The Robe is a story about what happens to the Roman who wins the robe of Jesus at his crucifixion. It is a book of historical fiction which intertwines fictional and non-fictional characters.

Summary of The Robe

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas is a story about the Roman who won Jesus’ robe at his crucifixion. It contains several historical characters, including the Roman Emperor, Tiberius; his adopted grandson, ‘Little Boots’; and Biblical characters, including Peter and John. But the interactions with these characters are mostly fictional.

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The story starts out with Marcellus worried because he laughed at Prince Gaius during a dinner. As punishment for this act, he is assigned as commander of Minoa, which is a lawless command where people are sent when they are to be exiled. As one of his assignments at Minoa, he goes to Jerusalem for Passover, which also happens to be the Passover when Jesus is crucified. Marcellus is put in charge of the crucifixion; he already feels kind of bad about this because it is apparent to him that Jesus is innocent. Marcellus ends up winning Jesus’ robe in a game of dice. He is later goaded into putting it on. He immediately takes it off and begins to feel ill and depressed.

The Robe is about a young Roman Tribute
Roman centurian

Meanwhile Diana, a woman who is in love with Marcellus, convinces the Emperor Tiberius to release Marcellus from his exile in Minoa. But Marcellus comes home a broken man, and his family sends him to Athens to recover. While Marcellus is in Athens, his slave, Demetrius, finds a way for him to again touch the robe, which immediately heals Marcellus. From this point on, Marcellus and Demetrius begin to learn more about this Jesus.

Marcellus is sent on official business to learn about Jesus. After the incident with the robe, the Emperor wants Marcellus to find out everything he can about this man, because they think that the robe is somehow haunted. As Marcellus is traveling the Galilee area to learn more about Jesus, he meets several of Jesus’ followers, including people who had been miraculously healed by Him. Eventually Marcellus converts to Christianity.

This conversion to Christianity makes the Emperor and other Romans quite upset. The Emperor tells Marcellus that he must choose between Diana (whom he now loves) and Jesus. Marcellus chooses Jesus. Soon after, the Emperor dies and his adopted grandson, ‘Little Boots,’ is put in as emperor. Diana is to be forced into a marriage with ‘Little Boots’ but she escapes. She too becomes a Christian believer, so when Marcellus is arrested and sentenced to death for not denying Jesus, she stands with him and they go together into a better kingdom.

Characters in The Robe

The protagonists in The Robe are:

  • Marcellus
  • Demetrius
  • Diana

The antagonists are:

  • Emperor Tiberius
  • Little Boots

Marcellus is the main character in this book, and is the son of a powerful Senator. He could have a pretty easy life, and become quite powerful himself. We quickly learn that he is a brave, young man who will stand up for what he believes in; this ends up leading to his death, when he refuses to deny his belief in Jesus.

Demetrius is Marcellus’ slave. He came from a fairly well-to-do family, but his father was killed for his political ideas, and Demetrius was made a slave. He is very loyal to Marcellus; he has several opportunities to leave Marcellus and is even offered freedom. He refuses all of these opportunities to care for Marcellus.

Diana was always friends with Marcellus’ little sister, Lucia, but she grew to love Marcellus. She is the granddaughter of Emperor Tiberius’ first wife, Vipsania (but not the granddaughter of Tiberius, although she still holds a special place in Tiberius’ heart). Thus, many people want to marry her to increase their political standing. She ends up marrying Marcellus shortly before they are both executed.

Emperor Tiberius is the Roman emperor for most of this story, but he is old and kind of senile. He tries to control Diana by building her and Marcellus a house near to his. He is an actual Roman Emperor who was a great general. This story occurs during a period of great uncertainty as to who will succeed Tiberius as emperor.

The bust of Emperor Tiberius
Emperor Tiberius

Little Boots is the adopted grandson of Tiberius, and is also an actual Roman Emperor. In this story, he wanted to marry Diana (which would have further boosted his claim to the throne). He fought strongly against the Christians and took a special interest against Marcellus due to Diana’s interest in him.

Lesson Summary

The Robe is a story about what happened to the Roman, Marcellus, who won Jesus’ robe at his crucifixion, and ends up joining the Christian religion, with help from his slave and friend, Demetrius. Marcellus is engaged to Diana, a powerful young woman, but the engagement is broken off when the emperor, Tiberius, tells him to choose between Diana and Jesus. In the end, both Diana and Marcellus are sentenced to death by the new emperor, Little Boots, because they will not deny Jesus.