Galley Slave….the story of “Most Excellent Theophilus” by Joseph Stephens
This novel, written in the early days of Christianity, tells the story of Prince Catar Virginius of Cymru, who became one of the favorites of the Roman Emperor, Claudius. At Claudius’ command, he was engaged and married to Io, a wealthy Grecian girl. On their wedding day, he was drugged and accused of infidelity to Io by crafty Agrippina, wife of the Emperor Claudius. Instead of believing him, Io was angry and beat him in public.
Catar Virginius was condemned to the galley. The author vividly pictures his bitter experiences as a galley slave.
A year later he was rescued by a repentant Io, and another year later she raced with Nero in the Roman Chariot Arena for Virginius’ life.
Now, though he was her husband, Nero decreed that he was to be Io’s slave. Both moved to Antioch, where Catar Virginius became a glass maker. His bitterness wore away and after three years he and Io became reconciled.
Through Luke, whom he sheltered in his home, he heard of the Christ, and became a Christian. It was at this time that Nero started his persecutions of the Christians. Virginius, named Theophilus by Luke, was scourged and sent to Rome where he met the apostle Paul in a terrible dungeon. Through Io’s efforts he was rescued and together they went to bring the gospel to Gaul.
The story is vividly written, revealing a picture of the wickedness of the Roman court, and of the trials of the early Christians. Of course, the author uses his imagination in weaving this story around Theophilus, of whom we know nothing. However, it is a worthwhile book for all of us to read.