"Death in Vesunna"  
Asimov's Jan1981.jpg
Author Harry Turtledove, as Eric G. Iverson
Co-Author Elaine O'Byrne
First Appearance Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
Collected Departures
Genre(s) Science fiction (Time-Travel), Murder Mystery
Publication date January 1981

"Death in Vesunna" is a time travel science fiction short story by Harry Turtledove using his Eric Iverson pseudonym and Elaine O'Byrne, his wife at the time. It was Turtledove's first professional sale but the magazine, Cosmos, failed before the story was printed. It was first published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in January 1981. It was reprinted in Isaac Asimov's Wonders of the World #6, edited by Kathleen Moloney & Shawna McCarthy in 1982 and in the Turtledove collection Departures in 1993.

In the story, two shady time travelers go from 2059 AD back to 147 AD and to the Roman town of Vesunna in Aquitaine. They are searching for a copy of Sophokles' Aleadai. When they are unable to purchase a copy from Clodius Eprius, they murder him with a revolver and steal the scroll. The rest of the story concerns the investigation by a second-century Roman official of a murder using a 21st century weapon.

The criminals in the story are wary of being noticed by the "Time Patrol", suggesting that the story may take place in Poul Anderson's series of tales about an agency by that name.

Turtledove has stated [citation needed] that the story is a rebuttal to Arthur C. Clarke's "Third Law," which states that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Eprius' death by gunshot is inexplicable to Roman knowledge and one of the time travelers asserts "The local yokels will put it down to the wrath of the gods and then they'll forget about it." But finding the bullet, and the gold coins left at the scene, vigil (policeman and firefighter) Gaius Tero and physician Kleandros work out that the impossible nature of these things result from advanced technology and the killers must be from the future and merely ordinary but well-equipped humans.

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