Characters in 5 Quotes: Felix

And I thought it was difficult to pin down Sporus to only five quotes!
Rummaging through Palatine, Galba’s Men and Nero in Greece: The Tour! I found so many great Felix quotes.
After much deliberation I have selected the below that best reflect the ‘cross red bearded man’ as Empress Statilia Messalina describes him.

Felix in five quotes:

1) He was a barrel of a man rivalling Straton for sheer bulk with thick red knuckles and possessed of the sort of explosive temper that had flattened Carthage.

2) “How do you think I ended up married? Yes, let my lovely wife be a lesson to you. Keep your legs crossed or pay your way. The alternative is a lifetime of sheer horror.”

Having met Felix’s wife, Lysander knew the truth of that statement. She resembled a marginally attractive orang-utan

3) Philo sympathised, he keenly recalled Felix describing him to Epaphroditus. “We all thought he was a fucking mute but apparently he can talk. Just ain’t got nothing to say have you, Philo?”

4) “Felix?” asked the centurion with a gulp.

So far that evening the centurion had defeated a band of marauding heavily armed slaves, casually executed the remaining prisoners, murdered the jailer and then lied shamelessly to his superior officer. What he was not about to do was get Felix out of bed. Some assignments were just far too dangerous.

5) It was Felix’s experience that behind every suspicious Imperial death there was a Greek secretary staring up at the ceiling pretending he knew nothing about it.

A scene that hasn’t made the cut for Otho’s Regret

I really love this scene. But during my third edit of Otho’s Regret I’ve had to face up to the fact that it has to go.
The third edit is the most brutal edit. It is the point where if a scene doesn’t push the plot along it goes.
This scene has plenty of good characterisation but we need to get to the very important banquet scene quicker, so it has to go. Sob.


Philo had just sat down and flipped open his note tablet ready for a morning’s work when Verenia appeared.

“Pompeia and Teretia have gone out,” he replied automatically.
“I know I waited until I saw them leave,” was Verenia’s suspicious reply. “I need to ask you something.”
She sat down opposite him.
Recalling the last time he’d be in her company alone Philo told her, “Epaphroditus has a wife.”
A response that fluxommed her and rather unfortunately left a gap that Philo filled with, “And when he chooses a mistress he always opts for a slave girl. Sorry, Verenia.”
“Why would I want to know Epaphroditus’ marital status? I met the man once, quite by chance. I came by to ask about Lysander,” stressed Verenia.”I was of the opinion that you might be the person to talk to.”
Her tone suggested that she was rapidly changing her mind on that score.
“Oh,” said Philo feeling a hot flush heading up his neck. “Sorry. What did you want to know about Lysander?”
Verenia rested her elbows on the table. “He has invited me to this dinner at the palace.”
“Oh yes he told me, it’s an engagement party for Otho and Statilia Messalina. It should be a nice evening.” He smiled at her. She did not smile back.
“The emperor will be there,” stressed Philo.
“I don’t know anything about him.”
“He is a very nice man, very friendly and chatty and always willing to help you out whatever.”
Verenia narrowed her eyes. “You’re talking about the emperor aren’t you?”
“Oh, well Lysander’s very nice as well,” said Philo rather unconvincingly.
Adjusting her stola she said, “There is a reason why I waited for Teretia to leave. I love my cousin, of course I do but she always sees the best in everyone.” Meeting Philo’s eyes. “I’m not criticising. I envy it. I wish I could. But I’ve been taken in before. I’ll not let it happen again. You and I, we’re different. You may look like you’ve just fallen off the latest boat but I’ll wager Doris that you’re not as naively dim as you appear.”

Behind Verenia’s rather insulting rhetoric there was a truth. Though Philo maintained an expression of benign mystification during every single conversation Verenia had struggled through with him, he had worked for Nero and it had been a rare month when he hadn’t been asked to source a good assassin.

“I know,” she continued, “that you will tell me the truth. Unadulterated.”
Mainly because Philo lacked imagination and was therefore a lousy liar.
Philo flipped his note tablet shut. “What do you want to know?”
“Start with his father.”

Which was one of the odd things about life on the outside, the obsession with who your father, mother, uncle, grandfather was. Not something that discussed at the palace where a large contingent of the slaves had no idea of their parentage. Philo though he’d had a mother lacked for every other category of relative. Verenia was in luck though because Lysander was a vernae, that is a palace born slave, and thus Philo was able to tell her with confidence.
“He was a singer.”
“Yes he was_,” Philo trailed off.
“Was?” repeated Verenia.
“He died.”
“Yes he was died?” Her scepticism at Philo misusing a verb was well placed and the freedman shuffled awkwardly on the bench. “What happened to him?”
“Well he was, he was. Well he was executed.” Then to Verenia’s rather shocked expression, “But it wasn’t really his fault.”
“What did he do to have such a fate?”
“He was a very good singer.”
“I’m sure he was, but you’re avoiding my question. Why did he get executed?”
“Because he was a very good singer,” repeated Philo. “And Nero was a singer and he wasn’t as good.” He shrugged. “That’s all there was to it really.”
Compared to some of the executions Philo had done the paperwork for the death of Lysander’s father counted as a more legitimate reason than most he’d signed off.
“His mother was pretty keen that Lysander not become a singer after that.”
“His mother? She is?” asked Verenia rather shakily.
“Oh she’s alive,” brightened Philo. “She was a very high ranking attendant to Empress Agrippina. She is currently married to Gaius Baebinus, they have a very nice house on the Caelian Hill. He is a most successful and well respected businessman,” he supplied more happily.
“Currently married?” asked Verenia. “What does that mean? Is she contemplating divorce?”
“Lysandria would never divorce Gaius Baebinus.”
She had a much cleaner method of disposing of husbands.
Verenia, with clear difficultly, let this pass saying, “You’ve known Lysander for many years.”
She fiddled with her shawl again before asking. “He is a good man?”

From her tone Philo could tell this was very important to her, crucial therefore he deduced, she’d be wanting a cracking answer.
“Err,” began Philo inwardly weighing up the relevant criteria to measure Lysander against deciding on several factors in his list before his thought processes were interrupted by Verenia.
“Oh for Juno’s sake,” she swore. “Is he emotionally cold?”
Philo blinked. “No.”
“Is he cruel?”
Another blink. “No.”
“Is he violent?”
“Gosh no.”
“That’ll do,” she told him standing. “Thank you for your help.”
Philo was midway through saying “It was no trouble” when he realised she was most likely being sarcastic and stopped himself.

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…..

Flash Fiction – Prompt is Snake in the Grass

My historical fiction author brain has to label this alternative history. The bitter ruler of the title is the emperor Tiberius and though he was married to Julia they had divorced by the time he became emperor.

The Bitter Ruler

I seem to sign nothing but death warrants these days. Sejanus brings them in each morning; one scroll, two scrolls, three scrolls, sometimes more.

He has an apologetic pained expression as he places them on my desk. He knows what’s in them, he knows how those words will hurt his emperor.

Sometimes I refuse to sign so that I can express clemency.

It’s an important attribute of an emperor; clemency. For though I have the power to have you killed, I also have the power to let you live.

I prefer do to the latter but Sejanus implores me to be careful, too much clemency and it will signal that I am weak.

“Too little clemency and the emperor is too harsh, too draconian,” I counter. “Look what our history tells us about tyrants!”

He smiles in that way he has of showing he doesn’t countenacnce my view but he will let it pass.

Of course he’s right, he’s always right because whenever I bestow my clemency, the next month the scroll returns thicker with ever more evidence. And I am played a fool once more.

It used to make me angry, now it just saddens me. It saddens me that so many of my friends hate me so much. Why do so many want the crown from off my head?

If they truly knew what it was to be emperor! To sacrifice all your own wishes, your own desires for a realm that seemingly despises you.

If it were not for this accused crown I would be married to Vipsania still. We would have been happy.

Instead I am tied to Julia, my empress. She wears her crown well enough, a stately presence on my arm at banquets. She chatters away to the King of Judaea and the Indian trade ambassador. They find her charming.

They don’t know her like I know her.

I know what she gets up to at night, Sejanus brings me scrolls on that too.

He suffers greatly, says he cannot bear for me to be made a fool of like this.

What pride have I? What do I care about wearing the cuckold’s horns when I have worn them since my wedding night.

Her lovers are too numerous to list, suffice to say I know them all. I considered them friends once. Now they bow their deference and I find myself wondering if that is the position my wife takes before them. Does she stand there bowed to the waist, arse thrust up in the air ready to submit to their lusty thrustings? Or do they stand before her and gargle with their spit as she takes their putrid members into her lying mouth?

They make me sick, all of them. Those fawning courtiers with treachery in their minds and fingers that dabble between my wife’s thighs.

I suppose they are waiting for me to die so that they may marry her and take my crown.

We have no children, how could we when we have mated but the once. And from that one rutting I grew such a disgust of her that I have never touched her since.

It used to pain me this childless state. I used to imagine a smiling boy who I could teach to ride, an ally in my fight against them.

But now I am glad. For why would I want to  leave this cesspit of a city, this sewer of an empire to my own blood.

No, I have a far better plan. I have a snake for Rome, an emperor it truly deserves.

I’ve told no one of my plan, not even Sejanus, for I’m not as stupid an old fool as he thinks I am.

If I were to reveal my snake then the next morning his name would be in the first scroll placed on my desk. He thinks I don’t know. I play along because it suits me. Why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to remove Julia of her lovers?

I once thought Sejanus was one of her admirers. But no, apparently he has some wine boy who submits to his foul desires with but the faintest of resistance.

But that sodomite will learn soon, as they all will learn just how much I truly despise them. For only such hatred would compel me to leave them my snake, to name Caligula as my heir.

A Short story for you.

He had the look of a clerk about him or so Menas thought when he saw the slave on the block. A keenness in the eye and a telling indentation in his forefinger suggesting that he was not unfamiliar with the grasp of a stylus.

The auctioneer described him as ‘An Anatolian, 21 years of thereabouts. Only four careful owners. Look he is strong.” Lifting up the slave’s arm to demonstrate a complete lack of muscle. “Look at those legs! They can run, run fast for you!”

The slave, proving he knew Latin at the very least, looked downwards at his own skinny, knock kneed appendages.

“And he will breed, a good breeder this one. He will increase your stock by three a year every year!”

The distinctly sick look on the slave’s face disproving that.

Perhaps it was because he was last on the blocks and the crowd had spent all their coins on the preceding large chested Ethopian, large bosomed Ilyrian and large nosed Egyptian that Menas managed to secure the slave for a paltry hundred sesterces. A bargain.

“What’s your name?”

“Xerxes, but you can call me whatever you like, master.”

A pleasing deference and a good start to their relationship.

“We’ll stick to Xerxes. Easier that way, save me calling and nobody coming.”

“Yes, master,” said Xerxes with a spring in his step. Leaving Menas to wonder how such a capable slave had passed through four owners at his young age.

This mystery was quickly solved; Xerxes was keen, very keen with an enthusiasm for the tasks set him that veered on the annoying and then crashed straight into being downright infuriating.

It soon became clear that they could not share Mena’s cramped office what with Xerxes being well within throttling range. Menas did not trust himself to maintain control the next time his slave’s pen scratched on parchment every-single-damn-letter or broke into a jaunty whistle or cleared his throat which he did at least seventeen times a morning.

Instead Menas sent him down to sweep the sand of his gladiator training arena. A task that Xerxes engaged in with a diligence that was likely to get him killed, most particularly after his dressing down of The Annihilator for dripping blood onto his nicely swept sand. The Annihilator was only dripping blood because Xerxes’ over zealous sweeping had caused a sand cloud that had blinded him and allowed The Stabber to get a cheeky slash of his arm in.

For his own safety Menas sent him out into the town to purchase an animal for the upcoming beast fight. Telling him, “Find me something with teeth.”

Xerxes had near exploded with joy at being given such an honoured assignment, a sentiment he expressed with such frequency Menas was forced to threaten him with a whipping if he didn’t get on with it.

“It will be an honour to endure a whipping at your hands, master.”

Clenching his fists Menas managed to hold back.

He returned three hours later bouncing on his toes, excited as a child at this first chariot race.

“I found the most wonderful creature, master. You must come see it master. It’s going to make one amazing show. Aedile Amelianus will be ecstatic with you master for putting on such a good show for him. It has these stubby horns that could gouge out an eye, these long legs that could kick off a limb and a neck so long you’d hardly believe it. I reckon one long swipe of that neck could knock the beast killer off his feet and into the crowd! The third row at least master!”

“A long neck?” queried Menas with a sinking, swirling pot of horror churning in his stomach.

“Yes, master. Like you’ve never seen”
Menas reckoned he’d seen, he reckoned he’d definitely seen and he was imaging Aedile Amelianus reaction right now.  “Show me.”

Xerxes took him outside where he proudly pointed to his purchase. “See master isn’t it beautiful? But vicious, very vicious.”

Menas looked the creature up and down. “It’s a giraffe,” he said.

“Oh is that how you say it? I’ve been saying ger-raff-ee. No wonder Dios laughed.”

Xerxes’ mispronunciation was not the cause of Dios the animal dealer’s laugher, of that Menas was sure.

The giraffe expelled a long black tongue, then preceded to quietly chew the leaves off a nearby pine tree.

“Oooh master look at that!  Do you think that tongue is poisonous?”

Picturing Amelianus’ reaction to an hour of a giraffe munching away on grass whilst a beast killer flitted round its feet trying to entire it into a fight Menas felt the rage bubble up until he was incandescent. “YOU ARE FOR SALE! I AM SELLING YOU!”

He stormed off in a nicely flouncy exit that was ruined only by the plop, plop, plop of giraffe excrement hitting the ground behind him.

That evening after a heated exchanged with Dios who was clear he did not operate a refund policy, Menas sat by a flickering oil lamp trying to work out if he could afford at least a leopard. Discovering that his funds would barely run to a cat with mange.


“Have you brought me a troop of razor bill ducks? Or perhaps some man eating goats?”

“I’m sorry master,” said a forlorn Xerxes. “I’ll make it up to you master, honestly. Please don’t sell me.”

“I’m sorry but you’re just not suited to my business Xerxes.”

The slave looked up, met his eye daringly so, “And you master? I am suited to you?”

Why had he purchased him? Because he was outbid on the Egyptian? Because he’d got some coinage he thought he may as well use up? Or was it perhaps for some other reason?

Hadn’t he been a bit lonely since Tadius died? He looked at his slave. Scrawny yes, infuriating certainly. But earnest and willing , kind and clever. Filling the void of his grief.

“You suit me,” he said.