I found this book through a recommendation in Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins): “The Falco novels by Lindsey Davis give an entertaining and well-researched look into life in the Roman world in the early empire.”
Since I was drowning in the technicalities presented in the Handbook — specifically I was struggling to understand Roman naming practices — I thought these might be just the deliverance I needed.
I found the first of Davis’s Falco novels, The Silver Pigs, at our library and just finished it last night. I really enjoyed it. Her objective in writing these books was to take the modern-day detective story and translate it into ancient Roman times. Except that her detective, Marcus Didius Falco, has a family, and doesn’t find a new love to leave with every story. Or so says the introduction.
I enjoyed Falco, his family, and the setting. Falco even did a stint as a slave in a lead/silver mine in Britain. And there is a bit of a romance in it, as well. Quite entertaining. And not only did reading it spark several ideas for Sky and get me out of the mental mud I was stuck in, but it pointed me to further resources when I investigated author Lindsey Davis’s website: A Falco companion filled with info on how she did her research and dealt with author problems in coming up with her various stories, which I immediately purchased from Amazon along with the next book in the series.
Anyway, I’m not going to do a summary — you can find that on Amazon here and here — nor much of a review — you can find many on Amazon as well. But what I thought was especially cool and want to talk about here is the triumphal march of Vespasian and Titus. As it happens, the first Falco story takes place in 70 AD which is the year that Titus destroyed Jerusalem. I’d already done a bit of reading on that subject for Sky, so the fact the story is set in the same time frame was an extra plus. I don’t think Davis is a Christian; I seem to recall reading she is an atheist, but I’m not certain.
In any case, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she put a description of the procession into the book, toward the end, and I thought immediately of our Lord, who led His own triumphal procession after the Cross, “when He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, [and] made a public display of them (fallen angels), having triumphed over them through [the Cross].” (Col 2:15)
Paul was referring here to the Roman practice of the triumphal procession, something I doubt any of us have seen, but Davis’s description really made it take on shape and substance for me. It runs for several pages, and to try to reduce it to a paragraph or two completely guts the impact. Not wanting to commit copyright infringement I’ll have to recommend you find the book itself to read the full description
One of the things I was surprised to learn from her portrayal was that the Emperor had the role of Chief Priest, another parallel to our Lord who is our High Priest. Then there was the Crown of Jupiter which was held over the Emperor’s head as he rode in his chariot — the crown of a god, which no mortal man can wear. And our Lord being the God-Man, but crowned as a man, king of the Jews, Lord and Head and Husband of the Church. And she even had the slave whispering sic transit gloria mundi — “the glory of the world passes away.” I first learned about that slave from Colonel Thieme years ago, so it was a kick to see him presented here.
As an interesting side note, I noticed in a timeline in my Handbook that not long after this procession, which occurred 71 AD — a year after Jerusalem’s fall — Rome was hit with both plague and fire. I do not think that is coincidental. Nor the fact that 10 years after Titus, under Vespasian’s command, destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem, another fire in Rome destroyed Vespasian’s newly completed temple to Jupitor.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Marcus Didius Falco and his world. Perhaps the next book will even reference the above mentioned plague and fire…