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12 Books in 12 Months

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clavdivs

Revisionism and Excerpts

As I suspected a few posts back, Roman historians like Suetonius were pretty biased against Caligula, and had a tendency to write down the most outrageous rumours without assessing their validity in any way.  So whilst what I have written so far is stuff a bit like:

Had to have a consul executed today.  He forgot to announce my birthday in the public records.  Seriously.  A child of five could have remembered to do that.

Now I’m wondering whether he was actually as bad as all that.  The gaps in historical evidence make it hard to judge, but it seems pretty clear that it was in the interests of all the sources that survive from the time (Suetonius, Dio, Claudius, Seneca) to make Caligula out to be an evil nutjob.  So, the question is really whether to go with them and write him in a sort of cartoony, madder than a box of snakes type of way, or to take on board the revisionist work available and write him with a bit of empathy. 

My answer to this is to try both.

Perhaps I should use Incitatus [the horse he was meant to have made a consul, according to Suetonius] to upset senate a bit more.  That’s always fun – I still get a kick out of the time I made them run alongside my litter for ten miles in the blazing sun.  Served them right – all that time feasting and sitting indoors and conspiring to kill me makes them pasty and unfit.  They should try going to battle, see what that does for them.

I think I will commission a legion of men to carve Incitatus a stable of marble.  And he will have a collar blazing with precious jewels, and a manger of ivory.  I’ll have the grooms mix flakes of gold into his food, too.  He will live in as lavish and decadent a manner as the gods themselves.  Senate will be furious!  But frankly that horse is twice as clever as all of them put together.  Self important, plotting dunderheads that they are.  They’ll soon learn that they can’t have any effect on me.

An Interview

I did an interview for the STV website yesterday, which you can read here if you’d like a little more information on this project.

One of the questions asked that didn’t make it into the article – possibly because I was a little thrown and babbled a bit! – was ‘what do you hope to achieve with this project?’  I found it interesting because it made me think.

If I’m being completely honest, I’m doing it because I want to be noticed.  More than that, I want someone to notice and go “hey, she’s good, maybe we should pay her a sum of several pounds to write some things.” In fact, I blogged on the subject of freelancing and its frustratingly voluntary nature here only a week ago.

I am slightly worried that this answer is too cynical for a quirky project like this.  I’d love to say I’m doing it purely for my love of telling stories, but I’d be lying.  I do love telling stories, but ultimately I have rent to pay. Sorry, idealists.  Having said that, I want to pay it by doing something I love, which is pretty idealistic…  Oh, but I also hope to improve my writing style immeasurably in a comparatively short period of time.  So there’s a less materialistic concern for you!

In news more pertinent to book  one, why do I know nothing about Ancient Rome?  According to the laws of childhood – as set out in the finale of the last series of Doctor Who – everyone does ‘Romans‘ in primary school.  So why is all my research new to me?!  Amy Pond is not significantly younger than I am!  I think maybe we did Tudors and Stuarts an extra time…

And it’s not particularly useful, but I liked the line in I Clavdivs that Livia Drusilla (Caligula’s grandmother) was once bitten by a snake, which promptly died.  Because she’s venomous, do you see?!  Siân Phillips did a cracking ‘evil schemer’ in that show.

Word Count: 0

For those expecting the actual writing to begin today I should probably mention that I am Scottish, and as such New Year’s Day is designed exclusively to help me recover from Hogmanay.  However, I will be downloading I Clavdivs* at the same time as sprawling on the couch with crisps and tea and a Doctor Who (new series 5) box set.

Tomorrow, Caligula’s Blog begins in earnest.

*I mean the classic BBC series I Claudius, where they use the roman letter that looks like a ‘v’ instead of a ‘u’  in the title.  But I quite like calling it Clavdivs.

 

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