From my WIP Vitellius’ Feast.

His natural modesty prevented him from revealing that he’d memorized all of Homer and could recite any passage from memory unprompted.  It was a talent he’d acquired as an adolescent to fill his lonely evenings.

Whilst his contemporaries were exploring the opposite sex, themselves and the effects of undiluted wine, Philo has instead used his time to learn things.


He  could  read ten languages, name every consul going back to the formation of the republic and juggle six balls at once if called to do so. So far Philo’s impressive juggling skills remained undiscovered but his ability to memorize large bodies of text was about to be fully utilized. 

Mina: Action girl.

I had another reader contact me via social media to tell me how much they liked Philo. Philo has quite a fan club now.
So conversely I’m going to talk about Mina instead.
Here are some of her best bits, one from each book.

1) She gazed round at the small party. There was such interest, such hope, such gleeful anticipation that she felt she couldn’t disappoint. Throwing back her head she cried, “Oh I cannot deny it any longer. It is true. Straton and myself are indeed enjoying a rare and blissful union.”
Erotica swore under her breath, Daphne squealed, Lysander inhaled near all the oxygen in the room and Alex crossed his arms giving Mina a disapproving glare.
Erotica was the first in with the question. “Bona Dea Mina what’s he like in bed?”
Mina suddenly struck with a horrifying image of Straton in the buff, repressed a shudder and replied wistfully. “It is like the tale of King Minos’ wife.”
To a room full of uncomprehending faces.
“You know the story.”
“Don’t think we do,” said Lysander.
“King Minos on claiming his throne promised Neptune that he would sacrifice a white bull in his honour. But it was such a fine bull that he decided to keep it instead. Neptune mad at such defiance to the gods got his revenge by inducing Minos’ wife Pasiphae to fall in love with the bull. Unable to control her lecherous feelings she had a craftsman construct a wooden crate fashioned in the shape of a cow so that she could consummate her vile passions. One day she had the crate taken into the fields and she lay within, waiting and waiting. The bull noting the strange creature examined its form and as bulls will, it mated with it copiously. And from this union the Minotaur was born!
Well it’s like that but without the crate.”

2) Mina kept telling herself that this was going to make
one outstanding anecdote to compete and beat Sporus’ “I was with Nero when he died” tale.
She was in the imperial dungeons with two murderers; Straton, who undoubtedly ranked with them; and Philo, the world’s most improbable traitor and adulterer.

3)“Oh no you don’t,” she warned.
“Don’t what?”
“I know that look, you’re going to fake faint. A very unconvincing swoon to the ground and hope that Otho will scoop you up into his arms.”
Sporus stuck out a petulant lip. “And so what if I am! What’s it to you?”
“I am the empress’ bodyguard and if I know you, and the Gods will declare that I do, oh half boy whom I knew when he was fully intact boy, you will aim your swoon straight into her to push her out the way. Which might well result in an injury to the empress. So I am not allowing it.”
“Spoilsport. And you used to be so much fun too. I suppose I shall just have to stand here and radiate attraction. I’m very good at that. Drop me into some eastern king’s haram and I’ll be his chosen partner every. single. night.”
On the final ‘t’ he bolted for it, leaving Mina just a split second to decide whether to go for her whip. Her mentor, Straton had taught her never to whip in anger for you would never hit your target. You must be in control, measured, calm. He’d mentioned nothing as to whether it was acceptable to whip your oldest friend to stop him wrecking a very carefully choreographed religious ceremony. It was the sort of question Mina would have very much liked to ask him.

4)Mina surveyed Domitian and mentally categorised him as ‘grumpy posh boy’. Turning to Philo she enquired. “Are we sure he’s worth keeping alive?”