Ten settings in my series
My young adult series is set in the summer of 74 A.D. In the space of three months, our reluctant hero traverses the countryside and enters cities he never could have imagined during all his years in his mountain home. Here, then, is a glimpse at the locations which he explores and imagines.
1) Evander’s mountain village:
The main character, a boy on the cusp of manhood, lives high above the Armenian plains, where he (rather unsuccessfully) tends his family’s goats. His home is in a small village with a strong sense of community. They are a tiny pocket of early Christians in an otherwise pagan landscape, and Evander is very dissatisfied with the limitations of his life there. The allure of the plains, where Armenian men learn to master archery on horseback, is very enticing to the almost-teenager. The only excitement his villages offers, lies with the twice-annual visit of Spatha, the prophet-healer. (And Evander is none too fond of him.)
This frontier town was the site of a Roman fortress and was central to a battle during the Parthian rebellion. The ancient kingdom of Armenia was far larger than its modern remnant, stretching westward into what is today Eastern Turkey. As a vassal state of Rome, the kingdom of Armenia was patrolled by soldiers of the Empire (sounds a bit like Star Wars!). When the Parthians rose up against the yoke of Rome, the Armenians joined them. The consequences for Evander’s family were far-reaching…
3) Razmik and Nazeli’s village:
Evander’s parents were once plains-folk, worshiping the fire goddess. But the superstitions practiced by the villagers destroyed the trust among neighbors, causing Nazeli and Razmik to leave and start their family elsewhere.
4) Trade route:
Caravans traveled across Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and beyond, creating a network of supply in all directions. As necessary as these convoys were, their journeys were fraught with danger. Bandits and slavers preyed on the vulnerable, slow-moving travelers, who grouped together in order to add numbers to their defense. Even then, the heat and difficulty of water supply would have been challenging.
5) Mountains along the trade route:
The mountains of Eastern Turkey are varied and beautiful. Some have snow even in summer. Many are bald, except for a scattering of loose rock. Others are verdant and rich in wildlife. There are rivers and waterfalls, caves and gulleys. The landscapes range from meadows to moonscapes. And Evander must traverse many of these slopes in his adventures.
6) Outlying farmland near Kharput:
(Kharput became modern-day Harput in Elazig province, Turkey)
About an hour’s ride on horseback from Rhandeia, this farmland stretches from the plateau, across hillside and down to the Euphrates River. From there, it is not far to the North-South trade route that is so central to this series.
7) An isolated Germanic village:
Just when you thought you had the backdrop all figured out, we spend Book 2 in a village quite unlike any other in the series. Here we find what is reminiscent of a Viking culture, though these tribesmen would actually have been their very early ancestors. Germanic peoples had by this time already butted heads with the Romans, some being captured for use as slaves. However, the position of this village so far from their homeland required a fair bit of literary license from the author!
(Edessa became modern-day Sanli Urfa, Turkey)
At the center of the Osrhoene kingdom, the metropolitan city of Edessa was diverse in culture and religion. In Book 3, our hero and his companions are like fish out of water in this large, Roman-inhabited fortress city. The challenges they experience here are unique to life among the crowded, worldly inhabitants of an economic hub.
(Amida became modern-day Diyarbakir, Turkey)
The Mesopotamian city of Amida had an Assyrian ruler. Situated right on the bank of the Tigris, Amida boasted extensive gardens and cultivation. Syriac Christianity (Syriac = a dialect of Aramaic) took hold in this region in the decades that followed our story’s timeline. It is therefore entirely plausible that a group of early converts might be found here…
10) Spatha’s childhood village:
Throughout the series, Spatha is a man of mystery. In Book 4 we take a look into his past and discover that even a man of God has problems.