Friday, 11 September 2015

Guest Post Field of Mars

The characters of Field of Mars

Field of Mars tells the story of the lost legion of Crassus. Legend has it that a number of Roman legionaries, who survived the disastrous battle of Carrhae in 53BC where a 40,000-strong Roman army was annihilated by only 10,000 mounted Parthian archers, were sold into slavery. Field of Mars is the first of a three-part series that tells the story of what happened to these men and the slaves who accompanied them.

The narrator of my version of this story is Appias, a Roman historian hired by Marcus Licinius Crassus to record his deeds for posterity. But, obviously, given what happened at Carrhae, the deeds are not the one the proconsul had been hoping for.

Before and during the ill-fated battle, Appias travels with the Roman praetorium - the Roman army’s HQ - and therefore has a unique perspective of the disaster from the point of view of the Roman Commanders - Proconsul Crassus, Prefect Publius (Crassus’s son), Legate Gaius Cassius Longinus, the army’s commander, and Chieftain Abgar, an Arab guide.

After the battle, and taken prisoner by the Parthians, Appias meets a newly promoted centurion, Rufinius, who is one of the few surviving officers. And it’s Rufinius who eventually rises to command a slave army of Roman legionaries purchased by the empire of Xiongnu (the Turkic predecessors of the Mongols) in its fight against the mighty neighbouring empire of Han China.

There are many other characters in this drama - Surenas, the Parthian commander; slave master Farnavindah; Saikan, the Xiongnu general; and Chanyu Zhizhi, the emperor of the Xiongnu, to name a few. Most of these characters are real people taken from history. Cassius Longinus, for example, was one of the few survivors of Carrhae who made it back to Rome. He regained his seat in the Roman Senate and was one of the primary movers in the plot to murder Julius Caesar.

Some of my favourite characters in Field of Mars are the lesser ones. For example, the men who fight beside Rufinius (a ribald lot), his slave the hag Mena, and the woman he falls in love with, a German by the name of Lucia.

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