Last Seen in Massilia: A Novel of Ancient Rome

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9780312209285: Last Seen in Massilia: A Novel of Ancient Rome
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In 49 B.C., a civil war between the forces loyal to Pompey and Julius Caesar has engulfed the Roman world and no one is allowed to be neutral. With Rome itself in turmoil, Gordianus the Finder receives an anonymous message informing him of the death of his son, Meto, who lately has been acting as a double agent for Caesar. In search of the truth about Meto's fate, Gordianus journeys to the besieged seaport of Massilia, which has sided with Pompey and is now stubbornly holding out against Caesar's troops camped just outside its gates and in ships in the harbor.
Using his wits, Gordianus discovers a way past the siege troops and into Massilia. But once there he finds that famine and slaughter threaten the populace, and intrigue and recriminations have taken over the city that cannot hope to stand up much longer against the troops outside the walls. His only friend is Hieronymus, the doomed scapegoat chosen by the priests of Artemis to bear the sins of the population and save them from annihilation. When Gordianus witnesses the fall of a young woman from a precipice called Sacrifice Rock, he becomes entangled in finding out what exactly happened - did she fall or was she pushed? - and where, in all of this, is the truth about his missing son.

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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

About the Author:

Steven Saylor has had a lifelong fascination with ancient Rome, beginning with the drive-in movies of his boyhood (Cleopatra, Spartacus, Ben Hur), on to his degree in history from the University of Texas, and through his appearances on the History Channel as an expert on Roman politics and life. He is the author of eight volumes in the Roma Sub Rosa series, featuring Gordianus the Finder as well as A Twist at the End, a novel set in 19th century Texas. He splits his time between homes in Austin, Texas and Berkeley, California.

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Book Description St.Martin's Press., New York, 2000. Hard Cover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st.US Ed.. "In 49 B.C., a bloody civil war between the forces loyal to Pompey and Julius Caesar has engulfed the Roman world and no one is allowed to be neutral. With Rome itself in turmoil, Gordianus the Finder receives an anonymous message informing him of the death of his son, Meto, who lately has been acting as a double agent for Caesar. In search of the truth about Meto's fate, Gordianus journeys to the besieged seaport of Massilia (modern-day Marseille), which has sided with Pompey and is now stubbornly holding out against Caesar"s troops camped just outside its gates and in ships in the harbor. Using his wits, Gordianus discovers away past the siege troops and into Massilia. But once there he finds that famine and slaughter threaten the populace, and intrigue and recriminations have taken over a city that cannot hope to stand up much longer against the troops outside its walls. His only friend is Hieronymus, the doomed scapegoat chosen by the priests of Artemis to bear the sins of the population and save them from annihilation. When Gordianus witnesses the fall of a young woman from a precipice called Sacrifice Rock, he becomes entangled in finding out what exactly i happened-did she fall or was she pushed?and where, in all of this, is the truth about his missing son.". Seller Inventory # 17615

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