Historical Accuracy of Cultural Sensitivity?

Jul 2016
9,561
USA
#11
Be brutally honest.

You can make that a central theme to your book. Don't whitewash ANYTHING. If anything, let the editor do it (or at least make suggestions).

Humans, regardless of race or ethnicity, are generally horrible people. And most historical individuals who held any real power were horrible people. Show it. Don't try to make a lesson out of it, don't try to juxtapose their sensibilities with our modern culture. Just show it. Immerse the reader in that time and place, make it accurate.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,630
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#12
I don't know if this is the right place for this, but here goes-

I'm attempting to write a novel (historical fiction), but I've run into a bit of a snag.
One of the characters in it Septimius Severus- who, as far as I've researched, was African. His wife, Julia, I think, if I remember correctly, was half something and half Syrian(?) I think? And Geta and Caracalla were mixed from their parents.
Now, according to history, Septimius, Caracalla, and kind of Geta, were not the best of men. I want to exploit this in the book to spur on the plot (it's a political thriller sort of thing in Rome).
My question is; with how tense things have been lately, should I stay historically accurate, or try to curve things? I know people are easily offended these days, and as much as I WANT to stay accurate, I'm terrified of saying the wrong thing. Do you think people would be offended? Should I stay accurate with the information and keep to the historical personalities?
Please help. I don't want to try and publish something and then lose my chance due to something controversial.

In such a case, since the bad guys exist in any context, it would be a good strategy to put a nice guy in the novel for any bad guy in any category.


If there is a bad African guy, there should be a kind African guy ... if there is a bad Syrian guy, there should be a nice Syrian guy ... and so on.


This is the most diplomatic way to face such a problem of communication.
 
Sep 2012
927
Prague, Czech Republic
#13
Although your work is fiction it's based on real people and you must remain accurate to what we know of their character.
All well and good, but when writing about people who lived so long ago, we don't really know anything about their character. We can't all agree on people who are alive today; let alone those who've been dead 2,000 years.

For a work of fiction, give the characters whatever personalities you think are dramatically appropriate. If you paint a different kind of person than the one we see in the surviving sources that's not a problem - it just means the sources are tainted by political bias.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,592
#14
Septimius Severus was of mixed Italian and either Punic (Phoenician) or Punicized Berber ancestry. His mother was from the a branch of the gens Fulvia that had moved to Africa, and his father a local Punic (or Punicized Libyan) equestrian.
 
Jun 2015
122
United States
#18
Be brutally honest.

You can make that a central theme to your book. Don't whitewash ANYTHING. If anything, let the editor do it (or at least make suggestions).

Humans, regardless of race or ethnicity, are generally horrible people. And most historical individuals who held any real power were horrible people. Show it. Don't try to make a lesson out of it, don't try to juxtapose their sensibilities with our modern culture. Just show it. Immerse the reader in that time and place, make it accurate.
Thank you for the advice! I have always been a fan of gritty history. And you bring up a really good point- I should immerse them in the time period. Thank you!
 
Jun 2015
122
United States
#19
In such a case, since the bad guys exist in any context, it would be a good strategy to put a nice guy in the novel for any bad guy in any category.


If there is a bad African guy, there should be a kind African guy ... if there is a bad Syrian guy, there should be a nice Syrian guy ... and so on.


This is the most diplomatic way to face such a problem of communication.
That's a good point, I can give that a try. Thank you!
 
Jun 2015
122
United States
#20
Septimius Severus was of mixed Italian and either Punic (Phoenician) or Punicized Berber ancestry. His mother was from the a branch of the gens Fulvia that had moved to Africa, and his father a local Punic (or Punicized Libyan) equestrian.
Are you sure? I'm not at all trying to question your knowledge, but I've come across a few articles proclaiming him to be the first African emperor and so and so forth.
 

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