This is a textbook on Roman/Jewish culture at the time of Christ disguised as a novella. It follows the story of Tullus, a newly captured slave purchased at market by a powerful Roman centurion. Tullus adjusts to life
in the centurion’s household and works his way into a trusted position of influence. Due to an injury, the centurion (and thus his entire household) is put out to pasture and relegated to a peacekeeping and managerial role in a Galilee backwater. I won’t give the story away, but what initially appears to be a totally fictional tale intended as a vehicle for educating the reader on many aspects of Roman life–military readiness and gladiator exhibitions, the sexual mores of the day, religious and political tensions between Rome and the occupied Jews, etc–ultimately ties into a genuine biblical account from the Gospels in a powerful and emotionally rewarding way.
This is a brief but very worthwhile read for anyone remotely interested in getting one’s history smuggled in via a compelling narrative.