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.