Roman Mysteries (TV series)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Lupus, Jonathan, Nubia, and Flavia

Roman Mysteries is a CBBC television series based on The Roman Mysteries historical novels by Caroline Lawrence. It is reportedly the most expensive British children's TV series to date at £1 million per hour.

The series began filming in June 2006 and was first broadcast from 8 May 2007. The series is divided into "scrolls", each based on one book, starting with "The Secrets of Vesuvius". The stories are told in the same order as the book series, except for book 6, The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina, which is transposed to the second season. Books 11 and 12 were not adapted, and the series ends with the adaptation of Book 13. Each scroll consists of two half-hour episodes. The first scroll guest-starred Simon Callow as Pliny the Elder.

Series 1

  1. Scroll One: "The Secrets of Vesuvius" (first broadcast 8 May 2007)
  2. Scroll Two: "The Pirates of Pompeii" (first broadcast 3 July 2007)
  3. Scroll Three: "The Assassins of Rome" (first broadcast 17 July 2007)
  4. Scroll Four: "The Dolphins of Laurentum" (first broadcast 31 July 2007)
  5. Scroll Five: "The Enemies of Jupiter" (first broadcast 14 August 2007)

Series 2

  1. Scroll One: "The Gladiators of Capua" (first UK broadcast 8 July 2008)
  2. Scroll Two: "The Twelve Trials of Flavia Gemina" (first UK broadcast 15 July 2008)
  3. Scroll Three: "The Colossus of Rhodes" (first UK broadcast 29 July 2008)
  4. Scroll Four: "The Fugitive from Corinth" (first UK broadcast 19 August 2008)
  5. Scroll Five: "The Slave Girl from Jerusalem" (first UK broadcast 2 September 2008)

Some of the major differences from the books include:

  • The children are older.
  • Lupus is mute but his tongue has not been cut out.
  • Because 'The Thieves of Ostia was not adapted, the meeting of the children takes place at a different time (just before the eruption of Vesuvius) and under different circumstances.
  • In the book of The Assassins of Rome, Simeon is dragged off to be tortured but gets rescued (by Titus) before he is maimed or blinded as was threatened. In the movie he doesn't get rescued.
  • Jonathan returns home at the end of "The Enemies of Jupiter".
  • "The Gladiators of Capua" and "The Fugitive from Corinth" are set in Ostia, rather than Rome and Greece, respectively.
  • Pulchra appears in "The Trials of Flavia Gemina" in Jonathan's place.
  • Several minor characters have been omitted or combined for the television episodes.
  • In "The Slave Girl from Jerusalem", a new character, Floridius, was introduced for comic relief.
  • When bought as a slave, Nubia's head has not been shaved and she is clothed.
  • The adults tend to play a smaller role.

Tropes used in Roman Mysteries (TV series) include:

Tropes A-E

  • Acting for Two - The Gemini twins are played by the same actor.
  • All There in the Manual - The Roman Mysteries Treasury contains additional information about the characters and The Roman Empire which never made it into the novels or the TV series.
  • Amateur Sleuth and Kid Detective - Flavia and friends are children that investigate mysteries, including but not limited to crimes.
  • Appease the Volcano God - The show actually give a real life twist on this common trope. Instead of virgin sacrifice, the Romans sacrifice fish as part of the Vulcanalia in The Secrets of Vesuvius.
  • Artful Dodger - Lupus's life as a beggar boy and innate intelligence makes him sneaky and street smart.
  • Big Bad - Some of the books have villians and others do not, however the villian whose kidnapping ring forms one of the recurring plot lines of the series is refered to by the characters is "The Big Buyer". After the "Big Buyer" is captured, it is revealed that there is a "Bigger Buyer" who is in fact ultimatly in charge of the kidnapping.
  • Big Fancy House - Villa Limona is a a luxurious villa owned by Felix, an exceptionally rich and powerful person.
  • Bittersweet Ending, Death Is a Sad Thing - Miriam is a victim of Death by Childbirth at the end of 'The Slave-girl from Jerusalem
  • Black Vikings - Averted in the books, which contain a realistic depictions of the racial and cultural mix of the Roman Empire. However, in the TV adaptation, there are two examples of black Roman patricians.
  • Bookworm - One of Flavia's favorite passtime is reading, and she often brings up information she learned from various scrolls.
  • The Chase - The Colossus of Rhodes, The Fugitive from Corinth
  • Chekhov's Volcano - The Secrets of Vesuvius
  • Clear Their Name - The Slave-girl from Jerusalem is about a slave girl accused of murder. Flavia and her friend try to prove her innocence.
  • Dark and Troubled Past - Both Lupus and Nubia suffered traumatic events in their past that continue to haunt them throughout the series.
  • Death by Childbirth - Flavia's mother, in Flavia's Backstory.
  • Deliberately Cute Child - Sometimes Flavia uses this trick during the course of an investigation.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance - All the characters are upset about free Romans being kidnapped and enslaved, but most of them give little thought to the enslavement of non-Romans or those born to slavery. Notable exceptions are Nubia, who was herself a slave, and Dr. Mordecai, who is against all slavery. This is an accurate potrayal of the values of the time period.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin - Both the series title and many of the individual story titles
  • The Exotic Detective - Flavia is exotic in that she is a Kid Detective and an ancient Roman.
  • Eye Take - Lupus in The Enemies of Jupiter when Flavia suggests to Emperor Titus that he is a Prometheus that will destroy Rome because of his hubris.

Tropes F-J

  • Feminine Women Can Cook - Alma and Miriam are the best cooks and play the most traditionally feminine roles in the story, especially by 1st Century Roman standards. Flavia, on the other hand, is hardly ever depicted cooking, partly because she is a Tomboy and partly because Alma does all the cooking for her family.
  • Foreign Queasine - Stuffed dormice and other exotic period food.
  • Free-Range Children - The characters are often in situations where there is little adult supervision. However, this is not constant throughout the series, as there there are many situations where they do their detective work with adult supervision and help.
  • Friend to All Living Things - Nubia
  • Gentle Giant - Caudex is a large, burly slave trained to be a Gladiator but normally peaceful and unwilling to hurt people.
  • Gladiator Games - Gladiator games form the central theme of The Gladiators from Capua. Jonathan becomes a gladiator.
  • Harmful to Minors - The events behind Lupus's Dark and Troubled Past and Nubia's Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Historical Fiction - This series is set in The Roman Empire, beginning in the year 79 AD. Most of the events take place Ostia (port city of Rome), with the occassional trip to the City of Rome and other locations within the empire.
  • The Hero - Flavia
  • Heroic Dolphin meets Friendly Playful Dolphin - In the episode The Dolphins of Laurentum, the main characters swim and play with dolpins, and Lupus even rides one. A dolphin rescues Lupus after he nearly drowns from staying underwater too long while diving. It is also strongly implied that the same dolphin discouraged Lupus from deliberatly leaving behind another diver who had been trapped by a giant octopus, though in fairness to Lupus he had a good reason for wanting the trapped person to die. A ship is named Delphina.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation - Jonathan has a tendency towards pessimism and poor self esteem.
  • Hurting Hero - Lupus is the main example at the beginning of the series. Jonathan also becomes one.
  • I Call It Vera - The door-slave (and former gladiator) Caudex has a sword he calls "Flora"; named, we are told, after an ex-girlfriend with a sharp tongue.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming - "The X of Y"; usually, but not always, "The <people> of <place>".
  • In the Past Everyone Will Be Famous - The characters have interactions with several examples of a Historical Domain Character.
  • Just a Kid - This is played straight throught the series. Sometimes the four detectives exploit this to their advantage. Sometimes it is an obstacle that they have to overcome.

Tropes H-L

  • The Killer Was Left-Handed - The Slave-girl from Jerusalem uses this as part of the way of identifying the murderer.
  • Little Stowaway - In the The Secrets of Vesuvius, Lupus is a stowaway on Marcus Flavius's ship.
  • Made a Slave - Nubia starts the series as a slave. Many other children are also kidnapped and enslaved, forming the basis of the plots for The Pirates of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes. The Four Detectives are briefly captured in The Pirates of Pompeii and are going to be sold as slaves. Jonathan is also briefly enslaved in The Assassins of Rome. Three of the Four Detectives are captured yet again in The Colossus of Rhodes..
  • Meaningful Rename - Nubia is really the name that was given by the slave dealers to Shepenwepet when she is made a slave. When she is freed, she decides to keep the name, saying "Nubia can be my new name for my new life."
  • Meaningful Name - A number of characters have names whose meanings in Latin or Greek reflect their characteristics. Just a few are listed here.
    • Lupus, the name of the wild character, means wolf. This is also a partial example of Animal Theme Naming although it does not fit that trope perfectly because Lupus is the only one with an animal name.
    • Felix is a very fortunate (both rich and lucky) man, as one might expect from the meaning of his name.
    • Marcus Geminus and Gaius Geminus are twin brothers
    • Flavia is a fair haired girl.
  • The Medic - Dr. Mordecai is a physician and sometimes treats the other major characters.
  • Music for Courage - The Four Detectives play music for refugees in The Pirates of Pompeii.
  • Mystery Fiction - This series is Mystery Fiction, and often uses a Mystery Arc for the story structure.. A wide variety of standard Mystery Tropes are used throughout the series.
  • Mystery Magnet - Flavia and friends
  • Mysterious Past - Lupus's origin and the reason he can not speak is not revealed until several episodes into the series.
  • Naked on Arrival - In the books, Nubia is first shown as a naked slave being prepared for auction. In the TV adaptation, this is Averted.
  • Patronymic - The series accurately depict the use of patronymics in period cultures. Notable examples are Jonathan ben Mordecai and Mordecai ben Ezrah.
  • Oh My Gods - Pollux!

Tropes P-Z

  • Parental Abandonment - All four of the main characters have a Missing Mom. Nubia and Lupus undergo an Orphan's Ordeal and Jonathan and Flavia both have times when their fathers are literally or figuratively distant.
  • Police Are Useless - Well, not completely useless, but the only thing they seem to be useful for are locking up the criminals that Flavia and friends have identified. Of course, historic Rome did not have anything approaching modern police forces and professional, scientific criminal investigation techniques, so this is probably not far from the truth.
  • The Plague - A historical plague that hit Rome in 80 AD is featured in The Enemies of Jupiter.
  • Plucky Girl - Flavia
  • Pride - Pride of the hubris variety is one of the explicit themes of The Enemies of Jupiter.
  • Prophetic Dreams - Jonathan has prophetic dreams in several of the books. Flavia has a prophetic dream that forms the basis of The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina. A prophetic dream also plays a major role in The Enemies of Jupiter.
  • The Queen's Latin - Considering it is a British TV series with British actors, the TV adaptation can be forgiven for having British accents. However, it is a bit odd when the Irish actor playing Flavia's father/uncle has an Irish accent unlike any of the other characters.
  • Rags to Riches - Lupus goes from being a Street Urchin to owning his own ship.
  • Secondary Character Title - Most of the episode titles, when they refer to a character, refer to a secondary character or groups of characters that are pivotal to the plot but are not one of the series's four main characters.
  • Sea Stories - Most of the series would not qualify, however The Colossus of Rhodes would. Not only is it about ship voyage through the Mediterranean Sea, but the story also incorporates explicit parallels to one of the Sea Stories of Classical Mythology, namely Jason and The Argonauts.
  • Sherlock Scan - Flavia does this to identify Pliny.
  • Shout-Out - "A funny thing happened on the way to the forum."
    • Many of the episodes have both explicit references to Classical Mythology and intentional parallels to the referenced myths within the story line.
  • Sidekick - Nubia is Flavia's faithful sidekick.
  • Snooping Little Kid - Lupus uses his skills at snooping, sneaking and eavesdropping several times throughout the series.
  • The Speechless - Lupus is unable to talk for reasons not revealed for several episodes. It is notable that in the books, Lupus can not talk because his tongue was cut out, however in the TV series his tongue is still intact.
  • Sibling Triangle - As part of the Backstory, both Gaius and Marcus Flavius fell in love with the same woman. She married Marcus and died giving birth to Flavia.
  • Street Urchin - Several examples appear in the series, however the most notable is Lupus, who becomes one of the four main characters.
  • Tomboy - Flavia is a mild tomboy by modern standards but is most especially a tomboy by Roman standards.
  • Team Dad - Marcus Flavius Geminus
  • Team Pet - Nipur, Scuto and Tigris are Canine Companions of Nubia, Flavia and Jonathan respectivly.
  • The Heart- Nubia
  • This Is My Name on Foreign - Lupus's actual name is Lukos. However, both names simply mean "wolf." This does not follow the trope perfectly, because it is not an alias that Lupus picks for himself.
  • Translation Convention - Latin is translated into English. Other languages are spoken in the original language however are usually given subtitles in English.
  • Twin Switch - Gaius briefly poses as Marcus in one The Dolphins of Laurentum.
  • Unreliable Expositor - A number of characters state scientific, medical or geographic facts that are now known to be inaccurate, but do correspond to what educated people in the 1st century AD Rome actually believed.
  • World of No Grandparents - None of the main character have grandparents take any major role in the story. Most of the grandparents are dead. Given the low life expectancy of this time period, this is highly realistic.