Hello and welcome to the last week of Riptide Publishing’s Warriors of Rome month! We’re Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane, and all week, we’ll be posting across the web chatting about our heartpounding new novel Mark of the Gladiator, Roman history in general, and dropping a few sexy gladiator-related surprises along the way! For a complete tour listing, please check out the Riptide website, but first, read on for today’s post, and don’t forget to leave us a comment for today’s chance at winning our week-long contest!
Thank you so much to our hosts for having us, and to all of you for reading along!
Roman Poetry, Filthy and Sublime
By Violetta Vane
I started learning Latin in a fairly traditional way, with Julius Caesar’s Commentaries. This is a first-hand account of the Roman invasion of Gaul, historically crucial but terribly dry in terms of prose. You might have heard of the famous opening line:
All Gaul is divided into three parts.
If you stick with it, though, Latin gets a lot more racy. There’s a wealth of amazing love poetry. The Romans learned from the Greeks and added their own unique spin on themes of desire and obsession.
My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
Let us not weigh them. Heaven’s great lamps do dive
Into their west, and straight again revive.
But, soon as once set our little light,
Then must we sleep one ever-during night.
The poet Catullus wrote these lines sometime around 50BCE. The same argument appears again and again in poetry. It’s that classic connection between love and death: “We’ll die soon, so let’s get it on now!” His love for Lesbia can’t survive death, represented by the setting of the sun, but it’s stronger than any strictures of morality or society. A good Roman man isn’t supposed to go crazy for love, but Catullus doesn’t give a damn.
A lot of this sort of poetry is dedicated to love between men, as well. Tibullus, a poet writing around the same time, gives seduction instructions via wrestling practice in these lines:
If he wants to fight, try to play at it with a light hand:
often leave your flank exposed so he can win.
Then he’ll be gentle with you, then you may snatch
that precious kiss: he’ll struggle but let you take it.
At first he’ll let you snatch it, later he’ll bring it himself
when asked, and then even want to hang about your neck.
A lot of Roman poetry was surprisingly plain-spoken and confessional in tone, touching on subjects we don’t imagine should belong in poetry. There was hate poetry as well as love poetry, and gangster rap style braggadocio. Here’s another poem by Catullus, warning a rival:
Aurelius, father of hungers,
you desire to fuck,
not just these, but whoever my friends
were, or are, or will be in future years.
not secretly: now at the same time as you joke
with one, you try clinging to him on every side.
In vain: now my insidious cock
will bugger you first.
Mark of the Gladiator is a story that includes both extremes of love and hate. And our hero, Anazâr, is also fascinated with the language of love and hate… even though as a foreigner from the edges of the Empire, he can’t yet read Latin. As a gladiator and slave, he’s certainly experienced hate, and sexual violence, and death… but can he afford to love, to follow his heart? Ultimately, the answer is yes. The sun will set eventually, but until then, there’s room for love.
All week, leave comments on our blog tour stops for a chance to win all three books in our M/M urban fantasy series Layers of the Otherworld. All you have to do is leave a comment with your email whenever you see us touring. One comment = one entry, so be sure to check us out every day! The more you comment, the better your odds! On December 3rd (that’s one week after Mark of the Gladiator’s release!), we’ll draw one lucky winner to receive Cruce de Caminos, The Druid Stone, and Galway Bound in the ebook format of their choice. Bonne chance!
About Heidi and Violetta
Two unlikely friends and co-writers, Heidi Belleau is a wholesome small-town history nerd from Northern Canada and Violetta Vane is a former academic with a sketchy past from the American South. Together, they write sex-soaked multicultural M/M romance and urban fantasy. You can visit them online at HeidiBelleau.com and ViolettaVane.com, or reach them on twitter as @HeidiBelleau and @ViolettaVane.
Title: Mark of the Gladiator by Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: M/M, Historical, Erotic, Romance
Length: 250 pages/Word count: 71,200
After an inconvenient display of mercy in the arena, the gladiator Anazâr is pulled from the sands and contracted to nobleman Lucius Marianus to train his new stable of female gladiators. His charges are demoralized and untested, and they bear the marks of abuse. Anazâr has a scant two months to prepare them for the arena, and his new master demands perfection.
Anazâr is surprised by how eager he is to achieve it—far more eager than a man motivated only by self-preservation. Perhaps it’s because Marianus is truly remarkable: handsome, dignified, honorable, and seemingly as attracted to Anazâr as Anazâr is to him.
But a rivalry between Marianus and his brother sparks a murder conspiracy, with Anazâr and his gladiatrices caught in the middle. One brother might offer salvation . . . but which? And in a world where life is worth less than the pleasures of the crowd or the whims of a master, can there be any room for love? As a gladiator, Anazâr’s defenses are near impenetrable. But as a man, he learns to his cost that no armor or shield can truly protect his heart.
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