Two for the Lions

Two for the Lions is a 1998 historical mystery crime novel by Lindsey Davis and the 10th book of the Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries series. Set in Rome and Tripolitania between December AD 73 and May AD 74, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, the novel stars Marcus Didius Falco, informer and imperial agent. The title refers to the execution of criminals in the arena, by trained lions.

Two for the Lions
First edition
AuthorLindsey Davis
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesMarcus Didius Falco
GenreHistorical mystery crime novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages400 pp (Hardback edition)
Preceded byThree Hands in the Fountain 
Followed byOne Virgin Too Many 

Plot summary

As part of his attempts to earn enough money to buy himself into the upper middle ranks, and thus make his relationship with Helena Justina respectable, Marcus Didius Falco has offered his services to Vespasian as a tax collector during the 'great Census' of AD 73. Unfortunately, his plan has several flaws, one major one being his need to take on Anacrites as a partner.

Whilst conducting the audit of two gladitorial training schools, Falco stumbles upon the apparent murder of a star man-eating lion and an apparent rivalry between the schools. When a gladiator also ends up dead, Falco takes on the investigation, one which leads him to Tripolitania.

To add to the confusion, Helena's younger brother, Camillus Justinus, has eloped with the betrothed of his older brother, Aelianus. They too have made their way to North Africa, drawn by Justinus' quest to find Silphium, an expensive herb already deemed extinct.

Major themes

  • The 'great Census' of AD 73,
  • The elopement of Camillus Justinus and Claudia Rufina,
  • The investigation into the rivalry between gladiatorial trainers,
  • Developing relationship of Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina.

Characters in Two for the Lions


  • Anacrites - Imperial spy and partner of Falco
  • Camillus Aelianus - Eldest son of Decimus Camillus Verus
  • Camillus Justinus - Youngest son of Decimus Camillus Verus
  • Claudia Rufina - Heiress
  • Decimus Camillus Verus - Senator and father of Helena Justina
  • Famia - Maia's husband
  • Helena Justina - Wife of Falco, and daughter of the Senator Decimus Camillus Verus
  • Junilla Tacita - Mother of Falco
  • Lenia - Laundress
  • Maia - Falco's sister
  • Marcus Didius Falco - Informer and Imperial Agent.
  • Smaractus - Husband of Lenia
  • Thalia - Circus manager


  • Antonia Caenis - Mistress of Vespasian
  • Buxus - Animal Keeper
  • Claudius Laeta - Senior Palace Administrator
  • Pomponius Urtica - Praetor
  • Rumex - Gladiator
  • Rutilius Gallicus - Special envoy to Tripolitania
  • Scilla
  • Vespasian Augustus - Emperor of Rome


  • Artemisia - Wife of Calliopus
  • Calliopus - Venatio specialist from Oea
  • Euphrasia - Wife of Saturninus
  • Fidelis - Interpreter
  • Hanno - From Sabratha
  • Iddibal - Bestiarus
  • Myrrha - Punic
  • Saturninus - Gladiator's trainer from Lepcis Magna

Awards and nominations

Release details

  • 1998, UK, Century Hardback ISBN 978-0-7126-7796-7
  • 1999, UK, Arrow, Paperback ISBN 978-0-09-979961-0
  • 1999, UK, Isis, Audio, ISBN 978-0-7531-0509-2 (read by Christopher Scott)
  • 1999, US, Mysterious Press, Hardback ISBN 978-0-89296-693-6
  • 2000, US, Mysterious Press, Paperback ISBN 978-0-446-60902-9


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