Research for the next novel has suddenly shunted me in a completely different direction, and I found myself racing over to B&N (an agonizing four blocks away) to purchase a copy of Peter Heather’s lauded The Fall of the Roman Empire. Which I promptly began to devour, and am now at about the point where the Huns have come rolling out of the Eurasian Steppe, and driven the Goths from their brooding Germanic forests, over the Danube and into the bewildered Roman camps. Ah, the Huns! Mocked and derided by the Romans in the 4th century, and burning Rome itself but a hundred years later. Fascinating stuff.
The Allure of History
But! What I’ve found truly absorbing while following this narrative is how much like a traditional fantasy novel it reads. Emperors and barbarians, treachery and ambushes, bandits and proud soldiers. I follow each development with avid curiousity, because, unlike a novel, this stuff actually happened. If a particular soldier leads an army to victory after the commander falls, and receives plaudits and fame, then it’s incredibly more hard core because some dude about 1600 years ago actually did that.
I know the Huns emerge from the Black Forest and destroy the Roman Empire, but how did they do it? What were those final years like, what last minute alliances were struck, did the tide of war ever change, even fleetingly, in the Roman’s favor? Did certain figures rise to prominence in those last, dark days, their greatness forged in the heat of battle, or were the Roman leaders all cursed with ignomy and cowardice? It truly feels like a Fantasy epic, but one that for once is truly and utterly believable.
And you know what I’m discovering? That’s actually kind of cool.