Roma (novel)

Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome
Author Steven Saylor
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical novel
Publisher St. Martin's Press
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 592 pp
ISBN 0-312-37762-2
Followed by Empire

Roma is a historical novel by American author Steven Saylor, first published by St. Martin's Press in 2007. The story follows two ancient Roman families, the Potitii and Pinarii, as members of successive generations bear witness to, as well as participate in, some of Rome's greatest historical events. The epic style is similar to James Michener's historical novels. The story takes Roman myths and intertwines them with historical facts and fictional characters.

Roma was followed in 2010 by a sequel, Empire.

Chapter summaries

Historical accuracy

There were several traditions attached to the Pinarii. The first held that a generation before the Trojan War, Hercules came to Italy, where he was received by the families of the Potitii and the Pinarii. He taught them a form of worship, and instructed them in the rites, by which he was later honored. For centuries, these families supplied the priests for the cult of Hercules, until the Potitii were wiped out in a plague at the end of the 4th century BC[1][2][3]

The extinction of the Potitii was frequently attributed to the actions of Appius Claudius Caecus, who (in his censorship in 312 BC.) directed the families to instruct public slaves in the performance of their sacred rites. Supposedly the Potitii were punished for their impiety in doing so, while the Pinarii refused to relinquish their office, which they held until the latest period.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Another tradition asserts that until their extinction, the Potitii were always superior to the Pinarii in the performance of their sacrum gentilicum, because at the sacrificial banquet given by Hercules, the Pinarii did not arrive until after the entrails had been eaten. In anger, Hercules declared that the Pinarii should be excluded from partaking of the entrails of the sacrifice, and that in all matters relating to the worship they should be inferior to their brethren.[11][12]

The disappearance of an entire gens was extraordinary, as was the lack of any magistrates or other persons of importance belonging to such an ancient family. This has led to speculation that the legend referred to some branch of another gens known to history, such as the Valerii Potiti. But at the same time it was possible for a family to exist for centuries without attracting any notice, and the ancient historians are unanimous in making the Potitii a distinct gens. The historian Niebuhr suggests that, if the story regarding the destruction of the Potitii is based on fact, they may have perished in the great plague which raged in 292 BC., some twenty years after the censorship of Caecus.[13][14][15][16][17]

It is not altogether certain that the entire gens perished in this disaster; the legendary account says that thirty grown men were killed, but perhaps some children survived. Although hardly any members of the gens are known to history, a Publius Potitius is mentioned several times by Cicero as one of the guardians of the son of Publius Junius, custodian of the temple of Castor, who died in 80 BC. Five years later, the boy's guardians and stepfather became embroiled in a dispute with Verres, who extracted considerable sums of money, supposedly to make extensive repairs to the temple, which in fact was in sound condition.[18]


  1. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 6, 7.
  2. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, i. 38-40.
  3. Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, Saturnalia, iii. 6.
  4. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 7.
  5. Servius, ad Virg. Aen., viii. 268.
  6. Sextus Pompeius Festus, epitome of Marcus Verrius Flaccus De Verborum Significatu, p. 237, ed. Müller.
  7. Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, Saturnalia, iii. 6.
  8. Johann Adam Hartung, Die Religion der Römer (1836), vol. ii., p. 30.
  9. Barthold Georg Niebuhr, History of Rome, vol. i. p. 88.
  10. Karl Wilhelm Göttling, Geschichte der Römische Staatsverfassung (1840), p. 178.
  11. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 7.
  12. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, i. 40.
  13. Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, i. 6, 7.
  14. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Romaike Archaiologia, i. 38-40.
  15. Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, Saturnalia, iii. 6.
  16. Barthold Georg Niebuhr, History of Rome, vol. iii. p. 309.
  17. Michael Grant, Roman Myths (1971).
  18. Marcus Tullius Cicero, In Verrem Secundae, i. 50-58.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 

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