Quo Vadis

Characters in Quo Vadis

  • Marcus Vinicius (fictitious son of the historical Marcus Vinicius), a military tribune and Roman patrician who recently returned to Rome. On arrival he meets and falls in love with Ligia. He seeks the counsel of his uncle Petronius to find a way to possess her.
  • Calina (fictitious), usually known as Ligia (Lygia in some translations), the daughter of a deceased king of the Ligians, a barbarian tribe (hence her nickname). Ligia is technically a hostage of the Senate and people of Rome, and was forgotten years ago by her own people. A great beauty, she has converted to Christianity, but her religion is originally unknown to Marcus.
  • Gaius Petronius (historical), titled the "arbiter of elegance," former governor of Bithynia. Petronius is a member of Nero's court who uses his wit to flatter and mock him at the same time. He is loved by the Roman mob for his liberal attitudes. Somewhat amoral and a bit lazy, he tries to help his nephew, but his cunning plan is thwarted by Ligia's Christian friends.
  • Eunice (fictitious), household slave of Petronius. Eunice is a beautiful young Greek woman who has fallen in love with her master, although he is initially unaware of her devotion.
  • Chilon Chilonides (fictitious), a charlatan and a private investigator. He is hired by Marcus to find Ligia. This character is severely reduced in the 1951 film and the 1985 miniseries, but in the novel itself, as well as in the Polish miniseries of 2001, Chilon is a major figure as doublecrossing traitor. His end is clearly inspired by Saint Dismas.
  • Nero (historical), Emperor of Rome, portrayed as incompetent, petty, cruel, and subject to manipulation by his courtiers. He listens most intently to flatterers and fools.
  • Tigellinus (historical), the prefect of the feared Praetorian Guard. He is a rival of Petronius for Nero's favour, and he incites Nero into committing acts of great cruelty.
  • Poppaea Sabina (historical), the wife of Nero. She passionately envies and hates Ligia.
  • Acte (historical), an Imperial slave and former mistress of Nero. Nero has grown tired of her and now mostly ignores her, but she still loves him. She studies the Christian faith, but does not consider herself worthy of full conversion. In the 1951 film, it is she who helps Nero commit suicide.
  • Aulus Plautius (historical), a respected retired Roman general who commanded the invasion of Britain. Aulus seems unaware (or simply unwilling to know) that Pomponia, his wife, and Ligia, his adoptive daughter, profess the Christian religion.
  • Pomponia Graecina (historical), a Christian convert. Dignified and much respected, Pomponia and Aulus are Ligia's adoptive parents, but they are unable to legalize her status. According to Roman law Ligia is still a hostage of the Roman state (i.e., of the Emperor), but she is cared for by the elderly couple.
  • Ursus (fictitious), the bodyguard of Ligia. As a fellow tribesman, he served her late mother, and he is strongly devoted to Ligia. As a Christian, Ursus struggles to follow the religion's pacifist teachings, given his great strength and barbarian mindset. He is clearly portrayed as a noble savage.
  • Saint Peter (historical), a weary and aged man with the task of preaching Christ's message. He is amazed by the power of Rome and the vices of Emperor Nero, whom he names the Beast. Sometimes Peter doubts that he will be able to plant and protect the "good seed" of Christianity.
  • Saint Paul (historical) takes a personal interest in converting Marcus.
  • Crispus (fictitious), clearly a Christian zealot who verges on fanaticism.

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