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Author Topic: That Southern Thing...  (Read 1824 times)

Offline Yora

That Southern Thing...
« on: August 26, 2017, 02:06:21 PM »
Fantasy of the late 20th century is massively influenced by Tolkien, who was deliberately drawing heavily on "that Northern Thing" of germanic, gaelic, and finnish mythology. When that term was used to describe Tolkienian fantasy, it was contrasted with "the Southern Thing": The ancient myths and history of the Mediterranean Sea region. (Today, you could also argue that there's an Eastern Thing in fantasy works.)
I find it quite plausible to make these two broad categories of stylistic influences on fantasy worlds, even though they don't cover anywhere near to all existing fantasy worlds. Perhaps not even half of them. But I was wondering what popular fantasy books there are that show strong traces of Greko-Roman culture?

The first one that comes to my mind is Robert Howards Hyborian Age of Conan. There are Scandinavian lands in the North and African lands in the South, but they get little mention and are visited in only one or two stories each, to my knowledge. The majority of action takes place in the lands of the very Greko-Roman Hyborians, Egyptian Stygians, and vaguely Iranian-Turkic peoeple of "the East".
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2017, 02:42:36 PM »
Fantasy of the late 20th century is massively influenced by Tolkien, who was deliberately drawing heavily on "that Northern Thing" of germanic, gaelic, and finnish mythology. When that term was used to describe Tolkienian fantasy, it was contrasted with "the Southern Thing": The ancient myths and history of the Mediterranean Sea region. (Today, you could also argue that there's an Eastern Thing in fantasy works.)
I find it quite plausible to make these two broad categories of stylistic influences on fantasy worlds, even though they don't cover anywhere near to all existing fantasy worlds. Perhaps not even half of them. But I was wondering what popular fantasy books there are that show strong traces of Greko-Roman culture?

The first one that comes to my mind is Robert Howards Hyborian Age of Conan. There are Scandinavian lands in the North and African lands in the South, but they get little mention and are visited in only one or two stories each, to my knowledge. The majority of action takes place in the lands of the very Greko-Roman Hyborians, Egyptian Stygians, and vaguely Iranian-Turkic peoeple of "the East".

An older series, but certainly has a heavy Greco-Roman influence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_Swords#Gods
The Gem Cutter
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Offline Peat

Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2017, 04:44:38 PM »
Surprisingly few. I keep meaning to do something about that.

Jim Butcher's Codex Alera and Jo Walton's Thessaly trilogy both spring to mind. David Gemmell wrote series covering Alexander the Great and Troy.
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Offline Yora

Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2017, 05:06:17 PM »
Surprisingly few. I keep meaning to do something about that.
I was just in Greece and had ideas for adjustments to the world I've made all the time. There's a lot of great stuff.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

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Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2017, 05:10:12 PM »
I'd also like to read something with a more southern-myths setting/influences :)
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2017, 06:25:03 PM »
Thraxas (Thraxas #1) by Martin Scott , a comedy Marcus Falco vibe set in a city very much like Rome

The Garden of Stones (Echoes of Empire #1) by Mark T. Barnes, First book which came to mind

Spoiler for Hiden:
An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Av?n share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shr?an into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace

Drakenfeld (Drakenfeld #1)by Mark Charan Newton, maybe it's a fantasy murder mystery

Darien: Empire of Salt (Empire of Salt #1) by C.F. Iggulden (Alias), Conn Iggulden

Spoiler for Hiden:
From acclaimed historical novelist Conn Iggulden, DARIEN is an epic new fantasy series of spellbinding imagination.

TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE. WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.

The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.

Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city - Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt - and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.

Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made - and lost - in Darien.

'A master storyteller' Sunday Express

'Iggulden is in a class of his own' Daily Mirror

'One of our finest historical novelists' Daily Express

The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker

Spoiler for Hiden:
Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man.

He is ruthless, cunning, and above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions, he's only ever made one mistake.

One mistake, though, can be enough.

Purple and Black by K.J. Parker

Spoiler for Hiden:
When his father, brothers and uncles wiped each other out in a murderous civil war, Nicephorus was forced to leave the University and become emperor.

Seventy-seven emperors had met violent deaths over the past hundred years, most of them murdered by their own soldiers. Hardly surprising, then, that Nico should want to fill the major offices of state with the only people he knew he could trust, his oldest and closest friends.

But there's danger on the northern frontier, and Nico daren't send a regular general up there with an army, for fear of a military coup. He turns to his best friend Phormio, who reluctantly takes the job.

Military dispatches, written in the purple ink reserved exclusively for official business, are a miserable way for friends to keep in touch, at a time when they need each other most. But there's space in the document-tube for another sheet of paper.


Clash of Eagles (Clash of Eagles #1)by Alan Smale

Spoiler for Hiden:
It’s The Last of the Mohicans meets HBO’s Rome in this exciting and inventive debut novel from Sidewise Award-winner Alan Smale that will thrill fans of alternate history, historical fiction, and military fiction.

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, a legion under the command of general Gaius Marcellinus invades the newly-discovered North American continent. But Marcellinus and his troops have woefully underestimated the fighting prowess of the Native American inhabitants. When Gaius is caught behind enemy lines and spared, he must reevaluate his allegiances and find a new place in this strange land.

Soldier of the Mist (Latro #1) by Gene Wolfe

Spoiler for Hiden:
Gene Wolfe has turned to the fantastic historical world of Greece, in 479 B.C., when the gods walked the Earth. Latro, a mercenary soldier from the north, has suffered a head wound in battle and has been separated from his compatriots. He has not only lost the memory of who he is and where he is from, he has also lost the ability to remember from day to day and must live out of context in an eternal present, every day rediscovering the shreds of his identity and the nature of the world around him, aided only by a written record that he attempts to continue daily and must read every morning.

But in recompense for his unhappy condition Latro has received the ability to see and converse with invisible beings, all the gods and goddesses, ghosts and demons and werewolves, who inhabit the land and affect the lives of others, all unseen. Everyone knows that supernatural creatures are constantly around them and sometimes, under special circumstances, can perceive them—but Latro is now constantly able to penetrate the veil of the supernatural, which is both a triumph and a danger.

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton

Spoiler for Hiden:
"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent."

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future--all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome--and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo--stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does--has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives--the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself--to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Spoiler for Hiden:
Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.

In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality—and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

The Incorruptibles (The Incorruptibles #1) by John Hornor Jacobs

Spoiler for Hiden:
In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way up stream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it - from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do.

In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together.

For Fisk and Shoe - two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other - their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky.

And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 06:53:27 PM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline Eclipse

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« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 06:49:41 PM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline abatch

Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2017, 10:03:55 PM »
Dorn is meant to be Spain, I think, and certain Mureen and other places Danaerys visits are Eastern Med. and further east (if the Dothraki are, say, the Huns or Mongols).

Malazan similarly has some Mediterranean and middle-eastern venues.

And this series is even more direct:

https://www.amazon.com/Persephones-Orchard-Chrysomelia-Stories-Ringle/dp/1926760980/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503781398&sr=8-1&keywords=molly+ringle

Offline Eclipse

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Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2017, 02:57:00 PM »
Pendragon (Dark Age #1) by James Wilde

Here is the beginning of a legend. Long before Camelot rose, a hundred years before the myth of King Arthur was half-formed, at the start of the Red Century, the world was slipping into a Dark Age…

It is AD 367. In a frozen forest beyond Hadrian’s Wall, six scouts of the Roman army are found murdered. For Lucanus, known as the Wolf and leader of elite unit called the Arcani, this chilling ritual killing is a sign of a greater threat.
But to the Wolf the far north is a foreign land, a place where daemons and witches and the old gods live on. Only when the child of a friend is snatched will he venture alone into this treacherous world - a territory ruled over by a barbarian horde - in order to bring the boy back home. What he finds there beyond the wall will echo down the years.
A secret game with hidden factions is unfolding in the shadows: cabals from the edge of Empire to the eternal city of Rome itself, from the great pagan monument of Stonehenge to the warrior kingdoms of Gaul will go to any length to find and possess what is believed to be a source of great power, signified by the mark of the Dragon.
A soldier and a thief, a cut-throat, courtesan and a druid, even the Emperor Valentinian himself - each of these has a part to play in the beginnings of this legend…the rise of the House of Pendragon
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline JMack

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Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2017, 11:59:38 PM »
David Drake's "Lord of the Isles" series has a strong Greco-roman flavor.
I ready several and enjoyed them.
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Offline Skip

Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2017, 05:21:07 PM »
There are lots of works from the Mediterranean area, going at least as far back as the Odyssey and the Arabian Nights. There was quite a fad of Arabian and Egyptian themed fantasies starting at the end of the 19thc and running up to about WWII. Others here have pointed out more recent works.

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Offline Eclipse

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Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2017, 11:48:12 AM »
The Shards of Heaven (The Shards of Heaven #1) by Michael Livingston

Spoiler for Hiden:
The beginning of an epic historical fantasy that rocks the foundations of the ancient world

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar’s ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar’s legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods—or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Re: That Southern Thing...
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2017, 03:20:39 AM »
Guy Gavriel Kay is a favorite of mine.
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