The Assassins of Rome
First edition, 2002
|Cover artist||Peter Sutton
Fred van Deelan (mosaic)
|Series||The Roman Mysteries|
|17 October 2002|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||224 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|Preceded by||The Pirates Of Pompeii|
|Followed by||The Dolphins of Laurentum|
- 1 Plot introduction
- 2 Plot summary
- 2.1 Scroll I
- 2.2 Scroll II
- 2.3 Scroll III
- 2.4 Scroll IV
- 2.5 Scroll V
- 2.6 Scroll VI
- 2.7 Scroll VII
- 2.8 Scroll VIII
- 2.9 Scroll IX
- 2.10 Scroll X
- 2.11 Scroll XI
- 2.12 Scroll XII
- 2.13 Scroll XIII
- 2.14 Scroll XIV
- 2.15 Scroll XV
- 2.16 Scroll XVI
- 2.17 Scroll XVII
- 2.18 Scroll XVIII
- 2.19 Scroll XIX
- 2.20 Scroll XX
- 2.21 Scroll XXI
- 2.22 Scroll XXII
- 2.23 Scroll XXIII
- 2.24 Scroll XXIV
- 2.25 Scroll XXV
- 2.26 Scroll XXVI
- 2.27 Scroll XXVII
- 2.28 Scroll XXVIII
- 3 Allusions to history
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The novel is set in Ostia and Rome in September AD 79. Jonathan is the primary character in this novel, as he seeks out the mother he believed long dead and learns the tragic secrets of his family history.
The story begins on Jonathan ben Mordecai 11th birthday. He is gloomy, saying that something bad always happens on his birthday. He opens the presents and is not satisfied with any except a jar of lemon oil.
He breaks the jar of lemon oil, and the scent reminds him of his mother, who died in the Siege of Jerusalem. Officials turns up to warn Jonathan's father that an assassin, ben Jonah, has been asking for him.
Jonathan wonders why his mother did not escape with them, which leads him to hear his father talking with a stranger. The stranger mentions that his mother didn't escape with them 'because of Jonathan'.
The stranger turns out to be ben Jonah. Jonathan head butts him and tells his father to knock him cold before he gets up. Jonathan's Father, ben Ezra, tells him ben Jonah is the brother of Jonathan's mother, Susannah.
Jonathan thinks about the conversation before, and thinks that ben Ezra must hate him for making Susannah not leave. That night, he dreams that his mother is sat at her loom in the Cyclops cave and tells him that she is still alive.
The next day, he and ben Jonah have disappeared, with a message: Gone to Rome. The official returns and arrests ben Ezra for hiding ben Jonah. His friends Flavia and Nubia set of after Jonathan.
This chapter is mainly about the trip that Flavia and Nubia (her real name is Shepenwepet) took to Rome with their bodyguard, Caudex and cart driver, Feles.
Meanwhile, ben Jonah decides to take Jonathan with him to Rome, where he admits to his nephew that he a messenger to the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespanius.
Flavia's mother Myrtilla has a sister who is the wife of the great senator Aulus Caecilius Cornix, so they go to his house to find it empty except for his secretary Sisyphus.
In the rental room of ben Jonah, he shows Jonathan that he is a very talented musician by playing the bass lyre to him. Meanwhile, Flavia tells Sisyphus why they had come.
ben Ezra's other friends go to ask the official, Bato, why ben Ezra has been arrested. Bato tells them that ben Jonah had been involved in a plot to kill the emperor. If ben Ezra helped him, it was treason.
They visit ben Ezra in the prison. ben Ezra tells them that ben Jonah really was an assassin, but had changed his ways years before. In Rome, Flavia is surprised when Sisyphus tells her he will help them.
Jonathan's friends Miriam, Aristo and Lykos (Lupus) find a message from Jonathan: Susannah is alive and at the Golden House. Meanwhile, ben Jonah tells Jonathan that he has been the first in 3 hired to kill the Emperor.
Simeon asks Jonathan if he wants to go with him to the palace disguised as musicians, and help him kill the Emperor. Jonathan agrees, since it would provide a chance to see his mother.
Aristo and Lupus go to Rome to tell Flavia and Nubia the news and help them. At the palace, ben Jonah is allowed in to perform because of his exceptional musical talent. While he is playing he is recognized.
In Rome, Flavia meets up with Aristo and Lupus. In the palace, ben Jonah and Jonathan are arrested. Jonathan is branded as a slave and sent to work at the Golden House.
Jonathan meets the eight year old Ripzah, who knows all the passages, or 'cryptoporticuses', of the Golden House. Sisyphus went to see the races and sees Celer, designer of the Golden House.
Ripzah tells Jonathan that there is a woman called Susannah here. Susannah turns out to be Jonathan's mother. Discovering that she is visited by the Emperor he at first thinks that Susannah and the Emperor are lovers.
Ripzah tells Jonathan that it was woman called Berenice had hired ben Jonah and other assassins, but the target was Susannah, not the emperor Titus Flavius Vespanius.
Jonathan tells Ripzah abut his mother in the Golden house. At the same time, Flavia tricks the Golden House's guard into telling them that the second assassin (after ben Jonah) has been arrested and crucified.
The group of Sisyphus and Aristo are hired to perform music for Titus at the Golden House's Octagonal Room because they are 'talented musicians'. Jonathan hides behind a bush and sees Susannah visited by the Emperor again.
Susannah finds Jonathan and realizes that he is a slave here. She tells him that ben Jonah is okay and that the emperor is sorry that he sieged Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the 'Musicians' start performing.
Lupus spots the assassin Porcius and chases him. Susannah tells Jonathan that she stayed because her lover was in the city. His name was Jonathan. Jonathan realizes that Jonathan was what ben Jonah was speaking of.
Porcius escapes and climbs up to the roof, and Flavia throws a tambourine at him. He goes through the glass roof, falls and dies. Meanwhile, Susannah says she could not go back because Titus needs him.
Titus gives all the slaves and women of the Golden House an option. They could stay or leave. Susannah, Ripzah and her mother Rachel stays, the others leave.
Susannah explains why she stays: She could persuade Titus to rethink evil ideas because he is not so bad that he could not repent. ben Jonah becomes the steward to the Golden House.
Titus apologizes for the brand and frees him as a reward for saving his life from the assassins. He also gave him a ring with Titus' seal imprinted on it. He also thanked Sisyphus.
All the characters (except Titus) are invited to a feast. At the feast, Clio shows up. Everyone is surprised that Clio survived the volcano. Felix shows up too, and Jonathan invites them to dinner as well. All is well. The End
Allusions to history
The novel is set about nine years after the siege and fall of Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War and refers to those events and the subsequent enslavement of thousands of Jews. Characters describe the siege and also the love affair between Berenice and Titus.
Flavia and her friends also witness contemporary events such as the building of Vespasian's new amphitheatre - now known as the Colosseum - and the chariot races at the Circus Maximus during the Ludi Romani. The unusually hot weather that autumn, a consequence of the eruption of Vesuvius, is frequently mentioned. Some of the action is set in Nero's Golden House, which the book suggests was used as a palace for Berenice and her Jewish handmaidens (its actual use at this period is unknown).
- Caroline Lawrence, "The Last Scroll" in The Assassins of Rome