As part of Virtual FantasyCon (that awesome event where Murder In Absentia received an unprecedented five awards ;-), we did a blog hunt.
As an introduction to this site, I did a post about the historical inspirations behind the fantasy lighthouse of Egretia.
This post was originally published on L.D. Rose‘s site, and is replicated here for fans of history and fantasy.
I’d like to take a bit of your time today, and talk about the craft of writing Historical Fantasy.
In writing the my first novel Murder In Absentia, I had the pleasure of mixing up the real and the fantastical. I have built up the city of Egretia based mostly on Ancient Rome, but with elements from a few other ancient cities. Most notable, Egretia is a port city located on the southern side of the inner sea – with a very distinct, Alexandrian lighthouse.
This mix and the setting has been so successful, that the city of Egretia has been described almost as a character by its own right. The importance of the place to the story is as important as Middle Earth is to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Hogwarts to Harry Potter.
In this article I wanted to talk a little about the Pharos – the lighthouse of Egretia. It is a prominent feature of the city, located on a small island at the entry to the bay. The island is connected by a small bridge, and Felix (the protagonist) goes there a few times during the novel for a quiet introspection that is important to plot advancement.
Here is an excerpt from the first time that he visits the small island and the lighthouse:
I crossed the Pons Ignis and climbed laboriously on the steep path up the hill to the foot of the Pharos. Both the location and the features of the hill made it the ideal place for a lighthouse. Our people had maintained a bonfire there for ages, well before the lighthouse. As our port had grown, so had our knowledge. It was the incantator Iunius Brutus who had summoned forth the Pharos over four hundred years ago, and announced to the world the rising of our city and our collegia. He had used his mastery of the six elements to raise up a square pediment upon which stood a slender tower of solid marble, and to bind a permanent flame at its head. His skill had been so refined, that on the spire of stone he erected, scenes in bas-relief spiralled up to the top, depicting some of the important events in our city. From our humble beginnings as nomads, to our victories over the Volsci and Gabii who had inhabited this region before us, to the original Curia of the Senate, to Curtius’ famous sacrifice in the Forum, to the eruption of Vergu that had nearly destroyed the city, and to the image of himself raising the self-same spire at the top.
At the very top, on a capital styled with acanthus leaves, Iunius Brutus had crafted a white marble statue of a magnificent egret with the plume of feathers on its head looking almost too delicate to be made of stone, and in its beak it held the eternal flame. In the four hundred years since, despite wars and natural disasters, this flame has never gone out. It was said that he had been rooted to the spot for seven days and seven nights as he had chanted and directed the mystical energies that had brought forth the Pharos, and that when the ritual had been completed and finally he had moved, a thin layer of marble dust had covered him.
I climbed the pediment at the base of the towering structure. The square podium of the Pharos was about thirty feet high, with stairs running along its side to a wide platform on which people could stand and watch ships on the horizon. The spire jutting out in its centre was a solid block of hard marble a hundred feet high, and none but the terminally insane would attempt to scale it and reach the fire of the egret at the top.
I searched along the depicted scenes until I located the mythical scene depicting Servilius Ahala striking down Athanasios the necromancer. What inspiration could this ancient hero give me now?
Those who are familiar with our real Earth’s Rome might get a chuckle out of a few of the names mentioned above, but I want to talk mostly about the construction of the lighthouse itself.
It is modelled after the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, as well as on Trajan’s Column in Rome.
The Alexandrian lighthouse was built as three tiers: square, octagonal and circular. It was large enough to house the stairwell inside, so that fuel could be carried to the top.
Figure 1 Artist rendition of what the Alexandrian Pharos might have looked like
The Egretian lighthouse, as it is powered by magic, is a slender marble column on a square base. The column itself is inscribed with many scenes from the Egretian past – very much like Trajan’s Column in Rome.
Trajan’s Column is a Roman triumphal monument that commemorates emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan’s Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum. Completed during the reign of Trajan, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas-relief, which artistically describes the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians. Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern, and it is one of the iconic relics of this great empire.
Today, the column is mounted with a statue of St Peter, dating to the late sixteenth century. Originally it was mounted with a statue of emperor Trajan, which disappeared sometime during the middle ages. However, ancient coins indicate preliminary plans to top the column with a statue of a bird. It seems like the Egretians have carried through this original plan, although they’ve their national bird of the egret, rather than the Roman eagle.
Both the Roman column and the Egretian spire are about one hundred feet in height. Trajan’s column is made from twenty Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 32 tons. Additionally, the interior of Trajan’s column is hollow, and has steps that allow climbing to the platform at the top. There is a small entry at the base of the column, and the way up is lit by slit windows along the way. The Egretian Pharos in contrast is a solid block of marble. The bird-statue at its top carried an eternal flame in its beak, and no one can climb there. Instead, the base on which the Pharos stands is larger, and functions as a viewing platform out to sea. It is about thirty feet tall, and situated on top of a hill, offering unique views of the sea, the bay, and the city.
The Pharos is a unique and remarkable lighthouse, fit for the unique and remarkable historical-fantasy city of Egretia. We’d love it if you came to visit, and see all the marvels the city holds.
If you would like to find out more about the magical Romanesque world of Egretia, and read about Felix’s adventures where he solves unique mysteries, you can visit the official Egretia website on http://egretia.com where you will find short stories, news and articles.
You can find the full novel of Murder In Absentia on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1XbfKN1.
To connect with Assaph Mehr, visit the Egretia webiste, his Facebook page (http://facebook.com/AssaphMehrAuthor) or on Twitter (@assaphmehr).