The Accidental Empire

Much of the history of Rome appears to be well documented, doubts only arise when the sources of the data are critically examined. The following summary of Roman history is given so that it may provide a yardstick for other considerations. It does not mean that this brief history is complete or even correct. It is just a deliberately brief summary of current historical opinion.

Roman Kings

Accidental empire/178/Tarquin superbus/2139 Originally the Roman state was governed by Kings.  The succession was never entirely hereditary but membership of the family of a previous king gave prominence to the claims of some candidates.  In 510 BC a shift occurred from a kingdom to a republic. The regal powers were shared by two consuls who only ruled for a single year and had had to receive the approval of the senate for every action they took. Thus the kings and their successors, did not own, but rather served the nation.

This is in itself a rather Celtic arrangement, not something ever considered by the Romans.


Accidental empire/178/SPQR/1716 Fig 1 The Constitution. "For the Senate and People of Rome"There was a fundamental flaw in the constitution of the Roman Empire. It did not have one! The “constitution” was based on precedent, largely unwritten. It is not perhaps surprising. The purpose of the Roman State was to create wealth for sixty families, known as “Patricians.”

The Senate

Accidental empire/178/Victory in Hispania/1726 Fig 2 The SenateThe wealth of the Roman state was distributed amongst individuals from these families in proportion to the responsiblity each individual accepted for governance. Not only did Rome have no constitution but an imprecise legal structure. Judgements were made which were not based on written law or precedents. Each case was judged on it’s merits and the only predictable outcome was the decision was always to the advantage of the Patricians.


Accidental empire/178/Early Rome/1728 Such a society was inevitably reactive in its initiatives.As Rome started to expand the Senate was aware that good quality arable land, gold, silver, precious jewels, silk, and spices all lay beyond the territory they controlled.  Initially Rome made use of the Greek trading colonies which had proliferated along the northern shore line of the Mediterranean. However the the Romans regarded trading as a a disreputable activity. To them an occupation which bought a commodity at one price and sold at a highly inflated price without doing anything to enhance the commodity must be tainted with corruption. It was perhaps this attitude which enabled Rome to treat these early Grecian trading partners so shamefully and to always discriminate agains trading nations.

Magna Graecia

Accidental empire/178/emerging rome/2141 In the early days of the Republic, south western parts of the Italian peninsula were dominated by Grecian colonies. The whole area was known as Magna Graecia, Greater Greece.

Rome expansion took the form of demanding unreasonable terms of trade and then making threats to invade it’s neighbours.

By the time of Alexander the Great (325 BC) Rome had fought with and/or entered alliances with Latin, Etruscan and Greek cities on the western coast of the Italian peninsula. In the following fifty years those alliances had been extended to all the Italic, and Greek cities below the Po Valley.

However in the midst of their expansion they had tasted defeat by the Celtic tribes who lived to the south of the Alps, a defeat which had a long term effect on Roman thinking.


Accidental empire/178/Pyrrus/1718 Fig 4 Pyrric Victories.Tarentum, one of the Grecian city states in the far south east appealed to Pyrrhus of Epirus for assistance. Pyrrhus, a second cousin of Alexander the Great, remained in Italy and Sicily for five years and was never beaten by the Romans..

Pyrrus’ comment when he first confronted a Roman army was “ But this is not a barbarian army” amazed at how adept the Romans were in the use of complex strategies and battlefield tactics.The comment reveals that at this point in time Greeks had a relatively low opinion of Rome.

At the same time there was a low key power struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean between Carthage and Egypt. Egypt was more concerned with the conflict with the Sassonid empire of Persia and therefore avoided armed conflict with Carthage. They encouraged Rome to challenge Carthage and were not disappointed.

There is no evidence that the Romans ever hated the Celts in the same way they hated the Carthaginians.

According to the Aeneid the hatred between Rome and Carthage was ordained by the gods. Aneaus, during his adventures, seduced and won the heart of Queen Dido of Carthage, but then abandoned her to seek his destiny in Italy.

Certainly Rome saw Carthage as a threat.

War in Sicily

Accidental empire/178/Corvus/1719 Fig 5 The Corvus The subsequent chain of events, not detailed preplanning, created the Roman Empire. Pyrrhus left Italy to claim the throne of Macedon and left a power vacuum in Sicily.   A group of  mercenaries sized the Grecian city of Messina. The neighbouring city of Syracuse, also Grecian, tried to expel them. Rome and Carthage both tried to take advantage of the situation.

It lead to a war for the possession of Sicily in 241 BC. which Rome won.

Thought the Romans won a great naval victory and the control of Sicily the war had virtually no effect on the Carthaginian control of the North African seaboard.

Egypt then used it’s influence to persuade Massalia at the mouth of the Rhone (Modern Marseilles) to declare itself an ally of Rome. Rome accepted them as such. Messalia however had links with other colonies on the shores of Hispania, Empurion and Saguntum. Wishing to secure Massalia’s good will Rome accepted  and negotiated a treaty with Carthage that in Hispania Rome would not take any interests south of the Ebro river and in return Carthage promised not to take any interests north of the Ebro. The Ebro river still today separates Catalonia from the rest of the Iberian peninsula

The Carthaginian Treaty

Accidental empire/178/Carthage and the Ebro/1721 The treaty  looked attractive to Carthage as it apparently confirmed that their Hispanic empire was recognised by Rome.

However Rome only entered into the treaty to prevent an alliance between Carthage and the Celtic tribes of Cisalpine Gaul resulting in a co-ordinated attack on Italy. In 225 such an attack was made but the Carthaginian contribution was limited. On this occasion, Rome won a significant victory over the Gauls and by a combination of alliances and conquest extended its frontier northwards to the Alps.

The Carthaginian treaty was unusual because at that time Rome did not control Catalonia, the land north of the Ebro and it is debatable whether Carthage itself had any control over what happened in Hispania.

The Carthaginian colony in Southern Hispania was a “private” initiative by the Barca family, who gained control of the rich Silver mines of Rio Tinto and Carthago Novas. It made them very rich and the Barcas had a deep mistrust for Rome.

Saguntum was significantly south of the Ebro but because of its links with Massalia declared itself to be an ally of Rome. Hannibal Barco immediately laid seige to Saguntum. Rome’s senate declared this to be a criminal act and demanded that Hannibal be handed over for “Roman Justice”.


Accidental empire/178/Hannibal/1722 Fig 8 HannibalThe year was BC 218  Hannibal’s reply was to march north across the Ebro and by the end of the year cross the Alps into Cisalpine Gaul and on into Italy. Thanks to their alliance with Messalia, Rome knew they were coming but in a repeat of their dealings with Pyrrus pursued a policy of containment.

Hannibal remained in Italy for fifteen years, achieving several substantial victories over the Roman army and never suffering a single defeat. Whilst Hannibal was in Italy ravaging the coutryside but unable to take Rome itself, the senate sent its ex-consuls for years BC 222 and 221 (The Scipio brothers Publius and Gnaeus) to attack the Carthagenians (Barca’s) in Spain. Undoubtably the attraction was the silver mines.

This then triggered a new chain of events.


Demetrius of Pharos, the puppet king of coastal Illyria (modern Croatia)  perceived  the roman preoccupation with the Carthaginians and Hispanic as an opportunity to shake off Roman influence. Again Rome sent its Consul ( Lucius Aemelius Paullus) against Demetrius leaving Hannibal free to roam Italy.

It is significant that it was in the middle of this conflict Egypt chose to finally throw all it’s resources against Persia. At the battle of Raphia, Egypt had a significant victory but the Persians soon returned.  Later Egypt manipulated events even further to make Rome look further afield and thereby become a permanent distraction for the Persians.


Accidental empire/178/Victory in Hispania/1725 Fig 11 Victory in HispaniaDemetrius fled to Macedon. but in BC 216 returned, now as chief advisor of Philip of Macedon. Philip formalised an alliance with Carthage.

In 211 Rome entered into a treaty with Greece ( Aetolian league) against Macedon, the Aetolian’s then mobilised Pergamon (todays Western Turkey in Asia) against Macedon. In turn Bithnia ( today’s North Eastern Turkey in Asia) threatened Pergamon.

Suddenly Rome was involved in wars stretching from the Atlantic ocean to the Black Sea and they still had to  contain Hannibal who continued to ravage the Italian peninsula.


The senate continued to give priority to Hispana, In BC 211, both the Scipio brothers were killed there at the battle of upper Baetis.  At the end of the battle in which both of their commanders had been killed,  the Roman Legions elected their next commander in the field. The fact that the Senate allowed this to happen without  any retribution, set a precedent which was to be repeated many times, sometimes with disruptive results.

In 206 an army commanded by the son of the elder Scipio brother (Scipio Africanus) finally defeated the Carthagenians and expelled them from south eastern Hispania. Importantly, the lands they made secure included to two biggest silver mines known to the ancient world, at Carthago Nova and Rio Tinto.

The land Rome now controlled in Hispania was inhabited by Iberian peoples. The rest of the Hispanic Peninsula was occupied by a large number of Celtic ( Gallic?) tribes.

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.