Also by this author: Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii
Published by Scholastic Inc. on 2014-05-27
Genres: Action & Adventure, Ancient Civilizations, Historical, Love & Romance, Young Adult
When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto? TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But his warrior's heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom. LUCIA is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she's been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air. . . . When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them -- to Lucia's father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?
Hey all, I’d like to welcome Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of Curses And Smoke here today to talk about gladiators!
Romans And Their Love-Hate Relationship With Gladiators | Guest Post
The ancient Romans had a love-hate relationship with gladiators. On the one hand, they were esteemed—sometimes even glorified—as the epitome of masculine fearlessness and fierceness.
On the other hand, Romans hated them because most of them were slaves. How could these strong warrior-type men have been turned into the lowest form of humanity (according to the Romans)?
Gladiator blood and sweat were prized as healing agents and even aphrodisiacs—yet the owners of said gladiators were disdainfully called “Butchers.”
I found this tension fascinating, which is why I set my novel in a struggling gladiator school. In Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii, Tag is an Etruscan medical slave at the school. He burns with a desire to be free and imagines that his only way out is to learn to fight as a gladiator.
The love interest is Lucia, the daughter of the school’s owner, who is being bartered away for an infusion of coin to keep the school afloat. Their relationship blooms in the shadow of a rumbling Vesuvius.
By placing the story in a school, I was able to look at how gladiators trained, what they ate, and how they were treated for injuries. I also couldn’t resist inserting a patrician character who binds himself to the school for a time. It didn’t happen often, but free men occasionally became gladiators.
When men of the upper classes did so, it was big news. They were reviled—at the same time that they became the center of everyone’s attention. It would be like if Beyonce suddenly started waitressing at a dirty biker bar.
Everyone would wring their hands about someone of her status at such a base job—but, at the same time, everyone would sure as hell flock to the bar to see if they could get her to serve them!
Writing the sparring scenes was great fun because I got to imagine what it was like to fight while wearing one of those heavy grotesque helmets—so many of which were found in Pompeii. I tried to recreate the experience of the weight of such a helmet coming down on your head, the smell of stale metal as you panted for air, the muffled sounds of men’s voices as it covered your ears, the limited visibility from the strange eye holes. That’s the fun of historical fiction, I think—not just learning about history, but experiencing it.
I hope readers enjoy the gladiator training scenes, as well as the experience of going back in time to experience forbidden love in Pompeii in the weeks before the eruption.
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Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of the young adult novel, CLEOPATRA’S MOON (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.
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