Slave King: Rebellion against empire: A Novel

Slave King recreates a major slave revolt in Sicily led by a Syrian magus turned leader, circa 140-132 BCE, decades before Spartacus. He forges a coalition of slaves, farmers and herders to defeat Roman armies and establish an egalitarian entity. The novel uses biased ancient sources but challenges them to speak for the oppressed and present alternative cultural-historical perspectives. Among its chapters are scenes of exorcism, ancient marriage customs and a play.

In 30 chapters, the narrative develops the unexpected story of how a boy (Younis/Eunus/Euno) captured as a slave in Afamia, Syria challenges the Roman Empire in Sicily, circa 140-132 BCE. The chapters dramatize circumstances of his capture, his experiences as a tutor, the growth of his prophetic and magical abilities, events that fomented the uprising (cruelties, rapes, crucifixions), actions by female characters, connections to other historical events (e.g., the destruction of Carthage), as well as scenes of an exorcism, an ancient marriage ceremony, a play performed outside a besieged city, and several battles against the Roman legions. An epilogue by an imagined contemporary narrator ends the work. In the chapters and epilogue, while using ancient sources to some extent (sparse and biased as they are), the work departs from them to resolve contradictions, fill in gaps, and present an alternative narrative of historical and cultural issues. It’s intended to remedy the neglect of this story in both ancient and modern sources, to reverse the demonization explicit and implicit in them, and to remedy the imbalance in the dominant constructs. It promotes the event as significant, certainly just as important as (if not more than) the Spartacus rebellion seven decades before or others that are commonly recounted.  Perhaps most significant about this revolt arises from the fact that Younis is able to forge a coalition of slaves, farmers and herders that defeats the Roman armies and to establish an independent entity on more egalitarian principles. The novel also touches on a range of topics, such as prophecy, magic, languages, the construct of Western civilization, and representation of regional cultures, customs and mythologies. An idealized statue of this rebel stands today in Enna, Sicily, along with an inscription that seems designed to appeal to tourists, yet his legacy contradicts the dominant notions promoted in Italy and the world. This novel is intended to remedy his legacy.


  1. Younis taken into captivity, c 150 BCE
  2. First experiences as a slave
  3. Tutoring in Enna
  4. More tutoring challenges
  5. Younis works with stone and develops prophetic abilities
  6. Meeting Nilos at the Great Rock
  7. Elissar’s story of Qart Ḥadašt
  8. Younis exorcises Perpetua
  9. Convivium in Enna, c. 139 BCE
  10. Garden meeting and getting supplies
  11. Murder of Secundus
  12. Racilia tells Younis what happened
  13. Crucifixion of slaves
  14. Meeting in the Valley of Persephone
  15. Rebels take Enna
  16. Arrest of landowners
  17. Trials in assembly
  18. Rebel war council
  19. Kleon joins Younis
  20. Speech before the battle
  21. Rebels defeat Hypsaeus
  22. Younis declared ruler of the dominion
  23. Marriage of Elissar and Younis
  24. Elissar organizes women
  25. Play outside the walls of Akragas and battle against Piso
  26. Legions invade from Missina
  27. Komanos astonishes with self-killing
  28. Rupilius and Younis negotiate terms outside Enna
  29. Younis searches for his mother and old teacher
  30. Younis and Elissar speak to children

Epilogue: Maddie in Sicilia and Syria recounts why she wrote the novel

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