Head of Zeus signs Cargill-Martin's non-fiction debut

Head of Zeus signs Cargill-Martin's non-fiction debut

Head of Zeus has signed classicist Honor Cargill-Martin’s debut non-fiction book Messalina: A Story of Empire, Slander and Adultery. 

Publisher Richard Millbank acquired world English-language rights from Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Agency for Head of Zeus’ Apollo imprint. It will be published in hardback and e-book in January 2023. 

The publisher said: “The Empress Messalina—third wife to the Emperor Claudius, political conspirator and adulteress extraordinaire—is one of the most notorious women to have inhabited the Roman world. The image of Messalina as a ruthless, predatory and sexually insatiable schemer, derived from the work of male historians such as Tacitus and Suetonius, has taken deep root in the Western imagination.

“In Messalina, Honor Cargill-Martin sets out not to rewrite entirely Messalina’s history, or to salvage her ‘reputation’, but to look at her life in the context of her time, explore how posterity has memorialised her—whether as artist’s muse, epitome of depraved pagan womanhood, or as libertine icon portrayed in literature and film—and, in her own words, ‘to reclaim the humanity of a life story previously defined by currents of high politics and patriarchy’.”

Cargill-Martin is an author, classicist and art historian from London. Her first novel Waiting for Callback, a YA rom-com, was published by Simon & Schuster when she was 16 and she continues to write fiction for younger readers alongside her non-fiction work.

She said: “Messalina's story, despite its challenges, is a historian’s dream: a life lived right at the epicentre of Julio-Claudian politics, playing out on the cusp between the personal and the political, and encapsulating everything that defines the cut-throat history of the period. For a woman who lived such an extraordinary, rich and politically important life, Messalina has been presented as a passive and two-dimensional historical sideshow for far too long. For the first time in her 2,000-year history, I think Messalina deserves to be centre stage and I’m so excited to be working with the fantastic non-fiction team at Head of Zeus to put her there.”

Milbank added: “I am thrilled to have acquired Messalina and to be working with Honor. The subject of her first non-fiction book is a salaciously appealing one, but Honor will bring both rich narrative colour and the forensic rigour of a true historian to Messalina’s scandalous story.”