Mundy Monday: “The Dancing Girl of Gades”


The sixth installment in the serialized version of Tros of Samothrace is titled “The Dancing Girl of Gadesand consists of what would become chapters 67 – 81 of the novel published in 1934. Set in the late spring of the year 54 B.C., this story tells of the aftermath of Julius Caesar’s first invasion of Britain and was first published in the December 10th 1925 issue of Adventure magazine.  It is available in a number of editions in book form or you can read it here at the invaluable library of Roy Glashan.

Of all the writers who made their reputations during the heyday of the pulps, Talbot Mundy is the one author we know was a lady’s man.  He wrecked at least one marriage and was kicked out of a position in Africa for dallying with the native girls; in the language of the day, he was not of good character where women were concerned.  Is this reflected in his writing?  Undoubtedly, but not in the way you might think. 

Talbot Mundy loved women, all kinds of women and it shows in the characters that populate his novels.  Where many of his contemporaries would have at most one female character in a story as window dressing or a prize, Mundy’s stories would often have two or more, each unique and alive with their own personality.  Tros of Samothrace has a half dozen women gracing its pages and the author brings each of them to life with his descriptions of their eyes, their voices, their gestures and their wit.  The female character who gives this installment its name is Chloe, whose wits and courage count as much as her grace and beauty when it comes to charming anyone and everyone in Gades in her quest to save the life of her lover and win her own freedom.

Chloe is the favorite of all Gades because of both her beauty -

That the girl’s ivory-white skin shone golden in the whale-oil lantern light and that her face was alike a cameo against the shadow, only deepened his mistrust.

and her skill –

She was arrayed in white, a wreath of roses in her hair—a picture of youth, innocence, mirth, modesty… not a gesture of indecency, no hint of the vulgarity the other dancers had displayed, marred rhythm, voice or harmony of sound and motion.

Gades itself was founded by the Phoenicians and is now the Spanish city of Cadiz.  This city was already old in Caesar’s day and the reputation of its dancing girls was infamous from one end of the Mediterranean to the other; it was also a center for smuggling and slave-trading, with a dangerous undercurrent of sedition.  When Tros sails the Liafail up to the entrance of Gades’ harbor (at the behest of the Druids), it sets off a chain reaction of feverish scheming between the different factions that infest the city.  Blood is shed, but assassination is just one tool in the hands of the ambitious, the greedy and the desperate of Gades; torture, kidnapping, arson, blackmail, bribery and extortion are all just tools to be used if it will bring survival or success.  Amidst this chaos, it is Chloe, the favorite dancing girl of Gades, who seems to know the most about the different factions nearly at open war with each other and who is willing to risk everything to win her freedom and the life of her love Horatius. 

This installment sees the characters of Orwic and Conops mature and grow more loyal to Tros and there is a gang of new characters brought to life by the author.  There is Balbus the Roman governor, friend to Caesar and client to Pompey the Great: suave, sophisticated and a sadist.  There is Simon ben Tobias, a desperate merchant who is an old friend to Tros and to Crassus, the richest man in the world.  There is Herod ben Mordecai, merchant, professional informer and a new adversary for Tros.  There is Quintilian, leader of the nobles of Gades who conspire in secret to protect their families and their city from a sadistic tyrant.  Then there is Pkauchios the Egyptian.


Pkauchios is a soothsayer who is said to be able to read the stars and rumored to be a sorcerer. He owns Chloe and a number of other dancing girls who are all adept at gathering information, so most of his predictions come true.  That is enough to gain him influence over Balbus and a respectable fortune, but Pkauchios wants more; his arrogance and ambition will drive him to risk the lives of thousands in a ruthless gambit for power. 

Rome rules the known world, but Rome itself is led by the First Triumvirate: Caesar, Pompey and Crassus.  Each of these men has a hand in the seething whirlpool that is Gades.  It is still early in the game of thrones between these three to see who will rule the Republic, but an outbreak of violence in Gades could change that.  If this city erupts in rebellion, it could ignite a conflagration that would scorch the walls of Rome itself.

The Dancing Girl of Gades is the next to last installment in Tros of Samothrace and well worth your time (and not just because it is rife with treachery, intrigue and dancing girls).  It is here that Talbot Mundy begins to shift the focus of his Roman novels from Britain and Gaul to Rome and the East.  Here is where the author sets the stage not just for the rousing climax to Tros of Samothrace, but also for the second of his Roman novels, Queen Cleopatra (Mundy actually started work on Queen Cleopatra first, but was diverted when the character of Tros came to life and ran off with his imagination, so to speak).

Tros’s adventures continue in the last installment “Messenger of Destiny”, the conclusion to Talbot Mundy’s classic novel Tros of Samothrace.

Previous posts on Tros:

“Tros of Samothrace”

“The Enemy of Rome”

“Prisoners of War”

“Hostages to Luck”

“Admiral of Caesar’s Fleet”

Leiber’s “The Glory of Tros”

Forefathers of Sword and Sorcery: Talbot Mundy 

The Caesar Controversy

John E. Boyle is the author of Queen’s Heir and Raven’s Blood, the first two books in the Children of Khetar fantasy series.