Detectives in Togas

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Detectives in Togas (in Germany known as Caius, der Lausbub aus dem alten Rom - Caius the brat from Ancient Rome) is a 1953 children's book by Henry Winterfeld, who was born in Germany but emigrated to America. It's about the Ancient Rome adventures of seven preteen boys (all of them sons of senators) who visit (and constitute) the prestigious school of the old Greek teacher Xanthos.

The novel had two sequels: Mystery of the Roman Ransom (1969) and Caius in a Tight spot (1976).

Tropes used in Detectives in Togas include:

  • Book Dumb: Caius. Leading to many funny situations when he can't answer the questions of his teacher. Like this: "The Rhine is a river... which has banks on both sides."
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Icarus
  • The Comically Serious: It rarely happens that Xanthippos is laughing, about once per book. The first time he does this, the boys can barely believe this.
  • Depraved Dwarf: One gladiator in book 2.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Sometimes, the author made errors - one boy claims to have goldfish (can't be, they originated in China). Or when one boy calls another one a turkey (which came from America).
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The emperor is mentioned several times, but never by name. From the dates given in the story, we can conclude it's Tiberius, second Roman emperor.
  • Faking the Dead: Caius in book three.
  • Fat Bastard: The Big Bads of part 1 and 2.
  • Film of the Book: Made in Germany, and supposed to come Real Soon Now.
  • Gladiator Games: Gladiators play a role in book 2.
  • Meaningful Name: Icarus, a wheelcart driver in book 3. He dares too much during a race, and, guess what, falls.
  • Missing Mom: Caius' is dead, so his sister has to care for the household instead.
  • The Professor: Teacher Xanthos, who saves the day twice - in the second book, he discovers where the disappeared gold has to be. It's in the false bottom of the cage of a bear. The hint: Said bear in his cage had to be lifted by way more legionnaires than necessary - the hidden gold explained the difference in weight. And in book three, he manages to find out the secret codeword for the Circus Maximus, despite the fact that Caius was thoroughly confused and couldn't remember whether it was the name of "a woman who won a horrible battle" or "a man who almost drowned". It's Pyrrhus (Pyrrha respectively), as in Pyrrhic Victory - Caius had confused the sexes.
  • Red Herring: In the second book, the slave Udo tells them he was at a certain place where he heard sounds of swords clashing and someone shouting constantly "Ave imperator, morituri te salutant!" The boys look for one gladiator school and don't find it. And then they stumble upon a blacksmith forging swords with a parrot constantly shouting that phrase and know: Udo was here.
  • Shout-Out: Book 3 has Ben Gor from Galilee.
  • Spy Speak: In the first book, the boy Rufus is in prison and about to be executed, but manages to send a strange message to the others: "Rip off the red wolf's sheep's clothing!" He's talking about the "seer" Lukos (Greek for "wolf"), whose name is written in red on his house, who's the Big Bad and framed Rufus. Lukos is really the ex-consul Tellus, who wears a wig when playing Lukos.
  • Stern Teacher: Xanthos, nicknamed Xanthippos. But even if he scolds the boys permanently, he's still on their side, always.