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Posted September 28, 2010
really enjoyable historical fiction
This book is advertised as the "sequel to The Ides of April, although there is another book which comes between the two in author Mary Ray's "Roman Empire Sequence" of five books. Philo (Philokles) is a young teenaged boy who lives at Philadelphia-no, not in Pennsylvania, nor even in Asia Minor (Revelation chapter 3) but the one formerly called Rabbath-Ammon in Old Testament times (now known as Amman, Jordan) which was one of the Greek cities of the Decapolis in first-century Palestine. His father Apollodorus is a merchant, and he has two older brothers, Conan, eighteen, who is studying to be a lawyer, and Nicanor, seventeen, who works at their cousin Chares's farm outside of town. Their half-Jewish mother had died when Philo was quite young.
One day, when Apollodorus and his steward Esdras return from a trip, they have rescued a man who had been captured by the Romans and staked out in the hot sun to die near Macherus, and bring him back with them. The family takes him into their home. Philo helps to nurse the wounded stranger back to health and, because the man seems to have lost his memory, names him "Xenos," meaning guest. On a subsequent trip, Apollodorus and Esdras are killed by robbers. Apollodorus owes a great deal of money to Paulinus the banker, so the boys are left penniless and must rent out their home to Roman soldiers for army headquarters. Nicanor hates the Romans, so he leaves, goes to Macherus, and joins the Jewish rebels holding out there. Conan must abandon his studies and eventually joins the Roman army. But young Philo is befriended by Xenos and learns from him the art of the scribe. Together, each one tries to find his identity.
If you have read The Ides of April, you may be surprised to find out who Xenos really is. Or you might be able to figure it out from the clues. The vast majority of the characters in the story are fictional, but the Roman emperors Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellian; the generals Vespasian, who became emperor, and his son Titus, who also later became emperor; the legate Lucillius Bassus who besieged Macherus; Eleazer (ben Yair) who led the Jewish rebels; and even the legate Trajan who also later became emperor, mentioned were all historical characters. Also, the Roman sieges of Jerusalem, Macherus, and Masada referred to in the book were real events. In the end, after Xenos regains his memory, he tells Philo, whose pagan-based world has been turned upside down by the events that he has experienced, about the Christos, and the clear implication is that Philo is very favorable. I really enjoyed reading it and found nothing objectionable.
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Posted January 2, 2010