Roma Sub Rosa

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Roma Sub Rosa
A paperback version of the first book in the series, Roman Blood.
AuthorSteven Saylor
CountryUnited States
GenreDetective, Historical fiction
PublisherSt. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books
Publication date
1991 –
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback) and

Roma Sub Rosa is a series of historical mystery novels by Steven Saylor set in ancient Rome and therefore populated by famous historic roman citizens.[1] The phrase "Roma Sub Rosa" means, in Latin, "Rome under the rose." If a matter was sub rosa, "under the rose," it meant that such matter was confidential.

The detective is known as Gordianus the Finder, and he mixes with non-fictional citizens of the Republic including Sulla, Cicero, Marcus Crassus, Catilina, Catullus, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony.


The family of Gordianus grows through the series to become "a typically Roman extended family":[2]

  • Gordianus the Finder, the titular character and narrator. A plebeian hired to investigate on behalf of a wide range of clients. In Catalina's Riddle he is called the "most honest man in Rome" by Cicero. Thanks to his work, he eventually moves up in the world, even coming to live in an old patrician house on the Palatine. He is 30 years old at the beginning of Roman Blood set in 80 B.C. Marries Bethesda at the end of Arms of Nemesis after freeing her.
  • Bethesda, his beautiful Egyptian wife. Originally a slave purchased by Gordianus from a slave market in Alexandria, the two have always had a mutually affectionate relationship. Gordianus later married her after freeing her at the end of Arms of Nemesis. During The Venus Throw, it's revealed that she and her mother had once belonged to Dio. During A Mist of Prophecies, she falls ill with a mysterious malady. In The Judgment of Caesar, Gordianus takes her to Egypt to seek a cure and is lost in the Nile.
  • Eco, his oldest adopted son, was a mute boy when he first appeared as a key player in the book Roman Blood. Gordianus adopted him after his mother abandoned him by the end of the first novel. He recovered his speech in Arms of Nemesis at 18 years old. He followed in his father's footsteps as an investigator and often assists him in cases. Married to Menenia and father of twins, Titus and Titiania. Inherited Gordianus' Subura house in Catilina's Riddle.
  • Meto, his second adopted son, was a slave of Crassus until he was freed and adopted by Gordianus at the end of Arms of Nemesis. Becomes a soldier serving under Julius Caesar by the time of The Venus Throw at 22 years old. Takes part in Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon and the battle of Brundisium in Rubicon. Gordianus travels to Massilia in Last Seen in Massilia after receiving a note about Meto's death. By the end of the novel, Gordianus disowns him.
  • Rupa, his third adopted son, a mute who first appears in A Mist of Prophecies alongside his sister, Cassandra. Gordianus adopts him at her request. Travels with Gordianus to Egypt in The Judgment of Caesar.
  • Gordiana (Diana), his intellectual and headstrong daughter by Bethesda. Born at the end of Arms of Nemesis on the same day they adopted Meto. During The Venus Throw, it's revealed that she is the culprit behind Dio's murder to avenge her mother, despite only being 13. Marries Davus at the end of A Murder on the Appian Way. By the time of Rubicon, she has given birth to Aulus. At the end of the series, it's revealed that Gordanius has dictated all the novels to her.
  • Menenia, his plebeian daughter-in-law (Eco's wife) who has twins by the end of Catilina's Riddle.
  • Davus, his son-in-law (Diana's husband) a former slave of Pompey's who became Gordianus' slave and bodyguard. First appears in A Murder on the Appian Way. Marries Diana by the end of the novel. Plays a small part in Rubicon and accompanies Gordianus in Last Seen in Massilia.
  • Titus and Gordiana (Titiana), twin children of Eco and Menenia, Gordianus' first grandchildren.
  • Aulus, his grandson (by Diana). Two years old at the beginning of Rubicon.
  • Little Bethesda, his granddaughter (by Diana).

Other notable fictional characters[edit]

  • Belbo, Gordianus' slave and bodyguard. Dies in A Murder on the Appian Way during a series of riots incited by the Clodians.
  • Lucius Claudius, Gordianus' friend and benefactor who later leaves his farm to Gordianus during Catilina's Riddle.
  • Aratus, Gordianus' loyal slave and foreman at his farm in Catilina's Riddle. Inherited from Lucius Claudius.
  • Congrio, Gordianus' treacherous slave and cook at his farm in Catilina's Riddle. Inherited from Lucius Claudius who conspired with the lady Claudia.
  • Claudia, a cousin of Lucius Claudius who becomes Gordianus' one-time neighbor during his farming days in Catilina's Riddle. A seemingly friendly matron and a member of the Claudii, who befriends Gordianus and his family before her true intentions are revealed.
  • Trygonian, a eunuch and priest of Cybele who first appears with Dio at the beginning of The Venus Throw.
  • Mopsus and Androcles, brothers and slaves of Clodius who become a part of Gordianus' household by the end of A Murder on the Appian Way. Both play small roles in Rubicon and A Mist of Prophecies. They travel with Gordianus to Egypt in The Judgment of Caesar.
  • Hieronymus, a Massilian who rescues Gordianus and Davus in Last Seen in Massilia. At the beginning of the novel, he is due to be sacrificed as a part of the city-state's rites, but heads to Rome at the end. In A Mist of Prophecies, he is shown to be living with Gordianus.
  • Cassandra, a seeress whose murder kicks off the events in A Mist of Prophecies. Engaged in an affair with Gordianus, despite being young enough to be his granddaughter, while Bethesda was ill. Revealed to have been a spy for Caesar.

Non-fictional characters[edit]


The books are listed below in chronological order. For publication order, see the author's page.

  1. The Seven Wonders (2012) — 92-90 BC: The young Gordianus travels to see the Wonders of the Ancient World.
  2. Raiders of the Nile (2014) — 88 BC: The young Gordianus must travel into the Nile Delta to find a gang of bandits.
  3. Wrath of the Furies (2015) — 88 BC: Gordianus travels to Ephesus during Mithridates' war against Rome
  4. Roman Blood (1991) — 80 BC: Gordianus investigates a murder case for the famous lawyer Cicero.
  5. The House of the Vestals (1997) — 80-72 BC : Short stories.
  6. A Gladiator Dies Only Once (2005) — 77-64 BC: Short stories.
  7. Arms of Nemesis (1992) — 72 BC : Gordianus tries to save the lives of 99 slaves, while Spartacus threatens Rome.
  8. Catilina's Riddle (1993) — 63 BC: Gordianus is embroiled in the Catiline conspiracy.
  9. The Venus Throw (1995) — 56 BC: Gordianus tries to discover who murdered an Egyptian diplomat.
  10. A Murder on the Appian Way (1996) — 52 BC: Gordianus investigates the death of Publius Clodius Pulcher.
  11. Rubicon (1999) — 49 BC: Gordianus investigates a murder close to home as Rome nears civil war.
  12. Last Seen in Massilia (2000) — 49 BC: Gordianus looks for his son Meto in the city of Massilia as it is besieged by the army of Caesar.
  13. A Mist of Prophecies (2002) — 48 BC: Gordianus searches for the killer of a seeress.
  14. The Judgment of Caesar (2004) — 48 BC: Gordianus travels to Egypt in an attempt to find a cure for his wife's illness.
  15. The Triumph of Caesar (2008) — 46 BC: Gordianus investigates a conspiracy to murder Caesar.
  16. The Throne of Caesar (2018) - 44 BC: the Ides of March and the conclusion of the series.

- "Ill Seen in Tyre" (2014), in the cross-genre anthology Rogues, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, set in 91 BC just before the Epilogue of The Seven Wonders


  1. ^ Craine, Debra (March 3, 2018). "Review: The Throne of Caesar by Steven Saylor — it's toga and out for a great Roman sleuth". The Times UK. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  2. ^ Beard, Mary. "The Preface quotes this comment from the Times Literary Suppliment". A Gladiator Dies Only Once - PDF Free Download. Retrieved 24 August 2023.

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