The Roman Mysteries

The Roman Mysteries

The Roman Mysteries is a series of historical novels for children by Caroline Lawrence. The first book, "The Thieves of Ostia", was published in 2001, and 17 more novels were planned, plus a number of "mini-mysteries" and companion titles.

The books take place in the Ancient Roman Empire during the reign of the Emperor Titus. They detail the adventures of four children who solve mysteries and have adventures in Rome, Greece, and beyond: Flavia, the protagonist and the daughter of a sea captain from Ostia; Nubia, a slave girl from Africa; Jonathan, a Jewish boy whose family are refugees from Jerusalem; and Lupus, a mute beggar boy.


The four detectives

* Flavia Gemina: Flavia is a self-proclaimed detective. She loves solving mysteries, and is very inquisitive. She is naive, but also well-educated and very strong willed. She has light brown hair (thus the name Flavia), and grey eyes. She turns eleven years old midway through the series. She is usually the leader of their investigations. She takes a tambourine in the group's music sessions.
* Jonathan Ben Mordecai: the son of a doctor, his family are Flavia's next-door neighbors in Ostia, and refugees from Titus's Siege of Jerusalem. They observe many of the holidays and rituals of a Jewish family, but are secretly Christians. Being a bit of a pessimist, Jonathan tends to look on the dark side of life and usually blames everything on himself. He has curly black hair, which is shaved many times in the books, and dark eyes, and he also suffers from asthma. He is about Flavia's age. When the friends form a musical quartet in The Asassins Of Rome, Jonathan becomes skilled with the lyre.
* Lupus: a beggar boy living in Ostia, he becomes friends with Flavia, Jonathan, and Nubia after they saved him and looked after them, and later shares a house with Jonathan's family. He is eight years old (nine in later novels). When he was a boy, he was kidnapped by his uncle Phillopos (aka Venalicius the slave trader), who cut out his tongue, leaving him mute. He later tracks down his mother, who has become a priestess of Apollo in exchange for his safety, which forces her to remain distant from him. His real name is revealed to be Lukos, the Greek equivalent of his Latin name ("wolf"). Lupus is very athletic, and skilled at spying on people, blending into crowds, and getting inside secure places. He usually communicates through a writing tablet, other times through mime or simple grunts. He is also a very talented drum player.
* Nubia: an African girl kidnapped by slave traders and sold by Venalicius to Flavia's father. Flavia always regards Nubia as a friend rather than a servant, and sets her free in "The Pirates of Pompeii". Nubia is very beautiful, with a great love of music. She has the voice of an angel and an amazing talent with the flute. In "Pirates" it is revealed that her real name is Shepenwepet, though she does not mind her new name. Most of her family were murdered by the slave traders, except for her eldest brother Taharqo, who becomes a celebrated gladiator in Rome. She is kind-hearted, very modest, and has a great affinity with animals. Because of the way her family was killed, she is afraid of fire, but she conquers it in "The Charioteer of Delphi". Her Latin is not as fluent as the others', and she often asks for translations of long words (sometimes a source of comic relief).

Family and friends

* Marcus Flavius Geminus: Flavia's father, the sea captain. His wife Myrtilla died in childbirth, along with their two twin sons.
* Mordecai ben Ezra: Jonathan and Miriam's father, a doctor. He is from Judea, and is very learned.
* Miriam: Jonathan's older sister. A very beautiful woman, and a brilliant cook. She marries Flavia's uncle Gaius, and later dies giving birth to twin boys in "The Slave Girl from Jerusalem".
* Gaius Flavius Geminus: Marcus's twin brother. His farm is wiped out in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but is later given a new one by Pliny the Younger. He marries Miriam.
* Aristo: Flavia's Greek tutor, who instructs the foursome in philosophy, Greek language, and music, and also helps them solve mysteries. Very handsome, well-educated, and musically gifted. He is secretly in love with Miriam, and doesn't realize Nubia is secretly in love with him.
* Polla Felicia: eldest daughter of Publius Pollius Felix. She is usually called "Polla Pulchra," or simply "Pulchra" (Latin for "beautiful") because of her looks. Initially spoiled and selfish, she becomes friends with the quartet after sharing some of their adventures. and greatly admires Jonathan.
* Alma: Marcus's slave, she is cook to the household and Flavia's old nursemaid.
* Caudex: Marcus's janitor (doorkeeper), originally from Britannia (Britain). He was originally trained as a gladiator, but was thrown out after refusing to kill, which is how he earned his nickname ("Caudex", "blockhead").
* Gaius Valerius Flaccus: a passenger on Marcus's ship in "The Colossus of Rhodes" who is studying to be a lawyer and wants to see some sights in Greece. After becoming caught up in the quartet's latest adventure he becomes determined to destroy a child slavery ring. Flaccus has a growing fondness for Flavia and in "The Beggar of Volubilis" he asks her to marry him.
* Publius Pollius Felix: a rich and influential landowner in the Bay of Naples. Flavia falls in love with him despite the difference in their ages, but later becomes aware of his less admirable qualities. Pulchra's father.


* Scuto: Flavia's dog
* Tigris: Jonathan's puppy, from the same litter as Nipur
* Nipur: Nubia's puppy, from the same litter as Tigris
* Ferox: Gaius Flavius's watchdog; gigantic and once extremely fierce, but now docile

Characters based on historical persons

* Pliny the Elder, admiral of the Misenum fleet and an accomplished natural historian.
* Pliny the Younger, nephew of the Elder
* Titus, Emperor of Rome
* Domitian, his younger brother
* Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, the famous historian, who appears as a young man initially betrothed to Flavia.


# "The Thieves of Ostia" (2001)
# "The Secrets of Vesuvius" (2001)
# "The Pirates of Pompeii" (2002)
# "The Assassins of Rome" (2002)
# "The Dolphins of Laurentum" (2003)
# "The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina" (2003)
# "The Enemies of Jupiter" (2003)
# "The Gladiators from Capua" (2004)
# "The Colossus of Rhodes" (2005)
# "The Fugitive from Corinth" (2005)
# "The Sirens of Surrentum" (2006)
# "The Charioteer of Delphi" (2006)
# "The Slave-girl from Jerusalem" (2007)
# "The Beggar of Volubilis" (2008)
# "The Scribes from Alexandria" (2008)
# "The Prophet from Ephesus" (planned publication date January 2009)
# "The Man from Pomegranate Street" (planned publication date June 2009)


# "Bread and Circuses" (short story published in 2003 in "The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunits"); re-published as a novella, titled "The Code of Romulus" for World Book Day in April 2007)
# "Trimalchio's Feast and other mini-mysteries" (2007)
# "The Legionary from Londinium and other mini-mysteries" (planned publication date September 2009)

Companion books

# "The First Roman Mysteries Quiz Book"
# "The Second Roman Mysteries Quiz Book"
# "The Roman Mysteries Treasury" (2007)
# "From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina: Travels with Flavia Gemina" (2008)

pecial features

Each of the novels has at least one map of the area covered in the story, sometimes also plans or diagrams; these are by Richard Russell Lawrence. The chapters are called scrolls, after the rolls of papyrus which were Roman 'books', and are numbered with Roman numerals. The glossary explaining Roman terms is called "Aristo's Scroll", after Flavia's tutor, and the author's note, which separates fact from fiction, is called "The Last Scroll".

Television series

The BBC produces a television series based on the books, entitled "Roman Mysteries". The first season was broadcast in 2007, the second season in 2008. [ [ Roman Mysteries BBC website] ]


External links

* [ Official Roman Mysteries website]
* [ Roman Mysteries wiki site]
* [ Official BBC site for the TV series]

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