Passages to the Past is excited to bring you a guest post by author Stephanie DraySong of the Nile and a giveaway of her latest novel in the Cleopatra's Daughter trilogy!
Take it away, Stephanie...
When the Isle of Samos was the Center of the World
If it’s good to be the king, it’s even better to be the emperor. At least in ancient Rome. Unless your guards are waiting for you with daggers, or an angry wife feeds you poisoned mushrooms, you get to be the center of the world...wherever you go.
Now, when we think of the Roman empire--particularly the early Roman empire when there was still a pretense of a Republic--we quite naturally think of Rome as the center of the civilized world. Certainly, Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, would have wanted us to think of it that way.
However, the fact remains that once he’d wrested control away from the Senate and other quasi-democratic institutions, the government was always wherever he went. And in the aftermath of his victory over Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius (aka Mark Antony), the emperor spent quite some time on the Isle of Samos in Greece.
What was so special about this island? Well, for one, it had to be salt in the wound for those who had supported Cleopatra and Antony--because the Isle of Samos is where those two famous lovers made their doomed preparations for war. But it also had a lovely climate, and in spite of his stern Roman values, the emperor liked his creature comforts. (When fighting in the mountains in Spain, for example, he let his soldiers endure the cold while he vacationed down in Tarragona.)
Between the years of 22 BC - 19 BC, however, Augustus had another reason to move his court to the Greek island. Namely, he was preparing for war with Parthia to the East. He needed a relatively secure staging area from which to reorganize the Eastern part of the empire so as to make a stable foothold from which to advance. He had kings to appoint, taxes to levy, people to punish, and territorial boundaries to redraw.
In my new novel, Song of the Nile, my heroine believes that this is the perfect time to convince Augustus to restore her to the throne of Egypt. Like Cleopatra before her, she hopes to convince the Romans that she can provide them with grain in their long-sought war with the Parthians. It’s her experiences there, in Greece, engaged in a high stakes cat and mouse game with the emperor that change her forever.
So how much of that is true? Historically speaking, we have no idea where Cleopatra Selene was during those years before 19BC when she finally appears on the coins of Mauretania, but there are only three options. She may have been in Mauretania with Juba, though some scholars do question this idea and think she married Juba later. She may have been in Rome under the care of the emperor’s sister, Octavia. Or, as a ward of the emperor’s and a member of his court, she may have been on the Isle of Samos.
I chose the latter because it made for a wonderful showdown in my book--a titanic clash between a ruthless, complex, depraved emperor and the girl upon whose shoulders rested the legacy of Cleopatra. I think it made for a wonderful choice, and I hope my readers will agree!
About Song of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter #2)
Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…
Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.
Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.
But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?
About Stephanie Dray...
Stephanie graduated from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.
Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.
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