Lucius comes of age in first century Rome during the age of Cicero and Pompey and is sent on his first assignment to Sicily. On his way he is attacked by Spartacus's rebels, captured by Mediterranean pirates, and involved in numerous other adventures. Eventually he ends up in Asia Minor, where he visits Eastern kingdoms and becomes involved in the war with Mithradates. The book covers a complicated era in Rome's history, and illustrates many of the reasons for the decline of the Republic.
LUCIUS UNHORSED AND TAKEN PRISONER.
The main action of this story belongs to a critical and interesting period in the last years of the Roman Republic. In 72 B.C., when my hero is represented as starting to take up an official position in Sicily, Italy was slowly recovering from the effects of the internal struggles which had distracted the state for many years; of the Social War in which Rome had been fighting for her supremacy among the kindred Italian peoples; and of the Civil War, the long conflict between the nobles and the people, terminated, at least for a time, by Sulla's victory in the year 82, and by the bloody proscription which followed it. Many of the evils of these terrible times still remained. Italy, in particular, abounded with ruined and desperate men. With these and with the fugitives who were always trying to escape from the cruelties of slavery, Spartacus, a gladiator, who in 73 led a revolt at Capua, recruited his army. In the following year this man was at the height of his power. In the same year the insurrection of Sertorius, who had defied the power of Rome in Spain many years, was brought to an end by his assassination. In Asia Mithradates, king of Pontus, had been driven out of his dominion, and had sought shelter in the dominions of his son-in-law, Tigranes, king of Armenia. He was not, however, at the end of his resources, and it was not till nine years afterwards that his final defeat and death took place. During the greater part of this time the pirates held almost undisputed possession of the Mediterranean Sea. Pompey put them down completely in the year 67 B.C..
In the postscript to my story affairs have changed completely. The Republic has passed away, and the Empire is divided between Antony in the East and Augustus in the West. I may remark that the old gardener of the last two chapters is not an arbitrary invention of my own. Virgil, in his forth Georgic (that in which he treats of bee-culture), speaks of having known "an old man of Corycus" who had a garden near Tarentum. As there was a Corycus in Cilicia, it has been suggested that this old man was one of the pirates whose lives Pompey spared after his victory, and some of who he is known to have settled in Italy.
A writer who has been engaged in teaching for the greater part of his life can hardly help trying to make his book useful. I hope, however, that my young readers will not find this story less entertaining because it may help them to realize the period to which it belongs. They will certainly not find it overloaded with learning—a fault which, indeed, it is only too easy for most of us to avoid.
Hadley Green, June 1885