Interaction between Political and Social Life in Ancient Imperial Rome
The interaction between political and social life in Ancient Rome has been accurately portrayed in the well researched novel, "The Course of Honour", by Lindsey Davies. However as this is a fictional novel told as an interesting story instead of fact, the information given must be corroborated with several primary sources to correct any inherent biases.
Lindsey Davies is an author who specialises in writing about life in Ancient Rome. Her novels are famous for the detective work of Marcus Didius Falco, with books such as "Last Act in Palmyra", "Venus in Copper", "A Dying Light in Corduba" and "The Iron Hands of Mars" winning her the Sherlock Holmes Award for the best comic detective. Born in Birmingham, she completed an English degree at Oxford University and now resides in Greenwich, England. Since most of her books are in fact detective stories, caution must be taken with biases being made to suit the story she is trying to tell, with many fact-based detective writers such as Davies herself known to stretch the truth to make the story much more exciting for the reader. This will be taken into account when analysing the historical accuracy of "The Course of Honour".
"The Course of Honour" is a book which stretches over five decades in Ancient Imperial Rome, from the reign of Tiberius in AD 31 to the eventual and successful reign of Vespasian. The book follows the political struggle faced by Vespasian, a Senator, to climb the ranks and eventually become the Emperor who "brought peace to Rome after years of strife", according to Davies. (Davies, book review) This is backed up by other sources which praises Vespasian as being-
"....strong enough to restore orderly government and to beat back the warring troops to their proper quarters." (M.Cary & TJ Haarhoff, p. 83)
"But when Vespasian, in the course of his general triumph, restored stable government to Britain..." (Tacitus, p.68)
As well as being a strong source of information about political life during this time, the novel also catalogues the struggles faced before and after marriage by Vespasians mistress, the freedwoman Caenis. Their forbidden relationship is threatened as Vespasian reaches the height of his political career. Caenis was but a footnote mentioned in history which Davies has sanctified into a wonder woman without whom Vespasians career could not have possibly succeeded. This obvious glorification of a story is an example of a bias used to make a tale more interesting, and the lack of historical sources commenting on Caenis only proves that she is nowhere near as important as Davis makes her out to be. Regardless, this novel achieves its aim as an interesting secondary source of information on Imperial Rome from two totally different perspectives- that of a slave and freedwoman, and that of an emperor. It showcases very suitably both the social and political struggles which are faced...