1. DC23
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    DC23 Member

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    Historical fiction in ancient rome

    Discussion in 'Research' started by DC23, Aug 30, 2015.

    Hey guys,

    Just thought I would create a little research post and see what people thought. For my next sort of project I want to try some historical fiction set in Ancient Rome. Now I've always been a huge fan of the era and in particular the military strength and general expansion of the Empire.

    What I'm wondering about is what element/area of ancient rome's military exploits would make a good setting for a novel. My plan is to have two sides of the story, so one roman character and one main enemy character. I want to assess the different lives of each and how they eventually face each other without knowing etc.

    Any suggestions of an era or Roman conquest would be appreciated. Just thought it would be interesting to hear people's thoughts. I know Germania and Gaul are popular subjects in this field. My initial thought was to base it around the Second Punic War, but am unsure how to write a novel over a large period such as the war without missing chunks out.

    Any help would be awesome :) thanks guys!

    Dan
     
  2. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    I'm definitely not an expert, but the conquest of Gaul is what immediately comes to my mind. I've also read some interesting historical fiction about the Roman occupation of Britain. I'd recommend finding an event in history which has a particular amount of tension. A war in which the outcome isn't obvious, particularly if you want to tell the story from both sides. Both sides will need to feel a good amount of stress during the conflict. That's why I think it would be best to focus on the empire growth or decline. Those in particular would be when the romans were evenly matched against their opponents, and when the future would be less certain.
     
  3. DC23
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    Yeah I was thinking of perhaps wrapping it into the rise of Caesar in Gaul etc.

    Loads of options really, but need something that can work a story into history. Think Gaul would be the simplest and easiest to put into a novel, just not really my area of expertise. Whereas I know a lot about the Punic Wars and earlier Roman Republic due to my studies!
     
  4. rainy_summerday
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    rainy_summerday Active Member

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    Yes, I'd also recommend choosing a period in which Rome is under threat. This way, your setting will seem much more intriguing, because you can show how the different groups (Patricians, plebs, slaves, but also merchants etc.) react to the situation and how it affects their lives.
    The Punic wars are a prime example of that, but also the reign of Tarquinius Superbus which led to the Roman republic. A threat can come from within, too, because the danger of a civil war will have the same effect on the population. Rome narrowly escaped its end quite often. I am sure you will come up with a period that suits your purposes.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe spend time thinking about the opponent as well. What country would they be from? Will they be opponents who lose to the Romans, or opponents who drive them back? What will their culture be like? I actually think that's where I'd start, because being in a country that is invaded by a conqueror is maybe more compelling than BEING the conqueror.

    I find some of the most interesting historical periods involving the Romans were when the Roman empire was crumbling away. That time when Rome suddenly was no longer invincible, and the soldiers and politicians stationed at the farthest corners of the empire knew the end was coming. Surely they must have seen the signs. I mean, the last legions of Rome were pulled out of Britain to go back to Rome to fight against an internal coup, if memory serves me right. What those soldiers must have been thinking is an interesting idea to explore.
     
  6. DC23
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    DC23 Member

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    That's one of the reasons I was leaning towards the Roman - Carthaginian relationship. After already being defeated by Rome in the first war, those born after it's end would have grown up in a very anti-roman environment. The same kind that inspired Hannibal to take up arms against Rome. You also then have the early victories, pushing the Romans back before eventually being defeated themselves. A popular theme in almost all rebellions.
     
  7. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe a revisionist history? The mighty legions of Rome smash the pathetic Pictish clans. Martial flutes parade through Glasgow, the sock-pipe [precursor] is outlawed. I would buy two copies, and send one to...somewhere...
     
  8. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Less historical fiction (revisionist or otherwise), more outright fantasy in that instance. You'd be doing well locating the non-existent Glasgow in that period also. Still though, why let historical inaccuracies stand in the way of a good yarn? It worked for Dan Brown.
     
  9. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Somewhere on the Antonine wall, I believe?
     
  10. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Indeed, not hellish much of it to see now mind.
     
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  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'll write it, then go into hiding like Salman Rushdie because of all the fans of Nicola Sturgeon.
     
  12. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    stop stop

    I've not got far into draft:

    Anthonius gripped his war javelin. He faced the massed hordes of foul Caledonian warriors across swampland, knew this day would decide his fate. Would the Picts submit to a shared European hegemony going forward, or would they revert to insular and tribal ways, smeared in their blue paint, cannibalistic, quite vile in many respects? Anthonius chewed on his dormouse
     
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  13. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you're running with the Glaswegian element then?
     
  14. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    We are on quite different tracks here. Play Romans with me, I don't want to be UKIP, that's not right.
     
  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    you cheated :)
     
  16. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    An oversight, an editing mishap. Something about Satanic Verses then I thought better of it.
     
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  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    okay, I'm gonna stop scribbling, annoying myself

    Nicola warmed her hooves at the cauldron, knew the distribution of broth into hungry warrior bellies might even turn the tide of battle. She cleared her throat: ‘Brave men and women of Scotland, for many mists of time I have inspired you to endure occupation...'
     
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  18. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    'What strange, exotic weaponry is this they bring to fight the clans of Scotland here today over yonder hill?' Emperor Salmond exclaimed as he lay atop his cushioned litter gazing to the horizon.
    'Em, that's a bunch of grapes lying on your gut, dear' replied Empress Sturgeon.
     
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  19. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Osborne lay mid-plain and spread-eagled - his vital organs spiked upon a spear-tip, his entrails seized by the health and safety manager for the cordoning of the spectators' area.
     
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  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Sorry OP, the Romans are kind of my thing and I feel like I should answer you seriously.

    Why don't you try something a little weird? getting yourself copies of Caesar's conquest journals to see how the Romans conducted, planned and thought about war? You can get good translations on Amazon by Penguin Classics or Oxford Classics, and they make good reading. There is also The Jewish War by Josephus, which aside from being really quite a brutal narrative is also very well written. The ancient Romans themselves gave us some great war stories you can take influence from.
     
  21. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I second this. Both of those are good sources, though both Caesar and Josephus were known to talk up their own exploits.

    If you stick with the Second Punic War, Polybius is your man. Livy, being a Roman himself, is something of a Roman apologist.
     
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  22. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I've always wanted to see something on Trajan's conquest of Mesopotamia (Roman province from 116-117 AD), Assyria (116-118), and/or Armenia (114-118 AD) - the furthest extent of Roman power and the quickest to crumble. Plus that gives you interaction with other ancient civilizations like the Parthians, Armenians, and Sassanids, who are not so easily dismissed as "Barbarians."
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2015

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