Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

FAQs, Articles, Reviews, Persona Directory, Hall of Memory
Summarizing ERB's works one chapter at a time
Shorts, Novels, Poetry, Plays, Pulps
Articles, Contributors: Tangor Responds, Edgardemain, ERB: In Focus, Nkima Speaks, Beyond 30W, Tantor Trumpets, Dime Lectures, Korak in Pal-ul-don, Public Domain novels of ERB
Worlds of: Barsoom, Pellucidar, Moon, Amtor, Caspak, Pal-u-don
ERB Summary Project Detail from Vallejo cover, Ace Books


Summarized by
The Members of ERBList
Stan Galloway, Project Editor
David Bruce Bozarth, Managing Editor




Numerius Tiber Britannicus











Julia Livilla



Helvetius Pius






Agrippina Minor

Titius Sabinus


Junia Claudilla

Tiberius Gemellus



Marcus Bibuli



Caius Piso

Livia Orestella


Lollia Paulina

Incitatus (horse)


Julius Graecinus






David Adams

Based in part upon Robert B. Zeuschner's notes in his ERB Bibliography.

This novel was written between April and September 1941. He wrote only one more full length novel before his death in 1950, Tarzan and "The Foreign Legion" (1944). I Am a Barbarian was not published during the author's lifetime, first appearing in hardback on September 1, 1967 as published by ERB Inc.

Porges wrote: "Burroughs' fascination with Roman history had led him, in Tarzan and the Lost Empire, written in 1928, to devise the strangest of anachronisms -- a Roman civilization, its ancient customs unchanged, existing in the heat of Africa. This interest was revived in 1941, but Burroughs chose to create, instead of a fantasy work, a pseudo-historical novel about the Roman emperors. The main character, son the a chief of the Britons made captive by the Romans, becomes the personal slave and companion to a four-year-old boy whom he calls 'Little Boots.' Only ten himself, Britannicus soon realizes that he is serving the grandnephew of the emperor, one who bore a name that would be indelibly recorded on the pages of history -- Caligula"

Lupoff wrote: "This lightly fictionalized biography of the emperor Caligula, as told by the slave Britannicus, is a radical departure in style and attitude from any other work of Burroughs. In my opinion it is an excellent work, one of his best, and deserving of wide attention."


David Adams

This is a free translation of the memoirs of Britannicus, 25 years the slave of Caligula, emperor of Rome from A.D. 37 to 41. They were written on papyrus sheets (indicated in chapter 2). Burroughs credits the works consulted while writing this historical novel. The book is dedicated to: my son Numerius Tiber Britannicus

Chapter I: A.U.C. 769 (A.D. 16) - David Adams

The father of Britannicus was the chief of a small tribe in England. His grandfather, though, had been king of Kent. Britannicus's father decided to conquer the Belgians. However, he was defeated and his family sold in slavery to the Chatti, a German tribe. Then, he passed into the hands of a Roman general, Germanicus, who defeated the Chatti. The general's wife, Agrippina, was there and their son, Caligula, who chooses Britannicus as a personal slave. Britannicus is only ten years old, but he comes from a noble class of Britons, and he does not know fear. Caligula is only four. He is known affectionately as "Little Boots" because of the caligae that he wore. Britannicus learns to speak Latin, the oaths of the soldiers first. Agrippina named him Britannicus Caligulae Servus. Little Boots called him Brit. Agrippina hates Britannicus, but she puts up with him for Caligula's sake. The Julian line of emperors is mentally disordered. Britannicus and Little Boots play together in the Roman camp. When Caligula once spit on Britannicus, Britannicus slapped him, which nearly led to Britannicus's death. Britannicus befriends a legionary who was an ex-gladiator, Tibur, a man with more brawn than brain, but a man with a great heart. He learns that Little Boots may someday become the emperor. After a year in Germany, they all return to Rome.

Chapter II: A.U.C. 770 (A.D. 17) - David Adams

Britannicus is impressed with the size of Rome but thinks it is a brutal place. They go to live at the villa of Antonia, the mother of Germanicus. Agrippina gives birth to Drusilla. Agrippina gets mad at Britannicus again and threatens to have his throat cut, so he runs away and finds Tibur at the camp of the Praetorian Guard with the aid of a legionary he meets along the way. The Praetorians are called out to look for Britannicus and easily find him when he is spotted in camp by Antonia's majordomo. Next, Britannicus and Little Boots put a frog in Agrippina's bed. Caligula confesses that he hates his brothers, Drusus (age 10) and Nero (age 11) and wishes they were dead. Agrippina bad-mouths the emperor, Tiberius. Britannicus blames Nero for the frog.

Chapter III: A.U.C. 770 (A.D. 17) - David Adams

Nero comes to get revenge, but Little Boots screams and lies to his mother that Nero has struck him with a big stick and threatened him with a dagger. Germanicus comes in, and Britannicus tells the truth, so Caligula gets a spanking. They all go to the Forum to watch the triumph of Germanicus. They sit in the loge of the Emperor Tiberius, who was of "the scrofulous rather than the epileptic branch of the family." Tiberius gives Britannicus a good place to see the parade, and Britannicus would gladly have died for him. The procession is described in detail. Britannicus sees his father and mother in chains. They held their heads high. He never saw them again.

Chapter IV: A.U.C. 770 (A.D.17) - David Adams

Britannicus attends lessons with the 5-year-old Little Boots and learns to read and write Latin and Greek. He reads Homer, Livy and Cicero, but he also listens to the wild stories of his friend, Tibur, the ex-gladiator. Agrippina is upset with Britannicus again (actually, Caligula has tried to drown his own sister) so he wanders into the rougher section of Rome to escape punishment. He gets in a fight with a Roman boy and is dragged off to a filthy prison. Two men fight over him, and one is killed. The "winner" is hauled off by a guard, and Britannicus fears that he might be crucified before he gets "home" again. The man is then beaten to death by the guards. When the guards learn that Britannicus belongs to Caligula, he is returned. Caligula has screamed himself voiceless in his absence. Germanicus tells him not to run away again and that he will protect him from Agrippina.

Chapter V: A.U.C. 770 (A.D. 17) - David Adams

Britannicus begins to keep notes on his observations of the family in a code developed by Marcus Tullius Tiro, the private secretary of Cicero, which was known as Notae Tironianae. Germanicus and his family are transferred to Syria. Through the machinations of Britannicus and Caligula, Tibur is brought along. On the way to the ship, several points of interest are discussed: The Campus Martius, the theater of Marcellus, the Portico of Octavia, the Theater of Pompey, and the mausoleum of Augustus. They travel on a trireme warship, which is also described in detail in comparison with the ship of Hiero, the tyrant of Syracuse. Britannicus sees a body floating in the Tiber, and his friend, Tibur, tells him that his father and mother probably ended up there as well. From this moment Britannicus hates Rome "with a bitterness that has never receded." He vows that someday he will get vengeance by killing a Caesar.

Chapter VI: A.U.C. 770-771-772-775 [A.D. 17-18-19-22] - David Adams

Germanicus learns that Piso has been made governor in Syria. Agrippina thinks he is placed there to spy on Germanicus. Agrippina has another daughter, Julia Livilla (who was later murdered by Messalina, wife of Claudius, the emperor who succeeded Caligula.) Germanicus banishes Piso and suddenly dies himself. Agrippina thinks he has been poisoned. The family of Germanicus returns to Rome. Britannicus studies for 10 years: the works of Cicero, Flaccus, Livy, Aristotle, Homer, Aristophanes, Euripides, Euclid. Tibur is assigned to the Imperial Guard stationed at their house. Caligula develops a taste for bloody contests in the arena. Tiberius favors the children of Germanicus, and Britannicus says that the vilification of his name came largely through the lies of Agrippina. "A slave in an imperial household knows more of history than the historians."

Chapter VII: A.U.C. 776 (A. D. 23) - J.G. Huckenpohler

In his eighteenth year, Britannicus is sent with a letter from Agrippina to Sejanus. He dawdles on the way and arrives at the home of Sejanus at dusk. Finding the latter amorously engaged with the Emperor's daughter-in-law, he leaves the letter with a slave. By the time he sets out for home it is dark and muggers and footpads are abroad. Hearing a scream from an alley, he investigates and finds a pair of thugs attempting to drag a young girl into a house. He overcomes the two thugs and offers to accompany the girl to her door. Engaging her in conversation, he learns that she has been sent by her mistress with a love letter for a young man. She is Attica, age 15, a Belgian and the slave of the senator Helvetius Pius, and her mistress is the senator's 13-year-old daughter, Caesonia.

Chapter VIII: A.U.C. 776 (A. D. 23) - J.G. Huckenpohler

A few days later, Britannicus recounts his adventure in the alley to Tibur and learns that one of the two thugs, a Roman citizen, is dead, and that the survivor has accused Tibur of the murder. Britannicus offers to clear him but Tibur refuses the offer, arguing that the punishment for a slave would be crucifixion. Caligula awakens in a foul mood and announces that he is going to the chariot races. Britannicus wants to go along, but knowing Caligula's contrary nature he announces that he has other plans and is therefore ordered to accompany Caligula. At the Circus Maximus, Caligula, Tibur, and Britannicus place their wagers with a bookie, and Caligula demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the horses running. Britannicus places a side bet with Caligula on the Blue stable's entry in the tenth race, at 2-to-1 odds. The Blue wins and Britannicus gains 500 sestertii. Caligula comes down with the measles.

Chapter IX: A.U.C. 776 (A.D. 23) - David Bruce Bozarth

Britannicus is concerned for Caligula's health. He also has a theory regarding the world's physicality. Wandering the streets, Britannicus meets Attica, who remembers him. He is introduced to Numerius, the chariot driver, who soon departs to look at a horse for Pius. Britannicus and Attica speak of their lives. Later, Britannicus speaks to Tibur and Cicero and is questioned regarding Caligula and Drusus. Four guards arrive to arrest Tibur for the murder of Cassiu.

Chapter X: A.U.C. 776 (A.D. 23) - David Bruce Bozarth

Britannicus visits Tibur in jail. Days later Tibur is tried in the Basillica of Julius. Tibur is convicted and sentenced to the mines. Britannicus speaks out, admitting to killing Cassiu. Tibur is acquitted. Britannicus is imprisoned.

Chapter XI: A.U.C. 776 (A.D. 23) - David Bruce Bozarth

Days later Britannicus is taken to be crucified. Tibur arrives at the last moment with a pardon. Britannicus resumes his life with Caligula and family, witnessing the dissention between Nero, Caligula, Agrippina Minor and Agrippina. It is learned that the emperor's son has died and plotting commences regarding the remaining heirs.

Chapter XII: A.U.C. 776 (A.D. 23) - David Bruce Bozarth

Britannicus encounters the litter of Helvidius Pius and the girl Attica on the streets of Rome. She ignores him. Later, Britannicus and Caligula, both boys, clash--soon forgotten, though Britannicus ponders the changes in Caligula over the years. In the evenings Agrippina and cohorts conspire against the Emperor in favor of Nero Caesar. Years pass with a number of murders and Britannicus is mute, even as Agrippina, morally above reproach, continues her intrigues. Agrippina delivers a long-delayed letter to Britannicus from Attica. He goes immediately to her residence, demands to see her, and is turned away: "She has never heard of you."

Chapter XIII: A.U.C. 776 (A.D. 23) - David Bruce Bozarth

Britannicus writes a letter to Attica that goes unanswered. Caligula and Britannicus go to the White Stables and find Tibur. They ride the streets in a litter with Caligula. Entering the White syndicate, Caligula wishes to see the horses of Helvidius Pius work. Britannicus drives the horses for Caligula's pleasure, and is later given notice by Numerius for his effort. Privately, Numerius chastises Britannicus for not responding to Attica's letter, confusing Britannicus who thought she loved Numerius. Britannicus explains the matter of the letter's delivery. Numerius agrees to speak on his behalf while continuing his own pursuit of Attica. "I like a contest."

Chapter XIV A.U.C. 779-780-781 (A.D. 26-27-28) - Jim Savage

Britannicus, now sometimes a charioteer, sees his romantic interest with Attica as hopeless. He reveals political intrigues of Sejanus, Agrippina and Nero. He overhears a plot on Agrippina and Nero's behalf to assassinate Tiberius. Titius Sabinus has arranged for a freedman attached to the emperor to carry out the assassination. As Tiberius has befriended Britannicus in the past he, at great personal risk, goes to Tiberius in the early morning to inform him of the plot. After numerous questions by the emperor's retainers he is allowed to speak to Tiberius in private. He is assured that no one will ever know that he has conveyed this information. Tiberius takes immediate action to apprehend and execute the traitors. Sejanus then persuades the emperor to leave the political intrigues of Rome for the island of Capri. Later Britannicus witnesses the first of Caligula's epileptic seizures. Agrippina intimidates him and the other witnesses into silence by saying the "tongues of those who talk too much are cut out before they are crucified." After this incident the atmosphere in the household is one of apprehension and depression. He details the marriage of Agrippina's daughter, Agrippina Minor, to the abusive Ahenobarbus, which results in the birth of the Nero.

Chapter XV A.U.C. 782-790 (A.D. 29-37) - Jim Savage

Tiberius' mother, Livia, dies and removes the last obstacle to Sejanus' political aspirations. He persuades Tiberius to write to the Senate complaining of Agrippina's and Nero's conspiracies. Demonstrations are arranged in their defense; however, they are arrested by the Praetorian Guard. After a scrupulously fair trial Nero and Agrippina are condemned. Agrippina has one last chance to save herself in a personal interview with Tiberius; however, she seals her fate by flying into a violent rage. Nero's brother, Drusus Caesar, continues the intrigues against Tiberius. However Sejanus finds this out by seducing Drusus' wife. Drusus is arrested and imprisoned. Sejanus is then betrayed by Antonia, Caligula's grandmother, who informs Tiberius of his son's poisoning by Sejanus and Livilla. Sejanus is then arrested and condemned. Britannicus witnesses Caligula's second epileptic seizure and is again intimidated into silence. Agrippina and Drusus Caesar die in prison. Caligula is taken to Capri by Tiberius so he can be kept under watch, and is then married to Junia Claudilla. Tiberius' health begins to fail and word of it spreads throughout the court. Caligula and Tiberius' grandson, Tiberius Gemellus, are summoned to his deathbed. Tiberius apparently dies and Caligula leaves to receive congratulations of the court. Word comes that Tiberius still lives. Caligula returns and strangles the dying emperor.

Chapter XVI: A.U.C. 790-791 (A.D. 37-38) - William Herr

Life for Britannicus changes a lot now that Caligula is Emperor. People who once wouldn't even have noticed him now fawn over him for favors. Caligula, loved by the Senate for now, offers Britannicus his freedom. Not trusting his master, Britannicus refuses, as he feels that he will be safer as a slave from Caligula's wildly swinging moods. Tibur is made Tribune of the Praetorian Guard. When Caligula suffers a massive epileptic seizure, Britannicus tells him that he "fainted." Shortly, Britannicus has to tell Caligula that his wife, Junia Claudilla, is dead. Now Caligula is free to marry his sister Drusilla. He first marries Drusilla to Lepidus, then takes her from Lepidus for his own, but Drusilla dies before they are wedded. Meanwhile, Britannicus continues to correspond with his love, Attica, in Rome. Numerius carries their messages back and forth from Capri, even though he woos Attica himself. Caligula's grandmother, Antonia, dies at this time. Caligula now adopts Tiberius Gemellus, the grandson of Tiberius. Gemellus is treated for a persistent and annoying cough. At a banquet, Caligula smells this medicine and accuses Gamellus of taking a poison antidote, leading Caligula to believe Gamellus is trying to poison him. Caligula sends Marcus Bibuli to force Gamellus to commit suicide, which Gamellus does with Marcus' help.

Chapter XVII: A.U.C. 791-792 (A.D. 38-39) - William Herr

Britannicus relates more of Caligula's madness: Caligula's affair with Ennia, wife of Macro before Tiberius died. Seducing Livia Orestella at her wedding with Caius Piso in front of the guests, he soon marries and divorces her after a few days. She is banished two years later. At another party, Caligula gushed on Caesonia. He heard of Lollia Paulina's beauty. He ordered her returned to Rome, separating her from her husband in Macedonia. Meanwhile, Britannicus wins his share of Green Syndicate chariot races. Caligula's favorite horse, Incitatus, is given a fabulous stable and dines with Caligula. At the theater Caligula's cousin Ptolemy wore a purple robe which received plaudits from the audience, Caligula has him killed. Another time, Caligula orders a bridge of boats built across the two-mile-wide Baian Gulf and, after riding across, declares a victory over Neptune. Britannicus is tempted to kill Caligula, but cannot violate Caligula's trust. Macro attempts to stop Caligula from acting like a fool at a party. Caligula orders Macro "to join dead Tiberius." Macro and Ennia slit their wrists. Caligula then kills their children. Next, Julius Graecinus is directed to kill Silanus, and is killed when he refuses. Caligula then directed Silanus to "join the dead," which he did by slitting his own throat.

Chapter XVIII: A.U.C. 792 (A.D. 39) - Stan Galloway

The attention between Caligula and Caesonia allows frequent visiting between Britannicus and Attica, but Britannicus' rivalry with Numerius for Attica remains deadlocked. After one particular talk with her, however, they discuss love less lightly. Caligula complains of an assassination plot by Lepidus. To expose it he plans to take Lepidus and his sisters, Agrippina Minor and Julia, to Germany where evidence can be produced before Gaetulicus, whom he also suspects. His plan works, leading to the execution of the two men and the banishment of his sisters. As funds are depleted, Caligula introduces a sex tax and then sponsors government brothels. He also sells his sisters' possessions as well as many from Tiberius' household. He then executes wealthy men to gain their wealth and institutes a state inheritance tax on those who died naturally. He tries to prove his military valor by sending some of his "German auxiliaries" into the woods so that he can "capture" them. His army is not fooled and loyalty becomes questionable. When Caligula sets up a massacre of mutinous troops, he is forced to flee back to Rome.

Chapter XIX: A.U.C. 792 (A.D. 39) - Stan Galloway

On returning to Rome Caligula marries Lollia Paulina, newly arrived and imperially divorced, and a few days later discards her. He then marries Caesonia, which brings Attica to the palace. Caligula continues to alienate people high and low. Britannicus wins more often at the chariot races. In a race, Britannicus drives directly behind Numerius. When Numerius' chariot is bumped aside by a competitor, Britannicus chooses to swerve rather than run over Numerius' body, crashing his own chariot into another competitor's. Britannicus afoot rushes Numerius' body out of harm's way. Caligula is furious at losing his 500,000-sesterii wager on Britannicus. Attica pledges her love to Britannicus. Caligula summons him and demands confession of his betrayal. Britannicus explains that his friendship with Numerius was greater than the threat of death that Caligula brought. After tense silence Caligula decides to recover his losses by executing the one who won the wager confiscating his estates. He then warns Britannicus to never "throw" another race on which Caligula has money riding.

Chapter XX: A.U.C. 793-794 (A.D. 40-41) - Stan Galloway

Caligula marries Britannicus and Attica, then embarrasses high society by inviting them to dine with slaves. When Caligula turns his lustful eye toward Attica, Britannicus vows to keep her out of Caligula's sight. Caligula mounts a campaign to conquer Britain. They leave behind their wives and Caesonia's newly born daughter for the year's duration. On the coast of Britain Caligula orders them to gather shells as spoils of war. He then disguises some Gauls as German captives. Returning to Rome, Britannicus learns he has a son. Only fear secures Caligula's throne. To regain the "love" of the people, Caligula plans "such games as never before were seen." The 5-day event of bloody contests culminates in a great beast hunt. Hundreds of armed criminals are led into an area where a variety of beasts, including the "spotted Caligulas of the jungles" (leopards), are loosed. During the carnage troops force people from the stands over the wall into the combat. Among them is Attica. Britannicus, armed with a sword, rushes to her seconds ahead of a tiger. Tibur impales the beast, Britannicus hacks it to death. The three regain the wall with the hesitant help of guardsmen. The people flee in panic and Caligula escapes the mobs. Later, Caligula is heard to approve of the rescue of one so beautiful.

Chapter XXI: A.U.C. 794 (A.D. 41) - Stan Galloway

Chaerea, tribune of the guard, plots against Caligula. Preparations for the Palatine games distract Caligula from rumored plots. Caligula says he is tiring of Caesonia and will give the Romans an empress such as they deserve. Britannicus is sent on a country errand. Chaerea's plot, though altered by the unpredictable actions of the Emperor, brings on Caligula's assassination. When Britannicus returns he finds Attica dying from slashed wrists. Her last word is "Caesar." Britannicus rushes and finds Caligula at the moment that Chaerea's sword reaches him. Caligula cries out to Britannicus for help. Britannicus runs Caligula through, shouting, "For Attica!" Other conspirators' swords follow. Caesonia and her daughter are killed in the aftermath. Tibur and Numerius urge Britannicus to flee for his life. Britannicus refuses their help, saying he would not implicate them. He says his only regret is that Tibur is Roman, which Tibur denies saying he is Greek. The manuscript ends with Britannicus commending his son to learn what happened next from garbled history books.