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The Gladiators from Capua

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Subject: The Roman Mysteries, Caroline Lawrence, List of The Roman Mysteries characters
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The Gladiators from Capua

The Gladiators from Capua
First edition, 2004
Author Caroline Lawrence
Cover artist Peter Sutton
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Roman Mysteries
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Orion Books
Publication date 3 June 2004
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 224 pp (first edition, paperback)
ISBN ISBN 1-84255-252-X
OCLC Number 59259394
Preceded by The Enemies of Jupiter
Followed by The Colossus of Rhodes

The Gladiators from Capua is a children's historical novel by Caroline Lawrence, published on June 3, 2004. The eighth book of the Roman Mysteries series, it is set primarily in the city of Rome in March AD 80, during the Inaugural Games at the newly built Flavian Amphitheatre, now known as the Colosseum. It is described on the official website as "the bloodiest Roman Mystery yet", and contains detailed descriptions of fighting, slaughter and public executions.

Plot summary

The novel follows on from events in The Enemies of Jupiter, at the end of which Jonathan goes missing and is believed to have died in the fire in Rome. Unknown to the other characters, he accidentally started the fire and out of guilt signed up as a child gladiator for the games at the new amphitheatre. He is also tortured by the supposed death of his mother. The short story "Jonathan vs Ira" in Trimalchio's Feast and other mini-mysteries gives an account of his troubled state of mind during training.

The Gladiators from Capua opens with a brief scene set some years earlier – a slave in training as a gladiator refuses to kill his beaten opponent, turning his back on a promising career. The themes of combat, bloodshed and mercy are thus established from the start.

The story proper starts the month after the fire. Flavia and Nubia are holding a memorial for Jonathan when Lupus arrives full of a rumour he has heard: a boy with dark curly hair who is believed to have started the fire is hiding on Potsherd Mountain in Rome. Jonathan could be alive!

Flavia finagles an invitation from her uncle the senator to visit Rome for the Inaugural Games at the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Flavia, Nubia and Lupus travel to Rome with Jonathan's dog Tigris and the doorkeeper Caudex as their bodyguard. They discover that the curly-haired boy has been taken from Potsherd Mountain to the amphitheatre and is to be "thrown to the beasts".

At the amphitheatre, they split up to look for Jonathan. Nubia meets an old friend, Mnason the animal trainer. Tigris spots Jonathan among the gladiators, but the others fail to interpret his barking correctly.

The next three days are the start of the hundred days of games decreed by Titus to celebrate the new amphitheatre – and to take people's minds off the disastrous events of his reign thus far. For each day a programme of events is given: beginning with acrobats or dancers, then exotic beasts and the fancifully-staged execution of criminals, and in the afternoon the popular gladiatorial contests. The first day, the children are stuck on the top tier with the senator's family watching the displays at a distance, alternately fascinated and horrified at the drama, the ferocity and the bloodshed.

On the second day, with the relations safely out of town, they resume their search for Jonathan. Flavia poses as an orphan to get taken on as a "nymph" – only to discover that she is part of a water pageant intended to end in the killing of all the nymphs by hippos and crocodiles. Only Nubia's quick thinking and the intervention of the emperor's brother Domitian saves her. The two girls are invited to join him in the Imperial Box to watch the rest of the show. They recognize Jonathan among the child gladiators, but unfortunately when Titus finds out, he orders Jonathan's arrest, believing him guilty of causing the fire.

On the third day, Jonathan's execution is averted by Mnason, Nubia and Caudex who arrange a spectacular escape which wins the crowd's approval. Titus is glad to spare the boy, especially when he learns the truth about the fire, but he insists the children return home to Ostia, out of harm's way.

Television adaptation

In the adaptation of the novel in the second season of the Roman Mysteries television series, the action was scaled down considerably. The story was set in Ostia, and the games were by way of a dress rehearsal overseen by Domitian. Jonathan was living at home with his parents and was forced to take part in the gladiatorial contests against his will. The conspiracy subplot was given greater emphasis.

External links

  • at the Roman Mysteries website
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