I have published in April 2023, on Amazon, three new novels in the nine books series and a companion History book that provides the context for the Roman aspects of The Travellers. The first three are on the Author page as well but here is a link to more details.
My Author page on Amazon.com is here. These books are also published in all of Amazon’s major markets as well.
Vespasian – A Social History
This book is a companion to the Vespasian aspects of the Travellers series. It is an historical biography that I hope adds more context to the novels.
Why do I call this book “A Social History”?
My approach has been to make connections. Connections between people and connections between events. You will see in this book that there are significant connections between Antonia Minor, Caenis and the Familia Alexander that grow over time to provide Vespasian’s ability to reach for the purple. To my knowledge, no other historian has pursued this linkage. Even the idea of the Familia itself, central to this book, is ignored.
I hope that I have been able to present these people in a more human light.
Tight with money but generous in his support and love, Vespasian could be trusted in a world where trust was rare. He was a man who looked beyond a person’s status or appearance. Look at whom he chose as friends: a slave, 20 years older than him; a young prince that all had dismissed as a fool; a penniless Jewish King and a Jewish banker. These are not the choices of a regular Roman on the make. Vespasian was self-deprecating. He was humorous and accepted jokes about himself. He looked like a farmer. He talked with a Sabine accent. He lived simply. He was direct and to the point. What a contrast to the Emperors before him and after? And what an heir to take on his work! History is full of stories of princes who hate their fathers, and of Kings who hate their sons. Domitian is the obvious example of this model. But to have a son like Titus, and for Titus to have a father like Vespasian, what an experience for both.
Underneath all of this, is I think the central relationship of his life and one of the great love stories of all time. It is Caenis that is the shaper of this epic. The Mother/Lover figure is well known in ancient myth. Caenis gives Vespasian the gift of this rare combination of forces. As a lover, she feeds his body and his soul, as a mother, she protects and advances him. In return, Vespasian honours her with his respect in private, and, more importantly, in public. Her power is her love. When we think of mistresses or girlfriends, we tend to think of younger beauties. It’s interesting to me that we have not a single image of Caenis. She never put herself forward. She hardly appears in the texts and then only to be praised by men like Tacitus who praised few women and none, other than Caenis, who had power. It is important also to remember her age. We don’t know when she was born, but the texts say it was in the reign of Augustus, who died in 14 BCE. She dies in 74 CE. Vespasian is 65, Caenis is possibly 88. Ponder that for a moment and you realize what a rare relationship this two people enjoyed.
This history book is a companion to the series of nine novels that I am writing that make Vespasian their main focus. The series is called The Travellers. You can find out more about them here on this website. In May 2023 there will be six books available.
The Next Three Books in the Travellers Series
The Travellers Book 4 – Tests, Allies, Enemies
This book, the fourth in the series, runs three stories in different times. All are connected.
In all three timelines I explore the complimentary nature of good and evil.
Bad people don’t think of themselves as bad. They have an explanation that works for them. Good people often have to make compromises to survive. Many call this mix, “The Grey Zone”. The Grey Zone, according to Primo Levi, is the space between the oppressors and the oppressed, where individuals are both victim and perpetrator, hero and villain. Levi asserts that the Grey Zone is a complex space where people are forced to confront their own morality, often making difficult decisions that blur the line between right and wrong.
To establish this idea, part of this book is set in Auschwitz where the pressure to survive, to make it through one more day, has never been so great. We see that even here the “bad” people have their reasons and sometimes they do good things. Similarly, our protagonists, who are in the “good” class have to make moral compromises to survive.
We also inhabit the world of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the time of the founding of the Templars, and the world of the Imperial Court at Rome. Here also, the pressures of survival also force our lead characters into The Grey Zone.
As in all the books in the Travellers series, my invented characters live in a world of historical characters and events. I have tried my best to stay faithful to the historical record. In particular in the Auschwitz section, where I have used first person testimony as the framework.
The Travellers Book 5 – The Ordeal
In this the 5th book of the series, our focus is mainly on the Templar and Roman timelines.
The book is entitled “The Ordeal”. Here many of the main characters are tested to their limit.
Some of the ordeals in this book are conventional in that they involve pain, such as the experience of Agrippina as an exile, Agricola during the Boudican Revolt, or how castration shaped Constantine. Others though are hurt by love and passion such as by Titus and Marcia, the future Emperor Trajan’s mother. Talking about mothers, we see why Nero killed his mother and what this act did to him.
Today, we are told to avoid or reduce pain. In this book I wanted to show how it can be productive. For an ordeal is always transformative.
The Roman section of book five focuses mainly on the young Titus as a Tribune. In Jerusalem, we see how against all odds our protagonists help King Baldwin win the ransom and so save his crown and the Kingdom.
As usual, the the main events are rooted in the historical record and all the historical figures are based on the sources.
My work has been to fill in the gaps and to make connections. Later in life, Agrippina becomes the villain of the time. But, I think she had her reasons and I explore them. I was aware of how much she had suffered as a young woman. Her mother and two of her brothers had been murdered. It was likely that her father, Germanicus had been murdered as well. To be a close family member of the Emperor was to have a target pinned to your back. When she was banished for life, her brother was a young man. She must have felt that she would never be free again. I think her ambition was fuelled by these experiences.
My story of Agrippina as a sponge diver is as far as I know my own invention. It is, I think a good story, and it answers an important question. How did Agrippina learn to swim so well? There are no details in the sources about how she lived on her Island. She had to have learned how to swim and to find her way in the water in the dark. Who knows? Maybe my intuition is correct? Salacia, the name that Agrippina gives herself, is the name of the initially reluctant wife of Neptune who is brought to him by a dolphin. Her negative feelings towards Vespasian were not only because he was a member of Narcissus’ coterie but were personal. As a new member of the Senate, Vespasian led the debate to have her carry Lepidus’ ashes by foot all the way from Antium to Rome.
As we have seen, Nero also had a hard upbringing. We learn why he had such trust in Anicetus. Anicetus must have been given the role of Nero’s protector by Lepida. He would have known Nero since he was a boy of two. Responsible for both Nero’s mother and wife’s death, Anicetus was the most trusted of Nero’s inner circle.
In this book we are introduced to the boy Trajan (Marcus). Later, Titus marries Trajan’s mother’s sister. Little is made by historians that Titus is Trajan’s uncle. I have never understood this omission. Trajan’s father becomes a devoted follower of Titus. In books seven and eight, we will see more of him and his son. It is highly likely that young Trajan accompanied his father in the Judaean campaign. Trajan’s skills as a war leader were unparalleled except by Julius Caesar himself. My sense is that he learned his trade in the field as a young man. Trajan was trusted not only by Vespasian and Titus but also by a man who trusted no one, Domitian.
The person I enjoyed writing about most in this book was the young Agricola. The sources tell us that both Titus and Agricola were in Britannia during the revolt. It is likely that Agricola travelled to Britannia along the Rhine route. The Rhine was the super highway of the Empire in the west. All the heavy goods that were shipped to and from Britannia went by water. This included the people. I cannot imagine Titus’ sister not stopping on her way to meet her brother and to introduce her new husband. The relationship between Titus, Agricola, Cerialis and Civilis that were forged in the Boudican campaign will play out in the civil war in 69 AD. In this book, I lay the groundwork for future triumph and tragedy that involves all of these men. Later, Agricola as Legate of the LXX and then as Governor always demonstrated a deep respect for native culture. I enjoyed writing about how this unusual bias, for a Roman, might have arisen.
I cannot avoid talking for a moment about Pliny. His nephew describes his uncle’s work habits in detail in a letter to Baebius Macer. I make no exaggeration when I show how he worked nearly every waking hour. It is likely that Pliny the Elder spent at least 10 years at Castra Vetera. As only one of the nine Batavian Alae were based there, I have to assume that Castra Vetera was the depot for all the Batavians and so Pliny was the Roman in charge of the regiment. By treaty, the Batavians commanded their own Alae. A unique honour in the Roman Army. After Castra Vetera, Pliny never held a senior role until the accession of Vespasian. Then, he was always in demand. He ended his career as the Admiral of the fleet at Misenum. He died trying to save people at Pompeii. He dedicated his greatest book, his Natural History, to his “Tentmate”, Titus. Pliny also wrote about the details of the Roman trade with India and the east and is a major source of that part of the story.
The central dramas in the 12th century are all rooted in the sources. Somehow, Baldwin deceived Al Bursuqi. Al Bursuqi survived the ambush, but was later murdered by an Assassin. Baldwin’s strategic problem was that he had no male heir. In later books, as we follow his life and the life of his eldest daughter. The problem is that as a woman, the same is true for her sisters, she has to marry. The husbands become the problem. Melisende will soon be in conflict with not only her husband but her sisters. That is, all her sisters except Yvette who becomes an Abbess.
The Templars go from strength to strength. In the next book, we will see how they made the shift from an order of “Poor Knights” to an order with more wealth than any King or Pope.
All these characters, invented or not, good or bad, come to me at night or when I am walking the dog during the day. They fill my life with joy and I hope that you like them as well.
The Travellers Book 6 – Rewards
This is the sixth of the series.
This book has the subtitle, The Reward. We see that death was the reward of the choices and actions of several of the main and supporting characters. Maybe a lesson here is to be careful what you hope for?
In this book, I also explore some myths and mysteries.
We are told that Nero began the first significant persecution of Christians, but there is no contemporary evidence of Christians being fed to the Lions or being used as living torches at dinner parties. There is also a legend that Nero murdered St Paul. Paul’s body was buried outside the city walls in a small cemetery on the Via Appia. Lucina, a member of the Christian community in Rome, is said to have provided the funds. Had Nero ordered Paul’s death, I am sure there would be no grave. Executed people were routinely tossed into a rubbish pit or the Tiber.
In summary, there is no evidence of any persecution of the Christians by Nero. Much of this is myth-making by the church, which needed a good villain. The Flavian and post-Flavian historians claim that Nero kicked Poppaea to death and castrated Sporus as a replacement. Neither of these crimes makes any sense to me. It was clear that Nero was obsessed with Poppaea, and bearing in mind how dangerous childbirth was then, it was not unusual for a well-born woman to die in childbirth. That is one of the reasons that I have included so many deaths from this cause in this volume.
I find it unlikely that Nero would have Sporus castrated and immediately take him on the tour to Greece. It would have taken at least a year for Sporus to heal. It is also worth recalling that Sporus later joined Nero at his death. Surely this devotion is evidence of Sporus’s love for his master. I think it is much more likely that Sporus had been castrated years before and could have been a gift from Tiridates. I have done my best to make out why this was so.
Poor Nero, is I think vilified like Richard III was by Shakespeare. Nero suffered from having some of the finest Roman writers do their best work in making him out as a monster. I have tried my best to understand him.
What about Paul and Josephus? Was their concurrent stay in Rome my invention? The sources say both were there simultaneously, but I noticed a series of coincidences that I cannot reconcile. Both Paul and Josephus are shipwrecked on the way to Rome. Paul is on his way to stand trial for disturbance. Josephus has come to Rome to intervene in a trial for other Jews for the crime of disorder. Both men are rescued and make landfall on the Island of Malta. The stories seem identical. Is this a coincidence?
Why does religion become so important in this book? I use Nestor to help us understand the conflict first between Rome and the Jews and then with the Christians. The core idea in the three “religions of the book” is an exclusive God. This definition inevitably creates conflict with the Roman view of gods and so sets the scene for the Jewish Revolt.
The Judaic concept of sin is why Tiberius Alexander has such a struggle. It would have been impossible for him to have played a role in Jewish life as a committed gay man. In a Roman context, his sexuality was part of the norms. He chose Rome because it offered him freedom.
Now to some personal mysteries. Most historians suggest that Trajan became Emperor by a twist of fate. Nerva had no heir. I make the case that Trajan was close to being an adopted Flavian. Even Domitian trusted him. This trust began with Titus in Castra Vetera, but was strengthened during the Armenian campaign via Tiberius.
In the following three books, we will see how Titus becomes a central figure in the young Trajan’s life again. This relationship will explain the adult Trajan’s exceptional abilities as a military commander.
Here is my last word about Banna. She arrived in book four as a minor character but developed into a major one. I have enjoyed writing her story more than any other. Why did she have to die? In book seven, Berenice will arrive as the central female character in our story. Berenice will have no rivals in life or fiction. Farewell, dear Banna. Her back story will be in one of the future books.
In this volume, we close out our founding story of the Templars in this book. Much of the context of this part of the book is historical. The Frangipani did indeed live in a fortress made out of the Colosseum. There was a major struggle about chastity at the council that approved the order’s founding. In this book, I offer a hint that back in Jerusalem trouble is brewing for Melisende, who will have to marry Fulk of Anjou. In the following books, we will discover how Melisende overcomes many crises and finally triumphs over her husband, her sisters and their husbands’ ambitions. My band of fictional warrior women will play a role in this success.
You may have noticed that my visitors from the future increasingly have doubts about returning to the modern world. They have deep connections now to the world of the past. Their struggle concerning the possibility of eternal life will grow as the series progresses. At 73, my own death is on my mind a lot, making their struggle ever more poignant.
Thank you for reading my books