The Course of Honour
A fictional account of the life of Antonia Caenis, secretary and Freedwoman to Antonia (Marc Antony’s daughter and mother of Emperor Claudius) and also Vespasian’s mistress. This novel is a departure from Falco, and concentrates on the life of Antonia Caenis, and her love-affair with Vespasian. It opens with Caenis as a slave in the Imperial household during the reign of Tiberius, and Vespasian a young man, not even wearing a senatorial toga. We see their love-affair thrive as Caenis get promoted to Antonia’s (Marc Antony’s daughter) household as chief secretary. Eventually Caenis is freed by Antonia, and raises enough money to live independently, and in fact frequently lends money to the relatively impoverished Vespasian as he climbs the cursus honorum. Eventually the inevitable happens and Vespasian marries, has a family and goes away to war. Through this period, we stay with Caenis and see the progress of the Empire, the madness of Caligula and the campaigns of Claudius through her eyes. When Vespasian’s wife dies, he returns to Caenis and for ten happy years they live together virtually husband and wife. Then Nero sends Vespasian to Judea, and Caenis fears she will never see him again. We then see her back in her villa in Rome watching the progress of the “Year of the Four Emperors” and Vespasian’s rise to power, after which Caenis resigns herself to never seeing him again now that he is Emperor. The novels ends when Vespasian, a couple of days after entering Rome as Emperor, visits Caenis and asks her to live with him at the palace.
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