The Art of History

theartofhistoryMy wife, in her infinite wisdom, is always on the look-out for a book at the library that might be of interest to me.  She found the title:  The Art of History by Cristopher Bram.  Some of you, might have guessed that I am working on a couple of novels with an Ancient Roman theme, so I sat down at Starbucks while she had a medical appointment, and read the entire book.  It’s not very big, only 163 pages, but sweeps through an historical perspective and how ‘the greats’ incorporated novel writing to make ‘the past’ come alive.    One of my favorite quotes is a comment he made about Thomas Babington Macaulay’s THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND.  He said this ‘history’, in its day, was a best selling competition to Charles Dickens.  His reasoning for its greatness is that rather than facts and figures (who attacked who, and who was born on what date) is that McCauley’s book is written with the use of story-telling about individuals caught up in the historical events, which he makes a comparison to what a historical novelist should do.  He called it…now wait for it…

“…story telling brio…”

1. quality of being active or spirited or alive and vigorous

  Familiarity information: BRIO used as a noun is very rare.

Please forgive me for being excited, but I love discovering new uses of the English Language.  I like it.  “It was told with storytelling brio.”  LOVE IT.

He dives a lot into slavery before the civil war, and reviews looks into fictional writing about this horrible institution.  War and Peace has a large part of the book as well.  He advises how to write about warfare in literature.

A must read, if your a fictional historical writer wanna-be, or a BIG history buff.


I found a book at a library sale in Alexandria, Virginia.  It is titled Smaller Classical Dictionary.  It was published in 1949 by a London Press.   This type of reading material is like reading a dictionary, but instead of starting with Aardvark, you begin with ABACENUM, ancient town of the Siculi in Sicily, W. of Messana and S. of Tyndaris and ending with ZOSIMUSGreek historian who lived in the time of younger Theodosius. 

If you’re the type that like reading this type of thing – like me – it is not beyond reason that I pick up stuff like a dramatic term such as Deus ex Machina.

According to Wikipendia:

Deus-ex-machinaDeus ex machina is a Latin calque from Greek ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός, meaning ‘god from the machine’. The term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to allow a story to continue when the writer has “painted himself into a corner” …

I have been told that the ancient playwrights would have the gods literally lowered from the ceiling by pulleys where the actor or actress would happily tidy up the plot where everything would be tied up in a pretty bow – i.e.  girl gets boy / boy not killed by evil tyrant.

I confess…I am hooked on FARGO.  Each episode seems to be a movie unto itself, with strong characterizations. If you have not been watching here is a brief synopsis.


In 2010, St. Cloud probation officer Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) and his parolee girlfriend Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), dream of a better, wealthier life as they attempt to steal a valuable vintage stamp from Ray’s more successful older brother, Emmit (also played by McGregor), the self-proclaimed “Parking Lot King of Minnesota”. However, their plans backfire, and they soon have to hide their involvement in two deaths, including the stepfather of former Eden Valley police chief Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon). Meanwhile, Emmit wishes to pay back a shady company he borrowed money from two years prior so he can settle things between them. However, the mysterious company and its employees, V. M. Varga (David Thewlis) and Yuri Gurka (Goran Bogdan), have other plans.

It’s the character Nikki Swango character that has me.  She is a shady type, but beautiful and in the long run just trying to overcome the cards that have been dealt her.  You got to love a character that truly loves her man, and is not a wilting flower – on more than one occasion she takes matters into her own hands – a perfect representation of a film noir damsel.  Name one who is not willing to kill for her man. 


Nikki is on the run, chained to a fellow prisoner.  People are killed, a crossbow arrow goes through her leg, but she presses on.  Nikki does not quit.   She and her fellow prisoner are almost killed, but they kill an attacker with the chain that binds them together, and an ax provides a handy tool to persuade a maniac to slow his attack after losing his left ear.  The chain is broken, but they continue to flee together.  They make it to a bowling alley.  Nice how one pops up in the middle of a Minnesota highway.  It is warm inside, she leaves her partner to rest as she get a whiskey from an obliging bartender that does not even ask if she has the money to buy.  The police are after them.  Assassins are after them.  She has been a target for two episodes, barely escaping with her life.  No where to run.  In the middle of the Minnesota countryside.  No where to hide.

Question:  Have you written yourself into a corner?  Welcome the Deus ex Machina.

A man sits next to her. It is the actor Ray Wise, who through many different episodes of the same narrative seems to crop up.  You may remember Mr. Wise as playing the Devil in the TV show Reaper.  Who better to play a religious character?  In this episode he is playing the part of the Lord God Yahweh, brought down from on high.  At least that is how I interpreted it.  He gives our heroine a way out by offering up a Green Volkswagen with the keys under the mat.  “You look like you could use a break,” he says.

He even offered a snuggle with her true love now reincarnated into a kitten after being killed in an earlier episode.  Nikki is saved.  She and the other fugitive drive away just as the maniac, missing an ear, shows up.

The maniac sits down to have a vodka.  The Yahweh-like character introduces him to all dead that he is responsible for.  The day of reckoning has arrived in a vision of black and white.

This has always been considered a mistake for the writer.  However, I was taken aback upon the viewing.  And I couldn’t believe this was happening.  It is strange thing to see Deus ex Machina be played out in a police procedural.  I wanted to yell out, “STOP.  UNFAIR.  GET BETTER WRITERS!”

However, it somehow worked.  The show is a little strange to start with.  Face it – the antagonist, Mr. Varga is a perfect personification of the Devil.  He is alluring, filled with attractive stories and persuasions – as he forces you to drink poisoned tea.

So, why not an appearance by God?  Why should it not work?

I have been thinking why I liked the episode just the same.  There can be only one answer.  I have faced death three times, and somehow maybe, there was someone saying to me:  “You look like you could use a break.”

Past, Present, ?, ?

booksThis unusual statue I found outside a secondary school in Wichita, Kansas.    I don’t know if this is especially for this web site, but if you are like me, being a bibliophile somehow goes along with being a Romanophile (plural Romanophiles)  goes with the territory.  What intrigues me about the base of the statue are the following words:  “Past” and “Present.”  The base has two more sides.  What do you think are the words not shown in the picture?

Does anyone want to take a guess?


The boar and the Sheridan Tank thank you...I don't want to meet NOR HUNT a boar.

No…no…no thank you…I don’t want to meet NOR HUNT a boar.

I was in a meeting at work. I turned to a fellow employee who I thought to be a hunter in his spare time. “Have you ever hunted for wild boar?” I asked him.

He smiled at me and I could read his mind. He had already sized me up for someone that was not into that kind of thing, but was amused or flattered that I wanted to know his opinion of such an odd topic. What’s more he figured a geeky guy originally from Chicago wouldn’t be into boar hunts or duck hunting, or anything along those lines involving firearms.

At the time, I was thinking of the ancient boar hunt.   My mind works that way, even in staff meetings.

“No, but I have seen them in the wild,” he said. “You don’t want to mess with them. I know guys that had their leg broken by the boar’s charge.”


“The heavy skull and tusks can slam up against a man’s leg and do quite a bit of damage.”

I was thinking of the engravings and ancient roman paintings of men on horseback with spears hunting a boar through the brush.  The hunters are always accompanied by dogs.

“In fact, my dad was in Patton’s Army in Germany during World War II, and they came across a boar that decided to take on a tank.”


“It came rushing out of the brush, and slammed up against the treads.”

I must have made a face. He looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It just I don’t know whether to think, ‘what a stupid beast’ or admire the creature for its ferociousness.”

This tale was the first time I think I really understood why so many legions used the boar as their symbol – a ferocious animal filled with bluster that charges in a straight line at its enemy relying on the impact of its shields (bulk) and the point of its swords (tusk) to overcome.

The Attraction of 47 BCE

I have a great wife.  She sees me eye a book at our local Barnes and Noble, and she is checking on her iphone to have it delivered in a few days.  I just opened up a book titled Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy. 

I have been thinking about this for a long time.  Why does it seem that in the Hollywood genre there have been many, many remakes of Julius Caesar, and the Marc Antony and Cleopatra love affair?  The end of the Republic seems to be the favorite time for plays, film, and paintings.   Each and every new generation – is treated to another ‘telling’ of the great love affair, told and retold in glorious TECHNICOLOR.

By the way, if you can find a still usable print of Theda Bara’s (the IT girl of the 20s…’IT’ meaning sex appeal) Cleopatra silent film you might be in for a bit of money.   There doesn’t seem to be any surviving print at this time – except for a few stills.   OK film buffs, dive into those garage sales and see what you can find.  The first one to find an intact print…let me know or sell it on ebay. 

There are still rumors of a remake of Cleopatra with Angelina Jolie or Carmen Zeta Jones.  Except I think these rumors have settled down of late.

cleo1Why Cleopatra?  Sex appeal, doomed love, a reach for empire – I get it.  However,  I am suspicious there are other times of Roman history that could provide us with a rousing tale.  There certainly has to be another story – of love and glory – out there to capture our imagination?

That is why I bow to an actress named Lorrisa Julianus out of Chicago, Illinois who produced, wrote the music and starred in a musical about the Palmyra Queen Zenobia.   She is a member of this Facebook group by the way.   SALVE JULIANUS.  Sorry…I just had to say it.

I am willing to be corrected on my premise.  Yes, there is an entire film history based on the Christian genre and the Roman World.  Yes, and there are various productions along pagan lines, the more recent Agora starring Rachel Weisz (of course this is Roman Egypt in the time of the rise of Christianity).     Eagle of the Ninth had a more pagan viewpoint (starring everybody’s favorite hunk Channing Tatum).  However, I still say there is a very strong attraction to 47 BCE by creative artists.  Tell me that I am wrong.  Give me some examples of movies and plays that have explored the rich and intricate pattern of ancient Rome, other than circa 47 BCE (give or take a 100 years).     I know the vast film history of Greek Myth – I know that well…growing up in the sixties Channel 32 played a continuous run of Italian Greek Myths all dubbed in English.  I read mythology religiously as a boy.  I still do.   I even remember a film on Romulus and Remus – in Italian…with subtitles.

Now, excuse me while I open up another book.  Nancy caught me eyeing another book:  The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor.  I shall jump into exploring the time of Mithradates.  Drat.  I’m still in that 100 years…give or take.

The Cure by Alex Gough


The Ancient Library of Alexandria holds a certain fascination for fans and historians alike. With that, Ancient Rome Refocused has invited authors to provide us their fiction (2000 words or less) on this databank of the Ancient World. The guidelines for submission are simple: a story about the Ancient Library of Alexandria and how the fire affected the protagonist.

Alex Gough

Alex Gough

Our first submission is from the pen of Alex Gough. He is a vet from southwest England and the author of the Carbo series of novels, following the scarred and traumatized veteran of the legions as he tries, and fails, to achieve a quiet retirement. Alex is married with a daughter and a small menagerie of pets.

You can go to his website at:

Sign up for Alex’s email list by sending an email to, to receive updates on new works, freebies and special offers.


Novels by Alex Gough

Watchmen of Rome

Bandits of Rome

Carbo and the Thief and Other Tales of Ancient Rome

Killer of Rome (Due for release in 2017)

Mr. Alex Gough has given permission to the blog Ancient Rome Refocused to post his work of fiction “The Cure” one time. All other rights and privileges, including permission to repost or publish, are retained by the author.



By Alex Gough

Copyright © 2016 Alex Gough. All Rights Reserved.

  Hyginos slowly, delicately unrolled the scroll, and felt the crisp papyrus beneath his fingertips. He started at the top, and read. His mouth worked as he whispered the words on the page. He was no scholar, just a moderately wealthy and moderately educated Greek Egyptian. Or at least, he had once been moderately wealthy. Physicians were expensive, and the more outlandish, the more esoteric their ideas and their cures, the higher the fee they commanded. Maybe there was some equation that linked the degree of desperation to the price the solution could command. Philosophy intersects with mathematics. But Euclid and Plato were in another bay.

  He looked up, let his eyes scan the shelves. Rows and rows of books, most of them in the form of papyrus scrolls. So much knowledge, so much information.

When he had first stepped into the Library, he had been stunned. So much knowledge, so much thought, so many ideas. All gathered into one place. And he knew, just knew, that the answer had to be here somewhere. How could it not be?

One librarian told him that no one really knew how many scrolls the Library contained. It could be as many as half a million. It was the librarians’ constant endeavor to catalogue, to expand on the original index, Callimachus’ ‘Pinakes,’ but so vast was the collection it was a Sisyphean task. More scrolls arrived every day, and the librarians worked like quarry slaves to translate and transcribe them onto papyrus. The rulers of Alexandria, the Ptolemaic dynasty that had succeeded to this part of Alexander’s Empire, had been aggressive book collectors, funding trips to book fairs in Greece, seizing books from the huge number of galleys that passed through the important trading hub (copying them and giving the copies back to the owners while keeping the originals), and of course housing the works of the many scholars who in older, safer times, had studied and taught in the Museum of Alexandria.

Maybe the Ptolemies believed that knowledge was power. Maybe they thought the mere accumulation of the physical books was a demonstration of might and wealth, a symbol like the pyramids. Hyginos didn’t care. He was here for a reason. He continued to work down the scroll, reached the bottom, rolled it up carefully and replaced it on the shelf. One of the librarians, called Stephanos, looked up from their transcription work, nodded approvingly and continued scratching at the page he was filling with Greek lettering. The librarians largely left Hyginos to his own devices, unless he asked for help.

It had been different at first, all those months ago, when he had started looking for the cure. Then, they had treated him with suspicion and distrust. Many of them seemed to believe the scrolls were there to be admired, not to be read, so concerned were they that he would mishandle their charges. Persistence and coin had paid off, and soon he was viewed as part of the furniture.

He pulled the next scroll in the work from the shelf. Empedocles ‘On Nature.’ He had read this one before, but he had found a reference to the work in a newer treatise on humours, and he wanted to go back and see if he had missed anything the first time round. He reached the bottom of the scroll, and shook his head. No, there was nothing there, nothing new, nothing that would help. His eyes teared, blurring his vision, and a single drop rolled down his nose, and fell. He jerked his head backwards just in time to avoid the liquid falling onto the scroll, and instead saw it splash on the wooden desk.

Stephanos looked up at the sudden movement and frowned. Hyginos surreptitiously wiped his eyes, and sent a false smile in the direction of the man hunched over his work. The librarian hesitated, then smiled back and continued.

Hyginos sighed, ran his hands through his hair. He looked up at the shelves again. Above them, in large, ornate lettering, read, “The Place of the Cure of the Soul.” He shook his head.

The words had seemed inspiring at first. Now he found them irritating. It wasn’t his soul that needed curing.

The rows and rows of books loomed over him, seeming to mock him. How many had he read over the last months? How many more still to read? He cursed that he hadn’t been a more diligent student as a child, which he wasn’t able to read and understand with the speed and comprehension of the better behaved children. Then, he just wanted to do well enough to avoid the cane, and leave himself plenty of time to watch the horse races and chase his father’s prettiest slaves.

He ran his fingers along the shelves, noting the lack of dust. He read too much to let dust accumulate, at least on the medicine shelves. Maybe there were other amateur scholars looking for answers to their questions in the geography or the philosophy shelves, and those departments were just as well-used. But he knew their enquiries weren’t as vital as his.

Vitality. Life. Pneuma, air. The Stoic Chrysippus believed that Pneuma helped structure all things. The disciples of Hippocrates believed that Pneuma maintained the vital heat within the body. By dissecting corpses, Praxagoras had discovered that arteries were empty and veins full of blood, and believed that the arteries conducted Pneuma around the body. Erasistratus developed these ideas further, and taught them at the academy of anatomy that he had founded here in Alexandria with Herophilos the physician. The two great anatomists were often condemned these days, for their practice of vivisecting live condemned prisoners to ascertain the body’s workings. Still, Hyginos wished he had a fraction of the skills of those great men. He pulled out the first scroll in Herophilos’ ‘Therapeutics.’

No. He had been here before. He knew what he would find. The work, promising as it was, referenced so many times by other scholars, was incomplete. Just as it started to go beyond the discussion of the basic life forces, and to elucidate actual remedies, it ended abruptly.

He was going back over ground he had already covered, he knew. Yes, there were more books to read, more information to find, but he had studied all the major texts on physiology and medicine, and the scrolls now contained less and less of relevance, more and more that was implausible and wild and unbelievable. Just the same pattern as with the doctors.

He kicked his stool away, and it clattered to the floor with a loud noise. Stephanos leapt to his feet angrily. Hyginos held up a placatory hand, and stalked out. He walked past a  lecture hall, glanced in at the orator droning on about meter in Euripides to a stuporous audience, along the peripatos walk, and into the dining room. He paid for a cup of honeyed wine, and sat, ignoring the chatter all around him from philosophers, mathematicians, geographers and astronomers. He heard the monkey cries and elephant trumpets from the zoo that the Museum housed. Beyond that he heard something more, like the shouting of a crowd, but at a huge distance.

“Hyginos!” He looked up, and saw Pausanius hurrying over to him. Despite his mood, he smiled and stood to greet his friend. He had met Pausanius at the start of his studies, and after one glass of wine too many, had shared his story. Since then, Pausanius had taken on the role of research assistant, monitoring the new arrivals in the acquisitions department where he worked.

“Pausanius,” said Hyginos. “Join me. Wine?”

Pausanius looked around suspiciously and shook his head. “The boss would send me to the mines if he caught me drinking at work.”

“Aren’t you on a break?”

“No, I just came here to find you. Stephanos told me you were here. He said you seemed to be in a temper. Still nothing?”

Hyginos sighed. He said nothing, but his expression told Pausanius everything.

“Well, I’ve got some news that just might cheer you up. Caesar may hold the answer.”

Hyginos looked at him quizzically. He turned towards the docks, where the Egyptian Navy under Ptolemy XIII had Julius Caesar’s ships bottled up. Although the siege had been going on for weeks, there seemed to be more activity than usual.

“Pausanius what are you talking about?”

“One of Caesar’s slaves arrived at the Library this morning, with a cartload of scrolls. A donation from Caesar, from his own personal library. A bribe to help him get into Cleopatra’s bedchamber no doubt.”

“And? What are you saying?”

“Hyginos, it contains the missing scrolls from Herophilos!”

Hyginos’ jaw dropped. For a moment he stared at Pausanius. Then he leapt to his feet.

“Show me. Please, show me now!”

“It’s still in the acquisitions department. The head librarian is drooling over the gifts as we speak. Wait for me by the medicine shelves. I’ll bring them to you there as soon as I can. I must go before I’m missed.”

Pausanius hurried away, and Hyginos stared after him. After all this time, was the answer in reach?

A strange, crackling noise came from the direction of the docks. Hyginos glanced towards it, then dismissed it from his mind, and rushed back into the Library.

Hyginos paced up and down like an expectant father. Stephanos shot him irritated looks, but Hyginos ignored them. At last, it was coming to him. The answer to his prayers, his entreaties to the gods, all the money he had spent, and all the research he had done.

The cure.

An acrid smell reached Herophilus’ nostrils, and he sniffed curiously. Smoke?

Pausanius entered, looking around him shiftily. He clutched an armful of scrolls to his chest. Herophilus grabbed him and guided him to a desk. He took the scrolls greedily, and started to unroll them.

“Carefully,” admonished Pausanius but Hyginos paid him no attention.

He read, cursing his slow reading. The first scroll continued the discussion of the imbalances in the humours, and how the imbalance led to the dropsy. He knew this theory, from his other research, but the writing promised much more. It told him to read on, to discover the remedy. His heart pounded, breath caught in his throat.

A slave ran into the room, shouted something, and ran out again. Pausanius and Stephanos looked at each other in alarm, then Stephanos left at a run.

Pausanis shook Hyginos by the shoulder. “Hyginos. Hyginos!”

Hyginos shrugged him off, reading as fast as he could, lips working furiously as his eyes translated the markings on the page into sentences in his mind.

“Hyginos! The Library! It is on fire. We must run.”

Hyginos stared at him blankly, his mind elsewhere.

“Caesar set fire to his own ships to destroy the Egyptian navy. The fire spread to the docks, and now it’s reached the library. It’s spreading with the speed of a race horse.”

The crackling was loud now, the stench of acrid smoke becoming overpowering. Suddenly, flames appeared at the edges of the roof beams, licking the walls like serpent’s tongues, then slithering down into the stacks of scrolls. As the flames touched the papyrus, they combusted, each scroll infecting its neighbor so they too exploded into fire.

Pausanius tried to pull Hyginos away, but he resisted. Pausanius gave up and ran for the exit. Hyginos gathered the scrolls to himself, stood, dropped a scroll and fumbled for it on the floor.

A burning beam split in two and crashed to the marbled tiles, sending up a shower of sparks. Hyginos picked up the fallen scroll and staggered towards the door. Another beam creaked above him, and the shelves turned into raging infernos, the heat searing his face. He choked on the thick smoke, and he grabbed at his throat, dropping three scrolls as he did so.

He fell to his hands and knees, scrabbling for the essential, life-saving information. He crawled forwards towards the door, keeping below the smoke. The door drew nearer, and beyond he could see the corridor that led to the garden, as yet clear from flames. He reached the exit, thrust his head forward to breathe in clear air.

The creaking beam crashed down onto his back, knocking the wind from him. The scrolls scattered.

Through eyes half blind with tears from the smoke, he saw the papyrus cylinders roll sideways against the walls. The burning walls.

The first one to touch leapt into flames in an instant. The one next to it caught a moment later. Hyginos extended a hand in desperation, but his trapped legs prevented him from reaching. He struggled, thrust with blistering hands against the thick wood, wriggled and painfully slowly, he freed himself.

He turned back to the scrolls just in time to see the last one ignite. He scrabbled towards it, smacked the flames out with his agonized hands, and then dragged himself into the garden. Flames and smoke raged all around him. Everywhere he looked were fleeing slaves, yelling librarians, screaming students. Some ran to save themselves, some tried to save the scrolls.

Hyginos painfully rose to his feet. In the confusion and destruction, no one would notice one missing scroll. He limped out of the Library and away from the fire.

His wife lay on their bed where he had left her that morning, and where she would still be when he retired for the night. The same as every day now. At first she had been more active, but the illness, the dropsy, had taken her strength. Now the slightest exertion left her breathless. He noticed that even lying still, asleep as she was now, her breathing was rapid and shallow. Her face was pale, her lips blue and her cheeks drawn in. He understood that her belly was filled with fluid, but he still marveled at how fat and how wasted she could look at the same time.

He unrolled the last surviving scroll. The outer parts were charred, unreadable, but some of the words had survived. He read them, whispering them out loud.

“And so it is clear that assiduous application of the aforementioned remedy will be completely successful in the treatment of the dropsy.”

And that was it. His fingers relaxed, the scroll dropped to the floor.

His wife stirred from her sleep.

“Hyginos,” she said, voice weak.

“I’m here, my darling.”

“Did you find anything new today?”

He swallowed, for a moment not trusting himself to speak. After a moment, he took her hand and squeezed it.

“Not yet. But I’m near, I’m sure of it. Soon I will find the cure.”

She nodded and once again closed her eyes.

  – Fini –

A Night out with the Romans

cover1On a Monday evening, August 1st 1887. 

The hot ticket is a Roman Pageant being put on by THE ORDER OF CINCINNATUS in Cincinnati, Ohio.   You stand by the window while your wife gets ready.  You kill a little time with a smoke, and that is when you hear the horses pulling up to the front door.   You send the parlor maid to hurry ‘the dear’ along.  You tighten your white tie, make sure there is no dust on your shoes and tuck at your embroidered silk waist coat.  You nub out your cigar and head to the marbled hall to wait for Eloise so that she can make her ‘grand entrance.’   At the bottom of the stairs, the front parlor maid coughs politely and points to the second floor at the top of the stairs.  Eloise sweeps down the steps, her feet barely touching the steps, she “floats”…yes “floats” down the steps.  There is something about her.  You can’t quite put your finger on it…wait…it’s her hair.  She has turned her curls into a swept back and tightly wound bun in the back of her neck.  She is wearing a wreath of flowers.  She is a Greek maiden from a Grecian Urn.  She is a nymph, a shepherd girl of a Roman Tableau.  “Exquisite,” you say.  “Helen of Troy.”  She blushes slightly, and the both of you step lively to the carriage at the bottom of the steps.


This is a show programme for a pageant held in Cincinnati back in the late 1880s (precisely 1887).   Pageants were held in my father’s youth, and they are still held today.   Your church may have held one.  A pageant has everything…music, cast hundreds, lots of armor and uniforms, animals (name it…lions, camels, bears), and dynamic scenery.  I can imagine ticket holders felt them selves slightly ‘decadent’ as they stepped out of their carriages to attend this event at:  ON THE CAMPUS, FOOT OF BANK STREET.    If anyone from Cincinnati has any idea where this may have been located in 1887 please let me know.  I imagine the pageant was grand entertainment, an instructional tool, and a way to bring attention and business to Cincinnati (Named after the great Roman General Cincinnatius – who took dictatorial powers, repelled the enemy, and returned to his farm.  It should be noted that Cincinnatius holds a certain sway for Americans as George Washington emulated the ancient general in giving up his commission and returning to Mount Vernon.  What’s more Washington has endeared himself to American History by turning his back and refusing to take part – thus stopping — a proposed coup made by Colonial Army Officers who had not been paid).

roman%20hadrian%20pageantIf your looking for an example of a pageant, just YouTube it.  You more than likely will come up with quite a few religious pageants that look like a live production of THE PASSION OF CHRIST.  One time I found a Syrian production (an excellent rock musical) of Queen Zenobia.

I can’t help to think the 1887 Cincinnati production was titillating, imaginative, over the top, and probably overacted.  You know what…it would have been fun to see.  The only thing I am a little confused about is how ROME vnder (sic) NERO was chosen for a subject and how it could have possibly reflected good Republican values.

Note* There’s actually an ad in the programme selling pants for $3.00.

The Ancient Library of Alexandria

What history conceals, fiction reveals.


This blog site will present five pieces of fiction on this ancient marvel.  The first author is Alex Gough of southwest England who has kindly consented to produce a piece of original fiction.

The title of his work:  The Cure.

What secrets were whispered and what lives  spent in the pursuit of knowledge inside the walls of an ancient testament to man’s enquiring mind?

The Ancient Library of Alexandria is certainly one of the most popular subjects when it comes to the ancient world.  This databank of the ancient world, scrolls on every subject were catalogued and made available for research.   In that time, knowledge traveled by sea.  Ships carrying books sailing into port had them confiscated, copied and returned.  Dedicated to the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts, this center of research flourished under the Ptolemaic dynasty until a fire that wiped out the contents.    What secrets were lost?

In two weeks, join us here for a tale of another world…you may smell burning paper in the air.

Ancient Rome Refocused is accepting fiction, 2000 words or less, about a protagonist’s life affected by the burning of the Library. Contact Rob Cain at

Name that Classical Connection (10)


It’s been a long time since we played NAME THAT CLASSICAL CONNECTION.    This is number 10 in the series.

I ran across this cartoon in a national magazine.  The Bull has the following on his button: “Ask me about mazes.”  This is a two part question.

What is the Greek Myth?

What U.S. national magazine do you think that the readers may actually know the joke?  Do you think the readership of the National Enquirer would get it?  Those in other countries, what publication in your country would you think that this cartoon would have the highest recognition?  

Am I being elitist?  Discuss.

Why I like M. Night Shyamalan

Lady1I want a bit of the unexplainable in my life.  I want mythos and story to enter my world.  Don’t get me wrong, I love science, but at one time everything was mythos for it was the only way to understand the world.

I know that people have been dissing M. Night Shyamalan, but I have to admit…I really like his movies.  He tells a tale that makes myth out of things one might not even consider.   One movie called Lady in the Water struck a childhood memory within me.  Have any of us…now think really hard…made up stories about the pool you visited, about the drain below…thinking as if it just might lead to another world.  Think about it…a child does not swim in a pool, but swims in an ocean, THINK REALLY HARD…you know that thought crossed your mind when you your no bigger than your mama’s knee as you held on tight to that Float Toy in that pool.  It was NOT a Float Toy,  you know that, it was a ship.  I have a strong memory, of holding onto a floating swim board and imagining ocean waves coming across the bow of my tiny ‘ship.’  I remember a man watching me, his fat belly, his unseeing eyes ‘eyeing’ me with contempt.  This is what he said to me before turning away, “…are you insane, boy?”

The world of imagination was lost to him.  He had moved on, and there was no room in his world for even a boy (which I was at the time) to dream.

That is why I love this clip from Roman Holiday.   Watch.

Tell me…weren’t you just, just for a moment swept away by a single thought that THE MOUTH OF TRUTH, actually, and truly, bit his hand off?

And if it was true, what a wonderful world that would be!

I come back to this clip every few years.  It always makes me jump.  I want the world to be made of myths.  That is why I READ, that is why I WRITE, my own attempts of novelizations of dream-like worlds in that ancient world.

That is why I like  M. Night Shyamalan’s movies, and I always will.  This director is not of this epoch.  The ancients would have loved him, and though he might not be Homer…he is Shyamalan.  His tales make me jump in the present, and would have made me jump in those ancient times…by the campfire, as the ARGO was moored and waiting…to sweep out into the deep blue sea, under that ancient moon.