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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1256

Early on the morning following the Military Tribune Banquet, Marcellus Lucan Gallio tells his sister Lucia that he was drunk the night before and laughed outright at the tribute to Prince Gaius, who may be emperor someday. Lucia fears Gaius’s revenge; she admits she has previously rejected Gaius’s attempts to...

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Early on the morning following the Military Tribune Banquet, Marcellus Lucan Gallio tells his sister Lucia that he was drunk the night before and laughed outright at the tribute to Prince Gaius, who may be emperor someday. Lucia fears Gaius’s revenge; she admits she has previously rejected Gaius’s attempts to make love to her. In addition, Senator Gallio, their father, has recently criticized Gaius openly.

Marcellus receives orders to serve in Minoa, an undesirable port city in Southern Palestine. His Corinthian slave Adelphos Demetrius accompanies him. In Minoa, Marcellus receives new orders to take his troops to Jerusalem to ensure peace during Passover. The Roman government and the Sanhedrin (the legislative body of the Jewish temple) worry about the teacher Jesus, who has been drawing crowds and drove the money changers from the temple.

Jesus is seized by the Romans. Demetrius makes eye contact with Jesus as the soldiers push the abused man past him. Demetrius feels peace after the experience. The tormented Jesus goes before High Priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Pontius Pilate literally washes his hands of the matter and sends Jesus to the ruler who settles Galilean affairs, Herod Agrippa. Herod sentences the prophet to death by crucifixion.

Marcellus must oversee the cruelty inflicted upon Jesus. He heeds Centurion Paulos’s advice to drink in order to endure overseeing the punishment. Marcellus even casts lots and wins Jesus’ robe at the foot of the cross. Once Marcellus recovers his sobriety, he realizes what he has done. He asks Demetrius to dispose of the robe.

Marcellus goes to Pontius Pilate’s banquet hall and charges Pilate with unfairness. At the banquet, Centurion Paulos asks to see the robe. Demetrius brings it to him, gaining peace from its touch. Marcellus dons the robe at Paulos’s request and loses his mind at its touch. Marcellus becomes ill, and he and Demetrius return to Rome.

Senator Gallio suggests that Demetrius and Marcellus go to Athens to stay at George Eupolis’s inn. An Athenian weaver named Benjamin repairs the robe and teaches the men more about Jesus. Emperor Tiberius sends new orders to Marcellus by Quintus, Gaius’s personal soldier. When Quintus insults Eupolis’s daughter, Demetrius attacks Quintus and wounds him severely.

Demetrius flees on the ship Vetris to Palestine and develops a plan to reunite with Marcellus later. Captain Fulvius protects Demetrius, who had once rescued the captain from an attacking slave. Once in Palestine, Demetrius works with Benyosef, a weaver. Demetrius learns the trade. He learns to read Aramaic; receives baptism from Peter, the Big Fisherman; and meets Matthais and Barsabas Justus, two replacements for the disciple Judas who betrayed Jesus.

Justus serves as a guide for Marcellus, who has orders from Tiberius to retrace Jesus’ route, to gather information on Jesus, and to share the information with the emperor. Marcellus becomes a Christian. Along the roadsides, the two travelers begin to see the secret symbol of the Christians: a drawing of a fish. The Greek word for fish in an acronym of the phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” The fish symbol enables Christians to communicate secretly their belief in Jesus as the Savior.

Justus and Marcellus meet the crippled girl Miriam, whom Jesus endowed with a gift of song, and the boy Jonathan (Justus’s grandson), whom Jesus healed. They learn from each of them. They visit Tamar, a widow whose looms were destroyed after she tried to weave on the Sabbath to earn money. The carpenter Jesus repaired her looms. She repairs the robe for Marcellus.

On his travels, Marcellus hears of Jesus’s admonition to pay adequately and of Jesus’s miracles of healing, calming the sea, and changing water to wine. Marcellus learns of the tax collector Zaccheus whom Jesus treated with respect, of a boy whose fish and loaves fed a multitude, of the fig-keeper and disciple Nathanael Bartholomew, of Lydia, who was healed by touching Jesus’ robe, of those who encountered Jesus after the resurrection, and of the Good Samaritan. Marcellus learns that Pontius Pilate has gone to Crete because his mental condition has worsened since the crucifixion.

Demetrius receives a summons to appear before Paulos to explain what he did to Quintus. Paulos releases Demetrius. Marcellus sees the dangers in being Christian: Peter faces arrest because of his preaching, but he begins to heal others. Marcellus witnesses the martyrdom of Stephen. When he returns to Rome and to his family, he finds that his love Diana and the Emperor Tiberius are in Capri; he must go there to report to Tiberius and to see Diana.

Marcellus tells Diana of his new devotion to Jesus. She says she still loves him but does not yet understand his religion. The emperor calls Marcellus a fool when he hears what Marcellus has to say. Tiberius tells Marcellus to renounce Jesus the next day. If he does so, the emperor will give Marcellus Diana’s hand in marriage. However, Tiberius gives Diana a different account. He tells Diana that he has sworn to Marcellus that Diana will be forced to marry Gaius if Marcellus does not give up his new religion.

Tiberius asks to see the robe at their meeting the next day. When Demetrius brings the garment, Tiberius refuses to touch it and sends Marcellus away on the Augustus; he orders Demetrius to serve as Diana’s bodyguard. When night comes, Marcellus swims ashore with the robe and his money. He secures a job in Arpino as a scribe with Appius Kaeso and shares his newfound religion with others, both rich and poor. He finds that the story of Jesus changes lives.

Demetrius begins to spend his every spare moment plaiting hemp into rope. Every night, he takes a boat trip. He never explains his actions, but others become accustomed to his routine.

On Capri, changes are occurring. Price Gaius dies from poisoning. Emperor Tiberius’s health fails quickly. Before his death, he asks that Gaius’s nephew and namesake, Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (Caligula) assume the throne. To indicate his whereabouts to Demetrius in Capri, Marcellus sends him a melon from Arpino and carves a fish on it. Marcellus continues to teach and preach. He even delivers Jesus’ Beatitudes to his followers.

Demetrius continues to serve as a bodyguard. He observes Caligula making inappropriate advances to Diana and insists that Diana escape that night. Using the long rope he has woven, she must descend a rock cliff to his boat. While she is descending the cliff, two figures begin to pull her upward, so she lets go of the rope and falls into the water. Demetrius pulls her into the boat and takes her to Greece.

On his way back to Rome, Demetrius receives severe wounds from three cavalrymen. His old friend Marcipor goes to the catacombs and calls Marcellus and Peter to Demetrius’s side. Peter heals Demetrius. Marcellus’s father secures Demetrius’s passage to Greece, where he and Theodosia reunite. Diana—now the wife of Marcellus—and the Senator both attend Caligula’s banquet. Salome, the daughter of Herod, discloses to the group that John the Baptist has been beheaded.

Caligula brings Marcellus to the banquet and orders him to renounce his new religion or face death. Marcellus refuses. Diana asks to die with Marcellus and professes to be a Christian. Hand in hand, the husband and wife walk to the palace’s archery field. On their way out the door, Diana passes the robe to Marcipor for the Big Fisherman.

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