Revising the Roman calendar can be deadly.
In 46 BCE, ambitious Caius Julius Caesar is not only dictator but also Pontifex Maximus of Rome, putting him in charge of the calendar. Seeking to burnish his reputation, he has assembled an illustrious but controversially international group, led by Cleopatra’s former court astrologer Sosigenes, to implement a grand scheme of reform. Caesar cajoles his longtime colleague Decius Caecilius Metellus (SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead, 2008, etc.), now a senator, to expedite the contentious project. It’s an offer Decius can’t refuse, though he sees the inherent perils. The local populace is unhappy that Caesar has entrusted the job, which he variously calls “momentous” or “trifling,” depending on the situation, to so many foreigners. Cleopatra, 25, now lives in Rome in a bubble of controversy and gossip. Decius thinks she pales in comparison to local beauties; his wry wife Julia, Caesar’s niece, finds her entertaining. When Caesar resumes an affair with his former lover Servilia, wagging tongues decree that Cleopatra and Servilia are in mortal danger—from each other. A more urgent concern intrudes with the murder of a pair of foreign astronomers. Reliable Julia proves a shrewd sounding board as Decius turns sleuth again.
Decius’ first-person narrative is as sharp as ever, and the customary map and generous glossary will help transport readers back to ancient Rome.