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Review: Vespasian. Tribune of Rome

Robert Fabbri

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Vespasian. Tribune of Rome

The book “Vespasian. Tribune of Rome” is the first part of a series devoted to Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty and the initiator of the construction of the magnificent amphitheater – the Colosseum. The first volume tells about the early life of the future emperor, his birth, and the related prophecy; maturing and entering the world of political intrigue. Vespasian also takes the position of junior military tribune and participates in the suppression of a rebellion in the conquered province of Thrace. A young and inexperienced knight is thrown into a fight for survival and the fate of the Empire. He must prevent a great conspiracy that is born in the highest echelons of power.

In the beginning, it is worth writing a few words about the author. Robert Fabbri is not a professional historian (he worked in the film and television industry), and he discovered his passion for ancient Rome over time. The lack of completed historical studies does not mean that the author is unable to write a good historical novel. This title proves it. Naturally, Robert Fabbri is forced to fantasize or guess certain situations and events. However, he does it in a reasonable way and based on ancient sources and studies. As he admits at the end of the book, he deliberately added certain elements to the plot (e.g. the fanatical attack of the Thracian women) against the historical truth, which, however, does not have a negative impact on the whole novel, and the action itself gains in importance.

Naturally, the main character of this part, as well as the other six (ultimately, the whole novel is to have 7 volumes) is Vespasian. The author tries to show the early life of a young equite in an interesting way. Fascinated by farm management, taking care of a herd of mules, and accounting, the young man must start a cursus honorum for the glory of his family (just like his older brother Sabinus, with whom he does not have a good relationship). Naturally, his first goal is to complete military service in the legions, which will give him the right to then apply for a lower civil office in the capital.

The author naturally embellishes the plot, involving the barely 16-year-old Vespasian and his brother in the rivalry between Antonina the Younger and Sejanus – the omnipotent praetorian prefect. In my opinion, the author perfectly shows the complexity of relationships and conflict at the Roman court. Aged and susceptible to suggestions, Emperor Tiberius succumbs to the influence of Sejanus, who wants to use deceit to eliminate successors to the throne and seize power. The young and inexperienced Vespasian becomes entangled in this world and accidentally becomes one of Antoni’s henchmen. On top of everything, the young man falls in love with the slave Antonia, which, for obvious reasons, has no chance of a successful solution.

In my opinion, the first volume is a really interesting proposition. The plot is a pleasure to follow, especially since we gradually see the evolution and transformation of the young equites into a real men. I look forward to seeing Vespasian’s further adventures.

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