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Literature / Africanus Trilogy

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If you want peace, prepare for war.
Africanus is a Historical Fiction novel trilogy written by Spanish author Santiago Posteguillo between 2006 and 2009. The title comes from its first book, Africanus: Son of the Consul, which was followed by The Accursed Legions and The Betrayal of Rome.

It follows the lifes of Scipio Africanus, Hannibal and Titus Maccius Plautus through the Second Punic War and the Roman-Seleucid War, covering most battles and political figures of the period.

The trilogy provides the examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Velites are mentioned to be in the Roman armies from the start of the trilogy in 218 BC, when they supposedly were officially created in 211 BC. This could be forgiven as a mere matter of terms, as Roman armies did have light troops back then even although they weren't called velites.
    • In the second book, Scipio's ships are equipped with the boarding device known as corvus. In real life, the corvus had already fallen out of use before the end of the First Punic War, when the Roman crews and shipmakers learned enough from the Carthaginians to build a navy that could match them without cumbersome boarding devices.
    • Cato didn't start using his famous Catchphrase "Carthage must be destroyed!" until 30 whole years after the book's events, when he visited Carthage personally and realized it was growing too dangerous.
  • Artistic License – History: While Posteguillo's knowledge is undeniable, it doesn't stop the books from needing their own page for all their historical incoherences.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Taking a ballista shot to the leg was a safe way to become crippled forever in the setting (heck, people retired after taking an arrow to the knee, didn’t?), assuming you didn't lose the entire limb with the impact. However, Hannibal basically no-sells it and is perfectly well after the siege of Saguntum, not even limping. The whole incident is real, as Hannibal got wounded in the leg in Saguntum, but it is thought to have been a javelin, not a ballista shot (and we we don't know whether he suffered lasting effects of it, which he probably did).
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • The Celtic deity Dagda is a god of fertility, not a goddess of the underworld as Ilmo claims.
    • The third book has Hannibal carry a load of statues of Punic gods and another of Iberian gods, clearly differentiated from each other. In real life, Iberian gods were functionally aniconic, and their religious artwork was dedicated instead to portray the mundane part of religion, like sacrifices, rituals, priests and consecrated animals. Their only representations of gods, ironically enough, were precisely those of Phoenician-Punic deities adopted by cultural assimilation, like Tanit-Astarte and Melkart.
  • Ascended Extra: Maharbal is Hannibal's de facto second-in-command in the story, while the real Maharbal was a very minor figure, a cavalry commander whose main contribution to the sources was giving a single, memorable What the Hell, Hero? quote to Hannibal after Zama.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Scipio himself. The novels takes a lot of effort to paint him as a complete boy-scout Ideal Hero without any real character flaw or moral ambiguity until his very last years in the third book, and even then the story frames a lot of it within its enmity with his irredeemable political enemies. In contrast, the historical Scipio was far from being this, and had his own controversy for reasons that are either downplayed or fully excised from his portrayal here: he was an unapologetic provoker, a frequent lawbreaker for petty reasons, and even a bit of a religious loon who either believed or pretended to be the son of Jupiter.
  • Historical Relationship Overhaul:
    • Scipio is explicitly described as a faithful husband in contrast to most other Roman noblemen, and only in the third book he has an affair with the slave Arete, which is presented as due to troubled circumstances. This particular incident is only mentioned by Valerius Maximus, possibly as anti-Scipionic propaganda, but even then, the novel doesn't adhere fully to this text, which presents Scipio as a massive womanizer from the start.
    • In real life, Quintus Fabius Maximus didn't die "alone and without and heir" as it is claimed, presumably out of Rule of Drama, in the second book. Aside from the Fabius junior featured in the books, he also had a second son (or a son of his or his brother) was who adopted Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus as mentioned above.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • To a staggering degree with Quintus Fabius Maximus, who is almost turned into his historical antithesis here. In real life, he was the maximum defender of Rome, a man who rejected personal political benefit in order to, who often arbitrated between Senatorial factions to keep Rome united, and who was certainly one of the most beloeved figures in the history of Rome. In those books, he is instead a manipulative, power-hungry megalomaniac that is a literal sexual deviant, who lets every Roman struggle happen in order to thrive himself, and whose meager popularity fades after his death in the shadow of Scipio and Cato.
    • Not any less with Marcus Porcius Cato, who takes Fabius' mantle as Scipio's Arch-Enemy in the third book. The real Cato was a massively popular politician who reached the top of the Roman society through being incredible humble, just and austere, to the point it was said that he dressed like his own slaves and shared all the pains of every campaign with his soldiers. In the novel, he's a squeamish, pedantic intriguant who seems to be hated by everybody and whose political power comes all from evil machinations.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The character of the Seleucid counselor Epiphanes, a Canon Foreigner, seems to evoke Demetrius of Pharus, who plays the same role for Philip V earlier in the story.
  • The Vamp: Sophonisba manages to turn Syphax to the Carthaginian cause through sex, and almost gets the same with Masinissa.