The Gladiators from Capua
Gladiators from Capua

Number in series


Told Through



March 80 AD


Rome in Italy

First published

3 June 2004

Number of pages



The Enemies of Jupiter


The Colossus of Rhodes

The Gladiators from Capua is the eighth book in Caroline Lawrence's The Roman Mysteries. It is published by Orion Books.


March, 80 AD

Plot SynopsisEdit

The novel opens with a brief scene set some years earlier – a slave in training as a gladiator refuses to kill his beaten opponent, turning his back on a promising career. The themes of combat, bloodshed and mercy are thus established from the start.

The actual story starts the month after the fire. Flavia Gemina and Nubia are holding a memorial for Jonathan - whom they believe died in Rome's fire earlier that year - when Lupus arrives full of a rumour he has heard: a boy with dark curly hair who is believed to have started the fire is hiding on Potsherd Mountain in Rome. Jonathan could be alive!

Flavia finagles an invitation from her uncle the senator to visit Rome for the Inaugural Games at the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Flavia, Nubia and Lupus travel to Rome with Jonathan's dog Tigris and the doorkeeper Caudex as their bodyguard. They discover that the curly-haired boy has been taken from Potsherd Mountain to the amphitheatre and is to be "thrown to the beasts".

At the amphitheatre, they split up to look for Jonathan. Nubia meets an old friend, Mnason the animal trainer. Tigris spots Jonathan among the gladiators, but the others fail to interpret his barking correctly.

The next three days are the start of the hundred days of games decreed by Titus to celebrate the new amphitheatre – and to take people's minds off the disastrous events of his reign thus far. For each day a programme of events is given: beginning with acrobats or dancers, then exotic beasts and the fancifully-staged execution of criminals, and in the afternoon the popular gladiatorial contests. The first day, the children are stuck on the top tier with the senator's family watching the displays at a distance, alternately fascinated and horrified at the drama, the ferocity and the bloodshed.

On the second day, with the relations safely out of town, they resume their search for Jonathan. Flavia poses as an orphan to get taken on as a "nymph" – only to discover that she is part of a water pageant intended to end in the killing of all the nymphs by hippos and crocodiles. Only Nubia's quick thinking and the intervention of the emperor's brother Domitian saves her. The two girls are invited to join him in the Imperial Box to watch the rest of the show. They recognize Jonathan among the child gladiators, but unfortunately when Titus finds out, he orders Jonathan's arrest, believing him guilty of causing the fire.

On the third day, Jonathan's execution is averted by Mnason, Nubia and Caudex who arrange a spectacular escape which wins the crowd's approval. Titus is glad to spare the boy, especially when he learns the truth about the fire, but he insists the children return home to Ostia, out of harm's way.