Martin Padway, aka Martinus Paduei
De Camp Character
First Appearance: Lest Darkness Fall
Creator: L. Sprague de Camp
Nationality: United States;
Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy
Religion: Congregationalism
Date of Birth: 1908
Occupation: Archeologist, Inventor, Printer
Spouse: Betty (separated 1937, de facto divorced by time travel)
Turtledove Appearances:
Shared Universe Story
"The Fake Pandemic"
POD: 535 C.E.
Type of Appearance: Direct

Martin Padway is the central character in L. Sprague de Camp's 1941 novel, Lest Darkness Fall. He appears in Harry Turtledove's indirect sequel, "The Fake Pandemic", among other works.

Martin Padway is an American archeologist. While visiting Italy in 1938, he is caught in a thunderstorm, and struck by lightning. He finds himself transported to Rome in the year 535 AD. At this time, the Italian Peninsula is under the rule of the Ostrogoths. Padway had studied the works of Procopius, memorizing them completely, and he realizes he has arrived on the eve of the Gothic War. Concluding that he has no hope of returning home, Padway establishes an identity as Martinus Paduei (i.e., Martin of Padua) and sets about stabilizing the Italian kingdom with 19th and 20th century technology, while neutralizing the Eastern Roman Empire's efforts to take back the Italian Peninsula. During the course of the novel, he encounters a number of historical people, including several political officials, Ostrogoth leaders, and even Belisarius himself.

Martin Padway in "The Fake Pandemic"[]

By 538, Martin Padway had settled into his life as Martinus Paduei, quaestor to Urias, King of Ostrogothic Italy. With his knowledge of the future, he influenced and rewrote history with the ultimate goal of preventing the "dark ages". While Padway knew the Eastern Roman Empire was not a friend, he also knew that Emperor Justinian could be prodded and manipulated into carrying out Padway's schemes. For example, Padway suggested Justinian drive on the Arabian Peninsula and take Mecca to prevent the eventual rise of Muhammad, a suggestion Justinian followed.[1]

As he reviewed history, Padway remembered the Plague of Justinian, and resolved to prevent it. In 538, Padway met with Justinian's quaestor, Tribonian, who arrived in Florence on a trading and diplomatic mission. Padway knew who Tribonian was, and correctly realized he'd be receptive to Padway's warnings about the plague.

Padway greeted Tribonian upon his arrival. Tribonian was surprised by Padway's informality. Padway surprised him further by inquiring about the Corpus Iuris Civilis. Padway admitted he knew certain things, and then hinted at something of great importance he wanted to discuss with Tribonian, though he decided to wait until later that day.[2]

Tribonian dined with Padway and Urias that evening. After they finished, Urias retired, leaving the two quaestors to conduct business over brandy.[3] Once alone, Padway explained the important matter: based on his ability to "foresee the future", he knew of the coming plague, and wanted Tribonian's help to stop it. He explained that the plague arrived in Constantinople from Pelusium, in Egypt. Padway proposed keeping the plague from reaching Egypt in 541; failing that, he proposed keeping it contained in Egypt. Padway said the plague reached in Constantinople in 542; after Padway converting those years to the Roman calendar, he confirmed they had about three years to prepare, much to Tribonian's relief. However, Padway told Tribonian that he would first need to convince Justinian to let the quaestor take the required steps. Moreover, Padway assured Tribonian that if he were successful, Tribonian would spend the rest of his days a subject of ridicule; he certainly wouldn't receive any reward for his heroism. Inebriated and frightened, Tribonian accepted this possibility but asked to table further conversation for the night. Padway agreed.[4]

The next day, the two quaestors nursed their hangovers and accomplished nothing. The day following, Padway re-emphasized his fears of the plague by agreeing to give enough diplomatic and trade concessions to Tribonian so Tribonian would have the clout to convince Justinian to allow him to put Padway's plan into action. Any remaining doubts Tribonian harbored vanished, and he began asking for details about the plague, including symptoms. Padway made the very grim recommendation that any ship carrying someone with the plague should be burned before it could dock. Tribonian was impressed with the obvious ethical concerns Padway had with his own proposal. He also assured Padway that, even if Justinian would not sanction implementation of Padway's plan, Tribonian would find a way to implement it.[5]

In 544, it was clear that Tribonian had thwarted the plague and it would not come. Padway sent a letter to Tribonian, thanking him for saving world, and making sure Tribonian knew he always had a place in Italy.[6]

See also[]


  1. Lest Darkness Fall & Timeless Tales Written in Tribute (second edition), pg. 382, loc. 4995.
  2. Ibid., pg. 380-382, loc. 4966-5003.
  3. Ibid., pg. 383, loc. 5013.
  4. Ibid., pgs. 383-388, loc. 5013-5085.
  5. Ibid., pgs. 388-391, loc. 5085-5122.
  6. Ibid., pgs. 415-416, loc. 5472-5490.