Who’s Guarding the Wall?

2022 marks the 1,900th anniversary of the Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Britannia and the start of the northern frontier upgrade from earth and bank defence to stone wall. The Wall marks the fall back line beyond which no raids by Caledonian tribes would be tolerated. But more than that, it was a grand imperial statement that boasted of the might of the Roman Empire that came with a statement of intent: “You’d better get used to us as we’re here to stay.”

But the life of Hadrian’s Wall as a frontier barrier lasted for only another 280 years, abandoned by Rome around the year 410 – the year Rome itself was sacked by the Visigoths.

I visited Hadrian’s Wall in September 2020 and was inspired to write my own story of frontier life in the heyday of the Roman Empire, choosing the final days of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in the year 180 C.E. My hero is Centurion Gaius Atticianus of the VI Legion, a real figure whose name is engraved on an altar stone excavated at Whitley Castle – once the Roman fort of Epiacum. I have imagined his story and struggle to survive in the harsh Northumbrian climate. I also wanted to showcase the work of archaeologists in uncovering and breathing new life into our understanding of Roman Britain, so I settled on a dual timeline story that flips from a contemporary tale to the life of Gaius in alternating chapters.

Legion Reenactor outside a reconstructed wooden fort

Guardians at the Wall is a dual timeline historical novel set at Hadrian’s Wall in which archaeologists uncover artefacts that connect them to the life of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia.

Available to buy from Amazon worldwide in Kindle, paperback, hardback and to read on Kindle Unlimited:

GUARDIANS AT THE WALL http://mybook.to/guardiansatthewall

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The Guardians at the Wall

Who Were the Guardians at the Wall?

My 2021 novel, Guardians at the Wall, is a work of fiction, inspired by an inscription on a Roman artefact discovered in 1803 at Whitley Castle in Cumbria, once the Roman fort of Epiacum. Following a visit to five Hadrian’s Wall museums located at fort sites in 2020, I became so intrigued by the work of archaeologists to uncover and piece together a narrative of how the Roman occupiers lived that I resolved to write my novel as a dual timeline with an archaeology story intertwined with the story of a Roman soldier during the occupation.

The main character in the contemporary thread is archaeology student Noah Jessop. In Noah’s presentation, he refers to three mentions he found of Centurion Gaius Atticianus. Of these three, two are fictitious and the true one is the dedication on an altar stone. In the Roman Inscriptions of Britain archives, there is an entry for an altar pedestal stone inscription, dedicated to the god Hercules. The translation reads:
‘To the god Hercules
Gaius Vitellius Atticianus
centurion of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis’

This altar stone (sketch from http://www.romaninscriptionsofbritain.org) now resides at the Higgins Art Gallery and Museum in Bedford.
From this, I’ve taken my character, Gaius Vitellius Atticianus of the VI Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis (‘the victorious, loyal and faithful Sixth Legion’), and imagined his story, including the invented burial of a payroll chest. One real event is included in the narrative; the burning down of Corbridge/Coria town in 180 or 181, thought to have been in an attack by Caledonian raiders from north of Hadrian’s Wall. 180 is also the year that Emperor Marcus Aurelius died – memorable depicted in the opening scenes of the movie, ‘Gladiator’. Two of my named Roman officers are also real, plucked from mentions in inscriptions on monuments or in surviving records, namely Legate of the VI Legion, Claudius Hieronymianus (between 190-212 C.E. – I liked the name so I placed him in office as a young political appointee, nine years earlier); and Tribune Publius Helvius Pertinax (VI Legion, 170s). Great names that deserve to live on. Further reading revealed that Pertinax retired to Rome after a long career as a provincial administrator, only to be persuaded out of retirement in the wake of the murder of Emperor Commodus by the Praetorian Guard. His short reign was the first three months of 193. He was murdered in turn and replaced by another candidate in the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

My story of Noah and the archaeologists is fiction, although the settings are real. Both the Vindolanda Trust and English Heritage are registered trusts under UK law, and manage functioning museums situated at the sites of part-excavated Roman ruins. English Heritage manage many sites on Hadrian’s Wall, including the fascinating Corbridge Roman Town, Housesteads (near the much-photographed Sycamore Gap), and the beautifully located Chesters fort, baths and Victorian era museum in the grounds of the Clayton family estate.

Andrew Birley at the Vindolanda dig site

The Vindolanda Trust has an ongoing archaeological dig, started in the 1930s by owner Eric Birley, and continued by his son, Robin, who in 1973 oversaw the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets. Vindolanda remains with the Birley family beyond 1970 when the Vindolanda Trust was founded, with Dr Andrew Birley as the current Chief Executive Officer. Many wonderous finds, including the tablets, can be seen in the onsite museum. Because peat contains very little oxygen, organic materials like wood, leather and textiles do not rot. They can survive for thousands of years, preserved by the stable anoxic chemistry of the soil.

Tim Walker at Arbeia replica commanding officer’s villa

I visited these places in September 2020, between Covid-19 lockdowns, and the idea for this story came to me shortly after, whilst I was blogging about my visits. I saw for myself the Gladiator drinking bowl or tankard (passed around by Gaius and his mates in chapter two and featured in miniature on the book cover) and was awe-struck by the Vindolanda tablets and the details of the inscriptions on the information cards. The whole museum is fascinating, as are the grounds. I was extremely grateful to escape the confines of my home for three glorious days in the fresh, Northumberland air. In January 2021, whilst in the midst of writing, I enjoyed watching Robson Green’s television series, Walking Hadrian’s Wall. I note that Mr Green is a Patron of the Vindolanda Trust, and his visit to meet with his ‘old mate’, Andrew Birley, was both fascinating and timely.

The novel’s title, Guardians at the Wall, came to me once I’d sketched out the plots of each timeline strand. The Roman and auxilliary soldiers stood guard at the Wall for over 200 years, but the current generation of guardians are the archaeologists, curators and historians who strive to expose the past and make it live on in public consciousness – a part of our history and cultural identity. In the novel I talk of a Combined Universities dig at Vindolanda. This is made up. There are no combined universities digs that I know of, but there are archaeology degree courses offered by Durham and Newcastle Universities, with fieldwork practicals.

Bronze Bust of the Emperor Hadrian at Segedunum Museum

The novel’s action is set at Hadrian’s Wall, one of Britain’s World Heritage sites. When finished, Hadrian’s wall stretched 117 km (73 imperial miles) from sea to sea. It stood about 5 meters (15 ft.) high and 3 meters (10 ft.) wide. The core consisted of packed earth and clay and the sides were faced with blocks of stone. There may have been intermittent platforms on top of some stretches of the wall between watchtowers and mile forts, where auxiliary sentries kept watchful eyes on the north lands. The wall was a highly visible symbol of the Roman Empire’s might and prodigious activity at the peak of its power and dominance. Now, barely 10% of Hadrian’s Wall remains in place, and its stone blocks have been pilfered over the centuries to build dry stone walls, buildings and even an entire village of over 300 dwellings called ‘Wall’.

2022 is a big anniversary year for Hadrian’s Wall, marking 1,900 years since the Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction during his visit in 122 C.E. At the time of writing, the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership Group are planning a number of events to mark the anniversary. Year-long activities based at or near Hadrian’s Wall, including online events, can be found listed at the Hadrian’s Wall Country website.

Guardians at the Wall is a 90,000 word novel available from Amazon in the following formats:

KINDLE PAPERBACK HARDBACK KINDLE UNLIMITED

Guardians at the Wall

Guardians at the Wall has now been proof-read, beta-read and copyedited, and will be finalised in early May ahead of a planned 1st June launch. It might be released earlier if ready – I’m looking at Friday 28th May as a possible early release date.
I’m in the process of arranging book blog appearances in June. I’ve decided to not go wide and just put it out as an Amazon exclusive in Kindle e-book, paperback and Kindle Unlimited.

Every independent author needs favourable reviews to entice casual browsers to make a purchase decision, so if you are defined interested in reading and reviewing it on Amazon (and/or Goodreads) please email me to request a pdf (for ipad); epub (for Kobo reader) or mobi file (for Kindle) so you can get started.

Guardians at the Wall blurb:
A group of archaeology students in northern England scrape at the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes.

Twenty-year-old Noah makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He is living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding ancient riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.

In the same place, 1,800 years earlier, Commander of the Watch, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one trying to get himself noticed and the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology dirt rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by his gaming mates and the attentions of two very different women, work out who to trust?
Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.

Guardians at the Wall


My new book, Guardians at the Wall, is due out on 1st June. It’s a dual timeline historical novel, set at Hadrian’s Wall. The main protagonist is Noah Jessop, a student undergraduate on a dig, who digs up a carved stone goddess. His professor, Maggie Wilde, identifies it as Brigantia, the protector of the local tribe, the Brigantes. This is the first of a few objects that connect the contemporary story to the historical account of Centurion Gaius Atticianus, in second century Britannia, that runs parallel through the novel.

I’ll share some of Professor Maggie Wilde’s research into the goddess Brigantia with you. The name of the tribe, ‘Brigante’ means ‘the high ones’, suggesting they were a dominant tribe over lesser neighbours, and Brigantia fulfils the function of being the high goddess over all others, the great protector of her people. The Romans recognised this and were keen to co-opt her into their belief system, twinning her with various deities including Minerva, Fortuna and Caelestis, the latter a North African moon goddess who was also co-opted by the Romans, from whom we get the word ‘celestial’.

Whilst the archaeologists are looking for meaning in their finds, Gaius is gifted the goddess statuette and presents it to his wife, Aria. Her reaction surprises him, as she is from a southern tribe and regards the Brigantes and their deities as foreign. She reminds her husband that their household is watched over by the water goddess of her people, Sulis, twinned with Minerva, and she won’t countenance having a rival deity in the house. Incidentally, the Roman name for the city of Bath was Aquae Sulis – ‘the waters of Sulis’.

This was too much for Gaius, who stalked off for a warming bath after a hard day in the saddle splitting enemy skulls. Aria picked her moment, one night, to return the offending goddess to her people.

The picture shows a stone altar carving of the goddess Brigantia, here twinned with the Roman goddess, Caelestis, that can be found in the Museum of Scotland.
(picture source: pinterest board)

Arthur, King of the Britons – book review

BLACK BOOKS BLOG

#BOOKREVIEW ARTHUR REX BRITTONUM BY TIM WALKER @TIMWALKER1666

Posted by blackbooks2017

Today I am reviewing book 5 of Tim Walker’s Light in the Dark Ages called Arthur Rex Brittonum

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land

Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend. 

Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement.

Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father – but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory?  It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, but it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Rex Brittonum.

MY REVIEW

This is book 5 in Tim’s Light in the Dark Ages series, which follows Britain in the 6th Century after the Romans had abandoned Britain and turmoil started before Arthur came along to try and Reunite the land.

As with the previous books this one is really well written and immersed me in the action start from the start.

Throughout the book there are adventures, journeys throughout the very well described land and some epic battles as Arthur tries to prove to the rest of Britain that he is the king who can bring peace to the land.

If you thought you knew everything there was to know about the legend of Arthur then think again as this bring more depth to his legendary character

Overall it is yet another great book by Tim and I have loved reading them all and learning about the early centuries of Great Britain.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

AUTHOR PROFILE – TIM WALKER

Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business.

Tim at an old Iron Age hillfort on the Ridgeway

His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.

His new book, published in June 2020, is Arthur, Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur (book five in the series). It follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, the story of young Arthur (book four in the series), that received recognition from two sources in 2019 – One Stop Fiction Book of the Month in April, and an honourable mention in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year (Historical Fiction) Awards. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.

Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); Perverse (verse and short fiction, 2020); and two children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.

Find out more about the author at – http://www.timwalkerwrites.co.uk 

Author Website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk 

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/timwalker1666 

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/TimWalkerWrites

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/TimWalkerWrites

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timwalker1666

Abandoned

3 THOUGHTS ON “#BOOKREVIEW ARTHUR REX BRITTONUM BY TIM WALKER @TIMWALKER1666

  1. TIMWALKER1666Thanks Dimon – another great review! Glad you’ve enjoyed the series 😀Liked by youREPLY
  2. TIMWALKER1666oops… SimonLiked by youREPLY
  3. Pingback: #BookReview Arthur Rex Brittonum by Tim Walker @Timwalker1666 – Tim Walker

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I’m very new to blogging so please bear with me and hopefully it will pick up and be brilliant. I will review all the books I read on here as well as hopefully some author interviews and other interesting book related things so enjoy and if you want me to include your book or someone else’s then please let me know

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A Light in a Dark Age

A Light in the Dark Ages is a book series conceived and written by British author, Tim Walker. It began in 2015 as a reflection on a question that popped into his head on a visit to the site of a Roman town (Calleva Atrebatum/Silchester) – how would the Briton tribes have reacted to the end of nearly 400 years of Roman occupation?

The first book, Abandoned, was published as a short novella in 2015, but was extensively re-written an re-launched as a novel in 2018. The narrative is loosely based on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of the politics of post-Roman Britain in his 1136 work, The History of the Kings of Britain, but supplemented by scraps of researched historical opinion.

Picture shows the author at the Roman wall remains at Silchester.

Although widely dismissed by historians as at best, wildly inaccurate, and worst, a work of fiction, Geoffrey has been credited with accumulating and working from source material, including a mysterious ‘text in a native tongue’ that remains undiscovered by historians. More recently his work has been re-evaluated with attempts made to try to understand why he moved historical figures and events around in his timeline in a sort of Middle Ages cut-and-paste job. Historian Miles Russell offers an interesting attempt at ‘decoding’ Geoffrey’s work in his Arthur and the Kings of Britain (2019).

Certainly the figure of Arthur, plucked from early Welsh folktales and mentions by church clerics such as Nennius in his work, History of the Britons (820), has been embellished with the deeds of other heroic leaders to create Britain’s first superhero. The deliberate creation of an heroic Briton leader who defeated the hated Saxons in battle is thought to have been done to please his Norman readership and sponsor. So there is a backbone of researched historical facts (and earlier mythology) in Geoffrey’s work, although it fails as a history due to the creative embellishments and the switching around of events and people to plug gaps in his timeline – and, presumably, to make his book a more enjoyable read.

Abandoned is followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017). Both high kings Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus are believed to be genuine historical figures in mid-fifth century Britain, due to mentions from a range of sources. This book charts the intense rivalry between these two figures that ultimately resulted in defeat and death for Vortigern, and victory and renewed hope for the Britons with Ambrosius.

Ambrosius is followed by Uther’s Destiny (2018), a story that is also based around Geoffrey’s tale of Uther, Merlin and the birth of Arthur. Uther’s name, ‘Pendragon’ is a title that literally means ‘The Head Dragon’. This may have been the title given to kings of Gwynedd in North Wales, some historians believe, hinting at a possible base for a historical ‘Uther’. But no early king of Gwynedd has this name, leaving historians with another puzzle to solve.

Arthur Dux Bellorum (2019) is the fourth book in the series. This covers the early life of Arthur, from late teens to late twenties. The idea for the plot came from an article historian David Ford Nash, who wrote an article on his best-guess for the locations of Nennius’s twelve battles of Arthur. He believes that Arthur first three battles may have been fought in Lincolnshire, in East England.

Other battles could have take place around York and further north in Northumberland and the Central Lowlands of Scotland, including Cambuslang – now a suburb of Glasgow. So, my young Arthur travels north from Winchester, though Lincolnshire and Yorkshire to Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall, where he is based at the old Roman fortress of Vindolanda. From here, he leads his men into battles north of the wall, in the Caledonian Forest of Celidon and further north at Cambuslang. Distance wise, the journey from Winchester to Hadrian’s Wall is less than 300 miles, so perfectly achievable over a number of weeks on horseback using Roman roads.

This book is followed by Arthur Rex Brittonum (2020), covering the remainder of Arthur’s life – from thirty to his late forties. Again, following Nash Ford’s speculation on the possible locations of Arthur’s battles, he leaves the north and travels to the Welsh borders and, finally, to the West Country. The author has opted to locate Mount Badon near Bath, and Camlann at Avalon in Somerset in the West Country.

This series is fiction, loosely based on scraps of historical evidence, and the author remains fascinated by this ‘black hole’ in British history. What really happened in the 200 years between the end of Roman rule and the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms? Perhaps one day historians and archaeologists will find the missing pieces in our historical jigsaw puzzle.

Order the book series HERE

A Fresh Look at King Arthur

Arthur Rex Brittonum… a novel of Arthur.
Kindle/paperback- http://mybook.to/ArthurRex
ibook/kobo/nook/other-
https://books2read.com/Arthur-Rex-Brittonum

A story of an imagined, historical Arthur, freed of the glitz and glamour of the Camelot legend.
No round table – instead Arthur hosts his councils of tribal chiefs in ‘Arthur’s Roundel’, the Roman ampitheatre at Caerleon.
No Holy Grail – instead the pre-Christian search for the Treasures of Britain, and an encounter with the ‘talking’ Head of Bran.
Arthur is accompanied by Welsh folklore (pre-Medieval) knights, Bedwyr, Kay, Lucan and the sons of Gawain – Agravane, Mador, and Gaheris, who all belong to the earliest incarnations of the Arthurian legend.
Arthur’s peers are ‘real’ historical tribal kings and chiefs of the late 5th/early 6th centuries, including, Meirchion Gul; Owain Ddantgwyn; Cadwallon; Geraint; Vortipor; Cyngar and Caradog.
Arthur’s enemies are names plucked from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – Cerdic; Octha (son of Hengist); Icel King of the Angles, and, for a bit of fun, Beowulf, the legendary Angle warrior and slayer of monsters.
Father (later Saint) Asaph is Arthur’s chaplain, and literary monk, Gildas, appears as a dour novice.

Abandoned by Rome…

I started writing historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2015, with ‘Abandoned’.

This tells my story of ‘what happened next?’ in Britain following Rome’s final separation from its most northerly province in 410 AD.

My account of Bishop Guithelin giving up on local Briton chiefs and taking ship to northern France to beg the Christian King Aldren to come and claim the island for himself, is lifted from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 work, ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’. His mission results in Aldren’s maverick brother, Constantine, taking on the challenge – be careful what you wish for. Most other characters, including the half-Roman Marcus, are entirely fictitious.

Abandoned sets the ground work for a book series that encompasses the origins of the legend of King Arthur – thought to be a late fifth/early sixth century warrior leader who organised Briton tribes in defence of their island from creeping Anglo-Saxon colonisation.

As a series starter, the ebook of Abandoned has been discounted to just 99c/99p, and the paperback just £5.99/$6.99.

Amazon link – http://mybook.to/Abandoned

ibook/kobo/nook/other – https://books2read.com/Abandoned

Order books 1-4 in the series with one click via this Amazon book series page: http://mybook.to/DarkAgesSeries

King Arthur Revealed

E-book Promotion!
To mark the launch of Arthur Rex Brittonum on 1st June, its two preceding books covering Arthur’s childhood (Uther’s Destiny) and youth (Arthur Dux Bellorum), have been discounted to just 99c/99p each this week!So indulge yourself with three novels covering the imagined life of Arthur for less than $5 or £4…
Uther’s Destiny: http://mybook.to/Uther
https://books2read.com/Uther
Arthur Dux Bellorum: http://mybook.to/Arthur
https://books2read.com/ArthurDuxBellorum
Arthur Rex Brittonum: http://mybook.to/ArthurRex
https://books2read.com/Arthur-Rex-Brittonum

Available in #kindle #ibooks #kobo #nook #scribd #tolino #biblioteca #hoopla #vivlio #overdrive #bakerandtaylor #barnesandnoble

History Buried Beneath our Feet

Our lives are layered beneath our feet. Archaeologists peel and scrape back the skins of our onion earth to reveal clues about the lives of those who have gone before us. What did they eat? How did they dress? Why did they bury their wealth in haste? We can then speculate that they were fleeing for their lives, but from whom?

The important and fascinating work of archaeologists is helping plug the gaps in our fractured history, offering a glimpse into distant lives and their struggles to survive. Our history is living and fluid, like our language and culture – constantly being revised and updated. It is the great conveyor belt of existence on which we live our lives – fascinated by the present, wondrous over the future, and intrigued about the past. Our history is part of what defines us, and we should never lose interest in it.

So, here’s to the archaeologists, archivists and historians. May they continue to shine their torches into our grainy past and pull out objects that can illuminate our understanding of our ancestors. For as Winston Churchill may have said, ‘we must understand the past in order to make sense of the present and see into the future’.

This poem is taken from ‘Perverse’ by Tim Walker, available to buy in ebook or paperback here… http://mybook.to/perversebook