A lot of historical fiction focuses on big events and famous people—those names and deeds that are well enough known they might intrigue an audience. There are certainly events which have gripped my imagination. The eruption of Vesuvius is one, and that’s why I wanted to include it in at least one book.
However, the flip side is that it’s not the event itself which fascinates me. It’s how such a big event affected your regular, average person. Makes me wonder what it must have been like living in that place at that time.
To paraphrase George Bailey, the little people have done most of the living and dying and loving and hating throughout history. Those nameless, faceless, un-monumented individuals who day in and day out lived their own dramas on the edges of the written record. Sometimes, like at Herculaneum and Pompeii (cool pins here if you want to peek), they leave a mark. Maybe it’s graffiti slandering a rival, or warning against the shitty wine at a certain establishment. Or a tombstone of a gladiator, listing his victories and ultimate defeat. But often, these people pass unremarked and unremembered.
The rich and famous tend to overshadow the rest. They’ve always built big and bright—from massive mausoleums to gilded temples. Even today—where we probably know more dirt about assorted politicians and magnates than the lowly populace ever did in the past—who those people are as individuals, is obscured by the flashy things they do and insane amounts of money they spend.
That’s why I love playing with the nobodies of history. I don’t see the past as all the ways we’re different today than yesterday … I see all the ways we’re similar. And I know, if those old Romans had Facebook, they would have been just as weird as we are today, posting shit about how Gaius over-baked the bread, and everyone liking Livia’s selfie in front of the circus maximus before the big chariot race.
So here’s to the nobodies. Keep on keeping on.