Yesterday, 20th August 2020, was the official e-book launch of Beathan The Brigante – #5 of Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Saga series. It’s now available from Amazon in e-book and paperback formats for readers to enjoy! Paperback versions are also available for ordering in bookstores.
The continuous saga is set in late 1st Century AD Roman Britain AD 71-89, and follows the adventures of warriors who originate in the Hillfort of Garrigill, Brigantia. (present day Cumbria/North Yorkshire/Northumberland) Across the five books of the series, the reader will find that each book features different warriors of the clan, and as the series progresses some Ancient Romans also become main characters.
The threat of Ancient Roman domination is a major feature of the stories and is highly instrumental in influencing what the Garrigill warriors do to thwart Roman invasion. When complete destruction of their Celtic lifestyle is inevitable, the Garrigill clan become refugees and flee northwards to Caledonia. They have not in any way given up, it’s more that they are finding other ways to defend themselves against the Roman invaders. As the books progress, so do the years of Roman occupation during what is historically termed the Flavian era. This equates roughly to AD 69 – 96.
The genuine historical figure – Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – held various important positions in Britannia. According to the historical record, Agricola was Legate (Commanding Officer) of the Legio XX (Twentieth Legion) c. 69-73. Then, from approximately AD 77-84, Agricola was Governor of the Province of Britannia and was Commander of the Britannic Legions. Some of the concepts of the novels are formed from a study of the writing of the Ancient Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus (the son-in-law of Agricola). Tacitus’ work on the ‘Life of Agricola’ is the main historical source for information on Roman Britain.
In Books 4 and 5, second generation Garrigill warriors are the main Celtic characters, though their parents still there in the background. Book 5 is mainly Beathan’s story, with the first half of the novel depicting the interlinking of the lives of Beathan and General Agricola.
All of the novels can be accessed using this LINK to Nancy Jardine’s Amazon Author Page. If you’d rather just read more of what Beathan The Brigante is about use this link HERE.
Nancy Jardine bringing you another update from a sunny North-East Scotland. On Friday last, the 29th May 2020, I was scheduled to board a train for York, England. I love walking the wall and wandering the Shambles. I adore visiting the museums, and doing general tourist pursuits. Five years ago, I had a wonderful seminar weekend with some of my co-authors at Ocelot Press, in York. Though, back then, we were published authors with Crooked Cat Books.
My visit this time was to join the fun at the 2020 Eboracum Roman Festival, organised in the main by York Museums. Loads of Roman themed events and activities were organised – some indoors, though many of them outdoors in the streets of central York. I had planned to fill my camera with amazing photos, but the highlight of the ‘Friday through Sunday’ event was joining a lovely line-up of authors in a ‘pop-up’ bookstore, all of us selling our Roman themed historical novels. I imagined lots of impromptu information being shared with customers, and me getting to know the authors I’ve only met ‘virtually’ via Facebook. In 2019, the author tables were set up in the ‘Hospitium’ in the grounds of the York Museum and I was hoping for the same venue this year. Sadly, COVID 19, changed the plans. Like other major events, it was cancelled.
Though not compulsory to wear re-enactment outfits, I had noticed that a number of the authors got into the swing in 2019. I’ve always meant to make myself a Late Iron Age outfit, so going to York was a brilliant excuse.
In January (2020), I researched possible cloth. The ‘Celts’ used standing looms to weave their cloth which is thought to have been either plain, or with fairly sizeable checks (though not Tartan). Textiles do not survive well in the ground, but there are a few excavated examples that have been found across the Ancient Roman Empire. The fragments found indicate an open weaving technique was used, and they also give an idea of what might have been used to dye the wool.
I fancied a mid-green colour for the long dress and a checked material for a bratt (shawl). York in late May can be pretty warm, so a pure woollen cloth sounded very hot and scratchy. I wanted to be as authentic as possible but suitable green cloth eluded me. I opted for light grey which, I imagined, could be dyed to my preferred colour. The cloth arrived but it wasn’t the open weave I expected from the little photograph. (It must have been a very high magnification)
And it didn’t dye. Not at all!
I tried a deep green commercial hand dye which dulled down the checked material I had bought for the shawl, but the grey for the dress was still grey.
I then thought maybe if the suiting material (supposedly 55% wool) had a mordant process done to it, it would accept a natural dye. Using beetroot might make it a pale dusky pink – which I could live with, instead of green. Beetroot is a more recent variety of the Beta Vulgaris species, but 2000 years ago the Iron Age Tribes would probably have eaten a variety more like chard. However, it’s also possible that the Ancient Romans introduced to Britain the forerunner of the modern sugar beet that we grow and eat today, since Ancient Romans ate a number of Beta V. varieties.
The mordant treatment, a boiling in (vinegar and salt) for an hour was pretty stinky, but the soaking in the cooked beetroot juice was even more so. 24 hours later, the indestructible cloth was STILL grey but a machine wash, thankfully, got rid of the pong. The dyeing processes were useless, but all was not lost – I used some of the boiled beetroot to make beetroot brownies, which were yummy, and the remainder is pickled.
My ‘goonie’ is a bit boring so I used some of the shawl material to give it a lift. Is it authentic for Northern Romano Britain? Since we don’t really know what styles they wore, I can only imagine that any embellishment to dresses was of a practical nature!
What do you think of it? It’s surprisingly comfortable and I will wear it when selling my paperback novels, or for author talks etc.
I’ll be putting my name on the 2021 list of authors selling at the next Eboracum Roman Festival…and who knows what I’ll be wearing.
p.s. I’m thinking that when the COVID 19 situation eases and I can shop again, I might look out for some more exciting cloth that I don’t need to dye!
My stock for the Festival, available in paperback and kindle formats from:Amazon Author Page
If you’re quick, you’ll find that Books 1 and 2 are at #99p/99c across Amazon for a limited time in early June!
Social distancing has recently been making the process of normal food shopping a much longer one than usual, during the current ‘COVID 19 pandemic’ lockdown situation, though this post isn’t about our current global health crisis. It’s about a very ancient issue of feeding people when the supply chain is either interrupted, or needs to be established.
I bake quite often so my larder generally contains baking supplies, though not a sufficient amount for many months. Re- stocking has become an issue, of late, because flour became scarce almost overnight as a result of panic buying and stock-piling, at the end of March. (And we’ll not talk of toilet rolls! … till maybe later 😉)
Being mindful of waste, quantities for bread making, pizza dough, shortbread – and even my breakfast porridge – have been scrutinised more than normal. And in an odd way, this fits in well with my current fiction writing, since I’m often considering what my characters might be eating some 2,000 years ago in Roman Britain.
My usual breakfast is porridge, topped with whatever fresh fruit I need to use up. Many of my Ancient Roman military characters are also eating some form of porridge, though not only for their breakfast. Ancient Greek writing refers to the soldiers of the Roman Empire as being ‘pultiphagonides’ – meaning porridge eaters – and evidence proves that the Roman Army marched effectively on a high carbohydrate, low meat diet. There’s textual evidence of soldiers complaining of being fed too much meat, which might seem strange for some people today.
My porridge, made with a 1/3 of a cup measure of rolled oats (113g/4oz.) to 200 ml of water, sustains me in energy over the morning hours much better than any other cereal. And it worked well for the average Roman soldier, though the estimated quantity of grain each soldier consumed per day is pretty huge in relation to my tiny plateful.
I’ve read a few sources which estimate the typical daily grain ration for a Roman soldier was in the region of 1 – 1 ½ kg, though the amount varied depending on whether on campaign, or barracked in a Roman fort. My scale pan can’t hold much more than the 500 g worth you see in the photo above, but that amount of oats may have been tripled per day and consumed in a limited variety of ways, depending on circumstances.
Roman grain supplies tended to be of hulled wheat. Emmer (triticum dicoccum) and Spelt (triticum spelta) were carried as grain to prevent mould, and then milled using a small portable quern stone when required. Other grains were oats, millet and barley, though the latter was often considered to be a ‘punishment’ ration. (Perhaps because of digestive results and no toilet paper to hand! 😉 ) The grain was cooked as porridge, bread, hard-tack biscuits, and even in a sort of pancake form when mixed with oil or wine – edible, or not, depending on who cooked for the basic contubernium squad of 8 men. Some lucky squad might have had a poor enslaved captive to do this for them.
In Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Saga, my Romans are mainly on campaign in A.D. 84, marching northwards in Caledonia. They expect to receive the higher end of the above estimate of grain but, sadly, the general supply chain is somewhat hampered by the successful guerrilla incursions of my local Iron Age tribes. General Agricola’s army consists of upwards of 20, 000 soldiers on the march, so a regular grain supply – sourced from around the Roman Empire and sent to point of need – is critical. The Taexali local tribes grow and rear enough food for their own small communities, but even if Agricola requisitions every last morsel from them, it will only make the tiniest dent in the amount needed for his army. And to add insult to injury, as they say, the cool Scottish climate hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. Wheat doesn’t grow so readily – though barley does very well! (Where’s a dock leaf when you need one? 😉 )
In my current writing, Book 5 of the series, the Romans are mainly fort-based so their daily amount of grain is adjusted and supplemented by some meats when locally sourced, or foraged. My garrison at Vindolanda Roman Fort have reasonable regular supplies arriving at the gates, evidence for this found in the many fabulous Vindolanda tablets that have been excavated.
My writing is set during the very first garrisoning of the Vindolanda site, so the supplies of A.D. 90 may have been a bit less varied than on some of the tablets which were written a little later than that date. There are mentions of pickled and preserved products, olive oil, garum fish sauce, olives, garlic paste. Salt, pepper, various spices and herbs are available to those who can afford them – perhaps the fort commander and the officers? There are seasonal fruits and vegetables mentioned like apples, plums, blackberries, onions, leeks, a kale-type cabbage and various nuts. Common food items listed on the Vindolanda tablets, over the centuries of Roman occupation, are impressive and would not be out of place in a kitchen today.
Last week, I used up the last of my 00 Bread flour to make pizza. My favourite is fully-loaded. Smeared with tomato-based passata, it’s then topped with mushrooms, capsicum peppers, sliced onions, olives, chorizo, artichoke hearts, anchovies, at least one type of cheese and olive oil. YUM. Would the ‘pizza’ eaten by my Ancient Roman soldiers be similar?
No, to tomatoes since they came to Europe from the Americas long after my Roman era. The Romans did have a kind of sausage, though maybe not quite chorizo. Yes to mushrooms, maybe no to capsicum peppers. Artichokes and anchovies are very possible. Definitely olive oil and maybe a form of cheese. Some of these may have been added to round ‘flat’ breads made at Vindolanda Fort.
There’s evidence that some Romans cooked using a dish named a clibanus, a flat pottery plate which was covered with a domed lid, similar to my Moroccan tagine in the photograph. Rounds of bread, and flat bread, were baked in these when set upon a fire.
In the village of Kintore where I live, in north-east Scotland, there’s evidence of an Ancient Roman temporary camp used by General Agricola c. A.D. 84. When excavated in 2004, it yielded more than 180 ‘Bi-Partite Roman Bread Ovens’ which were used for the campaigning Romans to make their ‘flatbread and pizza’, with or without a clibanus. The design of the keyhole-shaped ‘fire’ meant that slow cooking could be done on the flat stones adjacent to the burning fire.
Maybe the Roman soldiers in the ‘Deer’s Den’ camp at Kintore were lucky enough to have both ‘pizza’ and porridge for their evening meal, once their temporary camp was built!
When I’m writing my Celtic Fervour Saga Series, set in late 1st century Roman Britain, I depict a reality that my readers can immerse themselves in and totally relish. A 2019 review of Book 1 included: “The descriptions of the people, places, tribes etc are phenomenal – I literally felt like I was there.” Comments like these are absolutely delightful and tell me that what I strive for is well-appreciated.
Since written evidence for late 1st century Roman Britain is so scant, more than a quick dip into archaeology is needed, and other sources also help with world-building. Scientific disciplines like soil culture, land erosion, natural plant and animal habitats assist with describing the landscape of 2000 years ago – because, to me, it’s wrong to put characters of Roman Britain into the fields and farms of the 21st century and call it historical fiction.
However, I also acknowledge that what I write comes from speculative information. An archaeologist digs out an artefact from a situation, takes care to detail its surroundings, but what happens after that is his/her interpretation of its use in society. Since beginning the writing of my series in 2011, I’ve discovered a recent archaeologist interpretation of a historic site may differ from an interpretation of the 1970s. Both of those may also be quite different from those of the earliest historians and ‘hobby archaeologists’, from the Medieval era onwards (before archaeology was a proper scientific study with documented procedures).
I love reading that evidence uncovered four or five centuries ago is being given a new examination because the very early investigators were sometimes a little bit off the mark. A glaring example might be that, for a while, it was thought that the c. 73 miles of stone wall, which extends across the north of England, was built by Ancient Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. Severus’ Wall? I can see lots of heads negatively shaking right now! That opinion was formed by some of the early classical scholars who relied on translating the scant written texts available to them, in conjunction with studying some artefacts unearthed in the area. It was only after a lot more physical evidence was gradually uncovered that Emperor Hadrian was given the glory for being such an incredible frontier builder. Emperor Severus WAS in the Hadrian’s Wall area during his Caledonian campaigns of c. A.D. 210, but by then the wall had existed for around 90 years.
Now, it seems that almost every day, there’s new information on social media about artefacts uncovered from the forts and settlements that peppered Hadrian’s Wall. I’m heartily glad that we now get an almost daily update on archaeological digs, and it’s really exciting when we get glimpses of the evidence before they are cleaned. Even better is when I see daily webcam footage of ongoing archaeological investigations!
In late 2018, I visited a wonderful little museum in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders, run by the Trimontium Trust – though it’s currently closed to visitors and under expansion. When re-opened, its upgrade will make it mirror the typical museum style of the 21st century and in some ways, this saddens me. When I visited the one-roomed museum, it was literally crammed to the ceiling with evidence collected from the nearby Trimontium Roman Fort (Newstead Roman Fort) and wonderful reconstructions of what life might have been like at Trimontium during the few centuries of fort occupation. I hope the new museum will still have a similar tactile and visual impact. The most recent excavations indicate that the area housed multiple successive forts with adjacent temporary camps – the Romans adept at dismantling a building, levelling the ground, and rebuilding over the top. The downside being that process makes it difficult for archaeologists to asses the layouts of the earliest Flavian forts, especially the one which my characters would have inhabited.
Trimontium Roman Fort, named for the three peaks of the Eildon Hills behind it, was situated at a crossing of the River Tweed where the Ancient Roman Road we refer to as Dere Street wended its way northwards. Trimontium was therefore an important, strategic fort on the main route north/south and, unlike many forts in Scotland, had longer periods of use than some others.
The evidence collected at Trimontium has been astounding, as has that of another location on Hadrian’s Wall named Vindolanda Fort. I expect to be writing at length on my own blog about Trimontium and Vindolanda…not to be mistaken with Vinovia, which is yet another fort on Dere Street and not so far away from the ‘wall’
All of these forts feature in Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Saga, expected to be published later in 2020 when I complete the stories of General Agricola, Beathan the Brigante and my Garrigill Clan.
Ocelot Press novels are all well-recommended, wonderful tales. Whatever you may be reading – enjoy the experience!
For the link to Nancy Jardine’s Author Page on amazon click HERE . All novels are available in #KindleUnlimited and paperback versions are available to order/buy at bookstores.
In September 2019, I booked the services of a Book Blog Tour organiser for the first time, any previous tours for launches of my novels having been organised myself. Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources came highly recommended and I am delighted with what she has achieved.
The tours I’ve booked include potential
reviews, though these can never be guaranteed because the bloggers and not paid
for any services rendered. The bloggers give up their own time and effort which
I greatly appreciate – whether it’s a simple promo post, an author interview, an
author guest post or a promo and review. I’m absolutely delighted to have had
21 bloggers do some kind of feature, a whopping 12 of them having done a review
for Book 1 The Beltane Choice (Sept 2019) and 12 reviews also garnered for
Book 2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn. These reviews have not all come from
the same bloggers, though many of the 12 wanted to read further into the
The comments on the reviews are
so varied which is fabulous because it gives me as the author an insight into
which aspects have appealed to particular readers and why. This helps for
creating future novels.
Here are some of the comments
from the November After Whorl: Bran Reborn reviews:
“The narrative is bursting with facts and the author’s attention to detail is admirable. All this, wrapped around an intriguing narrative with fascinating characters.”
“I am really enjoying reading about a new era of British History. There is a lot of detail is being put into the progress of the Roman invasion and what is being done by the early Celtic tribes to try to repel them! I haven’t read anything like it before, so I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series pans out!”
The events, plot twists, world-building … Everything was awesome as the first book if not more.
“I’ve already said it in my review of the first book and I will say it again Nancy Jardine Writing style is different; her words are amazing and you should read her books.”
“As with the first book, the author gives readers a map with locations in the book and a list of characters which helps understand the book and the timeline better. I always love the historical context she includes at the end of the book. It really put things in perspective for me. I will anxiously be awaiting the next book to see where Jardine takes us next.”
Tours have been organised for Books 3 & 4 and the bloggers and readers can look forward to these in December 2019 and January 2020. I’ll be keen to see what my new ‘fans’ think of the rest of the series.
Don’t forget to look out for the newest Ocelot Press novels that are launching this November 2019. They are fabulous stories! Wishing you very Happy Reading.