PRECURSOR to the GETORIUS and ARCADIA MYSTERIES
October, A.D. 406, on the Rhine River, near the Roman city of Mogontium (fictionalized Mainz, Ger-many). Three barbarian tribes, one of them Van-dals, gather on the east-ern shore as unseasonal cold hints that the river barrier soon will freeze over. Treverius Asterius and his wife Blandina, along with the governor and citizens, fear that the Rhine will become a foot-path to invasion.
Inside Mogontium, a worker setting a Christian cross on a former temple to Jupiter is felled by lightning, and super-stitious citizens consider this to be the god’s re-venge for desecrating his home. Pagan factions in the city, led by Cyril of Constantinople, seek to exploit the terror and restore ancient forms of worship. Cyril plots with Vertiscus, pretorium curator, to recruit Mogon-tium’s mercenary garrison for help in forming a rebel province, New Gothia. Vandal chieftain Gaisios is enlisted as a conspirator.
The weather grows colder. A series of deaths seem accidental, yet Treverius discerns a sinister pattern: the vic-tims die on their patron saint’s day, and in the gruesome manner in which their namesakes were martyred. On De-cember 31, the Vandals breach the Rhine and force entry into Mogon-tium. Thrown back, Gai-sios remains in the area. With the countryside under siege, the deaths continue, and Treverius and Blandina search tax rolls, identifying people with target names.
By April, citizens are panicking, when Flavius Stilicho, commander of the Roman Army, arrives to inspect defenses. He leaves after an assas-sination attempt in the theatre, in which Petran-ius, the director, is in-jured.
Vertsicus is encouraged by the mayhem, which triggers near-riots and makes citizen acceptance of New Gothia imminent. After Petranius survives being crucified on his stage, a deaf-mute actor is surprised threatening the wife of Treverius’s friend, David ben Zadok. Treverius takes steps to protect Blandina, whose saint’s feast is August 1, unaware that Vertiscus plans to wrest control of Mogontium on that day. During festival games, the garrison will take the gov-ernor hostage, massacre his guards, then force the city council to accept New Gothia.
On August 1, Treverius practices javelin throws with David for the games, then learns that Blandina has been lured to the theatre. Rushing there, the men confront a scene of unimaginable horror that forms the climax to this gripping mystery.
November, 439 CE, at Ravenna, capital of the Western Roman Empire: Surgeon Getorius Asterius is called to examine the body of Behan, a monk who drowned during a penitential rite. His wife Arcadia ¾ studying to be a medica ¾ goes with him. In Behan’s hut they discover a prophecy text suggesting that a document of earthshaking importance will be re-vealed. Soon after, during an impromptu visit to the new future mausoleum of Galla Placidia, mother of Emperor Valentinian III, a hidden niche violently reveals the “Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ” ¾ dictated to Pontius Pilate’s secretary while the procurator is outside addressing the crowd. In an expression of supreme love and forgiveness, Christ has willed the World to his Judean enemies, whose descendants now live in the vast Roman Empire. The Bishop of Rome, as Christ’s successor, is obligated to ratify the bequest. Suspects involved in the accidental discovery soon include the mausoleum’s architect, an archdeacon, a wealthy senator, and even the Western army’s supreme commander.
Placidia suppresses the papyrus document while palace librarian Theo-kritos tests its authen-ticity. After three wit-nesses to the discovery are murdered, Getorius asks Rabbi David ben Zadok, head of Ravenna’s Judean community, for his evaluation of the text, and consequences if the will is revealed. His response: empire-wide civil war, with communities pitted against each other. Zadok infers that the will is to be released in six weeks, at the Feast of the Nativity.
When Getorius is arrest-ed, falsely accused of dis-secting the monk’s body, Arcadia is left alone to deal with the apocalyptic document.
A few days before the Nativity, Brenos, Abbot of Behan’s monastery, ar-rives at Ravenna, osten-sibly to bury his monk. In the late hours before the December 24 vigil mass, it is not certain that an at-tempt by members of a religious Order will not succeed in establishing a theocratic rule designed to supplant the dying Western Empire.
A eunuch archpriest and an unscrupulous senator smuggle products from China to Italy that will change the course of western history.
Surgeon Getorius Asterius, his wife Arcadia, the eunch archpriest of a pagan fertility cult, the female head of a heretical Arian church, and an ambitious senator in league with a Chinese merchant: these are the prime movers in this mystery set in Ravenna, Italy, in A.D. 440. When Getorius is summoned to examined the castrated body of a youth found by Thecla in her Arian church, who is the sobbing "Vestal Virgin" nearby?
Why is the senator smuggling counterfeit Western coins to the Eastern Empire, and contraband Chinese products to Ravenna?
Thecla's coded message leads to a secret tunnel and the sinister temple of Cybele, whose devotees are self-mutilated eunuchs. In a stunning climax, the conspirators try to escape Ravenna, planning to sell one product in Egypt, but failing to recognize the far more deadly nature of the other.
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