In thirty chapters, the narrative develops the incredible story of how a boy (Younis/Eunus/Euno) captured as a slave in Afamia, Syria challenges the Roman Empire in Sicily, circa 140-132 BCE. The chapters dramatize the circumstance of his capture, his experiences as a tutor, the growth of his prophetic and magical abilities, events that fomented the uprising (cruelties, rapes, crucifixions), the role of female characters, connections to other historical events (e.g., the destruction of Carthage), as well as scenes of an exorcism, an ancient marriage ceremony, a play performed outside a besieged city, and several battles against the Roman legions. An epilogue by an imagined contemporary narrator, who explains why she wrote the novel, ends the work. In the chapters and epilogue, while using ancient sources to some extent (sparse and biased as they are), the work departs from them to resolve contradictions, fill in gaps, and present an alternative narrative of historical and cultural issues. It’s intended to remedy the neglect of this story in both ancient and modern sources, reverse the demonization explicit and implicit in them, and remedy the imbalance in the dominant constructs. It promotes the event as significant, certainly just as important as (if not more than) the Spartacus rebellion seven decades afterwards, or others that are commonly recounted.
A significant aspect of this revolt comes from the fact that Younis was able to forge a coalition of slaves, farmers and herders that defeated Roman armies and established an independent entity on more egalitarian principles. The novel also touches on a range of topics, such as prophecy, magic, languages, the construct of Western civilization, representation of regional cultures, customs, and mythologies. An idealized statue of this rebel stands today in Enna, Sicily, along with an inscription that seems designed to appeal to tourists, yet Younis’ rebellion contradicts the dominant notions promoted in Italy and throughout the West, especially the identification with imperial Rome. This novel is intended to remedy his legacy.