Life in a Roman Legion

Christina here. Do you believe in serendipity? I definitely do! I happen to be working on another book set during Roman times (although in Britain, not Italy) and guess what happened? The British Museum put on an exhibition about Roman legions! Although my hero is not a legionary, the villain is, so this was the perfect research opportunity and naturally, I had to go and see it.

The exhibition was called Legion – Life in the Roman Army – and it was amazing! A collection of fabulous artefacts, with plenty of backstory and historical information. Here’s a brief summary of what I learned, including my favourite exhibits:-

Rome’s first emperor, Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), ruled over a vast empire, based on military dominance. To maintain power everywhere, he created the first professional army of full-time career soldiers divided into regiments – legions. Together these consisted of approximately 150,000 male Roman citizens, plus an equal number of non-citizens in so-called auxiliary units. This vast army was incredibly efficient and well-trained, and for the most part invincible. Although not always – in AD 9 on the Danube frontier at Teutoburg Forest three whole legions (around 20,000 men) were completely annihilated by ‘barbarians’ (Germanic tribes)!

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“Ordinary” Wedding Dresses

Christina here. Some of the other Wenches have talked about wedding dresses in previous posts – see for example Anne’s visit to a wedding dress exhibition in 2014 with some magnificent gowns! (Link here). Recently I was asked to lend my own wedding dress to a small local exhibition and I thought it could be fun to take a look at some more “ordinary” wedding dresses from the last century. The exhibition in my local village consisted only of outfits worn by people living around here, so no couture gowns or specially designed specimens. They show the eclectic tastes of brides and many of them were of their decade – mine included.

The majority were white or cream, as is the custom these days, but there were a few examples in other colours, notably red. I’ve always felt that red wedding dresses are utterly suitable for winter weddings, and it’s such a cheerful colour too. If I’d been married in winter, I would definitely have considered that. As it happened, I was married in August 1985, and my dress was typical of that decade – the Laura Ashley-inspired leg-of-mutton sleeves and big bustle at the back exactly what I wanted. To tell the truth, I would have chosen this design if I was to get married now as well simply because it’s my favourite type, but it was definitely fashionable back then. I dug it out of a cupboard where it had languished for nearly 40 years in its original box and was pleased and surprised to see that it was still intact. I lent it to the exhibition, together with the accessories – a long veil, white fingerless lace gloves and a little reticule. The shoes I wore are sadly long gone.

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Regency Quick Fix

Christina here. We all lead very busy lives and sometimes we might not have time to read an entire novel – that’s when a short story collection or a novella comes in handy. A few years ago, I wrote some Regency novellas and I was delighted to find that Choc Lit are relaunching them this month with gorgeous new covers! It’s lovely to see them going out into the world again and I hope they are picked up by new readers. If you want a “quick fix” of the Regency period, these should do the trick!

In a recent post, some of the Wenches mentioned how they fell in love with Regency romance thanks to Georgette Heyer. It was the same for me. I first discovered her novels in my high school library when I was supposed to be doing homework. Always a voracious reader, I couldn’t resist checking out the shelves to see what was on offer, and her novels looked intriguing. At the time, I was hooked on Victoria Holt’s gothic romances and had never read anything set in the Regency period. That was soon remedied. Luckily for me, that library had at least half of Ms Heyer’s stories, and I was very happily reading those instead of the boring books I was supposed to read for class.

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Guest Interview – Alison Morton

Christina here and today I’m very pleased to welcome my friend and fellow author Alison Morton to the blog. She writes alternative historical fiction based on the Roman Empire, and her novels are all impeccably researched. Her latest book, EXSILIUM, has just been published, and I loved it! It’s a sequel to JULIA PRIMA but can be read as a standalone. Both these novels are set in the 4th century AD and are the historical backstory/prequels to Alison’s modern Roma Nova series, which starts with INCEPTIO (which I also recommend).

Welcome to the blog, Alison!

Thank you so much for inviting me here, Christina.

You’ve been writing about the Romans for quite a while now – when did your fascination with them start?

Alison at Ampurias aged 11

When I was eleven! I was mesmerised by a Roman mosaic floor at Ampurias, a vast site of a former Greek and Roman city in north-east Spain. I couldn’t stop looking at the beauty of the black and white pattern and the tiny marble squares. I babbled questions at my father, the Senior Roman Nut in our family: who were the people who lived here, what were they called, what did they do, where have they gone? And I still haven’t shaken the obsession decades later.

We are lucky in that a lot of Roman ruins remain all over Europe. Do you always try to visit the sites you are writing about?

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