It is with the greatest of pleasure that I welcome Historical Fiction author, Brian Kitchen, back onto the blog today to talk about the inspirations behind his book…
‘Rich with historical detail’ – Richard Foreman
Britain, February 392 AD.
Flavius Vitulasius is at his father’s villa in Ad Trivonam when he receives a letter from his boss, Aulus, informing him of his latest mission.
Flavius is a former soldier who is now a Magistriani. He works with his friend Siward.
The Roman Empire is on the brink of civil war.
The Western Roman Emperor Valentinian has died in mysterious circumstance following a long running dispute with the commanding general of his army, Arbogastes, a Frank.
It is feared that Arbogastes has a candidate he will install on the Western throne as his puppet.
The Eastern Emperor Theodosius, fears that the Empire will once more be plunged into civil war. The war chest is depleted, and Theodosius needs the money to finance an army.
Previously Emperor Theodosius spared the lives of the usurper Magnus Maximus’ wife Elen and their two children when he was overthrown.
Emperor Theodosius wants Flavius and Siward to find Elen. She might know what happened to the Silver Host, a treasure believed to have been hidden by Magnus and his men that can fund the looming civil war.
Joined by their friend Lucius, their mission takes Flavius and Siward throughout Britain and Segontium and across the sea to Hibernia in search of the Silver Host.
Yet an old enemy always seems one step ahead of them: the Saxon woman, Gunhilde, who is working for Arbogastes’ chief agent in Britain.
In Hibernia Flavius and his friends must infiltrate a dangerous court to free a man with vital information. However, what affect will their actions have in the perilous court of the High King?
Returning to Britain, Flavius, Lucius and Siward finally learn the truth about the Silver Host, but a more dangerous situation has now arisen.
The political situation is now on a knife edge.
Flavius, Siward and Lucius soon find out that those who they once thought of as friends will now betray them. A woman who was abandoned and abused as a child, and a group of women loyal to the Goddess, are now their biggest threat.
Rich with historical detail and intrigue, Dark Betrayal is an action adventure and a must for anyone interested in the time when Rome’s rule was threatened by political intrigue and barbarian uprisings.
|Remains of the Barrack blocks at Segontium|
Elen Luyddog (Elen of the Hosts)
I’ve always been fascinated in the old Welsh legends and particularly those about Magnus Maximus, who was declared Emperor by the Roman troops in 383ad. When I came to write ‘Dark Betrayal’ the second novel in my ‘Divided Empire’ series I wanted to include Elen and the surviving members of her family in the story. The historical records of the time do not mention Magnus Maximus’ wife’s name, but she is known to have sought spiritual counsel from St. Martin of Tours during his time at Trier. Nor is her fate after Magnus’ downfall recorded, though the records do state that the Emperor Theodosius spared the lives of Magnus’ mother and his daughters. Magnus and Elen’s eldest son, Flavius Victor had been hunted down and killed by Theodosius’ general, Arbogastes, after Magnus’ defeat.
Wanting to find more information on Elen it was to the ‘The Dream of Macsen Wledig’ that I turned. ‘The Dream of Macsen Wledig’ in the ‘Mabinogion’ tells Maximus’ story, but also that of his wife Elen Luyddog, ‘Elen of the Hosts’. In the legends, Elen is said to have been the daughter of Eudaf Hen, also known as Octavius the old. Eudaf held the title of Dux Gewissei and is said to have held as part of his lands, Arfon, the area around Segontium, the modern-day Caernarvon in North Wales. Marriage to Elen was said to have given Magnus Maximus control of the Segontium based troops who became his personal bodyguard. Whilst doing my research I also managed to find possible names for his daughters. The name Sevira or Severa (as I have called her in my book) is carved on the Pillar of Eliseg, an early medieval carved stone in Wales and she is said to have married Vortigern, king of the Britons, who those of you who have read the Arthurian legends will have come across before. Another of Magnus and Elen’s daughters may possibly have married Ennodius, the Proconsul of Africa and her name might have been Aelia. The legends also record that Magnus and Elen had a younger son, Constantine, who was only an infant when his father was killed.
Some accounts have Elen being Magnus Maximus’ second wife, his first being Ceindrech. Magnus and Ceindrech are said to have had two sons, Owain, who became the King of Glywysing which embraced Glamorgan in S.E. Wales. The other son was said to have been Antonius Donatus, the ancestor of the Kings of the Isle of Man. When Magnus set off with his army for Gaul, Antonius Donatus is said to have set himself up as the King of Strathclyde and Galloway. This could have been part of the enigmatic Roman British province of Valentia, which some scholars think was situated in the stretch of land between Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall.
|A general view of the Porthmadog area|
So, how did Elen gain the title of ‘Elen of the Hosts’? One account has that as Elen accompanied Magnus on his conquest of Gaul and had marched with her husbands’ army, she earned the epithet of ‘Luyddog’ meaning ‘of the Hosts’. Another account in the Welsh Triads, says that Elen and her brother Cynan led one of the ‘Three Silver Hosts of the Island of Britain’. Each of the Silver Hosts numbered 21,000 men and were so called because the gold and silver of Britain went with them (to pay the troops no doubt). Cynan’s forces were said to have consisted of a large contingent from Siluria (Gwent, Wales) and Gorwenydd (Glamorgan, Wales). As a reward for his participation in the campaign, Cynan was given land, dominion and authority in the area which included the old Roman coastal command called the Armorican Tract. The descendants of these British troops of Cynan’s who settled there, may have been the Armoricans who were part of Aegidius’ army in Gaul (455-464ad).
In ‘Dark Betrayal’ Magnus’ son Owain is still living and I have the Roman villa at Llantwit Major as being his home. Ruins of a Roman bathhouse were discovered at Tremadog, a village near Porthmadog, Gwynedd, Wales and in my book this features as the bathhouse of a villa that Flavius and his friends stay at in Brannogenium whilst they are travelling with Elen and her daughters to see Owain. The whereabouts of Brannogenium isn’t exactly known, but I took a writer’s liberty and placed it at Tremadog, postulating that the Lleyn peninsula would have needed a market town and there didn’t appear to be any others in the area.
|The reconstructed Roman Villa|
We’ll probably never know for sure whether Elen was Magnus Maximus’ wife, but I like to think so and do believe that the Welsh legends probably give a good account of her life.
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About the author
I live in Burton upon Trent, England and am married to Lynne and have a son, Mark and two tortoise shell cats, Tansy & Zoe. I enjoy walking in the countryside, photography, reading, writing, visiting museums and historic sites & buildings and supporting Burton Albion.
I first became interested in the history of Roman Britain as a child and loved the 'Eagle of the Ninth' trilogy of novels by Rosemary Sutcliff. When I was older I read & studied all that I could about the history of the period, visiting many museums and archaeological sites to further improve my knowledge. I am a member of The Association for Roman Archeology.
I've always had a passion for writing and when I retired from Local Government Health & Social Services, I wrote a guest column in our local newspaper for two years and also decided to write novels set in late 4th Century CE Roman Britain. The first of the Flavius Vitulasius Novels, 'Divided Empire' is my first published novel, but there are many more to come and the second novel is nearing completion. I hope that you enjoying reading the novels as much as I've enjoyed writing them.
Should you wish to know more about Flavius & his friends, you can find me at:
Twitter: Brian John Kitchen @Oldbrookender