The author of The Cunning of the Dove (1960), Julius Caesar, Winter Quarters etc., etc. continues his excursions into history in a well-plotted novel of army life and court intrigue in Asia Minor and Rome in the Third Century, A.D., as it is seen and experienced by Duratius, a Roman soldier with the Praetorian Guard -- and the only fictional character in the book. A Gaul with years of fighting for Rome, he is ordered with the Guard to Antioch, and becomes involved in the palace politics which revolve around Elagabalus, the supposed grandson of the dead Emperor Caracalla, and a beautiful boy of 13 who worships a phallic-shaped stone and loves stableboys and charioteers. With Duratius' connivance Elagabalus is proclaimed Emperor, sets up court in Rome where perversions, depravities and outstanding sexual orgies mark his short reign. For at 17 he is murdered by the Guard that had made him Emperor and Duratius, marked for death, escapes to Britain, marries, raises horses and writes his story. Again the full background of history is used for an exciting picture of Rome's decline, and Duggan's followers -- and others who like fiction enlivening fact -- will find it satisfactory.