January 15th 69AD.
The most dramatic, most surprising day in Roman history.
At the start of the day Otho decides to declare himself emperor. As Suetonius puts it “It signified nothing whether he fell by the hands of his enemies in the field or his creditors in the Forum.”
He is welcomed by a mere 23 soldiers. Yet by dusk he is emperor.
Quite a turn around.
And certainly one of the bloodiest days on record.
As Tacitus so dryly puts it: “Once killing starts its difficult to draw a line.”
To mark this day here is an extract from Galba’s Men which culminates with that day.
“How much?” insisted Epaphroditus.
“Ahem, two hundred million.”
“Sesterces?” pressed Epaphroditus, though what else could it be.
“The men, ahem, who were so kind with their purses have rather a long reach. There is not a sunny place on earth where they or their associates could not get me. Of course if I had access to the imperial treasury… Problem solved!”
His companion groaned, put his head in his hands.
“How you remind me of my father, he often took such a stance.”
“One question, Marcus. Sabinus took months of dedicated planning to bring down Nero. How long have you etched in your diary for such a scheme?”
Otho scratched his chin, furrowed his brows, and said, “I was rather hoping we could finish it off by sunset. Don’t look so worried, there is no danger of failure.”
“No danger? You want to overthrow an emperor in a day? An emperor with an army, with a personal bodyguard, with the blessings of the law, and you say there is no danger! You’ve flipped Marcus, really you have.”
“Of failing, I said. No danger of that at all. The other type of danger perhaps there will be a smidgeon, might upset things a bit I suppose.”
“I shall forgive you this because you were in Lusitania but when Nero fell it was chaos. The streets were awash with blood and that was with Sabinus’ meticulous planning. With you in charge we’ll be crawling over corpses till summer. What makes you think you will succeed?”
Despite still having one book left to write I find myself thinking beyond The Four Emperors series with one question: What next?
Now 70 AD is actually quite a fascinating year Vespasian doesn’t reach Rome till later in the year. Which leaves 18 year old Domitian as the figure head. But is he really in charge? There are two of Vespasian’s men jostling for supreme control around him.
So lots of scope there for political machinations.
And 70 is also the year Domitian marries Domitia. Of course when they meet she’s already married to someone else. So potentiality for a love story and angst aplenty.
The other option is to go backwards in time and write a prequel.
I’ve always thought the tail end of Caligula’s reign would make a suitably dramatic setting.
No Mina, Alex, Teretia or Sporus as they have yet to be born.
Lysander and Philo would be toddlers.
But we do have Epaphroditus who we know (in my books not historically) worked for Callistus secretary to Caligula and father of Nymphidia Sabina. Callistus was involved in the plot to kill the emperor.
So again lots of political machinations.
And potential for an Epaphroditus/Aphrodite love story.
Plus the opportunity to finally clear up how Straton got that scar.
The great thing about writing a series of books, particularly four of them, is that it gives you the space to expand characters and fill in some of their back story.
Lysander is a good example. In Palatine he functions as the announcer. We learn that his friends with Philo but otherwise he is fairly blank.
In Galba’s Men Lysander gains his freedom and we get a little more insight into his character. There is his desperation to bag himself a ‘freebie’, that is a freeborn girl and a hint of the insecurities that lay behind this. We also have mention of his mother and stepfather.
In Otho’s Regret we hear more about his mother, Lysandria and some further insights into his and Philo’s background and friendship.
Epaphroditus has always been a very sketchy character and he likes it that way. But in Otho’s Regret with the introduction of his former mentor Antonia Caenis there is a hint as to quite why he feel the needs to put it about so much.
Straton gets a bit more depth too. At the end of Galba’s Men we learn the name of the person who inflicted his dreadful throat injury. In Otho’s Regret further details are dropped in regarding this and Straton’s life before he became a slave overseer.
Unfortunately Otho’s Regret is so jam packed full of plot I had to drop some scenes of Felix’s home life. But I still have one book to go so I hope to include them in Vitellius’ Feast because I’ll admit to being intrigued by Felix and particularly his relationship with his wife Vallia.