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From Roman Fact to Roman Fiction

Yesterday, 19 October 2013, was the first of two free Meet the Historians events which have been organised for the Historical Novel Society to take place during the Bristol Literature Festival. From Roman Fact to Fiction was one of a number of events associated with the Bristol Museum’s Roman Empire: Power and People exhibition (on until 12 January 2014).  

Gail Boyle is Senior Collections Officer (Archaeology) for Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives, and the curator of Roman Empire: Power and People. She gave a fascinating talk comparing and contrasting how authors of historical novels and experts in a museum context weave stories around objects.  

Ben Kane is the author of rip-roaring action novels about Spartacus, Hannibal and first-century BC Rome. He told us about his recent walk along the length of Hadrian’s Wall, wearing full Roman military kit. This included hobnailed boots – which he brought with him! The walk raised almost £19,000 for charity.  

Manda Scott’s international best-selling Boudica series explores who we were before the Romans came, while her Rome series of first-century spy thrillers dissects the early Empire and the men and women who were key to its evolution. Manda’s talk was on “Writing Roman fiction: the use of fact and the versatility of invention. How fiction writers can expand on history, and explore the places historians dare not tread.”     

It was an afternoon of challenging and stimulating ideas about history, storytelling and the writer’s craft. We also had an introduction to the exhibition from Gail, and Manda and Ben signed books in the Museum’s bookshop afterwards.  

There’s another Meet the Historians event on 26 October, when I’ll be on a panel with Julian Stockwin, Adrian Tinniswood and Steve Poole to look at Bristol’s maritime history. It’s free, it’s at the M Shed from 2 to 4 pm, and you can find out more about The Best Port of Trade in Britain: Bristol's Maritime History on the HNS Bristol group website.

Find out more about the Roman Empire: Power and People exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery website.

Find out more about Manda Scott at Manda Scott’s website 

Find out more about Ben Kane at Ben Kane’s website

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