A novel of sex, murder and mayhem set in Rome, 69 AD

6th December 2018

Vitellius’ Feast by L J Trafford – a novel of sex, murder and mayhem set in Rome, 69 AD.

Vitellius’ FeastA novel of sex, murder and mayhem set in Rome, 69 AD is Book IV in L J Trafford’s The Four Emperors Series. It is set in Rome in 69 AD. As with the other books in the series, L J Trafford very skilfully combines all the historical facts she can discover about the emperors (in this case Vitellius), with a vivid imagination – it is historical fiction at its best. Her imagined characters work well alongside the historical ones.

Vitellius had a (mercifully) short reign. He was a pretty vile and loathsome sort of a chap. The book is not for the faint hearted or prudish amongst us. It is full of sadism and perverted sex (quite often in the same sentence). But I guess Rome, at a least under some of the emperors (Caligula leaps to mind) was actually like that. Little point in trying to impose our values on a bygone age. Vitellius’ Feast, though, is also very human and sometimes funny. Some of the characters from the earlier books – Philo, Mina, and  Sporos (the eunuch) – appear in this one. They add to the feeling that Rome is a real place with real people, that goes on despite the ever-changing emperors.

The story is very much based on historical fact. Vitellius arrived in Rome at the head of the German legions who had fought their way down Italy. He was, to a significant degree, under the influence of the two generals – Fabius Valens and Caecina Alienus, who became consuls of Rome. He had no interest in governing as an emperor should, and spent his time eating, carousing, being sadistic, and having sex with anything that moved (normally Sporos). Vitellius did, though, have a rival who wished to be emperor in his place. Vespasian, in charge of the eastern legions, was that person. His troops marched slowly towards Rome. There was, of course, plotting in Rome… Vespasian’s son, Domitian (later to become a successful emperor in his own right) was under house arrest in the house of his uncle, Flavius. With the aid of the whip cracking Mina (with whom, of course, he was having an affair) Domitian escapes. He is central to events as Vespasian’s troops enter the city.

The lightness, humour, and deft style of Vitellius’ Feast belies the historical research that L J Trafford must have done to create the book. It is a great way to get your head round a particularly violent and confused period of Roman history.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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