A Gladiator Dies Only Once

Written by Steven Saylor
Review by Alice Logsdon

This collection featuring Gordianus the Finder is satisfying from beginning to end. Gordianus, who is “useful at digging up dirt,” has a reputation for being trustworthy, tactful, and discreet. Naturally, the elite of the Republic, including Cicero and Lucullus, turn to him for assistance in personal matters. With his foster son, Eco, Gordianus solves mysteries big and small in and around Rome, as well as in far reaches of the Empire. They travel to Spain and the rebel camp of Sertorius, in “The White Fawn,” to Syracuse in “Archimedes’ Tomb” and to Naples in “Death by Eros.” A common thread running through many of these stories is that greed spares no one.

Having never read any Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa novels, I found these stories very easy to dive into. Thanks to the author’s notes, I know that the events recorded in this collection occur over a thirteen-year period beginning in 77 BCE. Saylor obviously has done his scholarly work, filling each story with details of Roman life. This, combined with clever dialogue, vivid characters, ironic twists and bittersweet turns, is enticement for me to read more Saylor as soon as possible.