This novel answers the question, ""Can an orphaned boy from a small garrison town on the frontier of the Roman Empire find happiness as the blood brother and boon companion of the handsome but unstable heir-apparent to the throne of Marcus Aurelius?"" The answer, of course, is ""no."" The boy is Manlius whose father is killed in battle after he saves the Emperor's life and the grateful Marcus Aurelius takes him to Rome. There his companion is Commodus, the young prince, and their relationship is similar to that of Thomas a Becket and Henry II even though Commodus is unstable and untrustworthy. Manlius, however, is drawn even closer to the Christians for whom he earlier felt only contempt. A beautiful Christian girl who has, apparently, studied at Union Theological remarks, ""Even if God's Kingdom is a direction and not an end, we must go on traveling toward it."" Manlius agrees, and they travel on-- together... This is a soothing, on the whole satisfactory late Roman vs. early Christian spectacular which jogs along comfortably from battle to riot to ergy to palace intrigue to chariot race, but never jolts the reader with any element of surprise.