An extract from Galba’s Men

As discussed Straton is surprisingly popular for a sadistic rapist. So here for all those Straton fans here is an extract from the forthcoming Galba’s Men when the fellow is being once again selflessly heroic.

Mina was convinced that this was a very bad idea. Ignorant of what Straton’s mission encompassed, she knew it wasn’t good from the overseer’s grim demeanour. Insistent that she had to follow him now, quickly, she padded behind him in bare feet and her nightgown, whip clasped in her hand.

“Straton,” she hissed. “Straton.”

He gestured for her to keep moving.

“Where are we going?”

“Mission.”

Which told her diddly-squat. He did not look right to her either. Straton always moved with surprising grace but tonight he was heavy footed, stopping to lean on walls, rubbing his forehead with desperate motions. It was hard to miss the enormous lump that had formed on the back of his head, Mina assuming the two things were connected. He was determined, though, a sack on his back containing a stack of lethal looking weapons which she hoped would compensate for his wobbliness.

Outside their destination Straton stopped and pulled out a vicious looking nail-studded cudgel. Mina’s eyes opened very wide, Straton telling her gruffly, “Could get nasty.” He handed her a lighter version.

“Whack,” he demonstrated a slap using both hands, taking a wide swing. Too wide, since he lost his footing and had to prop himself against the wall until the dizziness passed.

“Can we not do this tomorrow? You don’t look very well. You’re sort of green.”

Straton went to shake his head, but realised in time that this was not a great idea given the way the floor was rocking for him. “Needed now,” he said and then, “Help me. Please.”

He’d never used that word before, had never needed to. It fell oddly from his tongue. Mina could see he was desperate, truly desperate, and recalling the time he had rescued her from Juba, she nodded. Because that’s what friends did, wasn’t it? They helped each other out.

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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 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.

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.

Things to expect from Otho’s Regret

1) The usual crew are in attendance, including Epaphroditus, Aphrodite, Philo, Teretia, Lysander, Otho, Mina, Sporus.

2) There are some new characters and some built up from bit parts in Palatine and Galba’s Men.

3) There will be a battle scene (gulp). So far I’ve avoided writing on the Roman army aware that an awful lot of people are very clued up about the subject. However history demands that the battle of Cremona happens, so no avoiding it now.

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.

Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus Part Two

The Fictional Epaphroditus

In Palatine it is stated that he is 47 years old in 68 AD. He is working as Nero’s Private Secretary, mention is made of a previous role in the petitions office and a role working for Sabinus’ grandfather Callistus, as well as assistant to Claudius’ freedman Narcissus.

Epaphroditus is extremely wealthy, owning an enormous villa on the Esquiline and commands an impressive salary. It is hinted that he’s not averse to taking bribes. It is also hinted that this villa was payment for a role in the demise of Emperor Claudius.

Married to Claudia Aphrodite, a fellow ex-Imperial slave, they have between them seven children living, 5 girls and 2 boys. Who are: Silvia, Faustina, Pollus, Perella, Claudia, Julia and Rufus. Another boy, Iugarthus, born when both Epaphroditus and Aphrodite were slaves drowned in a Palace bathroom when aged only 15.

Despite this happy marriage he is a known philanderer. In Palatine his chosen mistress is Artemina (Mina) who is described as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Aphrodite (though considerably younger than her). A past dalliance with Nymphidia Sabina is also mentioned.

It has to be said that Epaphroditus is incredibly self serving. When Sabinus takes over the Palace he gives no thought whatsoever to the plight of Mina or any of the other slaves. His loyalty is to himself, then the Emperor, and then his family. In Galba’s Men he shamelessly uses Philo for information without worrying about the ramifications for his assistant.

In Palatine he ponders over the friendship between Alex and Sporus, finding such relationships perplexing. Actually it turns out he does have at least one friend in Marcus Salvius Otho. Though even this friendship was originally founded to enable Epaphroditus to ingratiate himself with the young Emperor Nero.

Sabinus claims that Epaphroditus and Phaon are relatives, though this is never confirmed and most probably it is a tactic to get Alex on board with his plot. Similarly Alex assumes Epaphroditus to be vernae (a Palace born slave), though again this is never confirmed.

In The Wine Boy, we learn that Epaphroditus’ past is not as illustrious as he would like to pretend.

Physically he is of medium height (Aphrodite is actually taller than him), with neat dark hair and arresting green eyes.