Lindsey Davis: Why write about Rome?

Posted on: 01/04/2019 with tags: ancient rome, author blog, Flavia Albia, Romans


Sometimes people ask me, why Rome? To me, there’s at least one simple answer. Consider the picture on the left hand-side – taken by Chris Astles when I was in Nantwich, one snowy January, marketing my English Civil War Book at the Holy Holly Day festival. Note the full complement of winter garments! Perhaps the only grimmer photo in my portfolio was this (if they let me show you), taken by my trusty agent as Team Lindsey were setting off for our traditional Christmas lunch. I think there was snow that year too, so even more winter gear in evidence – and we’re still indoors:

So yes indeed – why Rome? Have a look at these. First the author addressing an Andante tour at Poppaea’s Villa in Oplontis, much more lightly clad. Even though I was being chivvied by Editor to stand there, even the smile seems more relaxed:

And finally, if you are not yet convinced, this is why I wrote about the Romans:

You can now actually make out the stately person of Editor, as he and I gave a talk about ‘Books’, based on our thirty years of working together. Is that why he has the traditional ‘defensive’ pose with arms folded?? We are on a hotel rooftop terrace. Yes, it’s the bar. The tour group have already seen plenty of those caupona counters where the Romans stood for food and drink, but we have classic metal chairs and glass-topped tables. A few people have allowed themselves to be photographed with drinks actually in their hands. Oliver and I seem to be waiting for ours, but they came in the end. It is evening, so the sky is pale, but still clear and a little late sunlight has found its way through the pergola. And in the background is the splendid curve of the Bay of Naples.

That of course is a primary reason for writing about the Romans – the locations and author simply must visit, repeatedly in my opinion. The Bay of Naples with its exquisite Vesuvian sites, various parts of what was the Roman Empire – and of course Rome itself.

30 years ago this autumn Oliver published The Silver Pigs for me. For my writing career the results have been fabulous: enjoying the research, challenging disparities between respect for history and the needs of fiction, and learning about new places with other ways of life, then and now. If we look at those photos, I believe it is important for an author to be happy, comfortable in their surroundings and situation, because that will come through in their books to cheer readers up too. Even those who can’t visit the sites and feel that old Mediterranean sun beating on them will be there in imagination with me. And surely the point of fiction is to take readers away from the drudgery of modern life, for moments of respite in some different world?


A Capitol Death is the latest book in Lindsey’s Flavia Albia series. Read an extract here.

Author: Lindsey Davis

Historical novelist Lindsey Davis is best known for her novels set in Ancient Rome, including the much-loved Marcus Didius Falco series, although she has also written about the English Civil War, including in 2014 A Cruel Fate, a book for the Quick Reads literacy initiative. Her examination of the paranoid reign of the roman emperor Domitian began with Master and God, a standalone novel, leading to her new series about Flavia Albia, set in that dark period.

Her books are translated and have been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. Her many awards include the Premio Colosseo (from the city of Rome) and the Crime Writers' Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement. Most recently she was the inaugural winner of the Barcino (Barcelona) International Historical Novel Prize.

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  • Avatar Jane Wright says:

    I first heard of Lindsey Davis in Syria where we were on holiday in 1995. My husband and I were particularly interested in the historical aspects of the tour. Our guide for the tour, Samir, was a student studying a masters degree on the ancient city of Ebla. Apparently he showed Lindsey around Palmyra and after the holiday we read “Last Act in Palmyra” and have all the Roman novels so far, plus others. My husband died 2 years ago and I often wonder what happened to the charming young guide Samir. What a tragedy for Syria and Palmyra.