Look back over the past, at the empires that rose and fell, and predict the future. Marcus Aurelius (or Catilius, in my fictional semi-parallel world.)
There are – as there are in almost all multigenerational sagas – two areas of focus in my books: the personal arcs of my characters, and the political/social background against which those character arcs unfold, and by which they are challenged and tested and developed. In Empress & Soldier, the political plot was a different challenge for me, the writer, because my knowledge of Roman political history outside the major events in Roman Britain and a few highlights elsewhere is fairly limited.
The Odrysian Kingdom, which existed from the early 5th century BC at least until the mid-3rd century BC, was one of the most powerful of its time. Throughout much of its early history it remained an ally of Athens; eventually, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father, would conquer it. But in the early part of the common era it was under Roman control, and in one jurisdiction, there was a proconsul governor named Lucius Primus.
According to Dio (54:3:2) Lucius Primus (or he might have been Marcus Primus) stood trial in 22 CE for starting a war against the Odrysae. The Odrysae were Thracian, and Thrace had been an important ally of Rome, especially in the Battle of Actium. Why Lucius Primus started this war I haven’t yet been able to find out, but apparently it was ‘unauthorized’ by Augustus. (Starting a war against allies doesn’t appear at first glance to be a good move on a governor’s part.) He swore he had Augustus’s approval; Augustus said he didn’t…and Lucius Primus was eventually executed.
The event is mentioned by Dio because it’s important in Augustus’s gradual expansion of power: the jurisdiction Lucius Primus governed was a senatorial province, and it should have been the senate that decided the governor’s fate without Augustus’s interference. That’s not what caught my attention. In furthering the history of my fictional world, I needed a reason for my antagonists (a family) to have a grievance against the Emperors. So this little bit of history served as a template. A governor who starts a war he shouldn’t have, a trial and execution….and then imagination created a son who, exonerated because he was serving in another province nurses his grievance and plans a long, multi-generational game of revenge – a game he trains his nephew in as well.