In Saylor’s (Raiders of the Nile, 2014, etc.) newest novel of the ancient world, Mithridates, who styles himself Shahansha—King of Kings—has conquered Roman colonies from the Euxine Sea to Persia.
That doesn’t trouble Gordianus, a young Roman who’s living comfortably outside Alexandria with his beautiful slave, and lover, Bethesda. Sadly, during Egypt’s civil war, Gordianus lost touch with his beloved tutor, Antipater of Sidon. Thought "the greatest of all living poets," Antipater joined Mithridates' court and was soon trapped in internecine machinations. Now, he’s known as Zoticus of Zeugma, a spy. Then Gordianus receives a cryptic scroll suggesting that Antipater’s in peril. The poet is in Ephesus, the jewel of the east, and Gordianus sails off to help him; to escape detection as a Roman, he pretends to be mute, with Bethesda acting as his interpreter. Once in Ephesus, his muteness is perceived as evidence of a prophecy. Trapped in the maelstrom of back-stabbing royal intrigue, Gordianus is a hero to root for, but other characters are stock, with Mithridates in particular having minimal back story. While the relentless action and subtly drawn settings keep the pages turning, the story is a bit heavy on royal court politics. With a plot driven by the place of Roman and Greek gods in ancient societies, Gordianus must deal with the Grand Magus and Great Megabyzoi, and he learns that the Furies, those troublesome winged sisters older than Zeus, must be appeased with a virgin sacrifice. Only then can Mithridates approach the goddess Artemis to bless his evil scheme.
Religious war, ethnic cleansing—everything new is old again in the era of swords, togas, and defeated generals executed by being forced to swallow molten gold.