Lindsey Davis



Old Stagers

M. Didius Falco/Dillius Braco a well-known Roman

Helena Justina a heroine (a loyal reader)

Ma (Junilla Tacita) a canny depositor

Pa (Geminus) a chipped old block

Maia Favonia (a sister) a late-developing job-seeker

Junia (another sister) a skilled staff manager

Rutilius Gallicus a high profile spare time scribbler

Anacrites a low lyer with variable interests

A. Camillus Aelianus an ill-equipped aristocratic trainee

Gloccus and Cotta invisible bathhouse contractors

Numerous children, dogs, pregnancies and pups

The Vigiles

Petronius Longus a stand-in looking for a fair cop

Fusculus an old hand with attitude

Passus a new boy with a taste for adventure

Sergius an official bruiser

The World of the Arts

Aurelius Chrysippus a patron of literature (a swine)

Euschemon a scroll-seller (a good critic) (a what?)

Avienus a historian with writer's block

Turius a utopian with allergies (to work)

Urbanus Trypho the Shakespeare (Bacon?) of his day

Anna, Trypho's wife who may have a way with her

Pacuvius (Scrutator) a bad-mouthing satirist (extinct species)

Constrictus a love poet who needs to be dumped,

Blitis from a writers' group (not writing at present)

From Commerce

Nothokleptes a thieving bastard (a banker)

Aurelius Chrysippus (him again) a secretive businessman

Lucrio a personal banking executive (unsafe deposits)

Bos a big man who explains bank charges

Diomedes a very religious son with artistic hobbies

Lysa (first wife of Chrysippus) a maker of men and their businesses (hard feelings)

Vibia (second wife of ditto) a keen home-maker (soft furnishings)

Pisarchus a shipping magnate who may be sunk

Philomelus his son, a drudge with a dream

Stock Characters

Domitian a Young Prince (a hater)

Aristagoras an Old Man (a lover?)

An old woman a Witness

Perella a Dancer


`A book may be defined… as a written (or printed) message of considerable length, meant for public circulation and recorded on materials that are light yet durable enough to afford comparatively easy portability.'

Encyclopaedia Britannica

[The creditor] examines your family affairs; he meddles with your transacations. If you go forth from your chamber, he drags you along with him and carries you of, if you hide yourself inside he stands before your house and knocks at the door.

If [the debtor] sleeps, he sees the moneylender standing at his head, an evil dream… If a friend knocks at the door he hides under the couch. Does the dog bark? He breaks out in a sweat. The interest due increases like a hare, a wild animal which the ancients believed could not stop reproducing even while it was nourishing the offspring already produced.'

Basil of Caesarea


POETRY SHOULD have been safe.

`Take your writing tablets up to our new house,' suggested Helena Justina, my elegant partner in life. I was struggling against shock and physical exhaustion, acquired during a dramatic underground rescue. Publicly, the vigiles took the credit, but I was the mad volunteer who had been lowered head first down a shaft on ropes. It had made me a hero for about a day, and I was mentioned by name (misspelled) in the Daily Gazette. `Just sit and relax in the garden,' soothed Helena, after I had rampaged about our tiny Roman apartment for several weeks. `You can supervise the bathhouse contractors.'

`I can supervise them if they bother to turn up.'

`Take the baby. I may come too – we have so many friends abroad nowadays, I ought to work on The Collected Letters of Helena Justina.'


What – by a senator's daughter? Most are too stupid and too busy counting their jewellery. None are ever encouraged to reveal their literary skills, assuming they have them. But then, they are not supposed to live with informers either.

`Badly needed,' she said briskly. `Most published letters are by smug men with nothing to say.'

Was she serious? Was she privately romancing? Or was she just twisting the rope on my pulley to see when I

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