This article lists the various minor fictional characters who appear in Household Gods. These characters play at best a peripheral role in the novel. Most were simply mentioned or had a very brief, unimportant speaking role that impacted the plot minimally, if at all, and never appeared again. Some were not even given a name.

Note on naming orderEdit

During the Roman Empire, not every free person had a family name. Those who did sometimes had the family name at the end of their names, as in the modern Western custom. Some individuals, however, had a family name followed by a secondary family name (as in some modern Spanish-speaking cultures), or a personal title or description, so that the family name appears to us to be the middle name. Without context, it is often difficult to determine which part of a Roman citizen's name is which. As the POV character Nicole Gunther is largely ignorant of Roman history, and cannot be expected to learn the full background (including the naming order) of each person she encounters, many of the Latin character names in the following list may be alphabetized improperly.


Alexander was a personal secretary to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.[1]

Big CharlieEdit

Big Charlie was one of several KNX traffic reporters whose radio broadcast told Nicole Gunther of the pileups and obstacles en route from Van Nuys to the law office on the day Josefina resigned.[2]

Christian graffiti artistEdit

Famous TV actorEdit

When Nicole Gunther was summoned to Sheldon Rosenthal's office, expecting a promotion to partner of the law firm, the previous visitor exited ostentatiously, with an effect of parting the gates of heaven in a 1950s movie. It was someone her mother had watched on TV, calling back over his shoulder "Thanks a million, Shelly. I'm glad it's in good hands. Say hi to Ruth for me."

The famous man was so intent on whatever was on his mind that took no notice of Nicole, as if she were invisible, but she didn't mind. She was tickled that someone existed with the guts to call Mr. Rosenthal "Shelly" to his face, something not even the other senior partners ever did.[3]


Faustinianus was the emcee of the Carnuntum battle arena. He was a tubby little man who sounded exactly like every fast-talking pitchman Nicole Gunther had ever loathed on late-night TV, a comparison she found humorous.[4]


Hercules was a guard dog for a shop in Carnuntum. When Umma got too close to him, he threatened to bite her. His owner beat him harshly for this misbehavior, which was very upsetting to Nicole Gunther, whose mind was in Umma's body. Although Hercules was mean, Nicole wished there was an SPCA to protect him from excessive beatings.[5]


Josefina (born c. 1965) was a Mexican immigrant who lived in Van Nuys and provided daycare for the children of Los Angeles businesspeople. Nicole Gunther, following the desertion of her husband Frank Perrin, found Josefina to be a godsend. Nicole's children Kimberley and Justin adored Josefina.

One day, news came from Mexico that Josefina's mother was ill and needed her attention. Josefina had to end her daycare business and return to Ciudad Obregón. Nicole, who was at a loss to find a replacement service, was infuriated, and briefly considered reporting Josefina (whom she suspected to be in the United States illegally) to the deportation authorities out of spite. However, she immediately realized that since she wished Josefina wasn't returning to Mexico, then deporting her to Mexico would be counterproductive.


Junius (d. 170) was a muleteer who died of the pestilence in Aquileia down in Italy. His brother lived in Carnuntum, and the brother's wife discussed this news with other market-goers. This was the first time Nicole Gunther heard about the pestilence.[6]


Louise was one of several KNX traffic reporters whose radio broadcast told Nicole Gunther of the pileups and obstacles en route from Van Nuys to the law office on the day Josefina resigned.[7]


Midas was Julius Rufus' donkey who carried the merchant's beer barrels.[8]

Eddie MurphyEdit

When a band of Germans celebrated in Umma's tavern after a hard day's looting, raping, and murdering, one of them stood up, made faces, and put on a blanket resembling a toga to resemble a wealthy Roman, and acted out being robbed by Germans. Despite his recent brutal actions, and the cruel spirit of the act, Nicole Gunther actually found it quite funny, and laughed uproariously along with all the raiders. She thought of the man as Eddie Murphy after the screen comedian.[9]


Optatus the physician (d. 170) was murdered by the thief Padusius in a highly publicized case.[10]


Padusius (d. 20 July 170), a thief, was convicted of the murders of Optatus the physician and Gaius Domitius Zmaragdus the spice merchant. His case was notorious, and many Carnuntum residents expected him to be crucified. Instead, he was sentenced to die in a rigged combat in the arena. Armed with only a club that would have been inadequate against a rat, and a shield weaker than a child's toy, he was placed against two hungry lionesses. The outcome of the battle was never in doubt. Padusius proclaimed his innocence to the end, only to be drowned out by the jeers of the crowd.

Titus Calidius Severus, who was in the audience with Umma, said it was quicker than Padusius deserved. Nicole Gunther, who was in Umma's body, felt that the execution was cruel, and wondered whether Padusius' guilt had been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Then Titus shared that Padusius had raped Mrs. Zmaragdus after murdering her husband in front of her. Nicole, who had zero tolerance for crimes against women, felt a little more satisfied by his death than she had before learning this.[11]


Pollia was a Carnuntum woman who lifted weights during her visits to the bathhouse. She was married to wealthy Aulus but was carrying on affairs with both Faustus and Silvius.[12]


A priestess of Isis presided over the funeral of Fabia Ursa. The funeral prayer, detailing the history and attributes of Isis, and her role in women's lives, was like nothing Nicole Gunther had ever heard. Two men in the funeral processing made condescending chatter to each other, about how Isis was a woman's god, and that the soldiers' god Mithras was a proper god, and superior. She would have loved to tell them where to go, and precisely how to get there, but held her peace.[13]

Julius RufusEdit

Julius Rufus (d. 170) was a beer merchant in Carnuntum. He had great skill at pitching his wares. Nicole Gunther preferred his beverage because it came in wooden barrels, free of the lead that bedeviled so many Roman drinking vessels.[14] One day, when Carnuntum was in the throes of the pestilence, Rufus came to Umma's tavern with his barrels. He was very ill, and passed out. Nicole had him carried inside, and tried to make him comfortable, but he died within minutes. Nicole summoned Rufus' widow and two sons to collect their father's body.[15]

Elizabeth TaylorEdit

A plump, jewel-bedecked woman, with a strong resemblance to the film star Elizabeth Taylor, attended the Carnuntum bathhouse, waited on by a male masseur who looked like a member of the Baywatch team. "Elizabeth" purred with pleasure when the man kneaded her, and fellow bather Nicole Gunther (alias Umma) wondered if bathhouse masseurs caused a lot of divorces in Carnuntum. Nicole was uncertain whether the man was a slave, and if so whether he was owned by "Elizabeth" or the bathhouse.[16]


Velina was the wet nurse who serviced Umma's daughter Aurelia. She and her husband moved from Carnuntum to Vindobona in 169, the year before Umma's body was possessed by Nicole Gunther's mind.[17]

Gaius Domitius ZmaragdusEdit

Gaius Domitius Zmaragdus (d. 170), a spice merchant, was murdered by the thief Padusius, who raped the merchant's wife after he was done. The case was highly publicized, and the Carnuntum populace eagerly awaited justice in it.[18]


  1. Household Gods, p. ***, HC.
  2. Ibid., p. 21-22, HC.
  3. Ibid., p. 26-27, HC.
  4. Ibid., p. 215-231.
  5. Ibid., p. 106.
  6. Ibid., p. 113.
  7. Ibid., p. 21-22, HC.
  8. Ibid., p. 281.
  9. Ibid., p. 372-373.
  10. Ibid., p. 227.
  11. Ibid., p. 227-231, HC.
  12. Ibid., p. 133.
  13. Ibid., 250-252.
  14. Ibid., p. 207-209.
  15. Ibid., p. 281-287.
  16. Ibid., p. 136.
  17. Ibid., p. 279.
  18. Ibid., p. 227, 230.