only Once (2005)—Second collection of short stories: diverse, widespread
- Arms of Nemesis (1992)—72 BC: Gordianus races against time to prevent the execution of ninety-nine slaves, to avenge the unsolved murder of their master, while Spartacus ravages the Italian countryside. Gordianus has to contend with Marcus Licinius Crassus, the richest man in Rome, who is determined to prove that he is not "soft on slaves" in order to get the command of the army to be dispatched against Spartacus's rebels.
- Catilina's Riddle (1993)—63 BC: Gordianus attempts to find out why headless bodies keep appearing on his newly-inherited farm and contend with hostile neighbors—all cousins of his benefactor—while he is entangled in republican conspiracy and counter-conspiracy. in Rome, Meto celebrates his toga party, on his sixteenth birthday.
- The Venus Throw (1995)—56 BC: Gordianus is swept up in the decadence of Rome as he tries to discover who murdered an Egyptian diplomat.
- A Murder on the Appian Way (1996)—52 BC: Gordianus investigates the death of Publius Clodius Pulcher as Rome sinks into chaos.
- Rubicon (1999)—49 BC: Gordianus investigates how a body turned up in his garden as Rome lurches into civil war.
- Last Seen in Massilia (2000)—49 BC: As Massilia is besieged by Caesar's army, Gordianus must find his way in and find out the truth about his son, Meto. Is he dead, a traitor, or a spy?
- A Mist of Prophecies (2002)—48 BC: Gordianus searches for the killer of a seeress.
- The Judgment of Caesar (2004)—48 BC: Gordianus travels to Egypt in an attempt to find a cure for his wife's illness, but gets wrapped up in a power struggle between Caesar and competing Egyptian factions.
- The Triumph of Caesar (2008)—46 BC: Gordianus is begged by Calpurnia, Caesar's wife, to uncover a supposed conspiracy on her husband's life. Gordianus only accepts because she had initially hired a close friend of Gordianus and he had been murdered.