The Warrior of Rome novels are set during the great crisis of the Roman empire in the mid-Third Century AD. The first three – Fire in the East, King of Kings, and Lion of the Sun – focus on the eastern half of the empire and on the war-torn borders with the rising power of Sassanid Persia. In the second three – The Caspian Gates, The Wolves of the North, and The Amber Road – the action shifts to the north; to the Black Sea and the client kingdoms of the Caucasus mountains, the Crimea and the steppes, and the great rivers that could be followed north to the Baltic.
While each novel is written as a stand alone book, from the start Warrior of Rome was designed as a series centred on the general Ballista and his familia. I wanted the space a series allows to develop themes and characters; to let the latter develop and grow up.
Each novel explores a different theme – one important both then and now. For example, in the first novel, Fire in the East, Ballista is sent to the town of Arete (actually the Greek for virtue) to defend it in the name of western liberty from an inevitable, religiously motivated attack by the Sassanid Persians. When Ballista arrives, fulfilling his orders, he tears down the homes, tombs and temples of the inhabitants, suspends all their civic liberties, and has them strip-searched at the gates. It raises the question, never more crucial than now, how far can the west go to protect its freedom before it destroys the very thing it is defending? All the novels seek to raise big questions, but each is driven by suspense and action.
In all the books I make a great effort to be historically accurate. I hope that readers who come to them knowing little about the Roman world will finish them having learned a lot, and those who already know a lot will be provoked into questioning some of those things they have always taken for granted, both about the classical past and us.
When asked in an interview to sum up the series in ten words I came up with, “Ballista, Warrior of Rome, Hard Action, High Scholarship, Low humour.”