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Nephele

"The Roman Mysteries"

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There is a series of children's books set in Rome, 79-80 C.E., that I've been collecting as a complete set for my public library. The series is called "The Roman Mysteries" and the author is Caroline Lawrence, who lives in London. The books aren't too easy to find here in the States, so I finally ordered two copies each of the entire set from a British book dealer.

 

I imagine these books will become more popular over here in the States very soon, as the BBC has just produced a television series based on The Roman Mysteries that's due to be released next month. An article I found in a British newspaper described the upcoming television series as being HBO's Rome "without the sex". (Well, it is geared for children, after all.)

 

While sex is only hinted at in the books themselves (a father tells his daughter that the 11-year-old slave girl she sees at the market may be sold to serve as some man's "wife"), author Caroline Lawrence doesn't cringe from depicting the violent aspects of life in ancient Rome. There is a main character, an 8-year-old boy, who has had his tongue cut out, and the threat to an unattended child wandering the rough streets of Ostia and possibly being kidnapped to be sold into slavery is a very real and ever-present danger to the four friends (ranging in age from 8 to 11) who are bonded together by a love of mystery-solving. Some parents may find such details disturbing, but most children (I trust) will be delighted with the author's

anti-saccharine style of children's writing. In these books, children are as likely to die as adults -- and even somebody's pet dog winds up beheaded in one story.

 

When it comes to accurate historical details and convincing depictions of ancient Roman society in these stories (there is a griping description of escape from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius, as well as a poignant description of the death of Pliny the Elder), author Caroline Lawrence knows whereof she writes. Before becoming a children's book author, Ms. Lawrence was a student of Classics at Berkeley and later at Cambridge, as well as a teacher of Latin at a small London primary school.

 

This past weekend I thought I'd e-mail the author to let her know that I'm not "too adult" to enjoy her books. I was surprised to receive an immediate response from her, and delighted to read that she had a couple of posters to send to my public library. In appreciation, I e-mailed her back a blanagram of her Hidden Roman Name, and also gave her a link to the UNRV site. (Who knows? She may be inclined to join us here sometime.) Again she wrote back immediately, telling me she liked her hidden Roman name so much, that she's going to use it in one of her upcoming "Roman Mysteries" novels. How cool is that? ;)

 

-- Nephele

Edited by Nephele Carnalis

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There is a series of children's books set in Rome, 79-80 C.E., that I've been collecting as a complete set for my public library. The series is called "The Roman Mysteries" and the author is Caroline Lawrence, who lives in London. The books aren't too easy to find here in the States, so I finally ordered two copies each of the entire set from a British book dealer.

 

I imagine these books will become more popular over here in the States very soon, as the BBC has just produced a television series based on The Roman Mysteries that's due to be released next month. An article I found in a British newspaper described the upcoming television series as being HBO's Rome "without the sex". (Well, it is geared for children, after all.)

 

While sex is only hinted at in the books themselves (a father tells his daughter that the 11-year-old slave girl she sees at the market may be sold to serve as some man's "wife"), author Caroline Lawrence doesn't cringe from depicting the violent aspects of life in ancient Rome. There is a main character, an 8-year-old boy, who has had his tongue cut out, and the threat to an unattended child wandering the rough streets of Ostia and possibly being kidnapped to be sold into slavery is a very real and ever-present danger to the four friends (ranging in age from 8 to 11) who are bonded together by a love of mystery-solving. Some parents may find such details disturbing, but most children (I trust) will be delighted with the author's

anti-saccharine style of children's writing. In these books, children are as likely to die as adults -- and even somebody's pet dog winds up beheaded in one story.

 

When it comes to accurate historical details and convincing depictions of ancient Roman society in these stories (there is a griping description of escape from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius, as well as a poignant description of the death of Pliny the Elder), author Caroline Lawrence knows whereof she writes. Before becoming a children's book author, Ms. Lawrence was a student of Classics at Berkeley and later at Cambridge, as well as a teacher of Latin at a small London primary school.

 

This past weekend I thought I'd e-mail the author to let her know that I'm not "too adult" to enjoy her books. I was surprised to receive an immediate response from her, and delighted to read that she had a couple of posters to send to my public library. In appreciation, I e-mailed her back a blanagram of her Hidden Roman Name, and also gave her a link to the UNRV site. (Who knows? She may be inclined to join us here sometime.) Again she wrote back immediately, telling me she liked her hidden Roman name so much, that she's going to use it in one of her upcoming "Roman Mysteries" novels. How cool is that? ;)

 

-- Nephele

 

This sounds good stuff, Nephele. Do you know the age group she writes for? My son is about to take Ancient History as an A-level at college and he would love something vivid like this. It sounds like a great corrective to all those horrendous Enid Blyton novels with their 'lashings of ginger beer'. :lol:

 

Also, well done on contacting the author - let us hope she does drop in from time to time.

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This sounds good stuff, Nephele. Do you know the age group she writes for? My son is about to take Ancient History as an A-level at college and he would love something vivid like this. It sounds like a great corrective to all those horrendous Enid Blyton novels with their 'lashings of ginger beer'. ;)

 

Also, well done on contacting the author - let us hope she does drop in from time to time.

 

Thank you, Augusta.

 

The main characters of these stories range in age from 8 to 11, and the books are described as being for ages 9 to 12. But I think the books can be appreciated on another level by teens and adults alike. I noticed that one reader's review at Amazon.com criticized the author for having a "pro-Christian bias" in her books. I'm not Christian, and I can say that I was not offended or put off in the least by the author's portrayal of one of the main characters in the story being a member of a Jewish family which secretly belongs to the outlawed Christian cult.

 

In an interview, the author writes about this, saying: "Every author promotes their own world view, either consciously or unconsciously. I do not hide the fact that I am a Christian. Perhaps because I am also of Jewish descent, I am particularly interested in early Christianity. In the first century AD Christians were essentially members of a Jewish sect, like Essenes or Pharisees. So to answer your question, let's say my books are a conscious attempt to explore what this early type of 'Jewish Christianity' might have been like."

 

-- Nephele

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As it happens they are promoting this series of books in Waterstones bookshops (UK) at the moment, I've recently bought the first book in the series for my daughter, she's only five, I've been reading her a chapter every night at bedtime and she's loving it and as it happens so am I :) .

Augusta, although these books are enjoyable and quite informative about that period in history I think they will be a bit to young for your son, they are slightly along the 'famous five' lines but with an ancient twist, four young children solving mysteries with the help of their courageous loyal dog! I don't think that would help too much with your sons A-level :)

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they are slightly along the 'famous five' lines but with an ancient twist, four young children solving mysteries with the help of their courageous loyal dog!

 

:) I think the dog plays a rather minor role in the first book. And, by the second book, the children have a small pack of three dogs. The social dynamics of this group are quite different from Blyton's Famous Five, as well -- one of the children happens to be a slave to another one of the children. The institution of slavery as depicted in the books may seem odd and unjust to modern-day children, but the author presents it as an accepted part of Roman life (which is precisely what it was).

 

GPM, that's marvelous that you read to your daughter every night!

 

-- Nephele

Edited by Nephele Carnalis

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As it happens they are promoting this series of books in Waterstones bookshops (UK) at the moment, I've recently bought the first book in the series for my daughter, she's only five, I've been reading her a chapter every night at bedtime and she's loving it and as it happens so am I :pokey: .

 

Hi, GPM. You and your daughter may want to tune in to Blue Peter next Thursday (May 3rd). Author Caroline Lawrence will be on the show, and they'll also be airing a segment promoting the first television episode of "The Roman Mysteries" (the series is rumored to begin airing on May 8th). Even Caroline isn't certain as to when the series will begin, but that's the latest projected date.

 

-- Nephele

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As it happens they are promoting this series of books in Waterstones bookshops (UK) at the moment, I've recently bought the first book in the series for my daughter, she's only five, I've been reading her a chapter every night at bedtime and she's loving it and as it happens so am I ;) .

 

Hi, GPM. You and your daughter may want to tune in to Blue Peter next Thursday (May 3rd). Author Caroline Lawrence will be on the show, and they'll also be airing a segment promoting the first television episode of "The Roman Mysteries" (the series is rumored to begin airing on May 8th). Even Caroline isn't certain as to when the series will begin, but that's the latest projected date.

 

-- Nephele

 

 

Thanks for the tip off Nephele,

We'll definitely tune in to it, I must admit I'm quite looking forward to the series myself, it will be good to put a face to the characters in the book, and I think it will also help Maddie with understanding the book a bit better, I don't think she fully understands some of the things described in the book, simple things like a tunic or toga for example, I've described things to her but to see them it with her own eyes on the telly will help her out a lot . :naughty:

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Thanks for the tip off Nephele,

We'll definitely tune in to it, I must admit I'm quite looking forward to the series myself, it will be good to put a face to the characters in the book, and I think it will also help Maddie with understanding the book a bit better, I don't think she fully understands some of the things described in the book, simple things like a tunic or toga for example, I've described things to her but to see them it with her own eyes on the telly will help her out a lot . :naughty:

 

 

GPM, you're doing a superb job of raising a little Romanophile for the next generation! ;) I'm also looking forward to the series -- and have two people over in England assigned to taping it off the telly for me when it airs. (I've chosen two, so I have back-up in case one forgets. Heheh.)

 

-- Nephele

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Hey, GPM (and anyone else in the U.K. who's interested), there's now confirmation as to the broadcast date of The Roman Mysteries. Radio Times lists the following date and time for the first episode, "The Secrets of Vesuvius": Tuesday, May 8th at 4:30pm - 5pm on BBC1. There will be another broadcast of the same episode on CBBC the same day at 5pm - 5:30pm.

 

You can catch a peek via the promo here. Click on "Production History", then click on "Roman Mysteries", then click on "Promo". The sets are amazing! I don't think they're exaggerating when they say they've "spared no expense".

 

From the site: "The Little Entertainment Group bring the Roman world of 79 AD to a 21st century audience in the BBC television adaptation of the internationally successful novels of Caroline Lawrence. This ultimate children's drama follows four friends -- Flavia, Nubia, Jonathan and Lupus -- as they struggle to live through one of history's most turbulent times. Intelligence, resourcefulness and the strength of friendship are their only weapons with which to battle the worst that Rome has to offer..."

 

-- Nephele

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Thanks Nephele! This should be a good. Its been along time since Masterpiece Theatre produced "I Cladius" for PBS. That production has now become 'ancient' history' lol! Yes that story was really about the 'royal family' of England. But there was still a glimpse of ancient roman life that made that series intriguing?

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Like you, Valentino, I'm hungry for any depiction of Rome on my teevee. But I'm especially looking forward to seeing The Roman Mysteries come to life on the screen because Caroline Lawrence, classicist and Latin teacher, has taken a great deal of care with the historical events that she portrays in her series of children's novels.

 

I can't wait to see what they do with Pliny the Elder, as he figures prominently in Caroline's Secrets of Vesuvius. The scene with Pliny's death on the beach (in her novel) is especially poignant.

 

I hope the television series also includes Caroline's novel The Gladiators from Capua, as the scenes she wrote depicting the inaugural gladiatorial games of the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome were intriguing. She drew upon the writings of Martial, to detail not only the various, creative "performances" involving the public execution of criminals (Caroline's books are often delightfully bloodthirsty), but she also included a description of the lottery games that were provided as additional entertainment for the attending audience.

 

Everybody in the U.K., tune in to The Roman Mysteries every Tuesday at 4:30 on BBC1, beginning May 8th! I'm sure you'll find it a treat!

 

-- Nephele

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Sounds interesting, Augusta...

 

On your comment about sex, I think the ancients handled sex as an everyday natural function, like eating, drinking and so on... There was not much attention paid to it unlike today, where even the very word is taboo in many households for fear of "corrupting" the children. I fear that it is this very attitude that leads to trouble and shielding the facts of life often has disastrous and unintended consequences in the long run.

 

There is of course, also the matter of age and Romans tended to marry off their children at a very young age, especially their daughters and overall, it may have made sense because life expectancy was so short, compared to modern standards.

 

The other thing which I fail to understand about today's shows is that there is no limit on the violence that can be shown to audiences, which is far more injurious in my opinion.

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Sounds interesting, Augusta...NEPHELE![/u

 

On your comment about sex, I think the ancients handled sex as an everyday natural function, like eating, drinking and so on... There was not much attention paid to it unlike today, where even the very word is taboo in many households for fear of "corrupting" the children. I fear that it is this very attitude that leads to trouble and shielding the facts of life often has disastrous and unintended consequences in the long run.

 

There is of course, also the matter of age and Romans tended to marry off their children at a very young age, especially their daughters and overall, it may have made sense because life expectancy was so short, compared to modern standards.

 

The other thing which I fail to understand about today's shows is that there is no limit on the violence that can be shown to audiences, which is far more injurious in my opinion.

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Thank you, oh noble Pater Arcanae! :)

 

Yes, good points, Skarr. While I imagine that author Caroline Lawrence's editors keep a sharp eye open for any scenes in her manuscripts that might seem a bit too sexual for a children's series, Caroline nevertheless does manage to slip in enough scenes to "keep it real" (as one says on the street).

 

In addition to the line (mentioned earlier) in which a father tells his daughter that the 11-year-old slave girl on the block may be sold to serve as some man's "wife", there is also a scene in one book where it is casually mentioned that the young protagonist's sea-faring father and his shipmates have gone "for a men's night out at the sanctuary of Aphrodite up on the Acrocorinth." (Classicists reading this will smile as they recall Strabo's account of the cult prostitutes of Corinth's temple to Aphrodite.)

 

And, there is another scene in which the young protagonist and her three friends, upon embarking on a sea voyage, are given good luck amulets to be worn that are bronze pendants in the shape of small penises -- an opportunity for the author not only to instruct her young readers in the curious customs of the ancient Romans, but also to inject a bit of humor with the resulting juvenile hilarity. Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of juvenile hilarity -- these are, after all, books intended for children. As any good teacher knows (and I've no doubt that Caroline Lawrence was an excellent primary school Latin teacher before becoming an author), children don't soon forget lessons that entertain as well as enlighten.

 

-- Nephele

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I didn't want to start a new thread for this, but to anyone in the U.K. who's been following the television adaptation of this book series... I just heard that yesterday's episode, as well as the rest of the series, has been taken off the air! Because in the story children get kidnapped by Pompeiian pirates, and there's currently a big news story about a kidnapped child.

 

The story about the kidnapped child in real life is undeniably tragic... But, honestly, does the BBC think that there would be a rash of copycat kidnappings (by Pompeiian pirates, no less) if they air this series?

 

-- Nephele

Edited by Nephele

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