Rogue Roman is a book I saved from the trash. I’ve read I, Claudius and found it interesting enough, so I was intrigued enough by the title and cover of this book to rescue it. So I did. Then I didn’t read it for a very long time because it seemed like a book you have to be in just the right mood to read.
In a moment of desperation for a different, interesting book, I carefully opened the yellowed pages of Lance Horner’s book and warily started reading. I say warily because the cover, after all, advertises slavery, passion, and overthrowing an empire. What started out wary ended in a headfirst tumble into the ancient world that I didn’t want to leave.
Cleon, the main character in the story, starts off as basically a slave to his stepfather in Syria. He wants nothing more than to sleep with a woman and get away from the inn that he’s been bound to all his life. Luck strikes when two traveling actors like his un-Syrian looks and take him away to be in their acting company in Antioch. Cleon spurns the advances of the male slave traveling with them and delights in the brothel he’s taken to, until the proprietress tries to make him a slave there. Acting turns out to be Cleon’s gift and it gets him through many complicated situations in his young life.
He goes from miming in Antioch to slavery in the Greek islands to the gladiator stables in Rome to bedding the Empress Augusta and falling in love with the Empress Octavia, wife the infamous Nero.
For a relatively short book, it’s an amazing journey and the research that Horner did comes through with stunning clarity. There’s no doubt you’re reading a book about the ancient world, rule by Rome, and filled with decadence and danger.
The pages of my copy may be yellow but I hope they last a long time because this is a book I’d read again.
(I found the picture of the cover online. It is not mine. If it’s yours and you don’t want me to use it, let me know and I will take it down.)