The Story of Gracchus - Origins

'an ancient, yet timeless story for the internet age'

Please note that this chapter may contain sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.

So ... how did 'The Story of Gracchus' come about ?
To begin with, Vittorio Carvelli, is an artist, who trained at art school in traditional forms of painting and drawing (including 'live figure drawing') and graphics.
With the recent further development of advanced computer imaging, he turned his attention to his main interest, which was the 'male nude'.
So called contemporary male nudes often look a bit 'odd', (even, possibly, 'sleazy'), but put them in a classical or mythological background and they can appear far more natural and acceptable.
Charles  Laughton as
Sempronius Gracchus
Vittorio Carvelli
And so Vittorio began a series of youthful male nudes, entitled 'The Slave-boys of Gracchus' (the name taken from a character in the original version of the film 'Spartacus').
Much later Vitto was asked to contribute to an internet project called 'Roman Imperium'.
The 'Roman Imperium' blog is basically a survey of the history of the Roman Empire (so far it has only reached the end of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty) - with particular emphasis on Roman culture.

It was through his involvement with that project that he realised that the character that he had created - 'Gracchus' - who was, presumably a wealthy Roman Slave owner, could be developed into a Roman patrician, living in around the time of the Emperor Nero (the same period as the historical fiction 'Quo Vadis').
And why that particular period ?
Simply because the earlier periods had been 'done to death'
The later period, which authors and film-makers relished as the 'Fall of the Roman Empire' - (the title of a well known, and some say very poor film), was rather too depressing, and full of earnest Christians - keen to take over what was obviously a 'doomed enterprise'.
The end of Nero's reign, and the period usually known as 'The Year of the Four Emperors', and the subsequent Flavian Dynasty, on the other hand, was interesting and full of intrigue, and showed the Empire as it moved to its height.
Originally, it was intended that many of the images from the 'Slave-boys of Gracchus' would be used in the new project, ('The Story of Gracchus'), but novels have a way of gaining a 'life of their own', and very soon the story had wandered off (intentionally, however), into all kinds of interesting byways, that required numerous new images.
The problem, of course, for Vitto was not to fall into the same sort of 'traps' that had ensnared so many other authors, playwrights and directors, who ventured into the possibly dangerous waters of ancient historical fiction.
Those 'traps', or 'problems' are described in some of the other other sections of 'Reflections' - with reference to various books, films and TV series of historical fiction (mainly dealing with the Roman Empire) and the problems that these works have encountered.
These 'traps' and 'problems' relate to historical accuracy, both with regard to political events, personalities and general culture, and also the presentation of 'attitudes' and 'mores'.
There can also be problems with regard to themes and plotting, and finally style, particularly with regard to the visualisation of the story, and images (which will be dealt with in later sections).


Cilician Pirates
Marcus in Athens

The real hero of the 'Story of Gracchus, however, is not the original wealthy slave owner, mentioned above, but rather a somewhat delinquent young Roman boy, called Marcus.

Marcus sold as a Slave
Gaius Agrippa Aelius
This lad is brought up (or should we rather say 'neglected') in Athens, where his father, Gaius Agrippa Aelius, an ambitious Roman official, is stationed as a representative of the Roman State - rather like the English 'servants of the Raj' two thousand years later.
Gaius is more interested in his reputation and career than in his son, and so, for much of the time young Marcus, although intelligent and talented, runs wild in the agora, streets and gymnasia of Roman Athens.
Subsequently, however, tragedy strikes as, on their return to Rome by sea, young Marcus, along with his parents, are captured by pirates.
The boy's parents are killed, and Marcus is sold into slavery, becoming 'Markos', because his new owner, Arion - a slave dealer, believes him to be a Greek slave-boy pretending to be Roman in order to escape being a slave.

Marcus Octavianus Gracchus
Gnaeus Octavian Gracchus
Subsequently Markos is acquired by Terentius, a freedman, on behalf of the fabulously wealthy 'Gnaeus Octavian Gracchus', (the character originally 'dreamed up' by Vitto).
Eventually, for complex reasons, Gracchus frees Markos, reinstates him as a Roman citizen, gives him back his own name - and then finally adopts him.
The remainder of the story, after the death of Gnaeus Gracchus, shortly after Marcus comes of age, is the story of Marcus Octavian Gracchus - the somewhat delinquent young Roman brought up in Athens - but by various strokes of fate, transformed into the 'noble' Marcus Octavianus Gnaeus Gracchus - Dominus of the House of Gracchus, and later Magistrate and Roman Senator.
As far as possible, the Story of Gracchus is constructed in a similar way to that of the the few surviving Greek and Roman 'novels' - particularly 'The Satyricon', (not that the Greeks and Romans really had 'novels' in our sense of the word), using similar 'stock' characters, and similar 'stock themes' prevalent in Graeco-Roman times.
Such characters and themes, however, are hopefully blended (seamlessly ?) with actual 'historical' events, and also with more contemporarily orientated characters who are intended to appeal to the present day reader without being anachronistic.
Also, in conformity to much Greek, and particularly Latin literature, the subject matter and language tends to be very explicit - particularly in matters of sexuality - (so be warned if you are just setting out to read this story).


History is really important, but within the context of 'The Story of Gracchus', telling the story is more important.
Serious students of ancient history might think we’re taking an uncritical approach to ancient narratives, possibly taking the scurrilous lies and fanciful inventions of writers, - who should have known better, - as gospel.
And such students would possibly be right. 
But be warned - no one is going to pass an Ancient History exam using 'The Story of Gracchus' as source material.
And we think that is fine, because it’s about telling exciting stories, not getting a degree in Classics. 
The Romans understood this.
In the ancient world, history was  not about re-telling what (supposedly) 'actually' happened.
It was about 'presenting' things that might have happened, and things that should have happened. 
History had to be 'true', but it did not have to be 'factual'.
To a Roman, 'truth' went beyond 'facts'.
It was about universal truths, - moral truths
And it should be remembered that lot of Roman history was 'made up'.
In 390 BCE, Gaulish tribesmen invaded and sacked Rome.
They burnt Rome’s hall of records.
Every one of the annals of Rome, up to that point, was gone.
Roman historians and storytellers reconstructed what they could from hearsay and myth, but in the end, the sources they used were not always all that accurate - or 'honest'.
Modern historians are fairly sure that Augustus did not spend one day a year dressed as a beggar.
They are equally certain that Elagabalus did not smother his dinner guests to death with rose petals, and confident that there was no such person as Celsus.
Modern historians think that Julian was probably killed by a lucky shot from a Saracen auxiliary who didn’t make it back to his own lines.
It doesn’t really matter.
The story - and the truths it held - mattered to the Romans more than the facts, and as far as 'The Story of Gracchus' goes, if that approach was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for now - and  for our story.

this section forms part of 
for the full menu go to:

for more information about the main protagonists in this 'drama' go to:    

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