Phaedra. Set in the first century BCE, in the tumultuous final decades of the Roman Republic, the stories centre on a group of friends and lovers living on the fringes of Rome’s creative demi monde; a world of poets, actors, courtesans, theatrical impressarios, and well brought up Roman aristocrats who prefer cultivating Eros and the Muses to seeking honour and glory commanding legions or holding forth in the Senate.
These stories offer a suggestive glimpse into the decadent milieu of that generation as hinted at in the denunciations of Cicero, the poems of Catullus and the admonitory, yet enticing sketch painted by the historian Sallust of louche circles existing in Rome around the time of Catiline’s conspiracy.
They also explore the amorous lives of the principle characters, in particular of how they find ways of giving expression to their desires and fantasies of giving and receiving erotic pain, playing with the tropes of dominance and submission while continuing gleefully to subvert the values of a society based on slavery, hierarchy ,and aggressive military expansion.
It should be noted that these stories were originally written at different times over the past three years or so, and fill in the gaps between events depicted in the first two novels. Other than the first story, they therefore contain ‘spoilers’ for the earlier published works, which should be borne in mind for readers who are bothered by this. As they were written at different stages of writing the above novels, they may also contain minor chronological inconsistencies.