I am now at the point of plotting out Vitellius’ Feast which will be the final book in the Four Emperors Series.
By the time I have written the final sentence of Vitellius’ Feast I will have contributed over 400k words on the subject of 69 AD.
So how to end what has been a rather enjoyable ride through Palatine, Galba’s Men, Otho’s Regret and Vitellius’ Feast? Answer=BIG!
Luckily history is on my side. Vitellius was a big man of ample appetites and tastes.
Suetonius says of him:
But his besetting sins were luxury and cruelty. He divided his feasts into three, sometimes into four a day, breakfast, luncheon, dinner, and a drinking bout; and he was readily able to do justice to all of them through his habit of taking emetics.
Which gives me scope to try and out do some of Nero’s excesses depicted in Palatine.
We also have drama a plenty with the burning down of the Temple of Jupiter amongst many shocking events that took place towards the end of 69 AD.
Along with the inevitable deaths, including one historically attested death of a character I know readers are extremely fond of (me too!).
So all in all we have excesses and action, death and mourning, treachery and betrayal to come in the final showdown.
But also some kind of conclusion to the lives of the characters who survive to the end. An ending for them all. One that I hope will satisfy.
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.