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Arms of Nemesis: A Novel of Ancient Rome (St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – February 15, 2001

70 customer reviews
Book 2 of 12 in the Roma Sub Rosa Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 72 B.C., during the slave revolt led by Spartacus, Saylor's ( Roman Blood ) second historical mystery follows Roman PI Gordianus the Finder to the resort of Baiae on the Bay of Naples. The cousin and factotum of Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome, has been bludgeoned to death, apparently by two slaves who have run away. An ancient Roman law decrees that when a master is killed by a slave, the remainder of the household's slaves must be slaughtered. Gordianus and his adopted son Eco have three days to find the real murderer and save the villa's other 99 slaves. A convoluted plot reveals fraud, embezzlement and arms smuggling (spears and swords traded for silver and jewels); sensuously written subplots hinge on arcanic poisons and clandestine love affairs among a cast that includes a Crassus's second-rate philosopher-in-residence and a retired actor who doubles as a female impersonator. Richly detailed bacchanalian feasts and mesmerizing visits to the Sybil at Cumae lead to the spellbinding conclusion, reached during fierce gladiatorial combat. 35,000 first printing; BOMC alternate; paperback rights to Fawcett; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A compulsively entertaining whodunit."—The New York Book Review

"Saylor interweaves history and suspense into another seamless thriller . . . A marvelously authentic slice of antiquity that will serve as a savory treat for fans of both mystery and historical fiction."—Booklist

"Steven Saylor impeccably recreates life in Imperial Rome . . . an intriguing mix of historical accuracy and tense drama."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Sensuously written . . . Richly detailed baccanalian feasts and mesmerizing visits to the Sybil at Cumae lead to the spellbinding conclusion."—Publishers Weekly

"Captivating descriptions of Roman customs and mythologies, and interesting characters, enlivened from the pages of history."—San Francisco Sentinel

Product Details

  • Series: St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (February 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312978324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312978327
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,702,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Saylor is the author of the ROMA SUB ROSA series of historical mysteries featuring Gordianus the Finder, set in the ancient Rome of Cicero, Caesar, and Cleopatra. The latest books in the series are two prequels--THE SEVEN WONDERS, which follows the 18-year-old Gordianus on his journey to the Seven Wonders of the World, and RAIDERS OF THE NILE, in which young Gordianus, living in Egypt, finds himself drawn into a plot to steal the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.


Steven is also the author of the international bestseller ROMA: THE NOVEL OF ANCIENT ROME and its follow-up, EMPIRE: THE NOVEL OF IMPERIAL ROME. These two epic novels comprise a multi-generational saga that spans the first 1200 years of the city, from Iron Age trading post to the height of the empire under Hadrian.

Outside the Roman books are two novels set in Steven's native Texas. A TWIST AT THE END is based on America's first recorded serial murders, which terrorized Austin, Texas in 1885. The chief protagonist is young Will Porter, who later became famous as O. Henry. HAVE YOU SEEN DAWN? is a contemporary thriller set in a small Texas town; Steven calls it "autobiography done with mirrors."

Three "chapbooks" published as e-books collect Steven's scattered essays and short stories: A BOOKISH BENT; FUTURE, PRESENT, PAST; and MY MOTHER'S GHOST: THREE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ESSAYS & A SHORT STORY.

Steven's books have been published in 22 languages, and book tours have taken him across the United States, England, and Europe. He has appeared as an expert on Roman life on The History Channel, and has spoken at numerous college campuses, The Getty Villa, and the International Conference on the Ancient Novel.

Steven was born in Texas in 1956 and graduated with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and Classics. He divides his time between homes in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas. When not using his brain, he likes to keep in shape running, swimming, and lifting weights.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Crabtree on August 2, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The only reason why I gave this one 4 stars is because I didn't like it as much as I liked Roman Blood, the first book in the series. But this book is a great read. Saylor keeps you guessing right up until the end. The addition of a sidekick(although he is much more than that) for Gordianus in his adopted son Eco is welcome. This relationship is special and has a sweet turn at the end. I love how Saylor titillates the reader with the stories of Mummius and Olympias and their surprise love interests. The author's exhaustive research is apparent in the intriguing details of classical food, potions, funerals, and other aspects of daily life of different classes of ancient people. The plight of slaves was conveyed with profound sympathy. Having experienced two suspenseful and beautifully written books so far, I will be sure to finish the Roman Sub Rosa series with enthusiam.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Tassotto VINE VOICE on February 14, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This second entry in the ROMA SUB ROSA series opens as Gordianus is woken in the middle of the night by a mysterious summons to an undisclosed location to solve a crime and save scores of innocent people. Despite the apprehensions of his slave (and lover) Bethesda, Gordianus and his adopted son Eco, are soon on their way. Gordianus of course quickly surmises their destination as Baiae, a wealthy town on the present day Bay of Naples.

Once he arrives he discovers that the crime is, as he had surmised, murder and murder of a wealthy man. The chief suspects are two missing slaves which is why scores of lives are in danger. According to ancient Roman law if a master is killed by a slave all the slaves in the household, in this case 99, are deemed dangerous and sentenced to death. This law is not often enforced but in the present day (72 BC), there is a slave revolt, led by Spartacus, in progress that is threatening the Empire. Is it just fear of the slaves joining the rebellion that is causing this harsh measure to be used or is it something else?

Gordianus and Eco are quickly immersed in the victim's household and find that there are many things that are not quite what they seem. The trail to solve the crime leads the two to the Sybil, into the sea and to the very Gates of Hades. Old scandals and illicit love affairs are uncovered. Ultimately Gordianus of course triumphs but not without many interesting twists and turns along the way.

As with ROMAN BLOOD, Saylor immerses the reader into the world of ancient Rome. The reader is made to see how uncertain live in the ancient world was, for example, Gordianus travels just a short way from his home but to his family he may as well have fallen off the face of the earth.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. F Higgins on December 4, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Steven Saylor succeeds where many writers of historical fiction fail, largely because of strong character development and the ability to make ancient society seem natural -not just a picturesque backdrop. While the murder mystery is entertaining and keeps your attention, it is the little details; political intrigues, conflicting philosophies, and secondary events such as the Spartacan slave revolt, which bring this novel to life. Gordianus is a true Roman, with the sensibilities of a Roman citizen. He does not come accross as a 21st century sleuth transported into a different age.
I was delighted that many actual figures from Roman history are featured in Saylor's novels; Cicero, Marcus Crassus, Pompey, etc.
Highly recommended -and certainly consider Saylor's other Roman novels as well.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on November 25, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Wanting to be transported back to Rome, I found this author through Amazon reviewers and I was not disappointed. While this is a few years earlier than the series, and a few miles south of Rome, it did the trick.

The mystery held my attention, but, the characters and the decriptions of the various settings make the book.

I will read more Saylor.

PS - one month later. I've read more Saylor. This one stands out for its perspective on slavery in ancient Rome and the very wealthy Crassus and his life style. For more on the justice system and the Clodii Family read "The Venus Throw". "Rubicon" gives a plausible description of Rome right after of Caesar's crossing and Pompey's flight from Italy.

It appears that each Saylor mystery weaves a good story around people or themes of Rome.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Karina A Suarez VINE VOICE on April 26, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a book about character mostly. Saylor has written one of the most impressive novels I have read lately. Period. Forget that it is a mystery; forget that it is an impressive, thoroughly researched, history treatise. Reader beware for this is a true masterpiece.
Even though there are passages where you'll feel you are suffering yourself, you won't want to put it down. The backdrop of this particular story is the revolt of Spartacus, which makes the issue of slavery the central point of the book. Although it is not moralizing, there are passages in the book that will bring you, the reader, close to tears. Gordianus is summoned to investigate the brutal murder of one of Crassus's administrators at one of his many villas at the countryside. He is taken there by ship; and here is when one of the many gory descriptions of ancient slavery takes place: with the rowers at the bottom of the "Fury" - the actual name of an imposing ship.
Throughout the story Gordianus takes almost a frantic approach to save the lives of many slaves, although, being a roman citizen himself, he doesn't understand really why. The story is so trascendental, one can understand why Gordianus, in the next book, his own family established with Bethesda, decides to retire to the country. He could hardly imagine what Saylor had in store for him in future adventures!
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