The Romans hate Domitian. So much so, that they have tried to kill him dozens of times. The emperor managed to survive all these attacks, thanks to tight security and a comprehensive intelligence network.
The protection of the emperor is the task of the Praetorian Guard, the best trained and paid army corps in the world. The Praetorians strip-search anyone who comes near to Domitian. Everything the emperor eats is also watched vigilantly. There is no pattern in the delivery of ingredients. The kitchen is strictly secured. And every dish is pre-tasted. Moreover, every evening Domitian takes a preventive dose of anti-poison. The emperor seems invulnerable. Until Quintilian discovers a security leak.
The plot against Domitian is the job of only three men: Josephus, Quintilian, and Clement. They do not need any outside help. As a result, the chance of discovery is minimal. Only on the day of the assassination itself, their plan can fail.
The novel begins early in the morning, an hour before Josephus is expected at the palace. Quintilian is already there, preparing for the assassination. Clemens is also ready to deliver his share. He does so, however, from the office of the intended new emperor, a cousin of Domitian. According to the conspirators, this cousin is the man who must lead the Roman Empire into a new future.
The story about the course of the conspiracy alternates with retrospects. These show how the plotters came to their desperate act. All three of them have both positive and negative motives for murdering Emperor Domitian.
the plotters’ motives
Josephus has fled to Rome after the Jewish war. There, he became dependent on the emperor’s benevolence. He lives in a house that is Domitian’s property, and he is granted a state allowance. So he is completely in the emperor’s power. Domitian abuses that power to harass Josephus. With each audience, the humiliations the emperor concocts become grosser. Josephus has endured them for 25 years, but now he can’t bear them any longer. He sees only one way out: to kill Domitian. In doing so, he will not only get rid of his tormentor, but he will also clear the path for the third Jewish temple.
Quintilian has known just one great love in his life: Egeria. Unfortunately, their marriage only lasted for ten years. Then she died. Quintilianus blames Domitian for her death and wants revenge. The assassination won’t bring his wife back, but it will give him something else that is priceless: the governorship over Sicily. For this is the office, that the intended heir to the throne has promised him. The assignment will fulfill a long-cherished desire because, on Sicily, Quintilian plans to found the Utopia that Socrates has had in mind.
Clemens is a Christian. Christianity is a new sect within the Roman Empire, and Domitian fights it with fire and sword. Every day the emperor has believers executed. By assassinating Domitian, Clemens hopes to save his brothers and sisters. And his expectations reach even further because the intended heir to the throne is also a Christian. By bringing him to power, Clemens will bring near the Kingdom of God.
Due to the emperor’s extreme security, the attack is a dare in itself. And when tensions between the conspirators rise during the course of the day, the danger rapidly increases.
Quintilian, who is a professor, treats his two companions haughtily. He regards them as provincials who lack education and delicacy. Fortunately, Josephus and Clemens manage to ignore his arrogance.
However, they cannot control the enmity that exists between themselves. Twenty-five years earlier, they were foes in the Jewish war, and Clemens can’t forget that. He condemns Josephus for his “betrayal”. But Josephus repudiates the accusation. By all that is holy, he insists that he was fighting on the right side. Emotions run so high that Quintilian has to risk his life to calm them down.
All the six chapters of the novel, I have written strictly from the perspective of one of my protagonists. In chapters I and IV, Josephus speaks, in chapters II and VI Quintilianus and in III and V Clemens. On my page “a foretaste” I have published two pages from each of those six chapters to give a first impression of the story and the characters. To the reader who wants to know how I work out the above storyline, I warmly recommend these pages.