The characters from Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis.
A Roman officer with a really huge (and more or less mutual) crush on Lygia. He shows himself to be rash, brutal and rather reckless in his pursuit of her; his track record includes kidnapping, sexual abuse, killing completely innocent people just because he got mad and seriously offending his uncle's good taste. He gets better thanks to the combined powers of love and Jesus - just in time for the difficulties of a more political nature to arrive...
- Abduction Is Love: Seems to believe this is true.
- The Ace: Seen this way by many Romans due to his military record.
- Ax-Crazy: His usual reaction to failure. He gets better.
- Big Heroic Run: Back to Rome when it's set on fire.
- The Determinator: First in his pursuit of Lygia, then in his attempts to save her.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After many misfortunes, he gets to marry Lygia and flee the hell out of Rome.
- Entitled to Have You: His behaviour towards Lygia in the first half. He just wants her, whatever the price is, without thinking that she may not want him, or may be happy with her current family life. He gets better, though.
- Happily Married: With Lygia, in the end.
- HeelFaith Turn: Which takes a good while to properly stick, but when it does, it does.
- Heel Realization: He leads an assault on the Christian community where Lygia is staying and is thwarted by Ursus. Despite this, Lygia and the Christians tend to his recovery and treat him with kindness, which is the start of him realizing what a complete tool he's been.
- Hot-Blooded: Pretty much the reason for all the conflict in the book that isn't caused by Nero.
- I Owe You My Life: The first hint of his change for the better comes when, after being nursed back to health by Christians, he's repulsed at the thought of returning to their house to seize Lygia; he knows it would be absolutely horrible repayment for them saving his life, especially since they did so despite how he terrorized Lygia.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: His Character Development sees him shedding the entitlement and obsession that made him such a douche for the first half of the book. While he still has temper issues, he becomes a much more compassionate, selfless, and loving man.
- Love at First Sight: How he sees his attraction to Lygia. In reality it's more lust as first sight, and the difference is something he himself notes once he starts actually loving her.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Though it also redeems, when you consider it the rightnote way.
- Misplaced Retribution: Poor Gulo. And Chilon. And several other (more or less random) people.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red Oni to both Lygia's and Petronius' Blue.
- Stalker with a Crush: His pursuit of Lygia in the first half of the book is this when it's not even worse.
- Villain Protagonist: Before he finally undergoes a HeelFace Turn that sticks.
Callina a.k.a. Lygia
A barbarian princess of the Lygians (hence her nickname). She was taken as a hostage when she was a child, but, forgotten by both Roman officials and her own people, grew up with her caretakers, the Aulus family, as their daughter in anything but name. Because of her foster mother, she adopted Christian faith and has been a devout believer ever since.
- Christianity Is Catholic: She's basically the embodiment of a "Mother Pole" (sort of a Polish equivalent to Yamato Nadeshiko), and definitely has more to do with (an idealized version of) the traditional Polish, Catholic world-view than with what you'd expect from a Judeo-Christian girl raised in Ancient Rome.
- Creator Provincialism: It's strongly suggested Lygia's people are proto-Poles. (The name "Callina", spelled "Kalina", is rare in today Poland, but still used sometimes).
- Even Girls Want Her: Acte's reaction to seeing her naked is... not very heterosexual.
- Godiva Hair: At one point, when Acte strips her (while dressing Lygia for the party), she manages to cover her entire body with it.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The book has her a brunette, but most adaptations make her blonde.
- The Ingenue: Blonde, sweet, innocent, and plucky, with a romantic streak to a somewhat-unrealistic imagination.
- Martyr Without a Cause: When Nero invites her to dinner at his Decadent Court, she briefly fantasizes about refusing (out of her Christian values), then being tortured or killed in retaliation. Acte calls her out for romanticizing martyrdom, especially over such a small issue, and tells her to pick her battles.
- Naked First Impression: The first time Vinicus sees her.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Her actual name is Callina, but pretty much everybody calls her Lygia, derived from her nationality (with an exception of Ursus, who is also Lygian).
- Plucky Girl: Except for her very first and very last appearances, the plot from her perspective is one continuous series of traumatizing events. Despite that, she remains a sweet - if a little shaken up - girl.
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
The Emperor of Rome.
- A God Am I: Firmly believes this.
- Bad Boss: Roman officials and aristocrats are all terrified of his random outbursts of violence.
- Big Bad: Especially starting with the fire of Rome.
- The Caligula: He's Caligula's nephew (his mother, Agrippina, was Caligula's sister). It probably runs in the family.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Of the darkest possible variety.
- Dissonant Serenity: Stands out in the notoriously-violent Roman culture for calmly strolling through his gardens even as he has Christians burned alive in them.
- Doing It for the Art: In-Universe. He set Rome on fire just so he would be able to properly reference a burning city in his poems.
- Evil Redhead: Don't call him Ahenobarbus ("Bronze-Beard") - it annoys him. Lots.
- Historical Domain Character: The real Emperor Nero, although modern historians tend to be careful to attribute him all those atrocities, believing he may have been a case of Historical Villain Upgrade (for example, the Great Fire may have been caused by the poorly-constructed wooden slums of Rome burning, though Nero's reaction of building a new lavish villa for himself did cause backlash).
- Historical Villain Upgrade: To what degree is debatable. See the above entry.
- Psychopathic Manchild: This characterization of him is a huge, cruel, spoiled brat who never learned to rule or be a functional adult.
- Sadist: The horribly creative execution methods he comes up with are new, even to Rome. And he doesn't just invent them for "entertainment"—he's noted to occasionally stop and observe the Christians being burned alive "with more care", and to study Vinicius's pain with satisfaction.
- Self-Made Orphan: Had his mother murdered, as well as his half-brother and wife.
- Terrible Artist: According to Petronius, he's Giftedly Bad.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: In an unusual way. He and Petronius don't see each other in a familial way at all, yet Nero is noted to desperatly, constantly seek his validation on his poetry. Which is why Petronius's suicide note disparaging his art hits harder than just about anything else.
- Would Hurt a Child: All those Cruel and Unusual Death|s he inflicted on the Christians? Yeah, he didn't spare children from them.
Gaius Petronius Arbiter
- 100% Adoration Rating: Among the common folk of Rome, even though he holds them in disdain.
- Berserk Button: He's generally a very chill guy. As long as you don't threaten him with physical violence, because then he'll show you he's better at it than you. While never losing his chill.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Once Nero finally turns on him, he decides to die on his own terms.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: He doesn't really care about what's right. He cares a great deal, however, about what's civilized and aesthetically pleasing.
- Camp Straight: Assuming his comments on his nephew's beauty are purely platonic.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Tends to randomly go on long, unrelated rants about art and literature in the middle of the most dramatic events.
- Cool Uncle: To Vinicius, who had the luck of having the coolest Deadpan Snarker in Rome as father figure.
- Corrupt Politician: He's most of the time in it only for himself, but he can be decent if the right buttons are pushed.
- Driven to Suicide: As in history. It's not out of despair, but to spite Nero.
- Everyone Has Standards: Amoral, lazy hedonist he may be, Petronius is utterly repulsed by Nero pinning the fire that destroyed Rome—which he himself started—on the innocent Christians and then torturously murdering them en masse.
- Gratuitous Latin: Almost all the characters speak Latin in-universe all the time, since the action takes place in Ancient Rome. Petronius, however, inexplicably gets Gratuitous Latin lines, anyway, as it serves to paint him as the most cultured among them.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's a Deadpan Snarker to the core and a snob, but he loves his nephew, treats his slaves well and is genuinely disturbed by Nero's increasing violent insanity.
- The Hedonist: When your nickname it's "arbiter of elegance" it must mean that.
- Historical Domain Character: He's the historical Gaius Petronius Arbiter, the Ur-Example of a dandy and the author of the racy poem The Satyricon.
- Minored in Ass-Kicking: He's an effeminate, eccentric intellectual who spends most of his time bitching about poets he doesn't like, playing the Emperor like a fiddle just for fun and annoying his wife. He's also perfectly capable of kicking Vinicius' ass should he try and direct one of his violent outbreaks at him or to kill a drunken gladiator who jumps him in the street without even interrupting the conversation. We're also informed that he used to be one of the best governors (in Bitynia) Rome had.
- The Proud Elite: The guy has a snobbish contempt for anything he considers vulgar, up to and including his Emperor.
- Red Baron: Arbiter elegantiae.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Bluest of all Onis. Particularly to Vinicius' and Nero's Reds.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: And famous for it.
- Suicide Is Painless: Justified. When you carefully stage it to be so and have it conducted by a trained medic, it sure is.
- Token Good Teammate: To the entire Nero's court, more or less. His ethics may be majorly messed up, but at least they exist.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: He criticizes Nero's poem in his usual sarcastic manner, causing him to burn down Rome and blame it on the Christians, which is the source of most of the conflict in the latter half of the book.
Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus
Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Petronius' main rival in the Roman court.
- Evil Chancellor: Even more blatantly evil than his employer, and that says something.
- Historical Domain Character
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Historical Tigellinus wasn't exactly a pleasant guy, but here he's downright diabolical.
- Shadow Archetype: To Petronius. He also represents the Roman pagan elite and he's a part of the Emperor's circle while having no loyalty for the man whatsoever. Unlike Petronius, he has absolutely no moral boundaries and revels in acts of unnecessary cruelty that would shock even the pre-Heel-Face Turn Vinicius.
- The Sociopath
Poppaea Augusta Sabina
- Evil Is Sexy
- Evil Is Petty: Her treatment of Lygia.
- For the Evulz: Seems to be her main motivation. There's also some jealousy and power lust, but mainly, she's just a cruel bitch.
- God Save Us from the Queen!
- Historical Domain Character
- Historical Villain Upgrade: As above, real Poppaea wasn't exactly a good person, but here she's 100% pure evil.
- Kick the Dog: When Lygia asks her for help.
- The Woman Behind The Man: Heavily implied.
Nero's former lover.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Still very much in love with Nero.
- Ambiguously Christian: In-universe. There are rumours that she's secretly a Christian, but actually, while she enjoys reading Christian texts and sympathizes with their ideals, she isn't one herself.
- Even Evil Can Be Loved: She's probably the only person in the world who genuinely loves Nero.
- Historical Domain Character
- Morality Pet: Downplayed, but seems to be this for Nero. While other people he got bored with mostly end up dead, Acte remains alive even long after her relationship with the Emperor has ended.
- Proper Lady
- Reasonable Authority Figure
- Undying Loyalty: To Nero.
Christian community of Rome
Ursus, Christian name Urban
Lygia's simple-minded, ridiculously strong servant and bodyguard.
- Berserk Button: Do not try and hurt Lygia when he's around. Even if you're a giant bull. Threatening his fellow Christians is also a bad idea.
- Charles Atlas Superpower
- Gentle Giant
- Good Is Not Nice: His proposed solution for Chilon's scheming is to break his neck and bury him in the garden. Considering Chilon's later actions, it would probably be better for the Christian community if they didn't stop him.
- Meaningful Name: "Ursus" is Latin for "bear".
- Meaningful Rename: When around other Christians, he uses his Christian name, Urban.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
- Real Men Love Jesus: His life is this trope.
The unofficial leader of a Christian community Lygia and Ursus belong to.
- Ambiguously Jewish: Considering his age and position in the Christian community, it's reasonable to assume he's a Jewish convert, but his name is Latin.
- The Fundamentalist: Sounding suspiciously like a 19th century Polish, conservative Catholic.
- Grumpy Old Man
- Heel Realization: He never was really evil, but the realization of what an asshole he's been to Lygia hits him pretty hard.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Once he gets over his fanatical tendencies, he tends to be one.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivers an absolutely devastating one to Nero. While dying on a cross, no less.
A Greek physician.
- Actual Pacifist
- Dark and Troubled Past: Courtesy of Chilon.
- Go and Sin No More: He forgives Chilon's betrayal with his dying breath, causing his breakdown and redemption.
- Flat Character: His role in the story is to be a perfect Christian to contrast all the messier ones with.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Appears in just a few scenes, but is an instrumental character to Chilon's personal arc.
Lygia's foster mother.
- Creepy Catholicism: Not how her faith is presented by the narrative, but that's basically how Petronius sees her.
- Good Stepmother: Always wanted to have a daughter and raises Lygia as such, despite her technically being just a hostage entrusted to her care.
- Historical Domain Character
- Illegal Religion: Accused and tried for secretly being a Christian (which she is), gets acquitted on the grounds that she can't be a Christian, since she's a good Roman woman and Christian women are all deranged baby-killers.
- Iron Lady: Stoic, well-respected and surrounded by an aura of dignity and authority.
Apostles. Co-leaders of the Christian Church.
- Becoming the Mask: Researches Christians while infiltrating them for cash, dies as a Christian martyr.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder
- Con Man
- Cruel and Unusual Death: They cut his tongue off, crucify him AND throw in a hungry bear to the mix.
- Dirty Coward
- Disproportionate Retribution: Vinicus has him flogged. Chilon's plan for revenge? Try to murder his girlfriend AND HER ENTIRE RELIGIOUS GROUP. It bites him in the ass pretty hard, though.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: As summarized:
- Manipulative Bastard: Plays almost every character in the book at one point or another.
- My God, What Have I Done?: He has a breakdown when he sees the Christians he betrayed being burned alive.
- Only in It for the Money
- Prematurely Grey-Haired: It's noted that once his conscience starts catching up to him, this is one of the visible results.
- Redemption Equals Death: He regrets his crimes and converts to Christianity; soon, he's martyred.
- Street Smart
- Token Evil Teammate: Even when compared to Vinicius and Petronius, Chilo is easily that in the first half of the book. Averted in the latter, where he becomes one of the main architects of the persecution against Christians and even he's terrified about how far it goes.
- Villainous Breakdown: When he witnesses Glaukos' death.
Lygia's foster father.
- Ambiguous Situation: It's left unclear wether he's actually oblivious enough to not know that his wife is secretly a Christian or just pretends he doesn't know really hard.
- Cool Old Guy: Though Lygia is entrusted to him as a hostage, he raises her like his own daughter.
- Historical Domain Character
- Living Legend
- Old Soldier
- Retired Badass: Commander of the Roman conquest of Britain, as well as its first governor. He never shuts up about it.
- Speech Impediment: Caused by losing his front teeth in the war.