Cicero goes back to being… Sherlock Holmes

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By John

Stefano De Bellis and Edgardo Fiorillo they are passionate about ancient history and more precisely about that age of splendor and crisis in the history of Rome in which the res publica experienced the war of the socii, the clash between the populares of Marius and the optimates of Sulla, the ferocious dictatorship of Sulla himself, the Spanish secession commanded by Sertorius and in addition the slave revolt led by Spartacus. In short, an age of conflicts, of power vacuums and of the climb to power, in which the proscription lists are an instrument of ruin on the one hand and of enrichment on the other: a troubled period for the republican balance in a chaotic and corrupt in which the crisis of the mos maiorum, the severe ethical “custom” of the fathers, is equal to the degradation of the Suburra and that of the insulae built by the very rich Crassus, a social bomb that undermines the otium of old conservatives of noble families and wealthy citizens of the equestrian order.

De Bellis and Fiorillo move in this complex matter, the one an IT consultant but also, in his other lives, a policeman, composer, logistics expert and sommelier, the other a biologist and science communicator. Together they started this series with «The law of the wolves» (Einaudi 2021), a historical mystery winner of the XII Hislibris historical literature prize, whose rights have already been bought for a television series, which is now followed by «The season of Erinni” (Einaudi), also centered around the figure of Cicero, a character chosen to represent the defense of law and the use of the rational method to foil plots and investigate crimes.

Initially the two authors were looking for a “bad guy”, then identified in Silla; and from Silla to the defender of Sesto Roscio Amerino, that is Cicero, the step was inevitable. A trial of enormous political value, which opened the orator’s career, because defending Sextus Roscius, unjustly accused of parricide due to the plots of Sulla’s powerful freedman, Chrysogonus, eager to seize Roscius’ possessions, meant condemning the dictatorial system of Silla. A true case, therefore, to be fictionalized. And the novel begins in the year 72 BC, from the death of the visionary Sertorius in Spain; then the scene moves to Rome with the mystery of a conspiracy, between intrigues and ambushes, between brothels and noble domus, between meetings at the spa or in trimalcionic dinners.
Many shadows gather over the Republic, and in a setting perfectly reconstructed also linguistically, together with historical characters such as Sertorius, Crassus, Cicero, well recognizable in his features, even private ones, Tirone and Terentia, others are invented but plausible, such as the former centurion Tito Annio Tuscolano (already present in the prequel), the lenona Flavia Polita, the young and beautiful Plauzia, the Celtiberan Erennia, and the witches, ready to launch their defixiones, the feared curses.
Fascinating.