Interview with Steven Saylor

Today we are going to do a quick word rap with Steven Saylor, bestselling author and best-known for his Roma Sub Rosa historical mystery series, set in ancient Rome.

UNRV: Hello Steven, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in ancient history.
Steven Saylor: I’ve loved the ancient world since I was a child growing up in Texas—watching gladiator movies on TV, sword-fighting with my brother, playing with the battery-powered Roman galley I got for Christmas one year (which I still own). As I grew older, the erotic allure and the opulent but savage splendor of imperial Rome fired my imagination, even as I began to study the real history as a college student in Austin. Now I’m lucky to live in Berkeley, California, a town with a world-class university, where I haunt the library stacks and frequently drop in on lectures by some of the finest Classical scholars alive.

UNRV: What aspect of the Roman period do you like best/worst?
Steven Saylor: Best: The fact that we have so very many surviving sources to draw from—letters, poetry, history, biographies, comedies, even a cookbook or two. Worst: The fact that our sources for later Roman history (usually termed Byzantine) are so much less revealing, so much more frustrating.

UNRV: What is the most underrated person in antiquity and why?
Steven Saylor: I wish we knew much, much more about the Stoic philosopher Blossius, who was a close adviser to Tiberius Gracchus for his populist agrarian reforms, and who later helped Aristonicus to found the so-called Heliopolis, or Sun-City, in Asia Minor, a place where all were free and no slavery existed. His ideas were anathema to the Roman imperialists, who drove him to suicide and obliterated his work. We often overlook the fact that such humane individuals existed, blinded as we are by the pomp and glory of generals and emperors.

UNRV: If you could meet one person of the Roman Empire, who would it be and what would you ask?
Steven Saylor: Jesus of Nazareth: Did you really exist?

UNRV: If you had to live in antiquity where and when would you like it to have been?
Steven Saylor: In the court of Hadrian, traveling the world with the emperor and his intellectual retinue. (Although the competition and in-fighting must have been fierce!)

UNRV: What lost Classical work would you like to have survived and why?
Steven Saylor: I would love to read the memoirs of Sulla.

UNRV: What aspect of Roman history would you like to flush out with the Cloaca Maxima (i.e. get rid of)?
Steven Saylor: All the superstition and the nearly universal belief in magic, astrology, etc. It still persists today.

UNRV: What do you think is the most important aspect of antiquity that has survived?
Steven Saylor: Reason, the greatest legacy of ancient Greece.

UNRV: When you open your fridge we would be suprised to see...?
Steven Saylor: Almond milk. No dairy products at all.

UNRV: The title of your biography would be....?
Steven Saylor: Time Must Have a Stop. Always good to crib from Shakespeare (though Aldous Huxley beat me to it).

UNRV: What are your plans for the future?
Steven Saylor: I’ve just signed a new two-book contract. First, the next Gordianus murder mystery, set during the assassination of Julius Caesar. Then, a third family saga to follow my epic novels Roma and Empire, this time following the family fortunes from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine, with all those crazy emperors in-between. (Yes, I finally get to write about Elagabalus!)

UNRV:: Thank you so much for your time!
Steven Saylor: You’re welcome. This has been fun.

Steven Saylor is an American author of historical novels. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and classics. Saylor's best-known work is his Roma Sub Rosa historical mystery series, set in ancient Rome. The novels' hero is a detective named Gordianus the Finder, active during the time of Sulla, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra. Outside this crime novel series, Saylor has also written two epic-length historical novels about the city of Rome, Roma and Empire. His work has been published in 21 languages.

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Union Jack Steven Saylor for the UK