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Last Seen in Massilia: A Novel of Ancient Rome Hardcover – October, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews
Book 8 of 12 in the Roma Sub Rosa Series

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Amazon.com Review

In this mystery set in Marseilles in 49 B.C., master detective Gordianus the Finder is on a personal quest to learn the truth about his missing son, Meto. Plunged into the midst of the bloody Roman civil war, the well-connected Gordianus and his son-in-law Davus survive adventure after adventure as they penetrate the Gaulic city Massilia, which is walled against Roman invasion. From the first pages, author Steven Saylor is on sure ground with his distinguished protagonist. Gordianus's careful, thoughtful musings are infused with real pathos as he seeks out information about the lost adoptive son whom, he has been informed, is dead. There is some speculation that Meto betrayed Caesar and that death was his punishment. Lacking a corpse, Gordianus cannot bring himself to believe that Meto is really dead.

Indeed, bonds between fathers and children--their betrayals, promises, and legacies--play a key role in the twisting plot of Last Seen in Massilia. Literally the title refers to Meto, but the motif extends to other key characters as well. Apollonides, the imperious ruler of Massilia, has a peculiar bond with his horribly deformed daughter. And the city's "scapegoat" Hieronymus lives out the legacy of his parents' illegal double suicide by being the human repositor of Massilia's collective sins. He is expected to hurl himself from Sacrifice Rock to appease vengeful gods.

Sacrifice Rock is central to the book, the site of a tussle between man and woman that ends, provocatively, in the woman's death. Was it suicide or murder? The three witnesses--Gordianus, Davus, and Hieronymus--are sharply divided on exactly what they saw. Gordianus pursues the truth of this mystery almost as a diversion from the more compelling mystery of his son's weird disappearance.

Fans of Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series, of which Last Seen in Massilia is the eighth installment, will be pleased by the author's consistent tone. Saylor has proven that he knows how to season a good plot with lively historical details, and this book is perhaps even more gratifying than previous installments. --Kathi Inman Berens

From Publishers Weekly

In Saylor's latest and stellar historical (after Rubicon), the Roman world is still embroiled in civil war between rival generals Pompey and Julius Caesar. Caught in the morass of conflicting loyalties, Gordianus the Finder travels to the independent city-state of Massilia (present-day Marseilles) to investigate a rumor that his son, Meto, has been killed there. Gordianus finds Massilia under siege, but thanks to an odd stroke of luck that brings disaster to the besieging army, he's able to slip into the city. There he meets Hieronymus, whom the priests have selected as the scapegoat who will throw himself off the harbor's Sacrifice Rock to appease the gods and bring relief to the city. Gordianus later witnesses what looks like murder: a cloaked woman falls from Sacrifice Rock, perhaps assisted by a man dressed in the armor of a Massilian soldier. The leader of Massilia, Apollonides, promises to investigate, but when a Gaulish merchant named Arausio believes his daughter, Rindel, was the cloaked woman who fell, Gordianus begins his own queries. In the meantime, he continues to search for information about his missing son. Is Meto alive and playing some treacherous game on Caesar's behalf? Or did he die in an attempt to escape from Pompey's minions in Massilia? Saylor presents a vivid tableau of an ancient city under siege and an empire riven by internecine strife. Readers will impatiently long for the next book in what stands as one of today's finest historical mystery series. Author tour; U.K. rights sold. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 277 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur; 1st edition (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312209282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312209285
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on October 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Frequently with series novels of any kind, although maybe it is most evident with mystery series, a clear pattern emerges: after an energetic and imaginative beginning with the first few volumes, the later books recycle characters, plots, and situations. They become, very simply, predictable -- perhaps comfortable for the reader in that predictability, but nonetheless they have lost the capacity for surprise and expansion.
"Last Seen in Massilia", the seventh novel (plus a volume of short stories) in Saylor's "Roma Sub Rosa" series centering upon the amateur detective Gordianus the Finder in First Century BCE Rome, defies the familiar pattern. Not only has Saylor maintained a high level of creativity and historical atmosphere, the series is steadily gaining added depth and power. Perhaps this is because Saylor has wisely woven the most recent plots into the extraordinary events of the last decades of the Roman Republic, when ancient institutions crumbled and naked ambition propelled the likes of Julius Caesar to the heights. Murder, betrayal, intrigue ... the real-life history of the times has proven fertile ground for Saylor's novels. But it is not merely historical events which make "Last Seen in Massilia" such a strong and even disturbing novel -- that power derives from the characters Saylor has created and the evolving relationships between them. When I finished the last page of this newest novel and set the book aside, I felt genuinely moved by what Gordianus had experienced. Saylor's novels are not only about Roman history; they genuinely examine what lies within us all.
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By A Customer on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The last place any Julius Caesar supporter would want to visit in 49 BC is Massillia in Gaul. The residents seemingly support General Pompey in the civil war against Caesar. However, that is exactly the place Gordianus the Finder, accompanied by his son-in-law, needs to enter. Just because Caesar's troops led by Trebonius have placed an airtight siege on the city for several months fails to deter Gordianus on his quest. He needs to learn what happened to his son Meto, a former lieutenant of Caesar, now condemned as a traitor and rumored dead.

After working his way into the city, Gordianus becomes embroiled in an investigation. A woman was either murdered or committed suicide. Was she pushed or did she jump from Sacrifice Rock. His son-in-law believes a soldier shoved the woman off the rock. His "host" Hieronymus disagrees saying the man tried to stop the woman from leaping from "Suicide" Rock. In any case, Gordianus begins seeking the truth if he is to stay alive in a dangerous city with much intrigue and backstabbing.

LAST SEEN IN MASSILLIA, the eighth novel in the Sub Rosa Ancient Rome mysteries, is a great entry in a great series. The story line is loaded with twists and turns as everyone knows neutrality is deadly but the wrong side at the wrong time is just as perilous. Gordianus remains a strong, thoughtful character and the support cast provides profundity and an insightful feel to the period. However, Steven Saylor's tale belongs to Massillia (ancient Marseilles) as readers obtain an incredible perusal of the city at a critical moment in history.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
If you have read any of the other volumes of Steven Saylor's "Roma Sub Rosa" series, then this book is a *must read.* Story lines that showed themselves in "Rubicon" and "Catalina's Riddle" appear once again, making this one of the most fascinating historical mysteries that I have read in quite some time. Saylor leads you along, and just when you think you know where all the pieces of the puzzle lie, he reveals 'the truth' in a way that truly is both surprising and logical.

The history of the conflict at Massilia, brings to life the struggle of Julius Caesar to attain rule over the Roman world. The attention paid to detail in setting this story in the Greek colony-city-state on the edge of the Gaul & Roman worlds, shows a broad spectrum of cultures at one of the most fascinating times in western classical history.

As with all of Steven Saylor's works, this novel is highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stephen Saylor has done it again! I spent a delightful week in the streets of Massilia (modern-day Marseilles)as Caesar stormed the walls and alliances formed and disintegrated. No one does it like Stephen Saylor who has given me a sense of what it would have been like to travel, wage war and politics, and have a life in the ancient Roman Empire. As a reluctant teenaged Latin scholar, I learned enough of Rome to be curious. In Saylor's book, I meet the amenuensis of Caesar's Gallic Wars, which I was coerced into translating paragraph by painful paragraph. Now I wish I had paid more attention. Nevermind, because Saylor provides the background for politics and daily life.

Saylor is a Classics scholar who specialized in the Roman Empire and gets the details right. He has added a new dimension to my rambles through Roman ruins in Gallia, Brittania and Roma and has helped me to see ghosts on the old Roman roads in Morocco.

By the way, the plots are also interesting, so the books can be read on the level of a detective story with a a lot of side bits into ancient history. Gordianus is called "The Finder" because he has a talent for learning the truth about crimes committed in the ancient world. Last Seen in Massillia is an account of his search for his adopted son who went missing after a visit to Massillia. In the course of the search, Gordianus provides a bird's eye view of Rome's civil war from the walls of the besieged city.
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