What is Mika Waltari up to in THE ROMAN? There is a very dry Finnish sense of humor at play here, exploiting the ironies of a narrator who is an utter moral vaccum, unable to perceive the truth of anything going on around him. Put such a cipher in the poisonous milieu of Poppaea, Agrippina, Tigellinus, et. al, and watch out! When our "hero" is charged by Nero with devising "entertainments" involving the torture and slaughter of Christians scapegoated for the great fire, his chief worry is that the jaded audience will grow bored. I suspect a lot of THE ROMAN is really about Waltari's take on the Nazis and perhaps Stalinist Russia, with all their bureaucratic double-talk covering the unspeakable ugliness of mass murder. One reviewer complains that THE ROMAN goes the route of QUO VADIS, with a pro-Christian slant, but I think the book is far more subtle, complex, and ambiguous than that. Beware of abridged editions (like the US paperback that was published in the 1960s). THE ROMAN is preceded by a novel about the narrator's father and his encounter with the early Christians, THE SECRET OF THE KINGDOM (which I have not read).