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Characters / Quo Vadis

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The characters from Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis.

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Main characters


Marcus Vinicius

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...

  • 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.
  • Heel–Faith 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 Heel–Face 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's court


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

Vinicius' uncle. Aesthete, hedonist, writer. Possibly the sanest person in Rome, at least not counting the Christians, and one of its most influential politicians.


Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus

Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Petronius' main rival in the Roman court.



Poppaea Augusta Sabina

Nero's wife.


Claudia Acte

Nero's former lover.

Christian community of Rome


Ursus, Christian name Urban

Lygia's simple-minded, ridiculously strong servant and bodyguard.


The unofficial leader of a Christian community Lygia and Ursus belong to.



A Greek physician.


Pomponia Graecina

Lygia's foster mother.

    St. Peter & St. Paul 

Apostles. Co-leaders of the Christian Church.

Other characters


Chilon Chilonides

Philosopher, medic and a fortuneteller. Hired by Vinicius to infiltrate the Christians and find out where Lygia is hiding.

Petronius: The gods made you a petty pickpocket, but you've become a demon.


Aulus Plautius

Lygia's foster father.


Petronius' slave and lover.


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