We find ourselves in Ancient Rome. In the intense heat of the centre of one of the most far-reaching empires the world has ever known, gladiators struggle for survival in the arena, cunning merchants strive to outwit each other, sordid love affairs turn sour, and along side it all, the eternal game of power plays out in the shadows...
It's stinking hot, and the crowd is beginning to lose interest in the last few gladiators still fighting for survival in the arena. Only the Emperor Claudius is still riveted, determined to stick it out until the death rattle of the last fighter announces the end of the day's frivolities. Life is just as ferocious outside the arena. Everyone wants the power; everyone is willing to kill to get it... For Agrippina, Claudius' second wife, her dear husband has served his purpose. Now that he has acknowledged her son, Nero, as his heir, it's high time he disappeared. But Agrippina has time against her: there's talk of Claudius wanting to renounce her in favor of the woman he loves, Lolia Paulina. Needless to say, it doesn't end well for poor Lolia...
We're in Rome, three days before the ides of October. The Emperor Cladius is dead, poisoned by his wife, Agrippina, who'd discovered his plans to renounce her so as to marry Lollia Paulina, Murena's mother. Thus Nero, Agrippine's son, becomes emperor. His mother, having bought the favor of the army and the Senate, believes that she'll be able to govern in her son's name. But, at 17-years-old, Nero is no longer a child, which she'll soon learn at her own expense...
The young Britannicus is dead. Poisoned, just like his father, the Emperor Claudius. The will that could have put an end the Nero's ever-growing ambitions has been reduced to ashes. Nero remains alone on Rome's throne. Well, almost alone. Somewhere in the shadows lurks his mother, Agrippina, and she's willing to do whatever it takes to get a bite of that rotten fruit we call 'power.'
The shadows of the crucified stretch over the empire, while rumors spread like wildfire throughout all Rome. It looks like Nero, the new emperor, did indeed poison his half-brother, Britannicus. Agrippina, in order to win the favor of her own son, is willing to open her bed to him. But Nero has eyes only for Acte, the beautiful prostitute whom he freed from the clutches of Pallas, the freed slave. Nero asks Acte to give word to Murena that he is pardoned, and that there is nothing stopping him from returning to Rome. But that's not all Murena wants... he also asks of his sovereign to give him Draxus' head... Draxus, who killed his mother... Draxus, who was acting on Agrippina's orders...
The ruthlessly ambitious Poppea has usurped the beautiful Acte in Nero's heart. Nero is building up to a chariot race in Rome's Circus Maximus, in which his victory, naturally, is assured. The race kicks off. It's fast, and it's dangerous. And then, against all odds, it's not the emperor who finishes victorious, but a mysterious participant who turns out to be a woman...
Massam, the slave that Poppaea uses to do her dirty work, is given the order to exterminate Balba the gladiator and his accomplice Evix, the woman who dared better Nero in a chariot race. The pair of them are considered dangerous enemies of the emperor. At the imperial palace, while Nero is making plans for a whole new Rome, Poppaea lounges around with her entourage. Arsilia, one of those closest to her, is secretly summoned to meet Petronius the poet in a rough part of town. There she finds Murena, with whom she was rather enamored in the days when he was close to the emperor. Murena is convinced that Arsilia is implicated in the kidnapping of the only woman he's ever loved, and that she knows where she's been taken. Murena is determined to find his lover, and so decides to leave for Gaul. Balba and Evix say they'll accompany him, but on one condition: when they come back, Murena must help them eliminate Nero, the tyrant who killed Britannicus.
Nero has just lost his little girl, Claudia Augusta. She was only four months old, and Nero is wracked by grief. As for Murena, having lost Acte, the woman he loved, he decides to leave Gaul and head back to Rome. But how will the ever-volatile Nero react when he finds out that Murena is defying his banishment to return once more to the city of seven hills?
Nero dreamed of it. Lucius Murena did it: burning Rome. However, to atone for his act, the young patrician tries to save as many human lives as he can. Everyone, whether they be rich or poor, is seeking a way out. While some throw themselves into the river Tiber, others manage to get to the Campus Martius, although not without difficulty. One of the few areas spared from the devouring flames is the Christian neighborhood. More man than god, the emperor is consumed with doubt. While Rome's destruction kindles greed in some, it reveals great kindness in others.
In this ninth volume of the historical saga Murena, Dufaux and Delaby show Rome in reconstruction and expose the roots of the Judeo-Christian culture. Nero fears that the people of Rome, still reeling from the trauma of the great fire, will turn against him if he doesn't present them with the guilty party, and fast. He decides that the Christians would be the perfect scapegoats...
What could be more moving than a reunion of childhood friends making peace after long enmity and tragic misunderstanding? Lucius Murena and the Emperor emerge from their long-awaited meeting with rekindled trust and affection. But in Nero's Rome, such victories are always fleeting. When a brutal murder attempt leaves Murena on the brink of death, his memory is erased by a family of patricians plotting to assassinate Nero with the help of the Emperor's own dear advisor, Seneca. The series, a dive into the intricate and deadly world of ancient Rome, is back with this tenth volume.