Welcome to my website and to the mysterious and dangerous world of Late Roman Britain.
Most Roman historical novels published these days seem to fall into one of two categories:-
1. Thud and blunder military sagas – endless battles, blood, guts and general gorefests, with the noble Roman(ish) hero slaughtering dozens of non-Roman nasties, or
2. Whodunnits in togas.
But my novels don’t fall into either category. Instead, they are journeys through the elegiac world of sunlight and shadows which existed when Romano-British civilisation, which had reached its high summer around the middle of the fourth century AD, was just beginning to decay.
The novels are set in the province of Britannia Prima (roughly the western half of south / central Britain), into which Christianity seems to have made only limited inroads and where belief in the dark old gods and goddesses, with its associated undercurrents of mystery and magic, was still strong.
These four novels – The Moon on the Hills and its
stand-alone sequels, The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams,
One Summer in Arcadia and The Deceivers – are set in the
late 360s and 370 respectively.
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Published April 2019
Britain was part of the Roman Empire from 43 to 410, part of an Ancient World which had its
roots in the soil of the lands bordering the Mediterranean. And during those years Britain too
possessed something of the exoticism of that Ancient World, something which, once gone,
was never to return.
In Britain, the first half of the fourth century saw the building or enlarging of imposing town
houses and villas, the best of which rivalled anything to be found north of the Alps, both in sheer
size and the magnificence of their floor mosaics and wall frescoes.
Winter: one of the four seasons from the 4th century mosaic in the triclinium of Chedworth
Roman villa, Gloucestershire.
But all summers die, and by the late 360s the world that had produced the rich villa culture of
southern Britain was in slow decline, soon to begin the downward spiral that was to lead to the
formal abandonment of Britain as a diocese of the Roman Empire in 410. Yet even in decline,
that world still possessed lingering echoes of a civilisation that was to be almost wholly absent in
the muddy centuries which followed.
Dido and Aeneas: 4th century mosaic from Low Ham villa. Somerset County Museum (Taunton).
The causes of that decline were both empire-wide and local.
In Britain there had been the invasion scares of 343 and 360
(when the Picts are thought to have broken through Hadrian’s
Wall), followed by the devastation caused by the Barbarica Conspiratio of 367, those seemingly co-ordinated invasions by the Picts from the north, the Scotti and other Hibernian tribes from the west, and (possibly) by Saxons and Franks from across the North Sea. Added to this was the trauma of the reprisals carried out against the wealthy supporters of the usurper emperor Magnentius which followed the final crushing of his rebellion in 353.
But despite these troubles, in the late 360s Britain was still basking in the glow of a golden age which few alive then realised would never return
Centenionalis of Constantius II depicting soldier spearing fallen barbarian horseman. Minted at Antioch circa AD 350.
And what of the landscapes in which the novels are set?
Take away the chocolate-box villages and the electricity poles and pylons and you would see a
Cotswolds – a North Cotswolds at any rate – that in essence still remains the landscape of the
fourth century. There are solitary, luxurious houses hidden away in sheltered valleys – the
successors of the villas; there are isolated farms. And surrounding them all are the wild and
lonely places – the undulating, sheep-grazed grasslands and dark, mysterious woods, where
wolves and wild boar once roamed and the sinister old gods and goddesses once ruled men’s
Ruins of Spoonley Wood villa, near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
Click an image to enlarge