The Silver Pigs

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The Silver Pigs
First edition
Author Lindsey Davis
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Marcus Didius Falco
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 258 pp
ISBN 0-51-757363-6
OCLC 175283712
Followed by Shadows in Bronze

The Silver Pigs is an historical mystery novel by Lindsey Davis. Set in Rome and Britannia during AD 70, just after the year of the four emperors, The Silver Pigs stars Marcus Didius Falco, informer and imperial agent.

Pigs is a term by which ingots are known, and refer to the silver ingots which feature prominently in the plot.

Plot summary[edit]

This is the first novel in the series and introduces the main characters as well as establishing relationships that continue and grow throughout the whole series.

Falco stumbles upon a conspiracy in the trading of silver ingots, but not before it claims the life of a young girl (Sosia Camillina) whom Falco meets and is smitten with. Hired by the young girl's uncle, a senator, to find out who murdered her, and by the Roman Emperor Vespasian, to uncover the conspiracy, Falco finds himself on the next boat to Britain.

Once there he meets a lady way out of his class, Helena Justina, daughter of the Senator who hired him, and who happens to be Sosia's cousin. At first sight it is mutual loathing, he hates her class and she hates his prejudice. Things are not made any easier due to Sosia's death, especially for Helena. Finding himself working down a silver mine, acting as a mine slave, Falco learns the meaning of hate, pain and abuse. After being rescued by Helena and a friendly centurion, Falco heads back to Rome, as the reluctant charge of the even more reluctant Helena.

Naturally, after spending so much time together, lots of arguments, misunderstandings and denial, Falco and Helena fall in love (subsequently consummated in a horse stable in a public garden). Eventually, Falco sorts out the case, and only has to bring the culprits to justice. However, there is no justice when one of the culprits is Domitian, the Emperor's very own wayward son. As for the other culprits, only one remains alive, and that person is very close to the girl Falco loves and her senator father. After a final, bloody, retribution is carried out in the climax, Falco is offered the chance to be raised to the upper middle class, the equestrian rank. As an equestrian Falco could marry Helena without bringing her or her family shame, which is something he could never manage on his meagre earnings alone. He refuses, seeing the offer as a bribe to keep the whole conspiracy hushed-up. After realising his mistake and how he must have insulted Helena, he returns to Vespasian and asks for the chance again, and while he is told that his name can be added to the equestrian lists, he must first raise the 400,000 sesterces himself in order to purchase the land to that value which is the qualification for equestrian status. Vespasian himself came from an equestrian family that rose into the senatorial rank under the Julio–Claudian emperors, and although he fulfilled the standard succession of public offices, he had really made his name and earned his power in military service. Dejected, Falco returns to his dilapidated tenement in the Aventine Hill and there finds Helena waiting for him. She promises to wait for him for as long as it takes.

Major themes[edit]

  • Investigation into possible treason involving imperial silver mines.
  • Developing relationship of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina.
  • The influence of family relationships in political affairs.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Film, TV, Radio or theatrical adaptations[edit]

Release details[edit]

  • 2000, UK, Century, Hardback ISBN 0-7126-8454-9 (new edition: with a new introduction by the author in which she comments that some corrections have been made, and mentions recent research suggesting that the "pigs" may not have been formed in the way previously thought but "it's possible that when Falco describes the process to Petronius, he is wrong.")[1]
  • 2000, UK, Arrow, Paperback ISBN 0-09-941473-2 (new edition)
  • 2006, US, St Martins Press, Paperback, ISBN 0-312-35777-X (new edition)


  1. ^ New edition, 2000, Introduction, pages xiii-xviii

External links[edit]