The World of Verendus
Rome, but not as we know it…
Verendus’ world is a blend of history and legend, speculation and imagination. In this alternate first century, myths endure – Remus has killed Romulus to found Rema, and the ancient tribes of Europa live a tenuous existence alongside their imperial neighbours.
In the late second century BC – perhaps due to prolonged periods of flooding – thousands of men, women, and children of the Ambrone tribe left their Jutland homeland. Along with two neighbouring tribes, they migrated south through Europe in search of new land. In 102 BC, after years of steady advance in which no permanent settlement was secured, the Ambrone tribe was defeated by the Roman Army at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence, France). The fate of the surviving Ambrones is unclear. Most were probably captured and enslaved.
In Verendus’ alternate world, a small contingent of the tribe escaped into the Alps and eventually found their way to sanctuary on the Mediterranean island of Iolia. Independence was brief, as Rema coveted the island. Unable to withstand the invasion, the Ambrones yielded. Reman veterans settled on the island, married Ambrone women, and Iolia became an imperial province.
The story of the Ambrone tribe’s exodus has passed down through generations of Verendus’ family. His mother’s forebear, Ericus, was the survivor who led the tribe to Iolia. Verendus is named in his honour.
The Ennea is the collective name of the nine tribes of the wood. Legend claims that Enneans descended from the union of the wood sprite Nemusia and her lover, the youth Lignorus. Nemusia bore nine children and, when they came of age, each went forth across Gallia. Thus, the Ennea began.
Many Remans believe Enneans are mystics with preternatural powers; some consider them to be unlucky. Of the original nine tribes, perhaps five endure. As Rema’s territory expanded, one Ennean tribe dared to stand against the Remans and was slaughtered in its mountain refuge. Of the surviving eight, four fled to sanctuary in forests beyond the Germanian border and three sailed west. At the dawn of the Ninth Age, only the Lignoran tribe remained in Gallia.
The Lignorans had already relinquished land to Rema when, in the Seventh Age, the first Ambrone migrants reached southern Gallia and encroached on Old Lignora. Unable to repel the migrants, the Lignorans formed an alliance with Rema and routed the Ambrone tribe at the Battle of Atrox. For the Lignorans, it was a hollow victory. Rema recognised the land’s strategic importance and coveted the fertile soil. Concerned that the Lignorans lacked the strength to defend land so close to the Alps and its own Italian border, the Senate declined the agreed payment of Lignoran gold and refused to withdraw its troops. To avoid further conflict, the beleaguered Lignorans signed the Atrox Treaty and accepted Rema’s offer of territory in the forests of Aquitania and a pact of non-aggression. They moved west, away from Old Lignora, and the province – now called Gallia Narbonensis – ceded to Rema’s authority.
Lignorans are erudite, industrious, and proficient in the arts. By combining utility with elegance, their expertise as locksmiths is renowned. They demonstrate extensive knowledge of hygiene and medicine, boasting myriad cures and potions, such as the opium-based analgesic somniferum.
In his final years as emperor, Domitianus persecuted the Lignorans, increasing Reman military presence on the borders of the small realm and raising tariffs on Lignoran goods. Following the death of Emperor Domitianus, Lignora demanded an end to the sanctions imposed during his reign, and a reform of the Atrox Treaty. His successor has yet to address these issues.
The Praetorian Guard
Ancient Rome’s Praetorian Guard began as a select unit of troops that served as an elite bodyguard force. The Guard’s original remit, along with its numbers, was expanded by Emperor Augustus and further adapted over time. Officers of the Guard were paid higher salaries, received more privileges, served a shorter term, and outranked their equivalent officers in the legion. The Guard’s emblem is a scorpion.
The number of Praetorian cohorts (an infantry formation of six centuries) was often changed by the current emperor. To further complicate matters, the size of a Praetorian cohort is disputed by historians and may consist of 500 or 1,000 men. During the reign of Domitian, it is possible there were ten cohorts, each perhaps a thousand strong. Three cohorts were based at Rome; the rest were billeted in neighbouring towns and places of special importance, such as the Mint at Lugdunum (Lyon, France) and the port of Ostia (Italy) where much of Rome’s grain supply arrived. In The Serpents of Caesar series, this concept has been developed to create small satellite castra to house these cohorts – one of which is located in Iolia.
Featured in The Serpents of Caesar series
* Fictional legions featured in The Serpents of Caesar series
Ericus Vedius Verendus
As a child, Verendus longed to become an artist – his parents had other ideas. Boys of his social class didn’t dabble with parchment and pigments, they went into politics or law. The first step of a political career usually began with a year’s service in the Army, so Verendus duly set aside his parchment, packed his kit, and started training with Legio XXIII Victrix. A transfer to the newly formed Legio III Gemina took him to Auster Grenorum in Germania Inferior. The first of two special commendations brought him to the attention of Emperor Domitianus. An offer of a Commission in the Praetorian Guard followed. To the disappointment of his parents, Verendus accepted.
You can read more about Verendus’ early service in the story Tribunus. This prequel to The Serpents of Caesar series is set in a legionary camp near the Germanian border. When Verendus accompanies an expedition to inspect the newly unearthed battleground where Second Legion Minervia fell, he is shocked by what he finds there. Amid the horror of a sacrificial grove is a strange barbarian symbol. A symbol that will haunt him for the rest of his life…