It should come as no surprise that a book series about Gladiators has classical influences. The great Roman and Greek civilizations, and to a lesser extent the Persian and Celtic civilizations that shared the same time-space have fascinated me since I was a child. I encountered an old picture-book, aimed at young men, that described the military aspects of Rome. It was full of lovely illustrations and pictures of swords older than Jesus, and even contained a single page describing Gladiators and the arena. Much later, in high School, I had the pleasure of deliving into the Classical period in Latin Class, taught by a brilliant, enthusiastic woman named Mrs Bell. I was terrible with the language, but my love of the historical aspects helped buoy my grades. The culmination of that trip was a visit to Italy, where one of the places that we visited was the Colosseum While we were there a person tried to commit suicide by jumping from the old arena. There was a kind of magical irony to that: perhaps the old building still hungered for the good old days when the blood ran freely!
I could go on at length about how the decline of Classical education in schools has shut our students off from some of Western civilizations greatest sources of strength. After all, it is the Renaissance, the rediscovery of those great, old civilizations that truly lifted us from the torpor of the middle ages. However, it is evening on a Sunday, and I don’t really see the need to get worked up today. Perhaps some other time.
The Domains of the Chosen is about an Empire that is very similar to Rome in many ways. The political structure of the Domains is patterned after ideas that come out of Roman and Byzantine history. Even the Factions have their genesis in classical ideas. Krass is the great city at the heart of the Empire, analogous to Rome. The Domains are like the Roman provinces. The early provincial Governors of the Roman Republic and Empire gained tremendous power from their charges, not exactly like the Chosen, but Rome certainly had its super-heroic men, like Caesar. The politics of the Roman empire was much more diverse than the middle ages, with numerous competing institutions and powers. The Domains are similar. Even the limited amount of politics that the Gladiators are allowed to see is dominated by numerous forces competing for power: the Factions, the Chosen, the Deliberative. The political stew of an Empire is a very different flavour from feudal based medieval fantasies. In the second book, Gavin starts to get curious about forces he surmises must exist, but has not encountered.
The law is another factor that is key in classical civilizations especially the Romans. Our system of law has its true roots in those ancient courts, places where rhetoric, reason, and precedence governed the affairs of men more often than superstition. This law was a monolithic force unto itself, something we in modern days are well familiar with. The Gladiators in Bloodlust are conditioned to follow the Covenant, including using their magic in prescribed fashion. The very idea of “forbidden magic” and the Deliberative, a body that regulates the use of magic is rooted in that kind of legal system. The Domains are the type pf society that is governed by the ebb and flow of power, where the decision makers constantly compete to change and exploit the law instead of bowing to some sort of absolute. If their had been magic in Rome, real magic, it would have been governed by law… after all they regulated religion.
The very idea of an institution of Gladiatorial combat comes to me from Classical history. The Gladiatorial games of Romes provide the foundations of the Great Games of the Domains. The Roman games were elabourate, and fantastical, as well as occasionally debauched. These days we tend to focus on the bloody and the bizarre from these old accounts, but in the days of my youth I was very interested to read about the many different types of Gladiators (the easiest analogy to RPG classes I have ever seen) with their distinct armour and fighting styles. The types of matches from beast fights, to reenactments of famous battles, even the flooding of the Colosseum for “naval battles”. These are the roots of my ideas for the Great Games. The idea of “bread and circuses”, how the games were often used to distract the people of Rome is also important to understanding the Domains.
The structure of the empire that is the Domains of the Chosen, the idea of legal regulations, and the basis for the Gladiatorial combat of the Great Games are all rooted in my love of classical civilization. Much of the imagery and ideology that I favour in Bloodlust is meant to evoke those old ideas, which still have a strong enough hold on our imaginations.