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.

Another Favourite Passage From Palatine

Which was the catalyst for an astounding sight. Namely that of the empress, lifting up her skirts and running full pelt for her rival.

There was much discussion later as to who won that particular bout. Statilia certainly got a good slap on Sporus before being pulled away by a combination of Phaon, her mother, an aged senator and two Praetorian guards. She sank her nails into Sporus’ arms as they dragged her off the squealing eunuch. Looking down at his blooded arm he was outraged. That bitch had attacked him in public! He complained loudly to Nero.

The emperor appeared to vacillate, caught between Statilia who was struggling with her holders and screaming every obscenity she could think of at Sporus, and the eunuch who was giving as good as he got, and being a slave had a far more colourful vocabulary than she. The emperor shot Epaphroditus a pleading look.

The secretary gestured for the soldiers to release Statilia.
Standing in front of her he told her quietly. “Empress, if you could remember you are in public.”
Statilia looked daggers at him, “Oh, I am aware of that. Remove the creature or I shall kill it.”

Epaphroditus did not doubt her sincerity. Sporus was escorted out protesting vigorously. The more outraged he became the higher his voice until only the dogs of the Palatine Hill were privy to his thoughts.

Character Profile -Artemina (Mina)

Artemina, Mina to her friends is an attendant to Empress Statilia Messalina.
She holds the title of Keeper of The Towel, a job she has got via a sexual relationship with Epaphroditus.
There is some references made to a previous role involving flowers and a nursery that she was extremely keen to escape from.
Aged around seventeen she is best friends with Alex and Sporus. Maintaining a complete ignorance of Alex’s feelings for her.
It’s mentioned that prior to her relationship with Epaphroditus she attempted to seduce Philo and failed due to his running away.

She images herself in love with Epaphroditus though it is very apparent he barely even thinks about her. During Sabinus’ coup against Nero he doesn’t once think about her safety. He later gives her a dose of a nasty sexually transmitted disease.
Mina thinks the only way to progress up the palace hierarchy is by sex, firstly with Epaphroditus and later with Titus Vinius. However it is through the influence of Straton that she sees another path.

Her friendship with Straton is based on a delusion. Mina blinds herself to Straton’s nature, which might bring out the softer side of the overseer but leads her to completely misunderstand his interest in Philo believing them to be having a passionate love affair. One which she is keen to facilitate.

Mina is extremely brave, beloved of gossip and stronger than she gives herself credit for.

Short Story -The Purchase

The Purchase

After a whole morning of agonizing deliberation Menas was no nearer a decision on whether to tell Xerxes.
Watching the slave happily dusting about their apartment Menas wrestled with his inner hydra.
Xerxes needed to know. There could be no hiding it. He had to know. It was the right thing to do. The fair thing to do. And it had to be Menas who told him.

Xerxes midway through dusting a large Greek urn squinted, moving his face closer to the pot.
“Oh dear,” he exclaimed. “There’s a black mark on this master. But don’t worry I shall remove it.”
“Xerxes, there’s no need. It’s fine. There is something we need to discuss.”
“It won’t take but a moment master.”
The slave applied his fingernail to the scratching at the black smudge a look of intense concentration playing across his rather goofy features
“Xerxes there is something I need to tell you.”
Those last two words were lost in the cataclysmic crash of the urn toppling off its plinth and hitting the stone floor. The urn, a pleasant addition to the room for a good fifteen years didn’t so much break as explode in a multitude of directions.
“Oh no!” cried Xerxes faced with the mother of all cleaning up operations. “Oh master!” Turning his distraught face towards Menas and adding rather unnecessarily, “I’ve broken the pot.”
“Don’t worry about the pot. I’ll get Hypheston to clean it up.”

Xerxes visibly brightened, “That is a good idea. The two of us together will have this all swept up in no time. Hypheston is great isn’t he? I can’t believe what a great purchase he was! Can you believe I managed to find a eunuch for only 500 sesterces?”
Menas finding a sudden urgent reason to leave.

Menas sat round a table with three of his gladiators: The Decimator, The Annihilator and The one they’d yet to find a suitably imposing name for.
“I need your advice men,” began Menas pressing his fingertips together. “It’s about Xerxes.”
The gladiators exchanged knowing looks.
Menas, as was his habit, pretended he hadn’t noticed just as he pretended he hadn’t seen the graffiti scrawled on the walls of the barracks that made various claims about the nature of his and Xerxes’ relationship.
“I sent him off to the slave market yesterday with a bag of coins.”
“I saw him come back,” said The Decimator. “He was right pleased with his purchase.”
“Bouncing all over the place,” added The Annihilator.
“He told me he got a eunuch for only 500 sesterces,” said The one they’d yet to find a suitably imposing name for.
“He didn’t get a eunuch for only 500 sesterces. Nobody could get a eunuch for 500 sesterces.”
“So what did he get then?” asked The Decimator.
“He got a girl.”
“Easy mistake to make,” shrugged The Annihilator. “Eunuchs don’t have penises and neither do girls. Very easy to get confused.”
Menas got to his key point. “The question is do I tell Xerxes that he’s brought a girl and not a eunuch as he thinks?”
“No,” said The one they’d yet to find a suitably imposing name for. “He was right proud yesterday at his bargain. It would crush his spirits if he’d know he’d been taken for an idiot.”

Yes, it would, thought Menas. Xerxes would be aghast at his stupidity, he’d think he’d let Menas down and be doubly distraught. Menas couldn’t bear a despondent Xerxes. He loved the gangly, irrepressible, annoyingly cheery Xerxes. Xerxes who laughed like a squealing piglet, who snorted at odd moments, whose endless attempts to please his master had resulted in breakages, trippings, a couple of law suits and the accidental demise of a camel named Gemellus.
“Don’t tell him boss,” urged The Decimator. “What does it matter anyway? I reckon Xerxes’ll never get familiar with girls enough to realise his mistake.”
More knowing glances.
Menas sat back in his chair. “Ignorance is bliss,” he murmured to himself.

The door flew open smacking into the wall, the resulting dent adding another mouth to a rather pleasant fresco depiction of Minerva.
“Master, master!” bounced Xerxes. “You’ll never guess what?”
Menas and his gladiators exchanged looks. Had Xerxes discovered Hypheston’s secret for himself?
“Hypheston is going to have a baby.”
He had then.
“I didn’t know eunuchs could have babies!”

Characters – Philo

Philo is one of the few non-historical characters and was born from my own imagination and from a necessity to have someone to serve Tigellinus and Epaphroditus drinks in the opening scene of Palatine.

I had no thoughts beyond that. But then at the end of the scene we find out Philo is newly freed, with Epaphroditus giving him a little speech about his new role. He ends that kindly meant speech with a warning ‘that some practises are unacceptable now you are a freedman’

Which instantly made me think ‘oooo what’s he been up to?’. Philo then evolved to allow me to explore certain themes. Firstly he’s the guy in the middle. I already had Epaphroditus at the top and the likes of Alex at the bottom, so Philo is neatly the guy in the middle. He also allowed me to explore the world of the newly freed, of a slave who has known nothing of the Palace thrust out into the world and having to cope with the strangeness of it all.

His abuse at the hands of Straton was a chance to explore the darkness of slavery which I felt had to be done. You really can’t write about slavery without discussing the sexual exploitation of slaves. Without Philo my examples of slavery are the wildly successful Epaphroditus and the likes of Sporus and Mina who are happily working their way up the Palace career ladder.

Philo gives a fairly comprehensive account of his rather sad life at the end of Galba’s Men so there is no need to repeat it here. He is 30 at the start of Palatine, newly freed and living on the Viminal Hill. He is continually described as the Indian boy despite his assertion that he is not Indian. In later books we discover he is from Tarpobane (modern day Sri Lanka). He seems to have combined a form of Hinduism with Roman religion. His favourite God is stated as Hanuman, the monkey God and he doesn’t eat beef on religious grounds.

He is extremely good at his job, Epaphroditus has been taking the credit for his work for many years.. Lysander describes Philo’s hobbies as reading and tidying things. He lacks any sense of humour and takes most things literally.