The book “Vespasian. Rome’s Lost Son” by Robert Fabbri is the sixth volume of the novel series telling the adventures and story of Vespasian’s coming to power in the Roman Empire.
This time the author shows us the main character in the light of political intrigues and palace rivalries between the freedmen Pallas, Narcissus and Agrippina – the wife of the chaotic and disabled emperor Claudius. The situation in which Vespasian found himself is problematic as he holds a high position of consul himself and is at the center of intrigues, and on top of everything, his son Titus is brought up with Britannicus – the son of Claudius – who is hated by Nero and his mother. Britannicus is seen as the natural heir to the Roman throne after Claudius. However, the extremely ambitious Agrippina, from the beginning of her relationship with Claudius, clearly influences her husband to adopt Nero, who is older than Britannicus, and to appoint him an heir due to his age. As it turns out, however, the palace intrigues go far beyond Rome and even require Vespasian’s trip to Armenia, destabilizing the region and causing a conflict with the Parthians. Finally, the hero ends up in Parthian captivity, where for two years he has to maintain the will to survive and return to his homeland.
The author of the book once again did not disappoint and in an interesting way showed the subsequent years of Vespasian’s life and the history of the Roman Empire from the middle of the first century CE. This time, as he himself pointed out in the “From the Author” section, we don’t have much information about Vespasian’s life during this period. The author allowed himself to fantasize while maintaining the logic of events and knowledge of the sources. There were, among others, a poisoned mushroom dish (which, by the way, Claudius loved) and a medicine man’s feather, which ended the emperor’s life. What’s more, the author shows the theatricality of Nero’s and his mother’s behavior in all public events, in order to show the mental imbalance of the “ruler-artist” after he took power (according to ancient traditions). Nero shows his devilish nature quite early: he openly opposes his mother, undermines his mentor Seneca and publicly disgraces Britannicus, what is more, he flaunts plans to murder his own son Claudius.
What certainly captures the works of Robert Fabbri is the extremely interesting presentation of the characters’ characters, their complexity and compliance with our perception of the characters, based on historical messages. Thanks to this, the reader can find himself in an even better way in the created world, which on the one hand is delightful and interesting, and on the other hand bloody and full of political games.