A Murder on the Appian Way: A Mystery of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor

By Steven Saylor

The yr is 52BC, and Rome is in turmoil. Rival gangs prowl the streets as Publius Clodius, a excessive born populist baby-kisser, and his arch-enemy, Tito Milo, struggle to regulate the consular elections. but if Clodius is murdered at the Appian approach and Milo is accused of the crime, the town explodes with riots and arson.

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The crowd was packed into the forecourt like grains of sand in a bottle. Through the reek of the torches, I had a clear view of Clodius propped up on his bier, surrounded in death as he had always been in life, by armed guards. To either side of the bier stood the men who had carried it. Among them I recognized Appius and Sextus Cloelius. Clodius had been stripped of his bloody garments and retained only a loincloth around his hips. The puncture at his shoulder and the wounds in his chest had been cleaned, but only to show them clearly; there was still plenty of gore and blood smeared across his pale, waxy flesh.

So it went, with no sure truth to be found, only a single, unanimous point of agreement: Clodius was dead. The lowering clouds gradually moved on to reveal the naked firmament — moonless, pitch-black, spangled with stars that glittered like ice crystals. The short, swift walk from my house had warmed my blood. The crush of bodies and burning torches had kept me warm, but as the night grew colder, so did I. I curled my toes, rubbed my hands together, watched my breath mingle with the smoke in the air.

Some raised their fists. Others stooped over, searching for rocks. Even on the Palatine Hill, with its immaculate streets and elegant houses, there are loose stones to be found. The man at the window kept laughing, then suddenly yelped. "My head! Oh, my head! " He slammed his shutters on a hail of rocks. We hurried on and turned a corner. " "About Clodius being dead? We'll know soon enough. Isn't that his house, straight ahead? Look at all the torches gathered in the street! That's what brought me out tonight - we could see the glow reflected off the clouds.

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