The official blog of Historical Fiction author, Mary Anne Yarde, and home to The Coffee Pot Book Club. Come and join Mary Anne on the hunt for everything historical, as well as mythological. Oh, and let's not forget the odd book or two! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
Author’s Inspiration ~ Brian Kitchen #HisFic #Romans @Oldbrookender
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
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
Remains of the Barrack blocks at Segontium
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
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.
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
Should you wish to know
more about Flavius & his friends, you can find me at: