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Monday, September 26, 2011

What is an Ancient Historical Romance, Anyway?

Since my debut historical romance, Forbidden, was published last year I’ve had quite a few people tell me it sounds fascinating – but what exactly do I mean by ancient historical romance?

Well, ancient history is the period known as Classical Antiquity, the beginning of recorded Greek history in about 776 BC. It also roughly coincides with the traditional founding of Rome in 753 BC. Western scholars use the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 as the end of ancient European history and the start of the Middle Ages.

Forbidden is set in AD 50 in Cymru (ancient Wales). The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 and it took them seven years before they invaded the western peninsula, where they faced fierce resistance from the local tribes. But Rome wanted the gold and other precious minerals Cymru had to offer – and Rome wasn’t going to let a primitive little province of the Empire get away with rebellion.

My hero, Maximus, is a Roman Centurion, a patrician and loyal to his Emperor and Rome. When he discovers his heroine, Carys, (who’s been spying on his bathing rituals for the last three months, the little minx!) he’s instantly captivated. Who is this woman and why hasn’t she been seen in any of the villages the Legion has vanquished?

Carys is, in fact, a Druid princess and acolyte of the Goddess of Wisdom, Cerridwen. She and the rest of her clan of Druids escaped into a magical enclave before the Romans invaded, and are waiting for a sign from their gods before they attack their enemy. But despite knowing this Roman would strike her dead if he knew who – what – she is, Carys is irresistibly drawn to him.

Claudius, the Roman Emperor at the time, hated Druids with a passion and wanted all trace of them wiped out across his Empire. Happily for me, this tied in nicely with my plot! I now had historical back up for my Romans’ determination to hunt down and eliminate any Druid who had escaped them during the initial invasion.

But why was Claudius so determined to eradicate the Druids?

While there’s plenty of written and archeological evidence when it comes to the Romans, unfortunately there’s very little when it comes to the Druids. Caesar explains this lack of documentary evidence when talking of the Gaulish Druids: “they consider it improper to entrust their studies to writing.”

But here’s what we do know about them. They were widely respected as the priests of Celtic society, held responsibilities for lawmaking, were the keepers of knowledge and wisdom and were known as magicians. They were also, according to the Romans, the rallying force behind the rebellious tribes that inhabited Cymru and the Druidic stronghold on the Isle of Mon (now known as the Isle of Anglesey, off the west coast of Wales).

The Romans saw Druidism as a serious menace against the might of their Empire, and Claudius was convinced that as long as Druids remained in Britannia then rebellion and resistance would continue to flourish among the tribes.



This period of history is so rich with inherent conflict that as a romance writer I find it hard to resist! In Forbidden, Maximus has been charged by his Emperor to eliminate all Druids. And Carys, the Druid princess he falls in love with, is one of Rome’s bitterest enemies. Together they have to overcome the prejudice of their preconceived notions, their warring cultures and their vindictive gods if their forbidden love is to survive.

You can read the first chapter of Forbidden here - over 18s only, please!

25 comments:

Cassandra Samuels said...

Christina

Thank you for posting such a fascinating account of ancient historicals. What a challenge it must have been to bring such an ancient and not very well documented culture to life.

Can't wait to hear more.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Christina,

Maximus and Carys have so many difficult challenges to overcome to achieve their Happily Ever After. No wonder you couldn't resist:)
Thanks for the insight into such an interesting time period. Thanks also for a wonderful, steamy first chapter:) Fabulous!

Dana said...

Christina!
How exciting! What an awesome story! Can't wait to read the rest!
I absolutely adore Wales, history and druid lore! You've bound them all nicely in one! Awesome! Simply awesome! Thank you!

Christina Phillips said...

Hi Cassandra, one of the things I love most about this period is the very lack of concrete documentation we have about the Druids and their culture. I'd always believed they were a very bloodthirsty lot (and they probably were!) but it wasn't until I was older I began to appreciate all the accounts we have of them are from the Romans - their bitterest enemies. So I felt perfectly OK about interpreting their culture in my own way (with a lot of help from my heroine, it has to be said!!!)

Christina Phillips said...

Hi Allison! I'm glad you enjoyed the first chapter! I had a lot of fun writing that!!!

Christina Phillips said...

Thanks, Dana! I really enjoyed discovering that ancient world through the eyes of my heroine, who showed me a lot of things I had no idea about before!! (Does that make me sound weird?!)

Dana said...

(Does that make me sound weird?!)

Only to the uninitiated--LOL!

Dana

Eleni Konstantine said...

You know how much I love Forbidden, and I love how you have recreated how Roman Britain could have been like. :)

And that Claudius not wanting anyone to have the same power as him. :)

Cheryl Leigh said...

Christina, you've renewed my interest in Ancient History! I loved that subject in high school. In fact, my love of history stems from my wonderful AH teacher. I couldn't get enough of Roman history! Robert Graves' book, I CLAUDIUS, is still one of my favourites.

Isn't it great when history ties in with a plot exactly when you need it? FORBIDDEN sounds wonderful and just my cup of tea. :)

Christina Phillips said...

LOL, Dana :-)

Christina Phillips said...

Cheryl, I loved Ancient History at school, but we covered so little of it and only did it for one year in any case *sigh* I remember watching I, Claudius when I was very young and being absolutely fascinated by it! I think it left a huge impact on me!!

Christina Phillips said...

Thank you so much, Eleni! I had a lot of fun recreating that world and am so glad you enjoyed it :-)

Yes, it was a great moment when I discovered how much Claudius feared the influence of the Druids, as it dovetailed so beautifully with my plot!!!

Helen said...

Christina

That was a great post I loved it so interesting I have heard lots about Forbidden and have had it on my wish list for a while now but I have just ordered because I so want to read it

Have Fun
Helen

Kandy Shepherd said...

Christina, I absolutely loved FORBIDDEN. Your really brought that historical period alive for me. I have CAPTIVE on the TBR pile and know I will love that too.

Christina Phillips said...

Helen, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I hope you enjoy Forbidden :-) Captive starts six months after Forbidden ends so although the books are standalone, some events that occurred in Forbidden are mentioned in Captive :-)

Christina Phillips said...

Thank you so much, Kandy! I hope you enjoy Bren ad Morwyn's story too :-)

Maggi Andersen said...

Although this isn't a part of history I usually read, you make it sound fascinating, Christina.

Shelley Munro said...

I'm another one who really loved Forbidden. It was so great reading a different historical setting, and you really brought the time alive in your book.

IWASNTBLOGGEDYESTERDAY said...

Really interesting,thanks,I will definately read Forbidden!!


ha! my verification word is............prose :)

Christina Phillips said...

Thanks, Maggi. The Druids have always fascinated me and I've always loved learning about the Romans :-)

Christina Phillips said...

Hi Shelley, thank you so much! I really enjoyed exploring that era in detail :-)

Christina Phillips said...

Hi IWASNTBLOGGEDYESTERDAY I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Love the verification word, lol!!

maryde said...

Great information, thanks for sharing Cristina. I have yet to read Forbidden, but you have certainly spiked my interest and placed it at the top of my must reads. :) I love the early history when the Romans were in England.

maryde said...

Sorry Christina... forgot your 'h'.

Christina Phillips said...

Thanks, Maryde! I love the Romans (got hooked way back in the day with I, Claudius!)