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Vitellius' Feast

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AD 69. As this most dramatic year draws to a close, now is the time to choose a definitive side. Whilst Vitellius enjoys the trappings of power around him, machinations are afoot. In the East, Vespasian has his eye on the throne, but he needs help preparing Rome for his plans and, for his teenage son Domitian, protection from Vitellius' agents. With her characteristic flair, and lashings of skulduggery, sex, brutality, and humour, L. J. Trafford brings her Roman quartet, tracing the Year of the Four Emperors, to a spectacular conclusion.

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Part I: The Reign

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PART I

THE REIGN

“Vitellius’ ruling vices were extravagance and cruelty”

—Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Life of Vitellius

ONE

There were times when Domitian forgot he was a prisoner. Such as when he woke that morning. The slave had informed him that it was the fourth hour, with the same distasteful tone he'd used the previous morning when he'd announced it was the first hour. Domitian had yet to ascertain what hour the slave considered the appropriate one for rising. He rather fancied he'd be addressed in the same tone whatever time he woke.

His body slave was more than a little impatient with him and the shaver seemed almost put out by Domitian's overnight chin growth. Washed and dressed, Domitian plodded to the breakfast room, convinced that every single one of his uncle's slaves disliked him. He wished he possessed his uncle Flavius’ affable way of talking to the staff. He tried so very hard to be friendly towards them but his conversation dried up after a line or two. None of the slaves seemed willing to keep the discourse running? Was it any wonder that he preferred his own company!

 

Part II: The Resistance

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PART II

THE RESISTANCE

Autumn to winter AD69

“They felt they were in no way inferior to the troops of Spain who had appointed Galba; and the Guards who had appointed Otho; and the troops in Germany who had appointed Vitellius”

—Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Life of Vespasian

FIFTY

The air of the chamber was thick with a nasal-clogging incense. It was combined with the whiffs of roasted meats that were carried in on golden platters. This was day two of the banquet, and yet the emperor's piggy eyes continued to light up on sight of more dishes.

“Gods! I swear he must have eaten three whole cows by now,” Lysander commented to Midas.

“It's incredible, isn't it? It's like Saturnalia every day. But with only one man allowed to have any fun.”

Lysander, seeing the suffering faces of the dancing eunuch troop, was inclined to agree. It was a far cry from the emperor's welcome party when the staff had jostled for prime position. Now they jostled not to be picked. Nobody wanted to entertain for Vitelllius. It was exhausting. All feared being singled out for special attentions, like Sporus. Nobody wanted to end up like Sporus.

 

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