Unlike my other books, COLOSSUS
wasn't born from a line in Shakespeare, but in a very specific place. A place
that never actually appears in the novel, that won't be seen until book five of
this series. It's a rather small church in Rome, just south of the Colosseum -
the Basilica of San Clemente.
I was overseas on the modern
equivalent of the Grand Tour, a semester-long trip hosted by Eastern Michigan
University called the European Cultural History Tour. It started in Oxford, and
went to a staggering list of cities over four months. For brevity's sake, I'll
only list countries or islands - England, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland,
Russia, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Greece, Crete,
Rhodes, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel. It was amazing, a whirlwind tour with
professors in tow, lecturing on art in the Louvre, on politics on the
Acropolis, on history in the Roman Forum.
One of the places our Art History
professor Benita took us was St. Clement's. We'd just been to the Colosseum
that morning, and I remember waiting outside on a bench and wondering what was
so important about this sleepy church. Going in, the mosaics are pretty
incredible. And being the home of the Irish Dominicans in exile is historically
neat. But that isn't what makes Saint Clement's amazing.
It's the excavation.
dug down, and created a tour through the history of Rome itself. As a city
that's always building up upon it self, it's often hard to see ancient Rome in
anything but the famous edifices and the shapes of the streets. But here is
Rome encapsulated. You start in an 17th century church, then descend
into an early 12th century church, then to a 4th century
church, a 3rd century Mithraeum (temple to the god Mithras), then finally
to a 1st century Roman street and insula (apartment). You can hear
the Tiber running just under your feet through the ancient sewer system.
was such an experience to travel through time that way, when I was looking for
new matter to write upon, I thought about a novel tracing history through those
never got past that 1st century street. Because I started looking
into Saint Clement himself, and what was going on when he was living there -
the fall of Jerusalem, the building of the Colosseum, the rise of Christianity
in Rome. That was how the Colossus series was born. It starts small, almost
intimately, with two Judean brothers at the siege of Jotapata. But in the next
several books, the scope widens out, keeping those brothers as our base and our
eyes as we explore how drastically the world changed in just that little span
STONE & STEEL. The start to a grand adventure.