A tale of revenge and intrigue set in seventh century Rome.
After usurping the throne by force, self-installed King Tarquinius brutally murders those loyal to his predecessor. Eterlimus, then only a child, loses his family to Tarquinius’ merciless purge but is rescued by Flavius, a prominent senator. Over time, Eterlimus, his true lineage hidden, becomes the successful owner of a brothel and a powerful man in his own right. Politicians frequently visit his establishment and tell their secrets to him. While Eterlimus publicly feigns loyalty to the king, he privately fumes, longing to retaliate on behalf of his family. He learns that the king’s treacherous son, Sextus, is returning to Rome from a successful military campaign and plans to celebrate at his brothel. Sextus monstrously abuses one of the prostitutes, leaving Eterlimus incensed. Intuitive by nature, he discovers that a misogynistic Sextus resents the glowing reputation earned by one of the wives of his closest adviser, Collatinus. Eterlimus wins her confidence and plots to use her as an instrument to turn Collatinus against Sextus and exact revenge. Hamza wastes no time establishing the necessary historical background, quickly revealing the extent of Eterlimus’ desire to take revenge. While this is a historical novel, the author is focused on plot rather than history. This is less a story of Rome than one about the corrosive effects of the longing for revenge. Eterlimus is a good man capable of sacrificing others to balance the wobbly scales of justice. Also, his grim decision sets into motion a train of dark events that threatens to destabilize all of Rome and corrupt even his closest friends. Hamza has written not only a well-constructed novel of political suspense, but a moral parable about the way emotional wounds allowed to fester can warp the best hearts. Despite its brevity, this is a powerful work that will likely resonate even for those with little interest in ancient Rome.
A short but affecting tale of retribution.