Palatine 2015A very nice review of Palatine from a lovely lady who totally gets it.
She understands that ‘my’ Nero has no great malice, he is just a man who can do whatever he likes: so he does.
He’s also not terribly bright.

A Taster of Otho’s Regret

For those of you who know your Roman history this is a fairly momentous first meeting.

“This is Flavius’ nephew.”

Epaphroditus took another look at the boy. “I have heard much about you, your heroics at the siege of Yodfat pleased Nero greatly. He had you marked for a good position when you returned to Rome. This new emperor I am sure will be willing to recognise your successes.”
“You’re talking about my brother. I’ve never been to Judaea. I’ve never been anywhere. I’ve not done anything.”
“Oh,” said Epaphroditus, then to Caenis, “Am I?”
“You are.”
“You look a lot like him.”
A platitude that failed placate Domitian, who said, “He’s ten years older than me.”
“I was going to say you look like him when he was your age,” soothed Epaphroditus.
Domitian did not look soothed.
Caenis put an arm around her stepson, “Come on lets join Flavius. They’ll start the entertainment soon.”

Characters in Five Quotes: Tigellinus

1) Tigellinus strode in, his unsteady gait betraying his unusual wakefulness; he was drunk, roaring drunk.

2) But Tigellinus was afternoon drunk. He was the Praetorian prefect. A friend to Nero. He thought himself invincible

3) “I thought you weren’t coming.”
“Why would you think that?” slurred the prefect.
“Because you weren’t invited.”
“Wasn’t I? I go to everything, it is my thing. Besides I’m the pre, pre, pre, the soldier thing, I look after the emperor.”

4) Dribbling from the side of his mouth, Tigellinus had yet to experience the all-time killer hangover that was waiting to hit him, or the painfully stiff neck incurred while sleeping curled up by an ornamental fountain

5) Diplomacy had never been Tigellinus’ strong point. It was difficult to know what his strong point actually was, each positive aspect to his nature being anchored down firmly by the negative

Galba’s Men v Palatine

The main difference between Palatine and Galba’s Men is that Palatine is all about a well executed conspiracy. Whereas Galba’s Men is about a series of misunderstandings that lead to terrible events.

And this time round the terribleness is going to effect not just those at the top.
What Nymphidius Sabinus unleashes in Palatine is going to have consequences for everyone.

5 Fabulous Research Locations for Palatine

1) Baths of the Diocletion in which is held the Epigraphical museum.

I cannot tell you how useful this museum was. Want to know what sort of jobs women had back in classical times?
Or the wording of a curse?
Or the proper job title of a palace freedman?

This is the place to go to.

It also houses a funerary inscription to Tacitus. Yes, that Tacitus.
And this

It is an inscription found on the Esquiline Hill in a quiet little side street. It lists the titles of one Imperial Freedman name of Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus.
I think we can surmise he was not a modest man.

I pretty much spent the whole day here, making copious notes.

Characters in 5 Quotes – Epaphroditus

1) His path from imperial slave to pre-eminence had been a treacherous one; he’d survived by successfully skidding between palace factions, keeping his head down when others were literally losing theirs, and by being really quite good at his job.

2) Epaphroditus was just old enough to remember Livia, though not her husband the Emperor Augustus. If asked to recall he offered some vague waffles, infected by the freedman’s insistence that his life began on the day of his manumission from slavery. This was a shame since he possessed the type of tip top stellar imperial gossip that sadly never makes the history books.

3) With an absurdly generous emperor you could find yourself at the end of the day up by a seaside villa, a dozen slaves, and two bags of denarii just for complimenting Sporus’ slippers. Epaphroditus had done very well for himself.

4) Aphrodite was an intelligent woman, and even if she had not caught Mina’s suggestive eyes, the quick flash of panic that ran across her husband’s countenance would have alerted her. He smoothed it away and offered her the smile he utilised whenever he was about to suggest something he knew she would object to.

5) The grounds and house were confiscated and shortly after the old Eemperor’s death they were discreetly handed over to Epaphroditus. A reward which had garnered much palace speculation.

Characters in 5 Quotes – Straton

1) An evil, raised scar ran across his neck, the origins of which had been hotly discussed by several generations of imperial slaves.
If it gave comfort that some brave soul had once stood up to Straton, the fact that he had survived such a deadly encounter had given rise to the all too plausible rumour that he was immortal.

2) Pressed against Juba’s naked back, the overseer decided to start his day off on a high. Feeling something distinctly stiff pushing into his spine the slave squeaked, “You can’t.”
Which made Straton chuckle. Because he could.

3) Love was an emotion that hit the overseer periodically every few years and always culminated in an absolute disaster that had Felix threatening to slice off his penis with a meat cleaver.

4) Turning to his side Straton removed a dagger from his hip with something akin to annoyance, punching its owner (a pale slave he had whipped earlier that day) in the face impatiently and gesturing Mina to follow him. Mina had one thought: “What a man!” Then immediately scratched it as the consequences of spending too much time with eunuchs

5) Straton only legitimately took orders from one man, Felix. Anything else he deigned to do had been carefully weighed up as to its “fun factor”. Coshing Sabinus would definitely fall under that category


I do most of my writing in the train in and out of work in notebooks.
Otho’s Regret now being edited, I found myself on the train this morning with nothing to write. Which was a decidedly odd feeling.

So I turned my mind to Book IV: Vitellius’ Feast.
Seems to me that there are three main plot strands….

From Nero in Greece: The Tour!

From Nero in Greece: The Tour!

It’s a draft so all grammatical mistakes are my own etc etc.

Philo stood by the far wall of Sporus’ lounge examining the brand new frescoes, attempting to decode the story, assuming it be the life of a God or a hero. What perplexed him were the handstanding naked youths, their genitals painted with an accurate eye, dangling downwards.

“Are they Baccanates?” he asked Epaphroditus. “They seem very jolly.”
“They’re even jollier done that end,” replied the Secretary pointing to a section of the frieze further down the wall.

Philo followed his finger and was instantly assailed by a hot flush that worked up his neck. “Gosh,” he breathed.
“I don’t think that is even anatomically possible,” said Epaphroditus pointing at a particularly lurid depiction of a sexual act that had Philo’s brown eyes opening extremely wide.

They were interrupted from their pondering by a grand entrance; four huge black Ethiopian slaves carrying a golden sedan chair on which sat Sporus dressed in a purple dressing gown with fluffy matching slippers, his hair hidden beneath a white towel knotted atop his head. The slaves lowered to their knees, placing the chair on the ground. Sporus took a regal step and flourished a hand. Two slaves dashed to the couch and lifted it between them, carrying it over to the eunuch and placing it down, saving him a valuable five steps. Sporus threw himself dramatically onto the couch, sprawled across it, one leg escaping from his gown and showing off his smooth, shaved calf and thigh. He waved a hand, giving Epaphroditus permission to speak.

The secretary fought to suppress a smile at such antics. Even the usually grim Straton showed off his four remaining teeth. In actuality this merriment indicated less amusement and more glee; for if Sporus carried on in this manner Straton anticipated an afternoon of exercise for his whipping hand.

Epaphroditus turned calmly to the litter bearers. “You four are reassigned.”
Then to the two coach bearers. “You two are reassigned.” And then over to Sporus’ beauticians, all twelve of them. “And so are you lot.”

An outraged Sporus squeaked, “You can’t do that!”
“Yes I can,” Epaphroditus told him evenly, arms folded across his chest.
“I’m the Empress!” declared Sporus pushing back his shoulders. an action that caused the towel to fall from his head, revealing short dark curls, so very different to Poppaea’s auburn hair.
“No you are not. You are the Empress’ stand in. You will share her slaves. They are the most experienced in created her look after all. We shall also have….”

Epaphroditus looked to Philo, he read from a list “Seventeen tiaras, three solid gold ankle bracelets, two lapis lazli broaches, nineteen silver hair combs, four full golden dinner sets including pepper sellers.”
“The Emperor gave those to me.”
“No he didn’t. You ordered these items personally. They should not have been sanctioned.”

Very Nice Palatine Review

I always like to hear which character readers liked best, in this case its Philo. I have a particular soft spot for Philo as he is the character that I probably know best. This was by necessity since in Galba’s Men he gives a potted history of his life so I had to fix certain facts. Whereby the background of characters such as Epaphroditus remains somewhat sketchy and gets filled in book by book I know who Philo is, how he will respond in any given situation and the very particular way in which he speaks.

But I wouldn’t like to write a book solely from Philo’s point of view. I think it would be far too depressing. To get inside Philo’s head is to enter a pretty dark place. There is a whole slice of his life that he keeps shut off and doesn’t address which limits him, as Lysander puts it, to ‘reading and tidying things.’
Philo himself mentions in Palatine that feeding a flamingo a piece of cake rates as one of the few times he considered himself happy.
Philo’s world is a bleak one.
At least until he meets a certain young girl…..