Biologists and other academics have long debated whether there was malaria in ancient Rome, and recent analysis of teeth of human remains from the time has confirmed it, says a story just published by some researchers in the journal Current Biology.
Some researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, the University of Pennsylvania, the National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome and Sydney University in Australia authored the article after examining DNA from teeth of 2,000-year-old human remains from three ancient cemeteries.
They found the answer in mitochondrial DNA from bodies in the three cemeteries in Italy dating to the imperial period of Rome from the 1 st through the 3 rd centuries AD, according to a December 5 article about the research in Newswise. The cemeteries were from various places on the peninsula, so this research helps address questions of whether the parasite was pervasive in this ancient civilization.
Further, such genomic evidence is important to understanding where and when the parasite was present in humans and helps scientists better understand the evolution of this disease and other human diseases, Newswise states, quoting some of the researchers.
“Malaria was likely a significant historical pathogen that caused widespread death in ancient Rome,” says evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, director of McMaster’s Ancient DNA Centre, the site where researchers isolated the DNA from the teeth of the three ancient bodies.
You can see from this modern map of malaria distribution it is still in the same latitudes as Italy, though it is not reported there now, presumably from better mosquito control and also because of better medical treatments. ( Wikimedia Commons )
The disease of malaria caused by its parasite Plasmodium falciparum , can be serious and even fatal. The parasite is spread by mosquito bites. It still causes about 450,000 deaths a year, most of them children under age 5 whose bodies aren’t as strong and as able to withstand disease as adults.
“There is extensive written evidence describing fevers that sound like malaria in ancient Greece and Rome, but the specific malaria species responsible is unknown,” said Stephanie Marciniak, a former post-doctoral student in the Ancient DNA Centre and now a PhD. scholar at Pennsylvania State University.
“Our data confirm that the species was likely Plasmodium falciparum , and that it affected people in different ecological and cultural environments. These results open up new questions to explore, particularly how widespread this parasite was, and what burden it placed upon communities in Imperial Roman Italy,” she added.
A mosquito pictured in an American Museum of Natural History book. ( Wikimedia Commons )
Ms. Marciniak took samples from the teeth of skeletal remains of 58 ancient adults and 10 children interred at three Imperial period Italian cemeteries: Isola Sacra, Velia and Vagnari. Velia and Isola Sacra are on the coast and were important ports and trading centers. Vagnari is inland, and scholars think its cemetery was the burial site of laborers who worked on a Roman estate in the countryside, Newswise states.
She and other researchers used techniques McMaster researchers and others abroad developed to mine tiny, usable DNA particles from dental pulp. Using a painstaking process she extracted, purified and enriched the Plasmodium species that infects people. The process is difficult, but it was also difficult because parasites live primarily in the blood and organs, especially the liver and spleen, which rapidly break down and decompose.
P. falciparum is still the most prevalent malaria parasite in sub-Saharan Africa and the most-deadly anywhere and kills more people around the world than any another malaria parasite.
“Marciniak, Poinar, and Tracy Prowse from McMaster, alongside Luca Bandioli from the Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome and Edward Holmes from the University of Sydney recovered more than half of the P. falciparum mitochondrial genome from two individuals from Velia and Vagnari,” the press release states.
Disease in Imperial Rome
During the Imperial Period of Rome, disease was a devastating aspect of life. As the borders of the empire continuously expanded and the population steadily grew, cities in the Roman Empire were exposed to a multitude of diseases. There were a variety of potential causes of these diseases present in the highly dense and quickly growing society's way of living. The sewage systems, the public bathing houses, and the diet of citizens in Imperial Rome all contributed to the spread of disease.
Environmental problems also played a part. For instance, deforestation lead to a higher rate of transmission due to a chain reaction in the marshes from the rising water table that stemmed from deforestation. The diseases ranged in severity, some being catastrophic and others being not quite as deadly. One of the most prominent plagues during this period was the Antonine Plague (165-180 AD). The people of Imperial Rome often had a very small amount of insight regarding the diseases that were overtaking their society. All of the information was known by a few prominent physicians that came up with the treatments, which were usually not very effective.
Malaria ravaged the ancient Roman Empire 2,000 years ago
Malaria was already devastating the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago, researchers have discovered. The disease caused widespread deaths among communities spread out across the Italian peninsula just like it does today in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaria is one of the world's most chronic infectious diseases. Although its incidence has decreased by 37% since 2000, 214 million people still remain infected globally. The life-threatening illness is caused by plasmodium parasites transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
While historical written sources allude to fevers resembling malaria killing people in the ancient Greece and Roman Empires, it was not clear whether plasmodium parasites were to blame, or the type of illnesses that struck these ancient civilisations, and how pervasive they were.
In the new research published in the journal Current Biology, a team working at Mcmaster University's ancient DNA centre attempted to answer these questions.
The scientists have identified evidence of malaria in mitochondrial DNA collected from the teeth of skeletons found in three Italian cemeteries and dating back from the 1st to 3rd centuries.
Traces of Plasmodium falciparum
The researchers used teeth samples from 58 adults and 10 children for their analysis. The ancient remains were buried in three Italian cemeteries from the time of the Roman Empire. Two are located on the coast in Velia and Isola Sacra - dynamic port cities and trading centres. The third is located inland in Vagnari. Unlike the two other burial sites, this one was probably the cemetery of rural workers.
Small DNA fragments were extracted from dental pulp in the teeth. Within these fragments, the scientists were able to identify mitochondrial genomic evidence of the deadly malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum - despite 2,000 years having passed since the the burial of the individuals studied in the research.
Here are tge skeletal remains of an individual from Velia Luca Bandioli, Pigorini Museum
"Our data confirm that the species was likely Plasmodium falciparum, and that it affected people in different ecological and cultural environments. These results open up new questions to explore, particularly how widespread this parasite was, and what burden it placed upon communities in Imperial Roman Italy," said study author Stephanie Marciniak.
The team concluded that malaria was likely a significant historical pathogen just like it is today and that it was already associated with high mortality rates, no matter the community.
These findings could be useful for scientists to study the evolution of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum and the evolution of malaria over two millennia.
Researchers find overwhelming evidence of malaria’s existence 2,000 years ago
The answer is in mitochondrial genomic evidence of malaria, coaxed from the teeth of bodies buried in three Italian cemeteries, dating back to the Imperial period of the 1st to 3rd centuries Common Era.
The genomic data is important, say researchers, because it serves as a key reference point for when and where the parasite existed in humans, and provides more information about the evolution of human disease.
“Malaria was likely a significant historical pathogen that caused widespread death in ancient Rome,” says evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar, director of McMaster’s Ancient DNA Centre where the work was conducted.
A serious and sometimes fatal infectious disease that is spread by infected mosquitoes, malaria and its parasite Plasmodium falciparum, is responsible for nearly 450,000 deaths every year, the majority of them children under the age of five.
“There is extensive written evidence describing fevers that sound like malaria in ancient Greece and Rome, but the specific malaria species responsible is unknown,” says Stephanie Marciniak, a former post doctoral student in the Ancient DNA Centre and now a postdoctoral scholar at Pennsylvania State University.
“Our data confirm that the species was likely Plasmodium falciparum, and that it affected people in different ecological and cultural environments. These results open up new questions to explore, particularly how widespread this parasite was, and what burden it placed upon communities in Imperial Roman Italy,” she says.
Marciniak sampled teeth taken from 58 adults and 10 children interred at three Imperial period Italian cemeteries: Isola Sacra, Velia and Vagnari. Located on the coast, Velia and Isola Sacra were known as important port cities and trading centres. Vagnari is located further inland and believed to be the burial site of labourers who would have worked on a Roman rural estate.
Using techniques developed at McMaster and abroad, researchers mined tiny DNA fragments from dental pulp taken from the teeth. They were able to extract, purify and enrich specifically for the Plasmodium species known to infect humans.
It was a difficult and painstaking process, complicated by the very nature of the disease.
Usable DNA is challenging to extract because the parasites primarily dwell within the bloodstream and organs, including the spleen and liver, which decompose and break down over time–in this instance, over the course of two millennia.
Marciniak, Poinar, and Tracy Prowse from McMaster, alongside Luca Bandioli from the Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome and Edward Holmes from the University of Sydney recovered more than half of the P. falciparum mitochondrial genome from two individuals from Velia and Vagnari.
P. falciparum remains the most prevalent malaria parasite in sub-Saharan Africa and the most-deadly anywhere, responsible for the largest number of malaria-related deaths globally.
Researchers uncover the existence of malaria 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire
A team of researchers at McMaster University has uncovered the existence of malaria 2,000 years ago at the height of the Roman Empire — changing scientist's understanding of how the disease evolved and how widespread the parasite was.
Malaria is believed to have originated in Africa, with the first modern case of the disease found 136 years ago in Constantine, Algeria. But this new genetic research suggests the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for 450,000 deaths every year, existed centuries before in Italy.
The new analysis has found evidence of malaria in the remains of two adults, dating from the height of the Roman Empire. This discovery has shifted the commonly held belief that malaria was spread more recently by immigrants from Africa.
"What I think is interesting about them is that they're from two different localities suggesting that, you know most people thought, 'oh it must be the port cities if it occurred because it's where you have immigrants coming in and it must be coming from Africa because that's where malaria is endemic today,'" said Hendrik Poinar, lead researcher, evolutionary geneticist and director of McMaster University's Ancient DNA Centre.
"Again it's one of these situations where we blame immigrants on the arrival of infection, but in this case we find it midland in a rural centre, far away from any coastal centres, along a major route, so it certainly would have had access to trade coming from either side of the peninsula.
"But clearly it was endemic in Italy probably for a long time."
This is the first time scientists have been able to prove the existence of the parasitic disease in imperial Rome, which was only previously illustrated in historical records, documenting reoccurring fevers, Poinar explained.
The team at McMaster University was assisted by scientists at the National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome and the University of Sydney. They extracted DNA from the teeth of 58 adults, using a technique called "targeted enrichment" technology to recover the malaria parasite that is centuries old.
"Skeletons that have been sitting in the ground for 2,000 years are a mixture of things that you died with and of course everything that is colonized in the skeleton after that," Poinar said.
"Malaria sits in that mixture at infinitesimally relative amounts. So what you do is you use a molecular fishing bait that can pull out malaria-like fragments specifically."
McMaster University's Ancient DNA Centre has been investigating ancient infectious diseases in skeletal remains, like the black plague, cholera and the plague of Justinian for five years.
"We've been very interested in the infections that have been problematic over time and malaria is just one of those," he said. "We've constantly asked ourselves, do we buy the evidence out there, is it real, is it no good?"
This ancient malaria genome is now helping scientists to better understand the disease, the ancient makeup of the virus is "relatively similar to today's malaria," Poinar stated.
Poinar and his team plan to continue their research, now looking at the nuclear genome found in a cell's nucleus, instead of the mitochondrial genome located in a cell's mitochondria, to better understand what the parasite looked like before the influence of vaccines and modern medicine.
"There's been a lot of anti-malarial drugs that have been used in the last 100 years. has modified [malaria]," he said.
These drugs have changed the disease's genetic make up making the parasite "more susceptible or less susceptible to a particular drug," but this 2,000 year old evidence gives researchers an understanding of the "natural diversity of malaria gives us knowledge of how these types of pathogens can evade drugs and develop resistance to them," explained Poinar.
"Understanding a pathogens evolutionary trajectory and origins in history is critical for its control and eradication."
How Climate Change and Plague Helped Bring Down the Roman Empire
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
At some time or another, every historian of Rome has been asked to say where we are, today, on Rome’s cycle of decline. Historians might squirm at such attempts to use the past but, even if history does not repeat itself, nor come packaged into moral lessons, it can deepen our sense of what it means to be human and how fragile our societies are.
In the middle of the second century, the Romans controlled a huge, geographically diverse part of the globe, from northern Britain to the edges of the Sahara, from the Atlantic to Mesopotamia. The generally prosperous population peaked at 75 million. Eventually, all free inhabitants of the empire came to enjoy the rights of Roman citizenship. Little wonder that the 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon judged this age the ‘most happy’ in the history of our species — yet today we are more likely to see the advance of Roman civilization as unwittingly planting the seeds of its own demise.
Five centuries later, the Roman empire was a small Byzantine rump-state controlled from Constantinople, its near-eastern provinces lost to Islamic invasions, its western lands covered by a patchwork of Germanic kingdoms. Trade receded, cities shrank and technological advance halted. Despite the cultural vitality and spiritual legacy of these centuries, this period was marked by a declining population, political fragmentation and lower levels of material complexity. When the historian Ian Morris at Stanford University created a universal social-development index, the fall of Rome emerged as the greatest setback in the history of human civilization.
Explanations for a phenomenon of this magnitude abound: in 1984, the German classicist Alexander Demandt cataloged more than 200 hypotheses. Most scholars have looked to the internal political dynamics of the imperial system or the shifting geopolitical context of an empire whose neighbours gradually caught up in the sophistication of their military and political technologies. But new evidence has started to unveil the crucial role played by changes in the natural environment. The paradoxes of social development, and the inherent unpredictability of nature, worked in concert to bring about Rome’s demise.
Climate change did not begin with the exhaust fumes of industrialization, but has been a permanent feature of human existence. Orbital mechanics (small variations in the tilt, spin and eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and solar cycles alter the amount and distribution of energy received from the Sun. And volcanic eruptions spew reflective sulphates into the atmosphere, sometimes with long-reaching effects. Modern, anthropogenic climate change is so perilous because it is happening quickly and in conjunction with so many other irreversible changes in the Earth’s biosphere. But climate change per se is nothing new.
The need to understand the natural context of modern climate change has been an unmitigated boon for historians. Earth scientists have scoured the planet for paleoclimate proxies, natural archives of the past environment. The effort to put climate change in the foreground of Roman history is motivated both by troves of new data and a heightened sensitivity to the importance of the physical environment.
It turns out that climate had a major role in the rise and fall of Roman civilization. The empire-builders benefitted from impeccable timing: the characteristic warm, wet and stable weather was conducive to economic productivity in an agrarian society. The benefits of economic growth supported the political and social bargains by which the Roman empire controlled its vast territory. The favorable climate, in ways subtle and profound, was baked into the empire’s innermost structure.
The end of this lucky climate regime did not immediately, or in any simple deterministic sense, spell the doom of Rome. Rather, a less favorable climate undermined its power just when the empire was imperilled by more dangerous enemies — Germans, Persians — from without. Climate instability peaked in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian. Work by dendro-chronologists and ice-core experts points to an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age,’ when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years.
This phase of climate deterioration had decisive effects in Rome’s unravelling. It was also intimately linked to a catastrophe of even greater moment: the outbreak of the first pandemic of bubonic plague.
D isruptions in the biological environment were even more consequential to Rome’s destiny. For all the empire’s precocious advances, life expectancies ranged in the mid-20s, with infectious diseases the leading cause of death. But the array of diseases that preyed upon Romans was not static and, here too, new sensibilities and technologies are radically changing the way we understand the dynamics of evolutionary history — both for our own species, and for our microbial allies and adversaries.
The highly urbanized, highly interconnected Roman empire was a boon to its microbial inhabitants. Humble gastro-enteric diseases such as Shigellosis and paratyphoid fevers spread via contamination of food and water, and flourished in densely packed cities. Where swamps were drained and highways laid, the potential of malaria was unlocked in its worst form — Plasmodium falciparumva deadly mosquito-borne protozoon. The Romans also connected societies by land and by sea as never before, with the unintended consequence that germs moved as never before, too. Slow killers such as tuberculosis and leprosy enjoyed a heyday in the web of interconnected cities fostered by Roman development.
However, the decisive factor in Rome’s biological history was the arrival of new germs capable of causing pandemic events. The empire was rocked by three such intercontinental disease events. The Antonine plague coincided with the end of the optimal climate regime, and was probably the global debut of the smallpox virus. The empire recovered, but never regained its previous commanding dominance. Then, in the mid-third century, a mysterious affliction of unknown origin called the Plague of Cyprian sent the empire into a tailspin.
Though it rebounded, the empire was profoundly altered — with a new kind of emperor, a new kind of money, a new kind of society, and soon a new religion known as Christianity. Most dramatically, in the sixth century a resurgent empire led by Justinian faced a pandemic of bubonic plague, a prelude to the medieval Black Death. The toll was unfathomable maybe half the population was felled.
The plague of Justinian is a case study in the extraordinarily complex relationship between human and natural systems. The culprit, the Yersinia pestis bacterium, is not a particularly ancient nemesis. Evolving just 4,000 years ago, almost certainly in central Asia, it was an evolutionary newborn when it caused the first plague pandemic. The disease is permanently present in colonies of social, burrowing rodents such as marmots or gerbils. However, the historic plague pandemics were colossal accidents, spillover events involving at least five different species: the bacterium, the reservoir rodent, the amplification host (the black rat, which lives close to humans), the fleas that spread the germ and the people caught in the crossfire.
Genetic evidence suggests that the strain of Yersinia pestis that generated the plague of Justinian originated somewhere near western China. It first appeared on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and, in all likelihood, was smuggled in along the southern, seaborne trading networks that carried silk and spices to Roman consumers. It was an accident of early globalization. Once the germ reached the seething colonies of commensal rodents, fattened on the empire’s giant stores of grain, the mortality was unstoppable.
The plague pandemic was an event of astonishing ecological complexity. It required purely chance conjunctions, especially if the initial outbreak beyond the reservoir rodents in central Asia was triggered by those massive volcanic eruptions in the years preceding it. It also involved the unintended consequences of the built human environment — such as the global trade networks that shuttled the germ onto Roman shores, or the proliferation of rats inside the empire.
The pandemic baffles our distinctions between structure and chance, pattern and contingency. Therein lies one of the lessons of Rome. Humans shape nature — above all, the ecological conditions within which evolution plays out. But nature remains blind to our intentions, and other organisms and ecosystems do not obey our rules. Climate change and disease evolution have been the wild cards of human history.
Our world now is very different from ancient Rome. We have public health, germ theory and antibiotic pharmaceuticals. We will not be as helpless as the Romans, if we are wise enough to recognize the grave threats looming around us, and to use the tools at our disposal to mitigate them. But the centrality of nature in Rome’s fall gives us reason to reconsider the power of the physical and biological environment to tilt the fortunes of human societies.
Perhaps we could come to see the Romans not so much as an ancient civilization, standing across an impassable divide from our modern age, but rather as the makers of our world today. They built a civilization where global networks, emerging infectious diseases and ecological instability were decisive forces in the fate of human societies. The Romans, too, thought they had the upper hand over the fickle and furious power of the natural environment.
History warns us: they were wrong.
Kyle Harper is a professor of classics and letters and senior vice president and provost at the University of Oklahoma. His latest book is The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (2017).
Eastern Han Palace Wars
Following the death of Emperor Zhang in 88 A.D., the Han Empire was almost exclusively ruled by boys in their early teens, a circumstance that set up palace intrigue and directly led to its fall.
During the emperor’s early years of rule, the power was in the hand of his mother, who leaned on her own family to keep control.
The young emperors were kept isolated with eunuchs, who became their closest allies and often co-conspirators. This dynamic lead to several instances of eunuchs slaughtering families to help the emperor maintain control.
Long Before Thanos, Another Villain Killed Half of Humanity: Malaria
Long before Thanos snapped his fingers in Avengers: Infinity War, another villain successfully killed half of humanity.
Malaria is a simple parasite, transmitted by a mosquito bite. But this deadly disease, which has been around as long as homo sapiens, has killed more than all wars and natural disasters combined. It has wiped out cities, destroyed empires, ruined colonies, and may be responsible for 50 billion deaths, among them Alexander the Great and Marcus Aurelius (allegedly).
Malaria’s role in history is perhaps more under-appreciated than anything else. Here’s two examples: Many historians believe America won the Revolutionary War due to malaria depleting the ranks of British soldiers. Second, some think it caused Rome’s downfall.
When the malaria parasite was discovered in the 1800s it led to containment efforts. But the real game changer was the deployment of DDT in World War Two. Deadly swamp lands (like much of the United States) were now safe for human habitation. Even South Pacific islands were no longer death traps.
However, the fight against malaria took a different turn in the 1960s with the publication of Silent Spring, a book that argued pesticides could permanently damage earth’s ecological balance.
Malaria is not the killer it once was but it still plays a massive role in public affairs debates today.
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"Flavia Albia is an informer (investigator), daughter of another informer. She is living during the time when Domitian was the tyrant of the Roman Empire. This is over a century later than Gordianus, the finder (Steven Saylor). Finder or informer, we are talking about the profession of a private detective."
This is a bit of a change for our Flavia. She is tapped to be a "political consultant" for her friend, Manlius Faustus, who is backing his friend&aposs candidacy for a significant position. The el "Flavia Albia is an informer (investigator), daughter of another informer. She is living during the time when Domitian was the tyrant of the Roman Empire. This is over a century later than Gordianus, the finder (Steven Saylor). Finder or informer, we are talking about the profession of a private detective."
This is a bit of a change for our Flavia. She is tapped to be a "political consultant" for her friend, Manlius Faustus, who is backing his friend's candidacy for a significant position. The election is hotly contested and there are some question about this condidate being a good "family man." Flavia must find a way either to divert attention (if he isn't) or to show his behavior as accepable.
This book at its core is an exploration of family/families. Some may find it slow paced but I was delighted with its careful chronicle of daily life. We finally get to see Flavia performing in the family business as auctioneer!
The plot is very complex with a lot of interesting characters, so I was grateful that Davis listed them at the start of the book. The simplified map of Rome was also a help. As, I noted above, everything revolves around families. We learn some more about Flavia's. Faustus' family story is very interesting. Flavia finds that the key to unraveling the central mystery rests will being able to peel back the layers of family ties that involve all the candidates.
Lindsey Davis does a fine job of making the Rome of this era memorable. This would not be the best book to start reading about Flavia, but for those who enjoy her, it's a delight. . more
It&aposs steamy July in 89 AD Rome but Flavia Albia is recovered and doing both professions she has sought and fallen into, respectively. At 29 years of age, she is 10 years a widow and enjoying her singular life Fountain Court 4th floor flat. The same building that Falco, her Dad, now owns. It&aposs even more decrepit than when he lived there 20 years before. Her Mom, Dad, sisters and brother are all on the coast for summer, as they are sane and do not want to bake in Rome. The Emperor is a tyrant but It's steamy July in 89 AD Rome but Flavia Albia is recovered and doing both professions she has sought and fallen into, respectively. At 29 years of age, she is 10 years a widow and enjoying her singular life Fountain Court 4th floor flat. The same building that Falco, her Dad, now owns. It's even more decrepit than when he lived there 20 years before. Her Mom, Dad, sisters and brother are all on the coast for summer, as they are sane and do not want to bake in Rome. The Emperor is a tyrant but he is away conquering just now, so the politico is dicey for some electoral quests and judicial paths. Her Mom's two brothers are now in the Senate and they briefly appear in spots. As does her Dad's cohort from the Fifth, Petro.
Her auctioneer gig is interesting (trying to take her grandfather's place is impossible) and the plot turns upon a tale of two families competing in the politico for sons and son-in-laws running for the same offices. Only 4 will win and there are at least 6 running.
Two bodies, several trips and a long term love affair for Albia are all history by the end. Flavia Albia's Rome is interesting and her thoughts witty, but I think the entire loses 1 whole star for the Roman naming systems and multiple divorce and court hearings that leave you exhausted. Too many Julias! That's not Lindsey Davis's fault, but Albia is not as savvy as Falco to knit them all together with increasing tension. She can be just as nasty in a pinch, but the mundane here kind of drags. . more
I tried the Flavia Alba books when the first one was released, and couldn&apost get in to them. Couldn&apost make the adjustment from Falco to his adopted daughter Flavia being the main character.
After seeing the reviews of "Deadly Election" by a few friends on here, I decided to give it a go.
I&aposm glad I did. I&aposve been long enough away from Lindsey&aposs work that it was easier to accept Flavia Alba and not judge her by Falco.
In this book Flavia is helping with finding out scuttlebutt for electioneering purp I tried the Flavia Alba books when the first one was released, and couldn't get in to them. Couldn't make the adjustment from Falco to his adopted daughter Flavia being the main character.
After seeing the reviews of "Deadly Election" by a few friends on here, I decided to give it a go.
I'm glad I did. I've been long enough away from Lindsey's work that it was easier to accept Flavia Alba and not judge her by Falco.
In this book Flavia is helping with finding out scuttlebutt for electioneering purposes, when a rotting corpse turns up in a chest being auctioned at the family auction house. Naturally, Flavia investigates.
Well plotted, well written, and very enjoyable.
Deadly Election is book three in the Flavia Albia series and returns us to Rome about a month after the events of the previous book Enemies at Home . This book was a lot of fun, but in some ways far more about Albia and Faustus than about the case. We learn more about Albia’s role as her father’s representative at the family auction house, about Faustus’ past, and perhaps most importantly and most entertainingly the developing bond between Albia en Faustus.
The case at the heart of the book ca Deadly Election is book three in the Flavia Albia series and returns us to Rome about a month after the events of the previous book Enemies at Home . This book was a lot of fun, but in some ways far more about Albia and Faustus than about the case. We learn more about Albia’s role as her father’s representative at the family auction house, about Faustus’ past, and perhaps most importantly and most entertainingly the developing bond between Albia en Faustus.
The case at the heart of the book can be summed up as it’s all about the Julia’s. Once again Davis shows how much Roman life revolved around the family structure and how deeply rooted family loyalty and honour is and simultaneously how deeply families can be torn apart internally when things go wrong. It also showed how complex Roman family life was when people divorced and remarried for advantage, not just love, and those decisions were often made by the head of the family, not the partners themselves. Not to mention how hard this must have been for the offspring of the various marriage and the way their loyalties would be pulled six ways till Sunday. Life in Rome seems to have been a messy business.
I loved seeing more of Flavia Albia the auctioneer’s daughter, instead of Albia the private investigator. The glimpses we got of the day to day running of the auction house was quite interesting and I always love a good auction scene. The fact that Albia gets to wield the gavel was the icing on the cake. The way Falco, and by extension Albia, treat their employees says a lot about their outlook on life. I loved the fact that they got their head porter Gornia a donkey to get around on to accommodate his advanced age. Patchy the donkey was a great element to the narrative, with him consistently showing up and having to arrange for his care being something Albia has to deal with, instead of him just being transportation.
As the title might have given away, there is a lot of political intrigue in the narrative. Set against the campaign for the election of the new aediles of Rome, it turns out that politics actually haven’t changed that much in over 2000 years. Albia is hired by Faustus to dig up dirt on all the various candidates that are running against the candidate he is campaigning for, his childhood friend Vibius. The dirt Albia finds ranges from the somewhat shameful to the tragic. At the same time she is also investigating the dead body found at her family’s warehouse in one of the items they are to auction. The way these investigation intertwine is quite well done and I really enjoyed putting the puzzle together. During the course of Albia’s investigation we finally get to meet Faustus’ uncle Tullius, who turns out to be even worse than he’d been previously described, which made for a very cool confrontation between him and Albia. The one complaint I had about the character list is that there were a great number of similarly named people and if not for the dramatis personae at the start of the novel, I would have had to take notes to keep them straight.
My favourite thing about the book was the slow tango between Albia and Faustus and I absolutely loved its conclusion. There were some lovely touches, such as the dolphin bench that ends up in Albia’s courtyard and Faustus’ worrying about Albia’s health. And Dromo’s commentary on Albia and Faustus made for some delightful comic relief. It’ll be interesting to see how Albia and Faustus will develop their relationship in the next book, and I’m curious whether and to what extent their partnership echoes – or perhaps mirrored is a better term – that of Albia’s parents. Could any of my readers enlighten me on that score?
While this may not have been my favourite case of the three books featuring Albia thus far, I loved the character development in Deadly Election as the Albia/Faustus dynamic is my favourite thing about this series. I’m very much looking forward to reading Albia’s next adventure. If you enjoy a well-written, humour-infused, Roman mystery then you can’t go wrong with Deadly Election and the Flavia Albia series as a whole.List of site sources >>>