Breathing Life Into Ancient History
Grierson, Josephine Annabelle
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The Last Roman is a historical novel based on fact that was inspired by the fifth century letters of Sidonius Apollinaris, writer, poet, soldier, diplomat, bishop and Saint. It is set in ancient Gaul, Italy and Spain between the years 410 and 489 AD. These years encompassed the invasion of barbarian tribes across the frozen River Rhine; the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in which Attila the Hun was defeated by the Roman general, Flavius Aetius; the Fall of Rome and the beginning of the Dark Ages. The Last Roman centres on Sidonius’ personal journey through the upheavals of his times and explores some of their causes. It touches on a wide range of themes including conflict and loyalty, love and grief, religion and philosophy. It is written in the omniscient, first and third person voices. It uses excerpts from fifth century written artefacts and the first person voice with the intention of helping Sidonius’ own writing to find a new audience and transcend time. Through the use of a multi-protagonist cast and polyphonic points of view The Last Roman aims to rebalance and reanimate history by putting back or creating characters such as women, slaves and the working classes whose voices are missing or under-represented in the historical record. It employs a trans-temporal accent in order to make it easily accessible to a modern audience that does not necessarily have any prior knowledge of or interest in late antiquity and the classical era. In exploring Sidonius’ own existential crises and the ways in which other key characters react to changing circumstances it speaks directly to us today about what it means to be a civilised human being.