Over the last few weeks I’ve been cleaning out some shelves. In the process, I’ve come across a few books (paper books) that I have been meaning to read, but never got around to. Christianus Sum by Shawn Pollett is one. I read it earlier this year. Here’s what I thought.
When Senator Valerianus returns from his power-currying trips abroad to his estate outside of Rome, the household slaves leap into action. None is more terrified of his explosive temper than the beautiful Damarra.
“Don’t draw his attention,” coaches Damarra’s mother and fellow slave.
Yet Damarra can’t help but tremble when tasked with serving him—something that seems to be happening more often than ever. Clumsiness and dropping things followed by a tongue lashing and beating are the inevitable result.
To complicate matters, Damarra has become a Christian. If asked, her honest reply would be, “Christianus Sum—I am a Christian. This is a group Valerianus hates with a passion fueled by his belief that the Roman gods’ displeasure over this rival religion is to blame for Rome losing recent battles to bands of northern vandals.
When Senator Valens from the neighbouring estate catches a glimpse of Damarra, he is shaken by her resemblance to his adored but deceased wife. Could he find a way to purchase her for his own estate?
This fictional tale of ancient history takes place during the decaying years of the Roman Empire.
The story is a type of upstairs / downstairs tale as we move between life with Damarra as a slave and despised Christian and the realm of Roman power, government, battle scenes, and the cut-throat competition for the top job.
The book is well-researched, beautifully written, with interesting and sympathetic characters. Though there are graphic scenes of violence and brutality, for the most part they didn’t strike me as gratuitous. I learned a lot about a period of history with which I’m not familiar. As well, Christianus Sum gave me a new appreciation for the power of the gospel and the price early Christians were prepared to pay for their faith—a price that is exacted in many parts of the world to this day.