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The Belisarius Question

August 10, 2007

writinghand.jpgSo I have a new idea for a novel…and possibly a series of novels.

This in no way whatsoever implies that I’m abandoning work on THE SCOURGE OF ROME. Far from it. Work continues, revisions progress, and Microsoft Word groans under the weight of the prose.

This idea is more of a mental exercise…something to tuck away for later. Maybe one day I’ll write it. Maybe I won’t. Who knows?

Anyway…on to the idea:

The year is 540 A.D., and the general Belisarius is on the cusp of completing his charge, the reconquest of Italy in the name of the Byzantine emperor, Justinian. After five years of fighting his way up the peninsula, always outnumbered, always hobbled by the petty suspicions of his emperor, Belisarius is finally before the walls of Ravenna. All he must do is take it.

But there are…complications.

The Ostrogothic King of Italy, Vittigis, has approached Belisarius with the offer of empire, pledging his loyalty and the loyalty of his people if Belisarius will but break with Constantinople and declare himself emperor of the west.

In our timeline, Belisarius feigned acceptance, and made use of his ruse to capture both Ravenna and Vittigis. His reward for this cunning was to be recalled, a year later, by a jealous and suspicious Justinian.

But what if Belisarius had accepted Vittigis’ offer of empire? What if he had broken with Constantinople, and reforged the Western Roman Empire?

That question would be the premise for the novel, and pondering it leads in all sorts of interesting directions. One can imagine the newly anointed Emperor Belisarius, struggling to consolidate his newly acquired realm even as an enraged Justinian readies a massive invasion, all of his attention fixed on crushing his rebellious general.

This altered timeline could be extrapolated forward, as well. How would a reconsituted Western Empire contend with the Lombard invasions of the late 6th century, or the rapid spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries? What impact would such a political entity have upon the makeup of Medieval Europe?

All of which could, of course, be explored in further novels…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2007 8:21 pm

    I love the concept, but I know too little about the period to comment intelligently. Earlier Imperial is more my era…

  2. lostinsuburbia permalink
    August 12, 2007 9:56 pm

    I would read that. My knowledge of the time period is slim, (I did Ancient History in highschool, but we pretty much stopped at the Persin War) But I would definately read that.

  3. Matt permalink
    August 13, 2007 5:12 am

    I don’t think there are that many people out there who are well versed in this period. It falls in between the Classics and Medieval courses just as it fell smack between the fall of Rome and the rise of the Muslims/Franks/etc.

    I know just enough to be dangerous, and that is only because I wrote a paper on it once (arguing that the campaigns of Belisarius and the quick succession of the Lombard invasions created a power vacuum in the West that allowed the northern kingdoms to come into their own).

  4. lostinsuburbia permalink
    August 13, 2007 8:35 pm

    Being that it is an ‘in-between’ period, with fewer people to ride your hide about any inaccuracies then taking poetic lisence and running with the idea could prove enterprising. I always find the best novels are where an author has had the nerve to ask big questions and run with it. What If are the two most exciting words in the english langauge…IMO.

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