As most of you know, I love reading news about discoveries from ancient Rome. This post collects some recent articles, as well as a short piece I wrote for Virtual FantasyCon event about using real historical detail as background colour for storytelling.
First, a bit out of In Numina. I use a lot of real historical details, subverted slightly to fit in the fantastical setting. When, during the course of an investigation Felix is invited to the mansion of a rich family, he notes a particular statue standing in the garden:
One in particular, of a boxer resting in between fights, caught my eye. A bearded, muscular, naked figure, sitting with hands on his knees and head turned to look over his right shoulder. His face showed complex emotions, frozen in time. It was done in bronze, with inlaid copper to simulate blood on its cut lips, broken nose, and droplets along his shoulder, arm, and thighs.
Felix notes it in passing at first, but it later serves as a further plot device. I wanted to note that this is a real statue, nicknamed Boxer at Rest, or Boxer of the Quirinal after the location in Rome where it was found. You can view more pictures of it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxer_at_Rest. The level of detail is absolutely amazing, so I suggest you check it out.
The statue has historical significance (one of the few surviving bronze statues of that era) and artistic significance (it is an amazing piece, and highlights the craftsmanship of artists over two millennia ago). In the story, it also has plot significance.
I include notes about it and similar “Easter eggs” at the end of the book, so that it can be read as straight fantasy or taken as a step for further reading by interested fans. More importantly, I just love all those little details, and working them into the narrative. For me, it makes the story world richer and more immersive. I hope you enjoy them too!
Now for some other bits and pieces.
Mosaics played an important part of Roman household decorations (see previous post in the series). The Lod Mosaics – a famous sample of which you can see to the left – will soon be getting an official home in a dedicated archaeological centre in Lod, Israel. Discovered in 1996 and dated to the late 3rd century CE, these are some of the most complete and best preserved examples world-wide.
You can (and should) visit the Lod Mosaics (official site) for more information and pictures of some of the most spectacular Roman floors ever uncovered.
Fans of Felix’s culinary expeditions will be thrilled to know that Garum (fish sauce) is making a return to restaurants around the world:
And since no meal is ever complete with some fine wine, you’ll also be excited to know that the oldest bottle of wine dates back to the early 4th century, found in a Roman settlement in Germany:
Speaking on ancient finds, this last one is a tad gruesome – yet still very exciting: It seems like we have a confirmation that Pliny the Elder’s skull has been found! Well, probably. Still have some final tests to reach a more conclusive verdict. Still, that would be the oldest remains of a positively identified person.
And, speaking of dead Romans, here is a cool map denoting the place of death for Roman emperors:
While death was as a form of entertainment, archaeologists in Jerusalem excavating the base of the Western Wall have uncovered new stone layers and a previously unknown theatre. This confirms contemporary writings that describe it.
That’s all for now. I’ll post more collections of news as I gather them, or you can try the novels and short stories to see them in ‘action’ – how I integrate such items into making the background of an historical-fantasy.