Last year I wrote a story called “The Elissiad”, it’s set in another version of Earth where Rome fell to Hannibal and a stranded alien ship appeared above the ancient city of Carthage.
Here’s the synopsis:
What if Hannibal Barca and his elephants crossed the Alps and destroyed Rome? What if Carthage became a new Eternal City but with the bread and without the circuses?
Now the city is home to two aliens stranded on Earth who have adopted the personas of the native gods in order to repair their vessel—while accidentally uplifting humanity in the process.
Welcome to the day Carthage learns the truth about their ‘gods’.
Before I was a journalist, before I was an author, I was a sixteen year old bookworm who was trying to choose her A Levels. Religious studies was a given, as was English language given I got a B in my GCSE’s in the subject but what was my third choice going to be?
During an interview at my high school, one of the teachers let slip that Paston College, the local Sixth Form (which for the Americans is where students go to continue their education from sixteen to eighteen), did a course called Classical Civilisations.
Now I’d always loved history and was a huge mythology buff. My parents never told me stories but I did have books; I discovered mythology and remain to this day a hub of obscure information relating to the Greek/Roman and Egyptian pantheons.
By doing this two year course (and the Classics syllubus in my first year of uni), I learned about art, society, religious practises, theatre and the cultures behind the big budget movies (to this day Disney’s Hercules makes me cringe and brings out my inner mythology nerd).
Carthage and Rome’s rivalry was one of the things we covered simply because one of the books I had to study was Virgil’s Aeneid which is best described as a stylised Roman take on the Illiad and Aeneas’ own Odyssey to find a home for the dispossessed refugees who survived the war against Troy.
Along the way Aeneas meets Dido, Queen of Carthage (known as Elissa in Carthaginian stories) and there’s love and tragedy, ending with a funeral pyre and a deep resentment which the Aeneid pitched as the reason why Rome and Carthage never saw eye to eye.
Historical fiction isn’t normally my cup of tea, at least not until I started reading Jo Graham (whose book Black Ships is her retelling of the Aeneid). But I pitched three ideas to Sam and Alt-Carthage was his favourite so I decided to retell the love story between Dido and her foreign lover with a twist—aliens.
The best part from me was being able to take the real religious and history of Carthage and wind it into my story, finding a reason why children were sacrificed to Tanit, greatest of Carthage’s pantheon and goddess of the city. I wanted Carthage to fall, because all cities must one day end, but in a deviation from the historical records which gave it another century or so of life.
“The Elissiad” is the result.
Alt.History 102 is coming this February and you can pre-order a copy here: www.smarturl.it/alt-history-102