Writing Alternatively events!

Delighted to announce two fun events in May, one in Bristol, one in Ross-on-Wye, where the delightful Liesel Schwarz ‘the high-priestess of steampunk’ and I will be in conversation. We’d love to see you, so book your tickets now!
A5 flyerWriting Alternatively


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is due out in May 2015.

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

Ampurias - one of the inspirations for Roma Nova’s existence

Ampurias 1A small child, curls bobbing on a head she’s forgotten to cover with the sunhat her mother insists on, crouches down on a Roman mosaic floor in north-east Spain. Mesmerised by the purity of the black and white pattern, the craftsmanship and the tiny marble squares, she almost doesn’t hear her father calling her to the next one.

Jumping up, she eagerly runs to him, babbling questions like many eleven year olds do: who were the people who lived here, what were they called, what did they do, where have they gone?

The father, a numismatist and senior ‘Roman nut’, starts telling her about the Greek town of Emporion founded 575 BC which became Roman Emporiæ in 218 BC, where traders sailed in and out with their cargoes of olive oil, wine, textiles, glass and metals; where people lived in higgledy-piggeldy houses, traded from little shops; where the Roman army based its operations; where money was minted. And the people came from every corner of the Roman Empire to live and work. Boys went to schools and girls learnt to be good wives and mothers.

The little girl listens carefully to every word, sifting the information. Her hand in his, she turns as they leave, looks back at the mosaics and asks her father a final question.

“What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?”

Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain that day – yes, I was that little girl – maybe I was just a precocious kid asking a smartass question.
But clever man, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

Forty-odd years later, INCEPTIO was published.

Ampurias site

Ampurias, now officially Empúries in Catalan, was a town on the north east Mediterranean coast of Catalonia, Spain. It was founded in 575 BC by Greek colonists from Phocaea with the name of Ἐμπόριον (Emporion, meaning “trading place”, cf. emporion). Situated as it was on the coastal commercial route between Massalia (Marseille) and Tartessos in the far south of Hispania, the city developed into a large economic and commercial centre as well as being the largest Greek colony in the Iberian Peninsula.

EmpúriesDuring the Punic Wars, Empúries allied itself with Rome (sound choice) and Publius Cornelius Scipio initiated the conquest of Hispania from this city in 218 BC.

After the conquest of Hispania by the Romans, Empúries remained an independent city-state. However, in the civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar, it opted for Pompey (bad choice), and after his defeat it was stripped of its autonomy. A colonia of Roman veterans, named Emporiae, was established nearby to control the region.

From that time onwards, Empúries began to decline, obscured by the power of Tarraco (Tarragona) and Barcino (Barcelona). At the end of the 3rd century, it became one of the first cities in Spain to admit Christian evangelists. In that century, too, the Greek town was abandoned while the Roman town survived as a mint and the largely ceremonial seat of a coastal county, Castelló d’Empúries. In the Early Middle Ages, its exposed coastal position left it open to marauders, particularly Vikings in the mid 9th century, and the town was eventually abandoned.

More here about today’s Empúries http://www.mac.cat/esl/Sedes/Empuries


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is due out in May 2015.

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

SilverWood Selection Box - A selection of tantalising tasters

SilverWoodSelectionBox-100dpiBelonging to a group of authors not only means you enjoy the company of colleagues, but it improves your writing. I belong to several groups and associations – you’ll see some of the logos below – but one I treasure is the community of SilverWood Books authors.

The genius of Helen Hart and her team at SilverWood Books of fostering the community is remarkable, especially in a commercial business in the independent publishing sector. And now in support of their authors, they’ve brought out the first of their selection boxes – a real ‘try before you buy’.

Of course, it showcases SilverWood Books, but for authors, it highlights their work in a compact, easily accessible way. As Silverwood says, ‘A blend of fiction and non-fiction to introduce the reader to new “good reads”.’

I’m proud to share this new ebook of delicious tasters with fellow authors including:
Anna Belfrage, Helen Hollick, David Ebsworth, Lucienne Boyce, Edward Hancox, Adrian Churchward, Sandy Osborne, Michael Brown and Harvey Black.

Where can you obtain this box of tantalising tasters?
You can buy it on Amazon for 99 pence/cents, or you can download the .Mobi file for Kindle (12Mb) for FREE!
iTunes UK, iTunes US - Free
Kobo  – Free
Or download the EPub file here (8Mb) FREE

SilverWood Books February 2015


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is due out in May 2015.

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

Roma Novan heroines and gender pressure on men

Nike_smThe heroines we’ve met in the first three books, Carina and Aurelia Mitela, are ‘tough gals’; dedicated, strong-willed, physically and mentally resilient and tied into their sense of history and duty. Underlying all this, their driving force is their self-belief. Carina, despite her disrupted childhood and separation from Roma Nova until she was twenty-four, has embraced the Roma Nova values and system wholeheartedly, although, of course, there are gaps that trip her up. Aurelia is a ‘blood-and-bone’ Roma Novan, so completely immersed in the society from birth, but has her own weaknesses.

Neither of these women denies their femininity or personal and sexual needs; they are as emotionally wired as any other person. They fail, fear, experience inadequacy and guilt (and have tempers), but they don’t let any of this diminish them, their motivation or their innate sense of doing the right thing. Aurelia from the outset, and Carina as she becomes more immersed into Roma Nova, are not judged on their gender, nor do they allow themselves to even think that is a criterion for judgement. In Roma Nova, a society that has survived by vigilance and robust resistance to those who would destroy or absorb it, no quarter is given or allowance made for gender, only for behaving or performing as the person you are.

As Carina and Aurelia say, you’re only as good as your last job.

So, that brings us on to the Roma Novan men – Conrad, Apollodorus, Lurio, for instance. All different characters but tough and masculine. I’d like to see anybody talk to Lurio and call him a softie. I’ll hold your coat while you try. Conrad would be more polite – he has better manners, but Apollodrus would have you removed and, er, disposed of if you dared to make that suggestion.


Photo courtesy of Britannia www.durolitum.co.uk

However, the crucial note of this alternative society is that there is no right of men’s automatic superiority. As they were steadfast pagans, worshipping the traditional Roman goddesses and gods, there was no incursion of paternalistic monotheistic religions. In the early history of the Colonia Apuliensis Roma Nova, women had to fight alongside men to protect the colonia in the fraught period of the late fourth and early fifth centuries. And of course, founder Apulius had four strong daughters born and bred by a Celt from Noricum where women managed property,  took decisions in the political process and when necessary hefted a blade.

Back to the men… In Roma Nova, there is little of the gender pressure on male children and youngsters as they grow up such as the ‘big boys don’t cry’ and the ‘man up’ culture. Naturally enough, there is sibling and peer rivalry; testosterone flows in Roma Nova as anywhere else. However, men are expected to act and live as any other Roma Novan, as selfish or achieving as anybody else. But there is no pressure to behave in line with a constructed gender pattern. This frees up men from the pressure of conditioned norms expected in many societies.

Conrad is tough, clever, resourceful and a bit cocky, to be honest. Serving in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is ideal for him as it provides structure and a place to demonstrate his decisiveness and moral strength. He expects the soldiers under his command to obey not based on any gender considerations but on his authority in the military context. Ditto Lurio, but in a more relaxed, if brash, way. Apollodorus commands through fear, but has a weakness as far as Carina is concerned, as we find out in PERFIDITAS.

Naturally enough, this ‘egalitarian–plus’ type of society can lead to conflict, both inside and outside Roma Nova, which is a gift for any novelist. History, especially that of a male-driven society such as ancient Rome, doesn’t stay silent as Aurelia, the lead in the fourth book of the series set in the late 1960s, finds out in this and the following two books in the series.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is due out in May 2015.

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

Whipping boys and the bishop of Rome

lupercaliaIn AD 495, Christian bishop of Rome, Gelasius, finally managed to suppress the more than thousand year old Roman festival of Lupercalia. Gelasius’ letter to senator Andromachus taunted the nominally Christian senators who were intent on preserving the Roman tradition: “If you assert that this rite has salutary force, celebrate it yourselves in the ancestral fashion; run nude yourselves that you may properly carry out the mockery.” That would have been something to see!

So, two questions: What was the Lupercalia? And why was a pagan festival still celebrated a hundred years after emperor Theodosius had banned all manifestations of pagan religion on pain of death in his last edict in AD 395. (The same edict that had triggered the exodus of pagan Romans northwards to found Roma Nova)

Superficially, Lupercalia looks like a mob of  scantily clad young men of rank, running around the posh part of the city, full of sauce and whipping people, especially young women – sounds very student-like… But this was a quintessential Roman rite and significant on many levels to Romans for a thousand years.

Capitoline - 23_smllrThe name Lupercalia was believed in antiquity to be linked with the Ancient Greek festival of the Arcadian Lykaia (from Ancient Greek: λύκος – lukos, “wolf”, Latin lupus). In Roman mythology, Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival was celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on 15 February near the cave of Lupercal on the Palatine Hill where, according to Rome’s founding myth, Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf, or lupa.

The rites were directed by the Luperci, the ‘brothers of the wolf’, a corporation of sacerdotes (priests) of Faunus, usually of equestrian ran, who were dressed only in goatskins. After the sacrifice by the Luperci (or the flamen dialis – a leading priest) of two male goats and a dog, Luperci were led to the altar and anointed on their foreheads with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped off the bloody knife with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to smile and laugh. (Nice)

Sacrificial feasting (and obviously drinking) followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the animals (februa), then ran round the walls of the old Palatine city with said thongs in their hands. As then ran, in two bands, they struck people who crowded near. Girls and young women would line up on their route to receive lashes from these whips. The theory went that this encouraged fertility, prevented sterility in women and eased the pains of childbirth.

So why did this rite persist into the fifth century? Even though the festival had deteriorated and was no longer organised by patrician young men but left to the rabble to run, Romans still claimed it was such an ancient part of their lore, their history, that it was vital for the safety and prosperity of Rome that it should continue. A strong claim that came from Roman hearts, it was said. Perhaps it was a sense of clinging on to the memory of a past when Rome was a world power rather than a diminished city, one of many in Italy. Perhaps it was a chance for rebellious young men to let off steam.

Although fiercely contested, Gelasius did eventually suppress Lupercalia. Significantly, this festival of fertility and purification with violent overtones, which had given its name — dies februatus, from februare, to purify — to the month of February, was replaced with a Christian festival celebrating the purification after childbirth (a perfectly normal, natural function) of the soft and compliant Virgin Mary instead – Candlemas, observed forty days after Christmas, on 2 February. Those with a sense of the ironic may let a little smile cross their lips.

Oh, and fierce, pagan Lupercalia has no connection whatsoever with Valentine’s Day.

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

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