Recent comments by my dear readers have made me decide to post my view on characters and Historical Novels.

From a H.N. POV there are two types of characters: historical and non-historical, or fictional ones. Both of them, though, must be realistic and believable characters, this is, not overtly fantastic (like, say, a Dragon, or a honest lawyer... ahem! :-)

Historical characters are the ones primary sources give us well documented, and they come in two flavors, real and mythical. The real historical characters are those that we can have a high enough certainty that they were real some time in the past (like king Alphonse X of Castilia, for example). The mythical ones are well documented in primary sources but, well, don't seem to be real (at least, so far in Historiography, like el Cid presented in the epical poem, or --let's be a bit polemic-- Jesus Christ as presented by the Christian sources).

Fictional characters, OTOH, come in many flavors, but there are also a couple of them that shine over the rest, at least for me, at the moment. Those are the companion and the gossiper. The companion is a character that goes with the (presumably historical) primary character (starring, or a similar role, kind of Beta male to the Alpha male, or the Princess for the Hero, etc...) and the gossiper is the one that's everywhere and can tell everything to everyone. There are many more (the antagonists made to make the main character shine by contrast, or the redshirts, created just to fill-in and, eventually, die, a concept I learned from Star Trek; etc...) but these will suffice for the moment.

Here you have the classification so far, in a glorious display of HTML mastery (ahem!):
  1. Historical characters
    1. Real characters
    2. Mythical characters
  2. Fictional characters
    1. Companion character
    2. Gossiper character

Let's follow this classification with my novels (the ones you can watch on the counter in the left side of the main blog page):
  • The Goth:
    1. Real characters: Alaric, Ataulf, Valens, Stilicho, etc...
    2. Mythical characters: none
    3. Companion characters: Cornelius Theodoricus
    4. Gossiper characters: Domitius Ahenobarbus

  • The Libyan:
    1. Real characters: Inaros, Megabyzos, Amyrteos, ...
    2. Mythical characters: Kharitimides, Megabazos
    3. Companion characters: Leucon
    4. Gossiper characters: Argyros, Megabazos, Amyrteos

  • Damned Linneage:
    1. Real characters: none
    2. Mythical characters: Laius, OEdipus, Yocasta, etc...
    3. Companion characters: Aspisides
    4. Gossiper characters: Elektra Dorothea

I have, deliberatedly, left many important character behind, else I would need a huge post and lots of time.

You can see, by comparing, the very different feeling each novel presents: The Goth is strongly based around real characters (re-created by me, but real, who did real things), with some fictional characters to help me to present different POVs, or aspects from a different perspective.

The Libyan, on the other hand, is based on little historical evidence, and I am forced to supply most of the details, and therefore the fictional characters are very important.

Damned Lineage is a historical synthesis of different, related Greek myths on the Bronze Age, deconstructed so to re-create historical settings that could have plausibly derived in the creation of the myths. Therefore all (or most, anyway) characters are mythical or fictional.

The challenge in each novel is different, and characters need to support me and help me make them. I try to be as realistic as possible, and as believable as possible, using the techniques I can (playing, basically, with the characters) in order to provide the best novelling experience I am able.

Maybe another day I'll complete my own theory. Those who have formal studies about writing, etc, are more than welcome to crash my feeble attempts to formalize a bit my work, I am "playing by ear" in this... But please, be gentle... :-)




Alaric speaks

And now it's my turn... As many others have done (in Gabrielle's blog you have the grand totale so far, at Historical Persons Me Too's, I hate this use of the concept of 'meme', it's so limited...) I have found the courage to do this.

This is -- so far -- the Alaric of my novel, The Goth, as faithfully credited by his confessor and biographer of sorts, presbyter Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus:

I am: Alaricus (Alarīks), son of Arimir, magister militum per Occidentem, rex of the Vesi Goths, and I am dying.

I want: to find a place within the Roman Empire where my People can live in peace, safe from the barbarian Huns. As Roman foedi we deserve better than we have been granted, and after years of fighting, my people needs to settle and flourish

I wish: that Honorius and Theodosius -- and their respective puppet masters -- accept the fact that the Goths are here to stay. We are the new blood the Romans need to survive, the same way the Gauls and the Illyrians were before us, we are the new Romans and I wish Constantius and the mentulae in Ravenna, and Anthemius and Antiochus, who are the real rulers in Constantinopolis would find a way to fulfill their ambitions leaving us aside.

I hate: to be fooled around, I am not famous for my patience.

I miss: the good old days on the Prut river, before the Huns arrived and the Great Migration came. I also miss my father and my grandfather, and the Old Ways of my People, I miss the good times, when Stilicho and I sat on a fireplace in the middle of Moesia, and talked about stuff that seemed so important at the time...

I fear: that when I die, my people will starve or will be cornered and fade away from memory as others had before done. We have fought so hard just to lose everything at the moment, simply because I am such a weak leader

I hear: that the Huns are starting to move again, and that the Alans, Vandals and Suebi have entered into Hispania, after plundering the Gaul for years; also I hear that it's hot outside, but I have a deadly cold, I feel it deep in my bones...

I wonder: what will be of my People, will they be able to find a place for them, now that I have failed to cross them to Africa? Who will be able to lead them successfully out of this trap that Italy has become?

I regret: not being able to save Flavius Stilicho a couple of years ago, when that snake of Honorius cornered him; he was an honorable man and a great warrior, he beat me many times and I can only hold his memory as a second father to me

I am not: fully able to understand the mentality of the Romans that prefer to trade with his own People's suffering in order to gain a temporal power, not even after all this time living among them, and fighting for them, and against them...

I dance: not anymore, but my heart still beats to the drums and flutes of my People, and my spirit is lifted with theirs by the music of our Traditions

I sing: at the firelight, with my warriors, remembering the ways of our People and the legends of times gone by, even now that my voice is fading away, like that of the distant heroes of yonder days...

I cry: to the foolishness of the stupids who have forced me to spill blood on the ground because they won't allow me a place to spill grain, instead. We are as Roman as they are, we have fought for their lands, and their gold, and their rights; we have died for them, we have suffered what most of them had never done, and we deserve our reward as Gothic Romans.

I made: what so many other Roman Generals have been making ever since Cornelius Sulla, I entered into Rome with my legions and showed them who was the real boss... if only Ravenna had been easier... But in my last days, it all seems void and pointless

I have not always been: fighting Honorius, although now that I'm looking behind, it seems I have for my whole life; I seek joy and love, like every men does...

I wrote: letter after letter to the Senate, to the Emperor, to the Praefecti and the powerful, only to find them returned with the seals intact, or with despicable rejections and threats, which is frustrating and infuriating

I confuse: piety with intelligence, and God knows I have tried to be the former while using the latter, but our Sin is for our Pride to condemn us, and I am not as intelligent as my vanity made me think, I am no Caesar

I need: to think of a way to save my People, and I await the arrival of my brother-in-law, Athaulfus, with anxiety; he must learn the way that's been opened to my eyes by Revelation, now that I won't be able to follow it myself...

I should: have killed Honorius years ago and wore the Purple myself; I've never wanted it, but it would have probably been for the best; Attalus is an incompetent, and I hope my successor won't try to use him, as he will be disappointed again, if only he wasn't so useful to legitimate our Rightful petitions!

I start: to feel that life is finally leaving me, and I depart to join my ancestors, God knows I love Him, but my blood is thicker than wine, and Tyz is calling the warrior in me to join Aramir and Wulfatta, and so many others

I finish: this asking for forgiveness, father Lucius, for I have sinned...


Older, Yes, but Wiser?

Yes, gentle reader... This weekend, yours truly had a wondrous birthday spent in celebration in the town of Ávila, in Castilia, Spain.

The town features a wonderful, intact, medieval wall and lots of churches! From the Vettonic town Obula, it became the Roman Abula (or Abela)... Among many other attractives, in Ávila was born the (in)famous queen Isabel I of Castilia, the supporter of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the (suddenly New) World. Ávila is also the birthplace of St. Theresa of Jesus, a very famous mystical woman. St. juan de la Cruz was also born here (or whereabouts).

Museums, walking, a wondrous landscape, a tranquil, little town, good food, nice weather, it was certainly a cool weekend, I'll post some pics when I have some time, they are still on the camera! A pity I couldn't visit the numerous Vettonic castra in the region, I took, however, some pictures of some berracos, big zoolithic figures of bulls, cows, pigs and other animals with no apparent purpose, but that were very important for the Celtiberic peoples of the region!

One year older, nod... But am I one year wiser? I doubt it. Time moves ahead effortlessly, but my mind sores trying to keep its pace... Tempus fugit, said the (always anonymous) philosopher, and I think he (or she) also meant that life runs faster than wisdom.

Am I carpe dieming? Dare to tell otherwise to my eyebags! :-)

I could certainly benefit from some more free time to orgarnize myself and to concentrate in some mundane activities that'd free my mind from a constant pressure to be creative, or to learn more and more... But it could be worse.

In the meantime, the pope in me (after all, that's what pontifex maximus really means, since, probably, the VI or VII BCE!) is thinking about sainthood... While other religions I won't mention seem to be really fixated about death and in death, Erisinism (or Discordianism) is more concentrated in life, and therefore our saints are usually so while they are alive (which is somewhat logical, only the truly Touched can keep spreading Chaos after life, the rest must be alive to do so!)... However, the little modesty I retain refrains me from sainthood... Any Discordian (aware) pope around to help me? :-)

Well... the Goddess Will Know.



Ulysses and Odysseus

Ah, the joys of research!

Do you know why the famous character, slayer of Troy, maximum deceiver, and greatest traveller of all times, inmortalized by Homer in his Odysseia is called Ulysses?

Well, it's a story worth knowing, trust me. The Greek name is Odysseus, son of Laertes, which in Greek is written Ὀδυσσεὺς Λαερτιάδης. The funny thing is that Homer didn't write in this elaborate, cool Greek script, with spirits, accents, and whatnots.

Actually, he didn't write at all!

The Illiad and the Odysseia were written some centuries later, after lots of oral transmission. Now, for an illiterate society, oral transmission is very important, bards have extraordinary memories, and stories can be transmitted faithfully from generation to generation with a great deal of fiability (i.e. it's not gossip!).

When they were first written, however, the Academics in Alexandria hadn't worked out the alphabet, and most of the usual Greek notation used today got fixated in Byzantine times (!). They wrote in what they had, a variation of the Phoenician alphabet, and every state-city had a particular variation of it, several letters had different representations (a cool example: the letter 's' was sigma: Σ, but it was also written as C. This is seen in the non-capital letters, where sigma is σ, but when it cas the last letter of the word (in many nominatives and accusatives!) it was written as ς. From this last way the Romans, through the Etruscians which got the script from the Greek colonies in the Magna Graecia and elsewhere in the West Mediterranean, got their 'S', which is ours. From the other capital sigma, the one we use to write the C of 'cat' the Russians got their cyrillic script 'C' (and from there the famous CCCP = SSSR, where P is the capital rho, of course).

So, we don't actually have Ὀδυσσεύς, but ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ, no spirits, no accents, no nothing!

Now, let's suppose you are copying (by hand!) a manuscript you got in a clay tablet, a caw hide, a papyrus leaf or even a sheet of Pergamus, and you are trying to decypher the original scribe's particular way to put the sigmas, and the ypsilons, and he's using the infamous digamma, by Zeus! Damn him and damn you for trusting a book to a Naxian... They are good sailors, but literature... Ah! That's something only Athens can be proud of.

You finish your copy and it's sent to, dunno, Siracuse, where it's copied again, and from there to, say, Taras (Tarento). Now, in the way, a little copy typo has got in the middle.

The first time the copyist read the starring's name, he thought someone in Siracuse had a funny way to write the lambdas. Yes! He should have read ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ, but Δ had the lower stroke written in a funny way, and he though it was Λ.

Thus, from ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ we get ΟΛΥΣΣΕΥΣ. From ODYSSEYS we get OLYSSEYS. This happened with other combination of letters and accents, and we also got OYLYSSEYS, OYLYSSHS (where H is the long E, eta), etc...

Now you can see the trend, right? Guess that OYLYSSEYS was read by a Roman, aloud, many times, but something didn't sound right. He was getting VLYSSEYS (OY is a false diphthong in Greek, and was read like English 'oo', remember that Y is like a French u or a German ü, midway between U and I), but the final Y wasn't necessary and it didn't really fit with any Latin declension, and thus someone (*) wrote VLYSSES, and VLYSSES he was ever since. We can also find VLYXES, though, as it's said, "your mileage may vary".

Basically somewhat different accents, and little differences in writing gave us two apparently different and unrelated names. Remember your school days?
"Homer was an Antiquity poet. He composed two most famous poems, the Illiad, which talks about the war of Troy, and the Odyssey, which talks about Ulysses's travels."
Illiad = Troy, Odyssey = Ulysses. Yeah, very intuitive titles, yessir! Of course, time got in the middle, and a lot of time at that! Illiad comes from Illión, the Myceanean name for the town.

Well, after this fun, I'll comment about a little update on my novel draft, The Goth. It's peculiarly difficult to write about a time period which is fairly well documented but you lack the sources! I'll try to go to the only library I've found that has the 400 pages book about Valens, that may help...

For the rest of all of us, nice weekend and ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗ.

(*) that someone is unknown, but a well know someone else that used it was called PVBLIVS VERGILIVS MARO, who wrote a book called AENEIDA in the I Century CE which got very famous, specially since it finally told, after many centuries, how the damned horse had made Troy to fall! :-) We know him as Virgilius nowadays, but, remember, he was also called Publius, like me. ;-)


New Character

Things keep moving in the novel, and while I get more info to write from Valentis point of view, I have just introduced a new character in The Goth.

Please, meet my, for the time being, new Roman POV character, Paulus Cornelius Ruber Theodoricus.

He's a tough and mean (OK, it's actually an overall good guy, but he's Roman, and this is a novel about Alaric and his People) military praepositus in the Equites scutarii Illyriciani, Serianae unit (which is listed in the Notitia Dignitatum, but I have to make sure it existed in 376 CE), because his adoptive father was a member of the Senate in Constantinopolis thanks to (and despite of) his political connections as member of the stuff of Julian's (I've made him a dux on the Danube not far from Vindolanda, who marched with Julian when he was raised to Augustus by his Gallian troops and went to the East to fight against his cousin Constantius, and then surviving the turmoils of Julian's death).

He will be ``attached'' to Alaric's Goths (actually to Ambassador Wingureiks, who lead the Embassy to Antiochia) and will be present throughout the episodes that will take us to the battle of Ad Salices, in 377 CE.

As for his name, he was named Thiudareiks, and was the son of a Goth chieftain that offered him to the Romans as hostage after the relative peace of 357, after the Battle of Strassburg, but then revolted with other tribed after the movements of 358 against the Salian Franks. Quintus Cornelius Ruber was the dux in charge of the region were the Goths rioted and got to get Thiudareiks as his slave.

After years without descendancy, and noticing the nobility and general good disposition of Thiudareiks, he freed him, baptised him, and adopted him as his son. Thus Paulus Cornelius Ruber Thiudarīks was reborn (remember, Gothic -ei- is the representation of /ī/).

However, Thiudarīks has a very distinctive sound for both Latin and Greek ears, specially in Antiochia ad Orontem. Thus, Thiudarīks became Theodoricus, which is, curiously, the name of the emperor after Valens, which will die in a couple of years, and was born in Hispania, many even say in Gallaecia, my own land... :-)

As an interesting note, Theodoricus means, from the Greek name Θεοδόρος, 'little gift of God', while Thiudarīks means, more or less, 'king of the People'. Cool, uh? :-)

Take care!



What's in a name?

Gabrielle has just published in his blog, Lost Fort, an interesting post about Roman and Celtic names in the Antiquity.

My contribution was to offer a couple of examples to add to hers, and one of the examples was my Roman name.

Romanly speaking, I'm called Publius Lilius Frugius Simius Excalibor f. Iosephi n. Johannis tribei Palatinae and I'm going to explain why.

(yes, I'm of noble origins ;)

Praenomen, Publius, because it's cool, and has a great abbreviation ("P.").

Nomen, Lilius, because my family name is related to the lirium flower (it's my mother's family name, but I'm adopting it because it's as mine as hers, right? and there aren't any males in our branch to bear the surname in the first place, which is the one that's passed to sons, thus I'm going to put hers as my first, and if I have any sons, they will be able to bear the name).

Cognomen, Frugius (Fruitful), because my S.O. always says my family is clustered like a pineapple (a Spanish expression, to be like a pineapple: como una piña) and thus it's a fun way to distinguish this particular branch of my family... :-) Cognomines were usually a characteristic of the families (of the pater familias) like Caesar (redheaded), Ahenobarbus (bronze-colored beard), or Scipio (ceremonial rod, the Cornelia Scipiones were the ones who finally beat Hannibal Barca at the Second Roman Wars, I mean, the Second Punic Wars, bearing the Roman name, the first one was the Carthaginian name... :-)

Agnomen, a nickname, Simius (Ape or Monkey) because, apparently, when I was a little child, I used to climb to the top of the blinds cord (that's used to raise them and lower them) and then jumped (in a kind of SWAT team on a wall, I know there's a specific name but I can't recall it now) to open them. I also climbed like a monkey over trees, tables, and other parts of the Universe. I'm 32 and my uncles still address me as Mono... :-)

Another agnomen, because I'm worth it, Excalibor, because it's related to the sword in the Arthurian legends, and my interest in fencing, martial arts, and Hoplology in general. And because it's cooler than Excalibur, :-)

Filius, that is, son of, Iosephus, because that's my father's name, and while I should use my mother's (to go with the nomen, her name was Lucilla) it's just a way to call someone, right?

Nepos, i.e. grandson, of Johannes, which is my father's father's name.

Tribei Palatinae, that is, I belong to the tribe of the Palatine hill, and that's where I should vote. Actually, as I am not Roman, I won't, but Palatine is the jet set neighborhood, and why wouldn't I be there, uh? ;-)

Well, time for bed. Merry Bealtaine to all the wiccans out there, and, for the rest of ya, ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗ


Valens Augustus

$ perl ../Meta/wc.pl alarico_latin1.txt 120000 2>/dev/null
W: 9347 of 120000 (MP: 37.388, PP: 18.694), %: 7.78916666666667

That's it, an update... :-)

I have calculated, however, that if 9,300 words are, roughly, the first 1/3 of the first chapter, I will need about 200,000 words to tell this story! Whoah!

I'll be optimistic, though, and keep the 120,000 words goal for the time being.

Right into the second 3rd of the first chapter (which is--intelligently, if I may say so--called Dies I, or "Day 1", in English :-) we found ourselves in the ancient and important city of Antioquia ad Orontem, originally founded by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's Diadochi (heirs), in the province of Syria, in what nowadays is the boundaries between Turkey and Syria, and pretty close to the place where once lied the important city of Ugarit.

Antioch had an important port, Seleucia Pieria, at the delta of the river Orontes, which eventually lost its importance as the sediments transported by the river managed to render the harbor useless for big ships, at the time of the Crussades. In the meantime, it was one of the most important cities in the whole Empire, and only second to Constantinopolis and Alexandria in the Eastern part of the Empire.

North was Alexandretta, which took the role of most important harbor in the region in the Middle Ages, and westwards the important city of Aleppo, which was one of the most stable limes of the Empire in the East. South of Antioch lied Damascus, one of the oldest towns still inhabited in the whole world. Nowadays Antioch is the Turkish town of Antakya.

As mentioned in other fora, I am trying to switch points of view from the Goths to the Romans for the second part of the chapter, which will be, approximately, since Alaviv's Embassy to Valens, to the battle of Ad Salices. Later, we'll switch POVs again to the Goths, and head right into the last phase of the drama that peaked in hadrianopolis, which the sounding defeat of the Eastern comitatenses army and the death of Valens Augustus.

I've been recommended a book, Failure of Empire, by Noel Lenski, which looks really cool. However, at USD$75, it's out of my reach at the moment (not that's expensive, but I cannot justify the book for 1/3 of a chapter, maybe 2/3, at least not yet, try to explain this to my S.O... :-)

Failing University libraries, which I'll check, do my gentle readers have any other recommendations to an approach to Valentis biography, close friends, confidents at the court, and all that's missing at the Wikipedia? Web or classical better than Amazon, thanks... :-)



Against Stupidity...

Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain. Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)

It's the only thing I can say about this news (which, of course, I haven't seen in the Spanish news, anyway).

Spain destroys lost Roman city for a car park, by Jon Clarke in Malaga, (TimesOnLine).

Go read it and cry. I'm stupefied by yet another display of Spanish dead-brainness... It doesn't matter if it's the right wing party or, like in this case, the left wing party in the Goverment, as Lord Acton told Bishop Creighton in 1887: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.


Not even Traian and Hadrian (and Theodosius, but I dislike him) being born there is of any importance. I sometimes feel so ashamed...

Eris confound them!