The Light Bearer
|Cover artist||Steve Assel|
ISBN 0-340-60922-2 "The Light Bearer," first British edition, Hodder and Stoughton, 1994, trade paperback
ISBN 3-8105-0887-X "Mondfeuer;" or Fire from the Moon; first German edition, translated by Manfred Ohl; S. Fischer, 1994, hardback
ISBN 90-225-2066-8 "Auriane, Dochter van het Licht," or Auriane, Daughter of Light, first Dutch edition, translated by Ineke van Bronswijk; De Boekerij, 1996 hardbackISBN 978-88-7424-578-9 "La Luce del Nord," or Light of the North, first Italian edition, translated by Elisa Canuti; Aliberti Editore, 2010; trade paperback
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Followed by||Lady of the Light|
The Light Bearer is a 1994 historical novel by Donna Gillespie set in first century Rome, spanning the reigns of the Emperors Nero and Domitian. The novel centers upon three historical events: the Emperor Domitian’s war with the Germanic Chattian tribe in 83 A.D.; the inauguration of the Colosseum, or Amphitheatrum Flavium; and the assassination of Domitian, 4.1 see Assassination. In dramatizing the assassination, the author follows closely the details given by first-century Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, b. A.D. 69.
The fictional protagonists are a proto-Germanic tribeswoman, Auriane, daughter of a Chattian war leader; and Marcus Arrius Julianus, a Roman senator and imperial advisor whose character and circumstances are loosely based on the Roman philosopher Seneca, as well as another contemporary in the reign of Nero, Stoic philosopher and statesman Helvidius Priscus, a man much praised by his contemporaries for his outspokenness in public life. Rome’s interference in tribal affairs compel Auriane to take the warrior’s oath and lead her father’s retinue after his untimely death. In Rome, Stoic humanist Marcus Julianus reaches the highest pinnacles of government, where he is taken into the confidence of the Emperor Domitian. Through political maneuvering, he strives to check the murderous whims of the increasingly corrupt Emperor Domitian. Auriane is captured in Domitian's Chattian War and taken to Rome. As Domitian's reign of terror begins, Julianus orchestrates a plot to assassinate the Emperor; here the author has inserted a fictional character into a gap left by history. The Emperor Domitian, who according to Suetonius, was fond of pitting women against dwarfs in the arena, condemns Auriane to a gladiatorial school. Here Auriane discovers the tribesman who betrayed her people in war. As Julianus’ assassination plot rushes to its conclusion, Auriane must carry out the tribal rite of vengeance in the Colosseum.
Literary significance & criticism
The Light Bearer has sold over 350,000 copies worldwide, and has been translated into German, Dutch, Russian and Italian. In 1994-95 it spent 18 weeks on Germany’s Buchreport bestseller list Buchreport. (German title: Mondfeuer; Publisher: S. Fischer, 1994). In 2001, The Light Bearer was optioned by Hallmark Entertainment for a four-hour television miniseries that was not produced. In general, reviews were positive; it received a “starred” review in Publishers Weekly On Dec. 1, 1994, Brian Jacomb of The Washington Post Book World said of The Light Bearer: “Much has been written of the cold-blooded shenanigans of the Roman way of life, but Gillespie weaves her tale in a way that brings new color and excitement to the era … There are no flat passages in The Light Bearer, only a fast-flowing stream that erupts into a full-scale torrent in the book's conclusion.”
Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science
There are mostly allusions to the Roman-Chattian War in AD 85. As has been described by Donna Gillespie, it was the Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96) who decided to prepare a decisive blow against the rebellious tribe of the Chatti in order to become as celebrated as was his brother Titus (AD 39-81), who won a decisive victory over Judaea (AD 66-73: Jewish-Roman War). In AD 70, Titus destroyed Jerusalem), Domitian wanted to equal his brother and, like him, become a national hero, conqueror of a foreign people for Rome’s glory. Very early during the war, he proclaimed himself "Germanicus" (in remembrance of the "real" Germanicus who saved the corpses of those legionaries who had been killed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD) as though he had conquered the territory which had been formerly occupied by the Romans. In order to emphasize this accomplishment, he coined money with the inscription "GERMANIA CAPTA" in imitation of his brothers’ coins: "JUDAEA CAPTA". The territory Domitian actually conquered bore little resemblance to the brief Roman occupation of Germania from 12 BC to 9 AD. And Domitian couldn’t hide this fact for a very long time: In fact, it was popularly believed that the captives exhibited during Domitian’s triumphal procession into Rome were not Germanic captives at all but actors and palace slaves, for Domitian was woefully short of genuine captives (as was described in The Light Bearer). After the end of the war against the Chattians, Domitian divided "Roman" Germania into two parts: Germania Inferior and Germania Superior. This enabled him to reduce the number of legions in Germania; thus more legionnaires could be deployed to other regions of the empire.
Domitian was assassinated in a palace conspiracy forwarded by his wife Domitia Longina in September, AD 96. Even today, historians debate whether or not he was in fact the murderer of his brother, the Emperor Titus.
- Chatti#In popular culture
- Nero in popular culture#Literature
- Fiction set in Ancient Rome
- Geoff Taylor
- Gillespie, Donna; Mondfeuer (The Light Bearer), Frankfurt/Main, 1997.
- Wolters, Reinhard; Die Römer in Germanien (The Romans in Germania), Munich 2000.