The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina

Number in series


Told Through



December 79 AD


Ostia in Italy

First published

19 June 2003

Number of pages



The Dolphins of Laurentum


The Enemies of Jupiter

The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina is the sixth book in Caroline Lawrence's The Roman Mysteries. It was published by Orion Books.


December 79 AD

Inspired by a dream about Hercules, Flavia Gemina persuades her friends to gather gossip from all over Ostia to solve the mystery of Cartilia Poplicola, and thus break up her romantic relationship with Flavia's widowed father, Marcus Flavius Geminus, and inadvertently save him from death.

Plot SynopsisEdit

The Geminus household is still suffering financially from the loss of the Myrtilla. The people of Ostia are celebrating the five-day festival of the Saturnalia, a time where the status quo is upset. There is further excitement due to the escape of some exotic wild animals, possible man-eaters. Flavia and her friends Jonathan, Nubia and Lupus narrowly escape an alarming-looking bird.

Flavia is disturbed when her father Marcus Flavius Geminus|Marcus starts talking about her betrothal and insisting that she should stop running around Ostia playing detective with her unconventional friends. She blames her father's change of attitude on his new ladylove, Cartilia Poplicola, and is determined to prove that the widow is a fortune-hunter, a witch, or even a murderess.

Several signs, including a dream, make Flavia believe that following a trail guided by the twelve labours of Hercules will lead her to the truth. These are generally places in Ostia, such as the Hydra fountain and the Atlas tavern, but also events like the capture of the escaped lion or people such as the gladiator nicknamed the Cretan Bull. Flavia and the others pick up scraps of news and gossip about Cartilia and her family which they try to piece together.

The detectives meet Cartilia's sister Diana and eventually discover her secret love for Aristo, which explains some strange events and clears Cartilia of wrongdoing. However, uncovering another secret destroys Marcus's trust in Cartilia, and Flavia is unexpectedly unhappy about it.

A fever sweeps through Ostia and many fall sick, including Flavia and Marcus. The first wave of sickness, however, is just the precursor of a more deadly plague which will be important in the seventh book, The Enemies of Jupiter.