Monday, March 12, 2012


I’ve walked dozens of miles of museum corridors and braved the elements while visiting historical sites to feed my addiction to the past. Even a small tidbit of research for a current WIP makes this one a happy writer. You can understand why, then, I need the historicals I read and write to be historically accurate.

One element of historical accuracy is avoiding the dreaded anachronism. An anachronism is a chronological inconsistency of person(s), events, objects, technology, language or customs from different periods of time. Vocabulary is easy to check with a dictionary or web reference that includes the first year a word is documented as used in the English language. The Lincoln with a boom box pic is a quaint illustration of an anachronism but others are far more difficult to detect. Take for instance, this pic:

        A second century Roman would identify the monument as the magnificent Mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian and wonder at its sorry state. An early fifth century Roman would describe it as both monument and fortress, a part of the Aurelian wall, that failed to protect Rome from the invading Visigoths in 410 AD. In the sixth century, while still a fortress (minus the rooftop garden and golden cap), the remaining bronzes and marble statuary were tossed down onto the invading Goths, another failed defense. For centuries the castle, as a property of the papacy, was stripped of its few treasures and architecture to use in the construction of  St. Peter’s. Castel Sant’Angelo topped with a statue of St. Michael was made over in the 14th century into a fortified retreat for the pope in turbulent times of which there were many and a prison for those who ran afoul of the Church. An observer today would identify the structure as a location for Angels and Demons.
            Amazona, one of my works in progress, is the story of a Pictish warrior princess who masquerades as a gladiator to journey with her war band from Caledonia (ancient Scotland) to Rome to rescue her kidnapped brother. While on her quest, Amazona (one of two Latin words for a female gladiator) meets Marcus, a noble Roman general, who vows to assist her—for a price. In 409 AD the building in Amazona MUST be the intact mausoleum which would have been converted into a walled fort but still contains the statuary, garden and golden top – a nice location for a courtship, assault, or rescue. BTW, many contemporary sources from this period survive and have been translated and posted to the internet, including extensive info on gladiators.             Next month, Pet Peeves    

Rita Bay
"Celebrating Romance Across the Ages" with Rita Bay’s Blog
"Into the Lyon's Den" Champagne Books, August, 2012


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Excellent examples. You've already addressed one of my pet peeves. See you next month.

Rita Bay said...

THanks, Julie. WOuld love to hear from readers and authors about their pet peeves by commenting or emailing me at Will include them in next month's blog. Rita Bay

Unknown said...

See, this is why I've never tackled a historical. I live in fear of anachronism and inaccuracy! Glad you don't have the same phobia, Rita. Great post.

January Bain said...

Rita,great examples! Looking forward to next month's post as well.

Allison Knight said...

Unfortunately, the problem with writing historicals is that with research the temptation to find out more. You spend so much time going back to verify and forget to write. And you gotta love the research.

Allison Knight said...

Unfortunately, the problem with writing historicals is that with research the temptation to find out more. You spend so much time going back to verify and forget to write. And you gotta love the research.

Rita Bay said...

Ute, January & Allison, Thank you for visiting. Editors pick up most errors and I must admit to being blessed. However, there's so much available on the internet that research has become much easier. Allison Knight is a great example of authors who use historicl detail to make a great read. Rita Bay

HelenHenderson said...

Very nice explanation for the need of historical accuracy. And for the tip about the availability of resources. Having written historicals and lectured on research techiques I was pleased to note you mentioned combining a variety of resources, including museums.

And as an extra tip, you don't have to write historicals to make use of history. Legend and customs from earlier eras make great tools for world building, especially in fantasy lands.

Helen Henderson
Stories that take you to the stars, the Old West, or worlds of imagination

Windmaster-- Revenge set Ellspeth and the archmage, Dal, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey. And Coming in 2012 - Windmaster Legacy.

♥cupcake♥ said...

nice one. informative as ever.