Living Abroad – A Guest Post by Author Caterina Novelliere

I meet a lot of people on-line as an author, historian, and blogger. The great thing about it is that sometimes you get to meet people with whom you click right away, people who have the same interests, similar experiences, and the same hunger to learn more about the world, and about history.

Today, I’m pleased to post a guest blog by just such a person.

Caterina and I met on-line (was it Twitter?) when I was posting about Tunisia and the Roman sites there which are part of the setting for Children of Apollo, and Killing the Hydra.

When she told me that she used to live in Tunisia, as well as in Italy, I asked her if she could write a post about her experiences that I could share with all of you.

So, without further ado, over to Caterina to talk about what it was like to live abroad, and how that shaped her imagination, art, and interests as a young child.

Living Abroad picture

Adam was kind enough to invite me to share how living abroad at a young age influenced my writing and shaped my life over the years. As a child, I lived in Tunisia for two and a half years. My family frequently traveled around the country. I also had the pleasure of visiting Algeria. My time in North Africa significantly shaped my academic and personal interests. Tunisia is the place where I fell in love with Antiquity, North African history, and Middle Eastern culture. I study all three in my academic pursuits.

One of the first places my parents took me in Tunisia was Carthage. The ruins, especially the large columns of carved stone, fascinated me. At the time, I wondered who exactly were these people living in stone houses? Seeing elaborate mosaics in the remains of the baths and villas, I concluded they all had to be amazing artists. Each new twist and turn through the site prompted more questions. What was life like for the Carthaginians and Romans? What would the children who once lived there say if I could speak to them? What games did they play? The adults seemed so focused on banqueting and bathing, which were totally boring subjects to a young child.

Statue

Statue and Mosaics at the Bardo Museum, Tunis

I met my first archaeologist at Carthage. He took a few minutes out of his day to show me what he was doing, explain the finds, and answer some of the crazy questions that my five year old self had in addition to those of my parents and a few others who went with us. I can still vividly recall his face and the patient way he’d smile and elaborate on life in Antiquity. I thought he had the coolest job. At that point I was hooked by the past and longed to explore it further. Who wouldn’t like a job that allowed you to play outside in the dirt and discover such wondrous things? It was like recess all of the time! Little did I know how hard that work is nor how meticulous an archaeologist or historian needs to be when excavating or developing the narrative of a people that lived long ago. I passed Roman ruins in the city every day on the bus ride to school and swimming lessons afterwards. We frequently took field trips to the remains of Roman sites and El Djem (a Roman amphitheater in the area). I would stare out the bus window daydreaming about what it would be like to sit in the stands watching men fight lions and each other. Would the crowd be loud? Would the men all wear decorated armor and carry swords on their sides? Did the women faint or cry from the gore or their favorite fighter dying? Needless to say, I had a very Hollywood vision of Roman life. The thirst to learn more about Roman North Africa and the mighty empire began in those years spent in Tunisia. It has been unquenchable since. After hitting my early thirties, I decided I needed to formalize my education in the fields I enjoyed so much and began the journey of becoming a trained historian and cultural heritage professional.

The Amphitheatre of El Djem (Roman Thusdrus)

The Amphitheatre of El Djem (Roman Thusdrus)

An important piece of culture frequently taken for granted or overlooked by the average joe is food. Food history fascinates me. Studying food from both a commodities and cultural perspective gives us unique insight into a region, the development of trade, and social practices of various civilizations. Food is a fantastic historical subject if one is searching to form connections between the past and today. There are many dishes and drinks like wine, coffee, or tea that significantly shape a region economically, socially, and from an identity perspective. I subtly sprinkle traditional meals and beverages in any novel of mine you pick up. As my characters dine and move on their various adventures, dinners and drinks frequently reflect the location they are in. In my travels, you can routinely find me eating local dishes off the beaten path. My passion for food arose out of childhood trips to Tunisian vineyards, markets and cafes. My mother emphasized it was important that I tried everything on my plate anytime an invite came to go to someone’s house or we went somewhere new. I remember watching her learn to cook local meals along with a wide variety of Middle Eastern and French dishes due to the many nationalities that made up our circle of friends abroad. I am guilty of being drawn to any restaurant offering tagines, couscous, shwarema, and other North African delicacies. One of the first dishes I learned to cook as a child was a lamb, vegetable and couscous stew. It is definitely one of my go to comfort foods when I am feeling down. Fresh mint tea is a treat anytime of the year. Pomegranates, blood oranges, figs, almonds, and tangerines are some of my favorite snacks after discovering them in Tunisia.

Troglodyte Dwelling - Matmata

Troglodyte Dwelling – Matmata

My fiction writing contains more than just the gastronomical flavorings of North Africa. Locations like Dougga, Carthage, and Hippo appear in storylines. There is something incredibly romantic about the places bordering the Mediterranean that fuels my imagination. One particular event I attended stands out in my mind as the most captivating culturally in all of my Tunisian and Algeria adventures, The Douz Festival. The races, celebrations, and traditions one witnesses traveling to the Saharan extravaganza further reeled me into the world of the Bedouin and Berber. The Douz Festival is an annual celebration of the harvesting of the dates and the nomadic way of life. Many Arab, Bedouin, and Berber clans come together to compete in horse and camel racing, trick riding, and overall merriment. The festival was so different from any circus or fair I attended in the states. The excitement in the air each day was contagious. Camels moved faster than I thought they could in intense matches. My pulse raced watching Arabians decked out in traditional saddles and bridles fly down the desert track. My heart was stolen by one of the trick riders one night. He rode a black horse whose saddle and bridle were decorated in red, green, white and black plumes. I was transfixed in place watching him stand in the saddle as his horse cantered past along with performing other amazing feats. If there was such a thing as a knight or fearsome desert warrior, it certainly had to be him. When he finished his act, he rode over to my family and spoke with us. Allowing me to pet his horse and the smile he offered before riding off had me completely smitten with my first crush on a stranger. No doubt my parents would laugh if I told them for a few years afterward, I wanted to marry a desert prince with a black stallion. From that day forward, I wanted to learn to ride like him and the others we saw at the festival. My parents knew a riding instructor in the US and three years later I learned to ride and vault. Needless to say time reshapes our perspective on romance, but I have never forgotten my Tunisian Horseman. Phantoms of him, a love for horses, and the euphoria of desert life intermingle in a few of the tales I craft. All three of these left their lasting mark on me.

Douz Animal Market, Tunisia

Douz Animal Market, Tunisia

Perhaps the two most precious gifts North Africa bestowed on me consist of language and a willingness to be open to new things. In school, it was mandatory we study French, Arabic and English. Not many American children receive the opportunity to start working with three languages in elementary school. By the time we left Tunisia, I had a fluency and working level well above my age in all three. It was strange to come stateside and not use the French or Arabic any longer. I periodically revive my French and Arabic as they do fade without use. My studies with them provided a foundation to learn Italian and Latin later on in college. One day I hope to add Greek, Berber (Tuareg or Tamazight), and Turkish to my list of languages.

Learning to interact with an international community, sampling a variety of cuisines, and seeing the various lifestyles from living in modern cities, Bedouin tents, or underground homes in Matmata (think Luke Skywalker’s house in Star Wars) helped me start to appreciate and embrace diversity at a young age. This exposure continues to help me approach topics and people from a more curious and open perspective versus a judgmental one. Undoubtedly, North Africa firmly rooted my willingness to try just about anything once.
Caterina Novelliere author photoCaterina is passionate about history, music, romance, old languages, and travel. She regularly intertwines these subjects in her writing. She holds a degree in Music Management with a minor in Vocal Performance from Old Dominion University in Virginia and a second B.A. in History with a minor in Italian from the University of Texas San Antonio. Ever a glutton for punishment and a believer in life long learning, Caterina is completing a M.A. in Public History from Texas State University. She was fortunate enough to receive awards that enabled her to study abroad in Urbino, Italy and Chester, England. She took full advantage of these opportunities to explore Italy, Jersey, England, Scotland, and Wales; conducting boots on the ground research for her coursework and literary works. While she is a fan of all history, her heart resides in Antiquity. She enjoys studying time periods up through the Renaissance. Modern history is just not as fun as gladiators, emperors, caliphs, queens, knights and kings. An obsession with cappuccino and Greek coffee started her down a path of researching commodities and gastronomy history in her free time.

When not traveling or studying, Caterina finds time to sing classical music, act, write, paint and fence. She is always up for trying something new so the list of hobbies is ever expanding.

Caterina is a social media junkie who enjoys meeting new folks. If you would like to contact her or learn more about her and future works, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and on her Blog.

A big ‘Thank You’ to Caterina for taking the time to write this wonderful post for us and, for myself, digging up all the great memories I have of my own visit to Tunisia and the Sahara. Don’t forget to connect with her so you can stay apprised of her historical research, and future travels.

Also, be sure to check out her novel, Mark of the Night, to see how her experiences have affected her fantastic storytelling!

Mark of the Night cover

Cheers, and thank you for reading!

 

 

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The Cult of Mithras

Tauroctony (Wikimedia Commons)

Tauroctony (Wikimedia Commons)

Hello everyone,

I’d like to thank all of you for your patience and kind words over the last few weeks. It has indeed been a difficult time with the sudden loss of my father.

I’m soldiering on with my writing. The first draft of Thanatos (final part in The Carpathian Interlude series) is finished and promises to be a wild ride into darkness – something to match my mood of late.

I’m also thinking of trying out some new things involving video, so look for that in the coming weeks.

Today, I wanted to draw your attention to a guest post of mine on the English Historical Fiction Authors website (EHFA).

If you haven’t seen this site, you should check it out and sign-up for their e-mail updates. If you like history, you will get a daily dose of fascinating blog posts on a wide range of topics.

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When the kind folks at EHFA contacted me to ask if I would be able to post on the site several weeks ago, I of course said yes!

With the subsequent loss of my father, however, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. But, writing is therapeutic for me, and so I put together a post called The Cult of Mithras – the British Connection in which I look at Mithraism and The Carpathian Interlude series and how the cult of Mithras was present in Britannia.

If you like ancient mystery religions, or The Carpathian Interlude series, I think you’ll enjoy reading this post.

I’ve also thrown myself into research for another Eagles and Dragons series novel and, as ever, history has been a wonderful distraction from the strange days in which I find myself.

So, thank you again for all your wishes, and I look forward to talking more history with all of you.

Oh, and by the way, from February 18th-22, Chariot of the Son is available for FREE DOWNLOAD from Amazon, so be sure to go and get your copy.

As ever, thank you for reading…

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The Goddess Athena and her Sacred Temple, The Parthenon – With Special Guest, Effrosyni Moschoudi

Today we have a very special guest on Writing the Past.

Effrosyni Moschoudi is a fellow author whose books have been making a big splash on the Amazon charts and on book review sites around the web.

I’ve read her book, The Necklace of the Goddess Athena, and it is a wonderful book that is full of mystery, wonder, and goodness. Click HERE to read my review of it.

For a while I’ve wanted to have Effrosyni, a native of Athens, guest post here to talk about the ancient city and the bright-eyed goddess for whom it is named.

So, over to Effrosyni for a magical post…

Statue of Athena - Nashville Parthenon

Statue of Athena – Nashville Parthenon

 

GODDESS ATHENA AND HER SACRED TEMPLE, THE PARTHENON

A Guest post by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Goddess Athena was greatly revered by the ancient Greeks. One of her many epithets, Pallada (or Pallas), was owed to the peculiarity of her birth. According to legend, she sprang forth from the forehead of her father Zeus, fully armed and shaking her spear fiercely, making a fearsome sound. The word Pallada is derived from the Greek word ‘pallein’ which means ‘to shake’.

This divine young virgin was among other things, the goddess of wisdom and justice. Her sacred symbols include the owl and the olive tree. According to legend, she challenged Poseidon on the Athens Acropolis aiming to win the patronship of the city. The two Gods agreed to each offer a gift before king Cecrops and the witnessing Athenians; the better gift would grant the deity the greatly desired patronship status.

Poseidon went first, striking the Acropolis Rock with his trident to produce the Sea of Erechtheus; a salt spring. As the myth goes, the Athenians weren’t particularly impressed with this gift, as the water wasn’t fit to drink. Poseidon then offered a second gift, a horse, to be used for war. When Athena’s turn came, she struck the ground with her spear and an olive tree sprouted from it swiftly; a magnificent gift to be used for nourishment, beauty and light in the dark. King Cecrops and the people of Athens favored the gift of the olive tree and declared Athena the patron deity of the city that inevitably took on her name.

According to myth, Poseidon was enraged by this and stormed to western Attica, where he flooded the Thriasian Plain. His rivalry with Athena, even though she is his niece, is legendary in Greek mythology. Homer’s Odyssey illustrates it heavily, telling the world of this fearsome uncle and his cunning niece who fight over the fate of Odysseus. The cunning Greek king and his loyal crew roamed the sea for years, going through infamous trials and tribulations as they made their way back home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Although Poseidon tried to lead Odysseus to his demise, furious with him for blinding his beloved son, The Cyclops Polyphemus, Athena kept going against his will assisting Odysseus out of difficult situations, until he made it safely home back to his palace and faithful wife, Penelope.

The Contest for Athens

The Contest for Athens

The Athenians loved their patron Goddess like no other deity. During the Golden Age of Athens (460-430 BC), under the leadership of Pericles, they built the Parthenon atop the Acropolis hill, along with other glorious edifices; all of them famous through history in their own right as well: The Propylaea, The Erechtheion and The Temple of Athena Nike.

Famous architects Iktinos and Kallikrates took over the construction and the legendary sculptor Phidias was commissioned to create the colossal chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena for the interior of the Parthenon, which was named Athena Parthenos (Athena The Virgin). Phidias also sculpted the gigantic bronze statue Athena Promachos (Athena standing in the front line in battle). This statue was placed between The Parthenon and The Propylaea.

The word Parthenon is also derived from the word ‘parthenos’ which means ‘virgin’ as per the epithet ‘Virgin’ for Athena. Once in four years, the Panathinaia Festival took place in honor of the Goddess. Although it also involved athletic events similar to the Olympic Games, the main event was the religious procession that made its way from The Parthenon to the town of Elefsis via Iera Odos (The Sacred Way); today, Iera Odos survives as a busy motorway between Athens and the historical town of Elefsis (also spelled Eleusis in English). This historic town is also the very site of the infamous Eleusinian Mysteries of antiquity that to this day, historians know very little about.

The Parthenon today

The Parthenon today

Over the millennia, The Parthenon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, has suffered devastation repeatedly and on a large scale. Other than being occupied by the Turks and turned into a mosque in the 1460s, it was also bombed by the Venetians in 1687, cruelly looted by Lord Elgin in 1806 and has even suffered substantial damage by overzealous Christian priests who destroyed the depictions on the friezes that seemed indecent in their eyes.

In order to graphically illustrate the Parthenon back in its glory days as well as its demise through the millennia, I’m including below a remarkable video by the Greek Ministry of Culture. I hope you’ll also enjoy therein, a classic poem by the legendary philhellene, Lord Byron. The great romantic poet’s imagination has captured the wrath of Athena (Minerva, in Roman) further to the merciless destruction of her sacred temple. For the benefit of poetry lovers, I’m also including a link to the whole poem, written in Athens in 1811 by the great British poet.

CLICK HERE to read The Curse of Minerva by Lord Byron

 

Effrosyni Moschoudi

Effrosyni Moschoudi

Effrosyni Moschoudi was born and raised in Athens, Greece. As a child, she often sat alone in her granny’s garden scribbling rhymes about flowers, butterflies and ants. Through adolescence, she wrote dark poetry that suited her melancholic, romantic nature. She’s passionate about books and movies and simply couldn’t live without them. She lives in a quaint seaside town near Athens with her husband Andy and a naughty cat called Felix.

Her debut novel, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, is a #1 Amazon bestseller in Greek & Roman literature. This urban fantasy of Greek myths and time travel is suitable for all ages. In 2014, it made the shortlist for the “50 Best Self-Published Books Worth Reading” from Indie Author Land.

Her second novel, The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb, is an ABNA Quarter-Finalist. Set in England in the 1930’s and in Greece in the 1980’s, it follows the lives and loves of two young girls who’ve never met but are connected in a mysterious way.

Effrosyni’s books are available in kindle and print format.

The Necklace of Goddess Athena

The Necklace of Goddess Athena

CONNECT WITH EFFROSYNI

Amazon Author page

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 The Necklace of Goddess Athena in paperback and Kindle e-book.

I’d like to thank Effrosyni for taking the time to write this fascinating piece for Writing the Past.

In reading it I felt nostalgia gripping me as it has been several years since I last walked Athens’ ancient streets and gazed up at the Parthenon atop the Acropolis.

I definitely recommend The Necklace of the Goddess Athena, not only for the beautiful story, but also for the feeling of living in Athens today alongside the Gods themselves.

As ever, thank you for reading, and remember to leave your comments below!

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