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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Five: History and Theology

(For the record, the "History and Theology" I'm referring to is "real world" stuff; not BSG universe stuff.  That'll come in a later post.)

If you've read Book Five and don't mind having the curtain pulled back a bit and the magic spoiled, read on ...

Everything's VERY SPOILERY so it'll all come after the JUMP.

SERIOUSLY.  Lots of SPOILERS for Book Five follow.

You were warned.

See that guy up there?  That's the 58th emperor of the Roman Empire, Maxentius.  (No, not Maxentius IX, but still.)  He had a brother Constantine and a nephew Constantine, whose wife was Fausta.  For Maxentius IX's family, I gender-flipped them and made his brother Faustus and his sister-in-law Constance.  In the book, Maxentius IX had a late wife, Milla, named for real Maxentius' wife, Maximilla.

That's just a taste of the real Roman Empire I injected into the Tiberian Empire.  If you peruse the glossary I posted last week you'll see that there are loads of names and titles directly lifted from the Roman era.  Lazy?  Well, that's one word for it.  You might think so, but I'd disagree.

The Roman Empire's workings are both familiar and alien.  We all know a bit about it but the details can seem odd at times, in part because it's so antiquated.  That is instant verisimilitude.  By crafting the Tiberian Empire to be a bigger and longer-lasting version of Rome, it can feel that much more real to the reader.  Plus, I already named the leader of the nation "Caesar" in Book Three so I was kinda locked into it.  (I'd also say that perusing all of that history to find the pieces that best serve this story is not lazy at all.  But that's just me.)

Other historical tidbits ...

The ancient consul that Maxentius speaks about (the one who was in debt by millions and waged wars across the continent to pay off those debts and advance his career) is Julius Caesar.

The first emperor of Tiberia is stated to have been Gaius Marius Caesar.  Gaius Marius was a Roman general on the losing side of a civil war.  Gaius Julius Caesar was, of course, Julius Caesar, a dictator of Rome and not really an emperor.  His adopted son, Augustus (née Gaius Octavius) was the true first emperor of Rome.

Legate Lucius Sullivan is someone from Tiberia's past who is reviled by Maxentius IX.  Sullivan is named after Lucius Sulla, a dictator of Rome who engaged in a civil war rife with bloody recriminations, earning the fear and distaste of many in the patrician class.

The concept of "sanctitas soli" ("sanctity of the soil") with the old tradition that a Tiberian ruler can't step off Tiberian soil comes from the ancient Roman rules regarding praetors and consuls, which stated that they couldn't leave Rome during their term of office.  The actual idea, however, came from the story of a statue of George Washington in the United Kingdom.  In the early 1900s, a statue of Washington was being erected in Trafalgar Square, but our first president famously said he would never set foot on English soil again.  So, my home state of Virginia shipped over a big box of Virginia dirt so that the statue doesn't have to actually stand on English soil.

The Triumph.  We see two in the book and both are designed to pretty closely follow what we know about the lavish spectacles of Roman triumphs from way back when.  Prisoners were carted around on display; treasures from the invaded lands were tossed into the crowds; even the order of the procession is close to what we know about Roman triumphs.  Maxentius IX has his face covered in red to match the terracotta coloring of the statues of Saturn in the church ... just like Julius Caesar and great commanders were triumphed with red paint to match the coloring of statues of Jupiter.

More on the Triumph ... Quirinus is mentioned as an ancient Tiberian god of war.  In fact, Quirinus was a pre-Jupiter god of ancient Rome whose name is believed to mean "spear." ... Myrtle and the sun featured in ancient Roman cults and worship. ... Saturn is the Romanized form of Cronus, of course, just like Polus is the Roman name for Coeus, who was a Titan representing the intellect.  In Roman myths, there were groups of gods who were worshipped as Triads.  Jupiter (Zeus), Mars (Ares) and Quirinus formed an early Triad.  Jupiter, Minerva (Athena) and Juno (Hera) formed a later Triad.  In Maxentius' Triumph chapter, I combined lots of different elements to show that the modern Tiberian emperors were paying homage to the ancient gods.  (Of course, since Larsa never worshipped the Olympians -- only the Titans -- I had to switch out some deities, too.)

All of that gods talk brings me to the mythology side of things ...

Man, this was fun.  It was difficult and occasionally stressful, but it ended up being really fun.

One of my favorite things about writing all of the Lords of Kobol books has been figuring out ways to incorporate ancient stories and tales into a setting that is "modern" and/or "near-futuristic."  In the trilogy, the biggest such example would be the whole Prometheus storyline in Book Two.  In the Greek myths, Prometheus was punished by Zeus for giving knowledge to mankind that Zeus didn't want shared.  In my stories, that knowledge was information about the Olympians themselves and The One True God.  Most of the myth I dealt with in the trilogy, though, was directly tied to the mythology of the TV show and not ancient Greece.

Not so with Book Five.  I could go whole hog, as it were.  I studied up on the Titans and their struggles with the Olympians and found a wealth of inspiration.

I stated in an earlier post that the story everyone knows about when it comes to the Titans is the whole "Cronus eating his children" thing and "Zeus escapes being devoured because Cronus ate a stone instead."  It might blow your mind to know all the different layers of conflict between the different layers of deities.

First, there are the primordial gods, chief among whom are Ouranos (sky) and Gaia (earth).  Naturally, these two were the first test runs, if you will, for what would later become the Psilons.

In ancient myth, the monstrous Cyclopes were the children of this pair, so having Ouranos create the mechanical Cyclops himself made sense.

The children of Ouranos and Gaia were the Titans and they are Cronus, Rhea, Coeus, Crius, Mnemosyne, Iapetus, Hyperion, Theia, Tethys, Oceanus, Themis and Phoebe.  They ruled ancient Greece in what was known as The Golden Age.

The Titans overthrew the primordial gods, largely thanks to Cronus castrating Ouranos (thus the scene wherein Cronus shoots Ouranos in the groin before killing him).

The children of the Titans became, in part, the Olympians.  Here is where the dividing line is in ancient Larsa compared to us.  In the Attican polytheistic religion, there weren't any Olympian gods; the Pantheon was Cronus and his Titans, not Zeus and his gods.  Zeus, we discovered, was the name of a minor demigod character in the old stories that "good" Cronus just happened to like.

So, in ancient Greek myth, there is the Titanomachy, a war against the Titans.  Its most famous story is the aforementioned "Cronus eating his kids" tale.  He ate them in order of their birth: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon.  Rhea, their mother, didn't care for this so she helped little Zeus escape and conned Cronus into eating a stone instead.  Then he puked, throwing up (whole, apparently) the rest of his siblings.

I'm not one to brag because I'm intensely self deprecating.  Truly.  Ask my wife.  But I think my solution to this story and the manner in which I dragged it into the BSG universe was damn near perfect.  (Right down to having Cronus' mouth slammed into a stone desk before he "devoured" Zeus.)  I won't get more specific to avoid further spoilerage.

After the Titanomachy comes the Gigantomachy, the war of the giants.  After their overthrow, the Titans send giants after the Olympians.  The account of Apollodorus goes into the greatest detail, such as it is, including the names of various giants, which Olympians they fought and how the Olympians dispatched them all.

Again, I had fun with this.  I didn't want the war between the Titans and the Olympians to drag on and on as wave after wave of soldiers or whatever fought against each other while the Cylons ravaged Larsa.  Instead, I made the giants part of Cronus' war against Zeus.  If you click that link above for Apollodorus' account, you'll see that all of the giants' names in Book Five come from there, including how they were killed (I had to switch out some Olympians for others since they weren't born yet in the LoK series).  Clytius is set on fire; Mimas is pierced by rods of metal from Hephaestus' forge; Porphyrion attacks and tries to rape Hera before Zeus kills him; Athena straight-up flays a dude ... it's all there.

The last of the assails against the Olympians is directed at Zeus from Gaia (oddly, given her previous assistance) and is called the Typhonomachy.  A gigantic monster, Typhon, is sent to kill him and Zeus eventually is victorious.

Again, I didn't want three rounds of warfare between the Titans and the Olympians, so I folded Typhon and the Giants into the main Titanomachy.  It's more action packed and keeps the story moving, I believe.

A couple of other mythological tidbits: in the Greek Titanomachy, Zeus uses ancient monsters called the Hekatonkheires ("the hundred-handed ones") to defeat the Titans.  There are three, named Briareus, Cottus and Gyes.  I managed to get them into the book by having multi-limbed "super Cylons." ... Zeus and Rhea are siblings, but I wanted to make the incest a bit more palatable by having them be the children of a different Cronus-Rhea couple.  (Wait, didn't I already mention this somewhere?) ... Bouncing over to Tiberia for a sec, the Phaethon Project was named after the son of the Greek god Helios who took over his dad's sun-chariot duties for a day, nearly driving it into the Earth and burning it up. ... The Cylon city of Thera is named after a Greek city remembered as the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history some 3,600 years ago.

That's it for today.  Another behind-the-scenes post will come tomorrow.

Thanks again for reading.

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