‘An elegant, impeccably researched exploration of early Rome and their lesser known enemies, the Etruscans. The torments of war, love, family, and faith are explored by narrators on both sides of the conflict as their cities rush toward a shattering, heart-wrenching show-down. Elisabeth Storrs weaves a wonderful tale!’
Kate Quinn, author of The Empress of Rome Saga
Why write a saga about two ancient cities?
Many thanks, Tony, for hosting me on The Writing Desk. More than fifteen years ago I found a photo of a sixth-century BC sarcophagus upon which a husband and wife were sculpted in a pose of affection. The image of the lovers intrigued me. What ancient culture acknowledged women as equals to their husbands? Or exalted marital fidelity with such open sensuality? Discovering the answer led me to the decadent and mystical Etruscan civilisation and the ten year war between early Rome and Veii.
When ancient Italy is mentioned most think of Rome as the dominant culture. Yet the Etruscans had built a cosmopolitan and extensive civilisation well before the Romans were fighting turf wars with other Latin tribes. At one stage Etruscan kings ruled Rome. The expulsion of the third and last of them was reputed to have resulted in the birth of the Republic. In fact, at its height, Etruria and its settlements extended throughout the modern regions of Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio and part of Campania and also dominated trade routes stretching from the Black Sea to northern Africa.
Learning the two rival cities of Rome and Veii were situated only twelve miles apart across the Tiber gave me the idea of exploring the differences between the society of the hedonistic Etruscans and that of the austere emergent Rome. And so, the story of a marriage of a Roman treaty bride to an enemy Etruscan man was born.
Although recent archaeological digs are revealing more about the Etruscans, their civilisation has often been dubbed “mysterious” because no literature has survived other than remnants of ritual texts. Instead, their world is revealed through their fantastic tomb art which makes clear that these people celebrated life: dancing in what appears to be ecstasy, and with wives dining in semi-transparent robes as they sit drinking wine next to their husbands.
Many worshipped Fufluns, the equivalent of the Greek god, Dionysus, whose later cult adherents were famous for indulging in debauchery. The Etruscans also followed the tenets of a sophisticated religion which raised the art of prophecy into a science. Indeed, it is the Etruscans’ ability to forsee (and even delay) fate that tempts my Roman bride, Caecilia, to defy her destiny in The Wedding Shroud, when she fears she will become a hostage to war.
Throughout the Tales of Ancient Rome saga, I have enjoyed creating strong female characters and exploring the roles of women in a warrior culture. In the second novel, The Golden Dice, I introduced two other female protagonists. Pinna is a Roman tomb whore who uses coercion to escape her wretched life and seek the attentions of Rome’s greatest general, Camillus. Semni is an Etruscan artisan who is divorced and ejected from her home after bearing an illegitimate child. She finds shelter in the House of Mastarna and unwittingly becomes involved in a conspiracy to abduct Caecilia’s son.
My latest novel, Call to Juno, is set in the final year of the siege. Pinna has won Camillus’ heart and travels with him as his army wife. Through her eyes, the reader learns of the Romans’ strategy to destroy Veii, while Semni’s interaction with Caecilia’s children ultimately results in a desperate quest for survival. And Caecilia, who was married against her will to an enemy, has grown from a frightened naïve virgin into a strong, committed mother who is free to make choices, and is empowered to hold fate in her own hands.
I hope you might be enticed to read the Tales of Ancient Rome saga. All three books have been written as standalones so readers who are new to the story can be confident they can pick up Call to Juno and be swept immediately into the Etruscan world.
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About the Author
Elisabeth Storrs has long had a passion for the history, myths and legends of the ancient world. She graduated from University of Sydney in Arts Law, having studied Classics. Elisabeth lives with her husband and two sons in Sydney, Australia, and over the years has worked as a solicitor, corporate lawyer and corporate governance consultant. She is one of the founders of the Historical Novel Society Australasia www.hnsa.org.au and a director of the NSW Writers' Centre. Feel free to connect with her through her website: www.elisabethstorrs.com and her Triclinium blog: www.elisabethstorrs.com/blog. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter @elisabethstorrs.