Grant, author and historian, is today's most published authority
on classical Rome. Dr Grant is translator of Tacitus' The
Annals of Imperial Rome (Penguin Books), and Suetonius'
The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Books) the two major ancient
histories of Rome under the Caesars. Among his more than forty
major publications on the Romans is Nero, Emperor
in Revolt (American Heritage Press, 1970).
"Imaginative, interesting... a striking example of this preposterous doctrine having influenced
the course and timing of history." -Michael Grant (History of Rome)
"Finally, we have an historically accurate work revealing how astrologers and their followers connived in the imperial court to steer the fate of the Roman Empire... A great book." - Michael R. Molnar (The Star of Bethlehem)
"Fans of astrology will delight in this compelling narrative, as will the lover of historical novels." - James Herschel Holden (A History of Horoscopic Astrology)
|A couple of weeks ago Humphry Knipe got in touch to put me right about an astrological incident of the early Roman empire. He kindly sent me a copy of his novel, which concerns another Roman incident, the death of Nero and the involvement of his freedman Epaphroditus, in the context of an almost universal belief in astrology.
Knipe has done the technical research well; by use of the astrological techniques of the day he has worked out what precisely Nero and his contemporaries would have been concerned about, while making it clear (through Epaphroditus, the narrator) that he doesn't believe a word of it himself. I'm particularly interested, because of my own long-ago researches around Eleanor of Aquitaine, that Knipe believes two horoscopes provided by the second-century astrologer Vettius Valens are in fact those cast for the times of Nero's birth and death.
My knowledge of classical times, other than astrology, is sufficiently sketchy that I did not notice any errors of detail, and the scene-setting (starting in Alexandria, then mostly in and around Rome) is convincing. The characterisation of Nero and his mother Agrippina is pretty vivid. Though I was left a bit unsure about the role in events played by early Christians (Saints Peter and Mark make several personal appearances).
Anyway, if you want a bit more ancient science with your Roman fiction than you get from Lindsey Davis, Robert Graves or Suetonius, you'll find it here.
Nicholas Whyte's Website, http://www.nicholaswhyte.info/
is rather rare these days to encounter a historical novel that
successfully evokes the spirit of bygone epochs. Not since Marguerite
Yourcenar and her novel Memoirs of Hadrian has there been much
of anything that actually places the reader, spirit and soul,
in the time period written about. One could blame the pervasive
firewall that positivist, nineteenth century scholarship set up
to prevent access to once living traditions or perhaps to our
own senses atrophied by computers and television. However, the
cause of our incapacity or unwillingness to fully appreciate and
experience things historical, becomes quite moot when one encounters
a work of such consistently high caliber as The Nero Prediction.
Knipe so fruitfully evokes the dreadful, constellated world of
the hubristic, yet musical emperor, making for a most vivifying
and engaging read. Nero comes to us through the perspective of
Epaphroditus, a slave who was brought to the emperor's mother,
who somehow foresaw her son's providence written in the stars.
After some skillful, careerist maneuverings that impress the cunning,
cut throat Nero afterwards, Epaphroditus quickly becomes a kind
of astrological yes man to the emperor, who is constantly scanning
the skies, like his mother, for signs of stellar import in regards
to his reign and of course, the fate of Rome. The author brings
the Italic characters to such astonishing life, primarily through
reviving the lost art of writing good dialogue, a capability that
few contemporary authors possess these days. The verbal exchanges
between the characters are actually more effective at evoking
the peculiarities of the time period they lived in, more so than
the physical descriptions of personae and locales, although these
are quite excellent in themselves. It is obvious that Knipe has
a very well developed ear for detail and no doubt could actually
extend the range of his hearing beyond the physical and listen
to the characters speaking out from an otherwise deeply entombed
past. In fact, Humphry so believably conjures up the Romanesque
world, that it is most likely that he did this through the extensive
study of the actual natal charts of Nero (which are included in
the appendix, along with a treatise on Neronian astrology) rather
than through the usually arid and one dimensional venues of academic
Such a unique approach allows the reader, homeopathically,
to appreciate how the Romans themselves not only heavily relied
on astrology to determine their strategies of gaining ultimate
power, but fully let the planets express themselves through them
in archonic and frequently catastrophic ways. It is unsettling
to realize just how morbidly dependant the ancients were on liver
readers, soothsayers and of course astrologers. Such a folly ridden
addiction to various forms of divination no doubt was one of the
major causes of the downfall of ancient Rome, considering that
steering an empire away from disaster by using free will didn't
stand much of a natal chance during such malefically aspected