Wednesday 18 December 2019

AD 210 25th December Worship

Today, it's my turn to post a contribution to the fantastic Historical Writers Forum December Blog Hop! 
During the hop, there's an excellent selection of authors posting about all sorts of December topics set in many different historical eras. (See the end of the post for a list of participating authors) Given that Christmas Day is looming, it's likely that many of the posts are Christmas themed and are geared towards the Christian 25th December. 

My post, today, also contains information about the 25th December but since my historical novels are set in Roman Britain, it's not about Christianity. My time-travel historical adventure - The Taexali Game -  is set in the early 3rd century. This is an era when the main deities worshipped by my characters would have been mainly of the Celtic and Roman pantheons, with a smattering of gods worshipped by some Ancient Roman soldiers conscripted from the North African and Eastern Mediterranean territories of the Roman Empire.    
Emperor L. Septimius Severus
Wikimedia Commons
The Ancient Roman Emperor Severus and his son Caracalla are characters in The Taexali Game. My question for today is who might they have been worshipping on the 25th December, when they were in Northern Britannia in A.D. 210? 
25th December ... devotees and fragmentary evidence
For some time prior to A.D. 208, the Maeatae and Caledon federations of tribes (north-east Scotland) seem to have been reneging on treaty obligations made with Ancient Rome. In response to a plea from the Governor of Britannia, Emperor Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla travelled to Britannia in 208 with a huge entourage, including Severus’ wife Julia Domna and his younger son Geta. 

Leaving Julia Domna and Geta in Eboracum (York), Severus and Caracalla (nominally joint Emperor with his father from 198) marched northwards with 40 - 50,000 troops to teach the northern barbarians a lesson they wouldn’t forget in a hurry – though the campaign was actually spread out over a period of approximately three years. ( A little like this post because there's a wheen o' reading before I properly get to the 25th Dec.)

An Ancient Roman army marched with military might and associated weaponry, but it also sported a variety of religious adherences. Sometimes a particular devotion depended on where a unit of men originated from; or which faith was their personal one; and it could even be the ‘god-cult’ their legion collectively supported.

obverse Caracalla/ reverse Sol Invictus - Wikimedia Commons 
Since festival worship was ritually common across the Ancient Roman Empire, it's likely that Severus and Caracalla paid some sort of homage on the 25th December in 208, 209 and 210 while in Britannia - since the 25th Dec was a 'more major' festival than some others. They may have wintered in Londinium; Eboracum; Brigantia (Hadrian's Wall area); or further north in Caledonia. Sadly, a month by month calendar of their whereabouts during the campaign eludes me.

Mithraic worship-
Wikimedia Commons

Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus) is thought to have worshipped the gods Serapis, Sol and the associated Mysteries of Mithras. Coin evidence (above) was minted in his time depicting Sol Invictus wearing a typical sunray crown and at some point Caracalla added Invictus to his titles. 

Though it’s not known if Emperor Severus had a specific ‘god’ preference, it’s thought by some scholars that he was likely to have been influenced, to some degree, by the religion and cult worship that his wife was associated with. Julia Domna's father was descended from Syrian royalty and served as a high priest in the cult of the sun god Elagabal /Sol Invictus
Head of Serapis-
London Mithraeum
Wikimedia Commons

Severus was known to have been of a very superstitious disposition, though it has to be said that religious-based superstition was common across the Ancient Roman Empire. Severus was hampered by a debilitating condition for a number of years before he died and was sometimes carried in a litter on campaign, presumably when riding was physically impossible for him. He consulted his soothsayers on all aspects of his daily life and appears to have been given a ‘death-sentence’ even before he left Rome. It is written (e.g. by Cassius Dio) that Severus was told that he would die while on campaign in Britannia, but the dire forewarning didn’t stop the emperor from setting off to subdue the troublesome Caledonian tribes. 

There is also the fabulous tale that Severus' sons were delinquents and one of Severus' reasons for coming to Britannia was that some proper army campaign discipline would be salutary for the naughty nickums! (From what I've read of Caracalla's exploits - killing his brother Geta not so long after Severus' death - meant that strategy didn't work so well!)   

During the Severan Caledonian campaigns of A.D. 208 to 210, Severus and Caracalla spent time, huge amounts of money, and immense effort in renewing and reinforcing the forts along Hadrian’s Wall. A heavy Roman presence had likely been absent from most of Scotland during the last decades of the second century A.D.  but there’s archaeological evidence to show that there was a programme of renewal and renovation of permanent forts in southern and central Scotland during the very early third century. Re-garrisoning, and strengthening, was also undertaken in forts along the Antonine Wall (Glasgow /Edinburgh) and as far north as the legionary fortress at Carpow (Dundee). 

Sol Invictus and the god Jupiter as an old man- Wikimedia Commons
In some of these forts, evidence of Sol; Sol Invictus (the unconquerable sun god) and Mithraic cult worship has been found. 

Head of Mithras-
London Mithraeum
Wikimedia Commons
The cult of Mithras is thought to have appeared in Rome during the first century A.D. and gradually spread across the Roman Empire.  During the third century A.D. a temple dedicated to Mithras was built at Walbrook in Londinium (London), possibly during the Severan era. The marble head of the god Serapis (an Egyptian god of the Underworld) found at the London Mithraeum, dates from the second to early third century; and the head of the god Mithras also found there is dated A.D. 180-220. 

Exactly how Serapis and Mithras worship was connected is a subject of great speculation but Caracalla, or Severus, could probably have told us! 

At some later date, possibly around the fourth century, the heads had been deliberately buried along with a head of Minerva and a figure of Mercury when a new temple to Bacchus was built on the same site. 

It was common for Ancient Roman campaigning troops to spend the winter season in a place of relative comfort and safety. Severus and Caracalla may have spent some winter-time in Eboracum with Julia Domna and Geta in 208, 209 and perhaps even 210 - though these details are unknown.

Nominally, the Ancient Roman summer campaign season traditionally ended on 19th October with the festival of the Armilustrium. This was held in honour of the god Mars, when the weapons of the army were ‘ritually purified and stored’ till the following year. (The Tubilustrium, on the 19th March, was when similar ceremonies began the new campaign season) It's not clear exactly how long these already ancient traditions continued into the late Empire phase, but since Severus was so superstitious, ritual ceremonies of some form may have marked an October Armilustrium wherever he was stationed. However, it’s highly unlikely there was any literal downing of weapons in troublesome Caledonia. Yet, paying proper observance to the god Mars would have been a symbolic boost.

When practical, a number of festival days may have been observed in some form, or other, by the Severan armies between late October and December, the Saturnalia of 17th to 23rd December being one of them. (N.B: The Saturnalia may be written about by another author of the Historical Writers Forum)

Leaf disc dedicated to Sol Invictus
Wikimedia Commons
The end of the Saturnalia was followed by the Brumalia, traditionally celebrated on the shortest day – bruma meaning short day – and included the following few days when the sun is reborn after ‘staying still’ on the solstice. In the darkest days of mid-winter, during the rainy and cold grey days in northern Britannia, celebrating the sun god Sol would have been an important lift to the spirits of many Roman soldiers. 

Offerings to Sol/Sol Invictus were given on the nominated day of the 25th Dec. which was then regarded as the winter solstice. Evidence from forts on Hadrian’s Wall and southern Scotland forts like Trimontium (Newstead) support Sol worship.

The distinctions between worshipping Sol (the sun god) and that of Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun god) are not clear, but it wasn’t till the end of the 3rd century that worship of Sol Invictus gained much more prominence and Sol Invictus became an official state god.

(NB: We now assign the date of the winter solstice to the 21st or 22nd of Dec. as a result of subsequent calendar changes after the Roman period)

I like to think that wherever Emperor Severus was on Dec 25th A.D. 210 (by the Julian calendar), he was worshipping Sol Invictus and was asking for a more definite date of death, or even a respite from the gout, severe arthritis, or debilitating crippling disease that he had been beset with for many years. He may also have been asking his soothsayer for more clarity about the incident where his nasty son Caracalla attempted to assassinate him while on campaign in Caledonia. I had great fun creating a scene which included this incident in The Taexali Game.  

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus died in Eboracum on the 4th February, 211. Whether or not Caracalla urged his doctors to hasten the emperor's death is not proven - the jury is still out -  but again, ancient writers mention that there was a 'bloody clearance' of people who had been present at the death of Severus, or who had regularly attended the emperor. 

Worshipping the sun on the solstice seems like a great idea for the ancients on a cold and frosty, northern, 25th December day! 

You can click the sidebar link to read more about my Romano/ British fiction using the Amazon 'look inside' facility. They are also available to read  FREE with Kindle Unlimited and available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon

The next post in the Historical Writers Forum December Blog Hop will be by Wendy J Dunn - look out for that coming tomorrow! 

Happy Reading to all and I wish you a joyful  festive season. 


Tuesday 17 December 2019

#Blog Tour for #After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks

Success Number 2 (in December)

My last blog post indicated I have had some, eventual, successes of late. The second POSITIVE of December has been the fabulous blog tour organised, once again, by Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources. 

From 21, or maybe even 22 tour stops, After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks has gained 10 new wonderful reviews. It's so good to find reader/bloggers who are appreciating my Celtic Fervour Saga and who are telling their blog readers how much they are enjoying the novels.

Here are a few of the wonderful comments from satisfied readers, and also from one reader who found some aspects less to her taste.

My thanks to all of the following because I do want to know what readers think! (p.s. the names of the blogs are on the poster for accessing the full tour reviews, till I add the tour info to the top tab.)

"For those who enjoy intriguing historical stories wrapped around absorbing facts, The Celtic Fervour series is a must-read. Nancy Jardine masterfully writes a flowing narrative full of detail. I particularly enjoy learning about how the Romans and the local tribes lived their days to day lives."

“I’m getting more spy-related vibes from this one. The title should give that away automatically but who is our spy? Read and find out! I believe that these vibes are a stroke of ingeniousness from Jardine because it makes the story more wholesome in my opinion and its easier to engage with the story too. I mean what’s an occupation without a proper spy right? This aspect of the story creates the ‘good against evil’ perspective in the book and of course we side with the Celts! Down with the evil Romans!”

"Nancy Jardine has done it again. This series is brilliant and I can’t get enough of it. Not every author gets better with each book, but this author sure does and I already can’t wait for the next book.

The world building is perfection. I could feel, see, hear and smell what Nancy Jardine wanted me to. I love how detailed and realistic this feels. The characters are just as fantastic too. I love when I’m reading a character driven novel that has great world building too.
I highly recommend checking this series out. I don’t think you will be disappointed and I think you will enjoy each book progressively getting better!"

"Each book is told from different character perspectives. It keeps the narrative really fresh and is done so well that the character relationships allow us to keep track of everyone throughout their gallivanting over the country!"

The action is just as thrilling as in the other novels. It is told from several different POVs. I was especially intrigued by Valerius’s passages. He was quite a complex character. He was the enemy, but he did have some redeeming qualities. There were also times where my heart was literally in my throat, not knowing what was going to happen next. This was my favorite book in the series so far."

"The author has written the book at just the right pace to keep you engaged and to hold your attention as there is plenty happening in the story and each chapter is well developed.  The characters were very good and I enjoyed getting to know more about them and their lives as the book progressed. The author has done a really good job of bringing the past to life, I would love to be able to experience this period in history (just as a visitor as I don’t think I would last noh without my creature comforts though!)"

"Brennus - or Bran - however seemed to be left out on his own so I wasn't as keen on his storyline. Jardine gave herself a lot of ground to cover which I felt left insufficient room for readers to get to know characters such as Lleia. Consequently they didn't feel as authentic to me and important scenes seemed to rush by too quickly. I don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't read Donning Double Cloaks yet, but I wanted more to be made of some of the intensely emotional moments. Instead we got to learn a lot about how the different factions of the Roman army worked and fought together. I enjoy visiting ancient sites like Vindolanda so could envisage their forts and newly laid roads across the countryside!"

"When heartache strikes Ineda, and she gets her chance to escape the Roman fort, the story seems to pick up an even more urgent pace, as we spend alternating chapters with Brennus and Ineda, tantalisingly close, geographically. Now, of course, I won’t give the game away, but this book was the most addictive of the series so far for me, as I raced through the final chapters, keen to find out what happens to everyone we’ve met along the way."

" will know I’m a fan of this series.  They are so well researched and it gives us a brilliant insight in to what the lives of the Celtic tribes may have been like, and how the Roman’s came and invaded our country.  This story follows their journey north as they continue their campaign to rule the whole of Britannia, and to bring the Celts to their way of life.  It’s great to read about the Celts fighting back, and continuing to rally together for the sake of their lands.  I also love that Nancy always puts a bit at the end of the book, around the actual historical significance of bits mentioned throughout the novel."

"There is a lot of action and politically intrigued and spy's in After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks that kept me on the tip of my toes while I was reading this book and I also held my breath in a couple of the scenes. All the characters are diverse and amazingly well rounded especially the main characters which I won't say who they are because I don't want to spoil them for anybody. But my heart broke no shattered in a million pieces with everything the main characters were going through in After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks, especially what the main female characters were going through with her life in After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks she was struggling majorly in this book that I was rooted for her until the end."


#IngramSpark publishing #tips!

Does my blog silence mean that I have been doing nothing, of late? 
Not quite - though it seems almost that way. It depends on what an author might term as successful progress. I'd love to say that I can only measure success in terms of getting new writing done, or in selling shed-loads of my novels, but that would be utopia. I don't inhabit utopia so there have been plenty of distractions during November and into December. But here is the first post on the POSITIVES!!! (more blog posts to follow) 

Success number 1 
After a heartache process of uploading to Ingramspark, I'm eventually delighted to say that all 8 of my novels are now on the Ingramspark distribution catalogues and are available for printing. I was going to write a hugely long blog about the pitfalls I fell into, but it's now almost Christmas and I've now no time to do that. Suffice to say, if I were to give any advice at all as an indie author, it would be bullet-pointed to the following: (still a longish post)
  • Ensure that you understand the Ingramspark file interior file creation requirements. They DO mean what they say when they want a perfect interior file PDF. You DO need to ensure that your interior file is set to your desired page size PLUS the bleed they recommend for whichever cover size you choose e.g. for a 5 x 8 inch novel add what they recommend for bleed. Also check that the  PDF has that correct final page size and that you have ALL of your FONTS successfully embedded. Check the file is a single page layout, portrait, and has mirror margins (if a novel like mine).
  • Make sure that any interior images used DO fulfill the NO ICC profiles requirement (learn how to do this in 'Colour Management' if you don't understand what that means, like I didn't initially) 
  • Check all of your page formatting if you have had to re-jig your interior file (say from a KDP file or original manuscript.) Make sure that the amount of lines to a page is consistent and correct (physically count them if necessary) because I didn't find it easy to check this on the IngramSpark Downloadable PDF proof. Check page numbers are correct, especially if you use e.g. Latin numerals in the Front matter.
  • Ensure that whatever process you used to create your interior manuscript (e. g. MS Word doc) doesn't add any sneaky lines in the headers or footers. 
  • MOST OF ALL - make sure that you have taken off any 'extended distribution' you may have enabled on Amazon in plenty of time, if you also publish there. Do NOT assume like I did back at the end of June 2019 that when I 'unticked' that extended distribution' box on my KDP published files that the process would automatically happen. Acting on great advice, and knowing I was likely to want my novels on IngramSpark by the end of November, I 'unticked' all extended distribution boxes at the end of June on my KSP dashboard on Amazon. I was advised that the process could take a couple of months so I didn't check back at the end of July or Sept. It was only when I tried to input my own ISBN numbers into my IS book detail pages, in early Nov., they were showing as 'unavailable' to IS. That's when I realised that Amazon had NOT stopped the extended distribution on most of my 8 novels. You do not want to go through the 3 weeks it took for Amazon to sort what should have been a relatively simple process to 'FREE' up the ISBN numbers. And you don't want to have the confusion of Amazon trying to upload your KDP files to IngramSpark because, in my case, I knew they would not fit the IS requirements!!  (I had commissioned new cover files for the IS page sizes and age counts, at my expense.  I had also formatted the brand new interior files myself, which is a very big time suck!) 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to input the book detail pages because they do take a while, especially inputting the most appropriate BISAC codes and Thema Subjects (for library and catalogue listings) 
With hindsight:
Many of my initial problems stemmed from using an ancient MS Word 2003 package to create my manuscript files, which I later tried to convert to Word 2007 before creating PDFs- but that didn't work! I now have an upgrade to MS Office 2019 and hope that will keep me up-to-date for a good few years. I also couldn't make a PDF properly with my old laptop software, so I now have a monthly subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for PDF making (and hopefully over Christmas I'll learn how to use it for more applications). I consider these two big expenses as investment, along with what I paid for new cover files to be created. 

Therefore, getting my novels up on Ingramspark hasn't been cheap but as a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) the actual publishing process was FREE to me. It would have cost me $49 for each interior and exterior file upload ( X 8 novels for me) and it would have cost $25 for every revised file change (and there were quite a few). I am so very glad to be a member of ALLi and will continue my membership, even if Ingramspark no longer do the deal they currently have in place with ALLi members. ALLi is fabulous for other help and advice and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
I'd like to particularly thank Laurence Patterson (Darkstroke/ Crooked Cat Books) for creating the revised cover designs for my IS publishing. Huge thanks also go to my Ocelot Press colleagues for their unfailing support - you are all stars!
Lastly- although I had problems with Amazon I have to commend them on responding quickly to my emails and to many of the operatives for trying to solve the problems. They were very polite and apologetic during the transfer processes. Similarly the IngramSpark support staff were very patient and polite and eventually helped get the job done ( Maybe I should go and check regularly?) 

Phew- I look forward now to persuading some local bookstores and libraries to stock my novels via the acquisition/ distribution services they use. That is the main reason for me publishing with Ingramspark. 

Definitely time for me to celebrate! 

(p.s. I can now do the accent and properly spell my 'Cheers' in Scots Gàidhlig since I'm officially learning with Duolingo! Must now go and do my lesson for today.)