Literature: Roma Sub Rosa

A series of historical novels written by Steven Saylor taking place in the last days of The Roman Republic and eventually covering the period of Gaius Julius Caesar. They start out as mysteries taking place in ancient Rome, featuring a gumsandal named Gordianus, who calls himself "Gordianus the Finder." Eventually they get more into political intrigue as well.

The books in reading order. Publication dates given in parentheses:

  • Seven Wonders (2012). A prequel focussing on Gordianus' travels as a youth.
  • Raiders of the Nile (2014). A second prequel, set during the time Gordianus spends in Alexandria as a young man.
  • Roman Blood (1991).
  • The House of the Vestals (1997). Short story collection.
  • A Gladiator Dies Only Once (2005). Short story collection.
  • Arms of Nemesis (1992).
  • Catilina's Riddle (1993).
  • The Venus Throw (1995).
  • A Murder on the Appian Way (1996).
  • Rubicon (1999).
  • Last Seen in Massilia (2000).
  • A Mist of Prophecies (2002).
  • The Judgment of Caesar (2004).
  • The Triumph of Caesar (2008).

The books contain examples of:

  • Been There, Shaped History: Gordianus gets caught up in some major events, including the Catiline Conspiracy and the power struggle between Caesar and Pompey. A number of the trials that Cicero took part in as a lawyer have made for plotlines as well, with Gordianus either working for Cicero or his opponent.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Clodius and Clodia are accused with this, and from what we see, their relationship is indeed very close.
  • Call to Agriculture: Gordianus tries to do this in Catilina's Riddle after inheriting a country villa from his patron, Lucius Claudius. It doesn't work out, with dead bodies showing up on his property, shortly followed by Cicero entreating him to make friends with and spy on Catilina in the lead-up to the consular elections. By the next book, Gordianus has shifted his household back to Rome.
  • Character Filibuster: Catilina has one discussing Roman sexuality and its relationship to power in Catilina's Riddle.
  • Detective Mole In Rubicon, Pompey forces Gordianus to investigate a murder that was actually committed by him.
  • Happily Adopted: Gordianus' sons, Eco, Meto and Rupa.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Bethesda is more than happy to serve as Gordianus's mistress until he decides to free her and marry her.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners Cicero and his slave and later freedman, Tiro.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Gordianus encounters just about every prominent figure in the late Republic.
  • Parental Abandonment: Eco suffers this in the first book.
  • The Speechless: Eco, whose speechlessness is caused by a childhood fever that also claimed his biological father's life. At the end of Arms of Nemesis, he falls ill again, and his voice returns when he recovers.
  • Stalking Is Love: Catullus seems to think so.
  • Shown Their Work: The books in general are very well-researched and accurate in their portrayal of everyday Roman life, and the first book's mystery is taken directly from one of Cicero's first major cases.
  • Tsundere: Bethesda, with emphasis on the tsun.
  • Those Two Boys: Mopsus and Androcles, the two young slave boys Gordianus rescues from Clodius' country estate.
  • The Watson: Eco fills this role for the first couple of books, coming along with Gordianus on investigations and acting as a sounding board for his ideas. When he grows up, he follows in his dad's footsteps and becomes a private investigator himself.
  • Women's Mysteries The Venus Throw was all about this.