This week (and the next, and even the next) we have a break in the crazy book release schedule I’ve created for Domna (A Serialized Novel of Osteria), which means I can finally share with you another aspect of the influence of Roman culture on Domna.
And this week’s influential aspect is….drum roll, please…religion. No groaning, please. I’ll try to keep this from being contentious.
In my fantasy world of Osteria, most people worship the Greek gods (the Romans worshipped nearly the same gods, just with different names, so Dionysus became Bacchus, Zeus became Jupiter, and the like).
However, Rome also accepted that people were happier if they could worship (mostly) as they pleased. As long as the emperor was worshipped above these “lesser” gods and you didn’t go around starting revolts against Rome, cult worship was allowed. Cults included those to the Egyptian goddess Isis, and to that Mithras – a cult heavily centered around the worship of bulls.
Although they only receive a quick mention in Domna’ s Parts One and Two, the Mithrans appear quite often throughout the other parts of Domna. Eventually, this cult splits from the polis (city-state) of Bendria to become the kingdom of Minoa, a location that has a strong role in The Osteria Chronicles, especially in The Maze of Minos and, to a lesser extent, in The Trials of Hercules.
And of course, in Ancient Rome, there was the cult of Jews dedicated to worshipping Christ.
Making a Few Changes
Since I knew I couldn’t keep the cult of Christ (or “Christianity” as it’s now called) in Domna without it seeming too controversial or completely out of place, I opted for the cult to center on Helios, a titan who causes some trouble in the later books of the Osteria Chronicles and who, in Greek mythology, was once almost a god until Zeus demoted Helios for some bad behavior by Helios’s son.
In the earlier parts of Domna, there’s a few brief mentions of a place called the Traitor’s Way in Osteria’s capital, Portaceae City. This was adopted from a road leading out of Ancient Rome that was lined with crosses on which criminals and Christians were crucified. Known as the Appian Way, this is the road where the slave Spartacus was executed along with the other slaves who joined his revolt.
The cross, although used as a means of execution long before Christianity, was too strong a modern-day symbol to use in Domna, so I knew I needed to change it to fit in better with the Helian religion I had created.
Since Helios is being treated like a sun god in Domna (and is related to the Greek word for “sun”), I wanted something that brought to mind the shape of the sun that could work much as a cross did in Ancient Rome. My sometimes gory mind came up with the idea of a circle, or a ring, mounted on a post. As with crucifixion, the rings make it impossible for the victim to support his or her weight, leading to death by slow suffocation.
sorry, there’s a sore lack of funny suffocation memes….how about another minotaur meme….hey, wait a minute….
There’s a wealth of other aspects of Roman culture across all parts of Domna and I’ll be sharing a few more over the coming weeks, but I hope these posts on family life, fighting forces and slavery, and religion has given you a fair glimpse at a few of the bigger pieces of Ancient Rome that helped create Sofia’s world of Osteria.