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Historical novels from the 2nd für das 21st century


Donnerstag, 28. Juli 2016

Another inscription: The most extraordinary dedication to Diana Mattiaca

There is not really much to be seen on this stone. That is because it has spent decades exposed to the erosive conditions near the hottest thermal fountain of Wiesbaden and, as a consequence, has decayed more that its original that is kept in our museum. The inscription reads:

Antonia Postuma / T(iti) Porci Rufiani leg(ati) / [l]eg(ionis) XXII P(rimigeniae) P(iae) F(idelis) [pro sa]lu/te Porciae Rufianae / filiae suae Dianae Mat/tiacae [ex] voto / signum posu[it]

Antonia Postuma, wife of Titus Porcius Rufianus, Legate of the 22nd Legion called P(rimigeniae) P(iae) F(idelis), has dedicated this memorial to Diana Mattiaca to commemorate the healing of her daughter Porcia Rufiana.
The 22nd legion had its base camp or rather fortress (castra) in Mogontiacum, modern Mainz, opposite the river Rhine about 6 km from where the stone was found. Rufianus was evidently a member of the ancient senatorial House of Porcii that had produced Cato the Elder as one of its most illustrious descendants, but that is all we know about him, and the genealogical tables of the Porcii do not include him nor his wife and daughter. There is no information on the nature of Rufiana's illness.
As elusive is the goddess Diana Mattiaca who is not attested in any other inscription. At least the reference to the name of the town, Aquae Mattiacorum, is evident - the Mattiaci had been the local Germanic tribe; according to Tacitus they were a splinter group of the mighty Chatti. But why would they have need for their own special Diana?

In her case I have a hypothesis: I believe that Diana Mattiaca is a camouflage of Sirona, otherwise known in Wiesbaden from the dedication by Iulius Restitutus, described below on this blog. Sirona has often been depicted with a male consort, Grannos, and in the Interpretatio Romana, the pair of them were commonly switched into Diana & Apollo (especially when Sirona's aspect as goddess of the moon and the nightly sky came into play). Postuma may have considered it inappropriate for a senatorial lady to revere a barbarian goddess; hence, Diana Mattiaca may have been made up ad hoc to mention Sirona in a way that the Roman high society would find acceptable.

If that is true, then Legatus Porcius Rufianus may actually have met Iulius Restitutus, curator of Sirona's temple, from the other inscription that had been found not too far away.

The potential consequences of their meeting, and the "disease" his daughter was to be cured from, we have elaborated on in the first story arc of our novel series, Romanike. I hope Rufianus' immortal soul will forgive us that we have twisted him into the most ruthless villain of our entire cast. ;-)

Dienstag, 12. Juli 2016

Restitutus' Stone: A Roman inscription that is very special for me

I have quite a special relationship to this inscription. Its original was found in the centre of my home-town of ‪#‎Wiesbaden‬, near the Upper Germanic Limes, andit is kept by the local museum. This replica, made with the original colours restored, is on display in the museum of the Kult-Ur-Institut in Bettendorf, Germany. 

The plate was once attached to the wall of a temple, dedicated to the Gaulic goddess Sirona, that must have been located near the Schützenhof well in Wiesbaden. The dedicant was one Caius Iulius Restitutus, introduced here as "Curator Templi" (it is not known what functions were allocated to this office), who paid the inscription "DE SUO POSUIT", from his own assets.

Restitutus is the only citizen of Roman Wiesbaden - or Aquae Mattiacorum - who is attested twice, for he reappears in a fragmented name list of dedicants of another edifice. For some reason, this fact touched me when I learned about it, and it stuck in my mind. Thus, when I started planning to write "Romanike", a six-volume series of novels set at the Upper Germanic limes, it came quite naturally that I made Iulius Restitutus my protagonist. I am afraid I did not treat him too well, and the actual Restitutus would be horrified if he knew what I have done to him! :-)

Years of actively dealing with this character have somewhat blended reality and fiction in my mind. Now, when we visit our local museum again or that in Bettendorf, and regard this epigraph, I get a feeling as if it was "my" Restitutus who has left his authentic record there. And I know that my wife feels the same.

Dienstag, 26. April 2016

A new exhibition in New York: Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms

"This exhibition will bring together some 264 artworks that were created through the patronage of the royal courts of the Hellenistic kingdoms, with an emphasis on the ancient city of Pergamon. Examples in diverse media—from marble, bronze, and terracotta sculptures to gold jewelry, vessels of glass and engraved gems, and precious metals and coins—reveal the enduring legacy of Hellenistic artists and their profound influence on Roman art. ... Numerous prominent museums in Greece, the Republic of Italy, other European countries, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United States will ... be represented, often through objects that have never before left their museum collections."

Inscription by Claudius Balbillus, Alexandria
Why I mention this? Because the Hellenistic kingdoms presented in this exhibition feature prominently in our novels. The object called "Opus Gemini" that plays such a central rôle was held by Tiberius Claudius Balbillus, a historical character related by marriage to the royal house of Commagene, one of the last Hellenistic kingdoms to become absorbed by the Roman Empire. His also historical grandchild Iulia Balbilla, who calls herself basilíssa, "of royal descent", is the instigator of the plot against the Emperors that is told in the second story arc of the "Romanike" series.

The "Opus Gemini", by the way, is a close cousin of the Antikythera Mechanism, copies of which have in winter been on display in Basel, Switzerland. Some objects of the Antikythera shipwreck that hosted the Mechanism are now also in the Met. You may see the findings and then read the books to find out about a potential story behind them!