Bryn Mawr Classical Review 03.03.24


Stephen Saylor, Roman Blood. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Reviewed by James J. O'Donnell, University of Pennsylvania.

This volume fell into my hands in the local public library a few weeks ago and turned out to be a pleasure. The author studied classics at UT Austin and is now a journalist in San Francisco. He has taken Cicero's Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino and turned it into a very serviceable murder mystery. The narrator is one Gordianus, 'the Finder', i.e., a private detective who lives over on the Esquiline in a rundown house and sleeps with his Egyptian slave girl. He knows Roman low life inside and out and is hired by the young Cicero (who sends his even younger slave Tiro to summon Gordianus) to find out the dirt on Chrysogonus and all the Roscii. The quality of the mystery as sustained is above average (there are one or two twists at the end that aren't in the surviving historical record), as is the depiction of the nasty, brutish, and short life of the city in the last days of Sulla. You would have to know a fair bit more than I do about Rome of 80 B.C. to be offput by any of it. It gave me an excuse to reread the speech in tandem, which gave the added pleasure of watching the author pick and choose his material. So far, I believe it is only in hardcover but still in print. The author vaporwares a sequel in the jacket blurb.