The Carthaginian Empire Series

 

History has always fascinated me, or to be precise the chain of, mostly, fortuitous accidents that make up what we know of as history. Examples of such fortuitous accidents abound, such as the apple that fell on Sir Isaac Newton, or the stomach complaint that crucially laid low Napoleon on the morning of Waterloo (although perhaps the French wouldn’t quite see that one as fortuitous). What if the Union forces hadn’t found Lee’s battle plans wrapped around some cigars dropped by a cavalryman? Perhaps the most infamous non-fortuitous accident is the bullet which narrowly failed to kill a certain Austrian corporal during the first world war. If it had been an inch to one side it might have severed an artery and he’d have bled to death. If it had missed completely, he might have been in the dugout in the same section of trenches twenty four hours later which took a direct hit from a British shell and there were no survivors. That corporal was of course, Adolf Hitler, and that is definitely a jumping off place for a lot of Alternative History stories.
Essentially that is what Alternative History is all about. If you change one small incident, or insert one, what happens?
Carthaginian Empire is just such a story, or rather a sweeping saga, unfolding over a period of 1500 years starting before the birth of Rome, and finishing with a world vastly different than the one we know today. Spanning a mind-boggling 64 episodes the story is told from the viewpoint of one intertwined extended family whose sons, and daughters, are pivotal to the development of a Carthaginian Hegemony over, eventually, the whole globe.
The story starts small, with a known historical event, given the slight twist that converts it from historical fact to alternative history. Just one, simple event, changed, might just have changed the world we know into the one I’ve envisioned.
My saga starts with Hanno, a prince of Carthage in 470BC, who leads a colonising fleet through the straits of Gibraltar intending to turn south and colonise the shores of what is now Africa. His expedition is recorded, indeed some fragments of those, short-lived, settlements have been uncovered all the way to the Equator. In my version, instead of going south, they encounter “the mother of all storms” and are blown north across the Bay of Biscay to land on the southern shores of England where they encounter the Durotriges tribe of fearsome warriors. They also discover the properties of oak, the wood that in our world built the Royal Navy, but in my world, builds a fleet of galleys stronger than any the world had ever seen.
I’m particularly fond of Episode 17, which recounts, from a different perspective, the true story of the fleet the Roman’s built to counter the naval prowess of the Carthaginians during the Second Punic War.
The first 32 episodes have been published as individual e-books, and the first 22 episodes, together with a number of, otherwise unpublished, episodes have been combined to produce a single Print volume. The rest are still to come.

Child Sacrifice

 

It’s interesting to see the historical perspective we have on the Carthaginian Empire. They were not great writers, as of course where the Greeks and the Romans, both of whom had cause to hate the Empire that thwarted their expansions. Indeed the Romans made much of the Carthaginian rite of child sacrifice.
Such a thing is abhorrent in our eyes, but consider this – what documentary evidence exists for this actually happening. The answer is, that evidence is provided through Roman historians, who were inculcated to write the worst they could of their enemy, to denigrate and ridicule the Carthaginian’s achievements as well as paint them as the vilest villains possible. How do we know it isn’t propaganda. Just think, less than a hundred years ago, in 1914, the British and Empire peoples were told the German soldiers were marching through Belgium and northern France with babies impaled on the spikes on top of their helmets. We know that is propaganda but people two thousand years ago were not so sophisticated as we believe we have become.
There is archaeological evidence for the practice in the form of tombstones for the children, but consider this,  the use of the word “sacrifice” is open to many interpretations, especially in a language where the translation is based on such slim evidence. Consider further, these were hard times with phenomenally high child mortality rates and all I suggest is there may be another interpretation .

The Future Perspective

 

The episodic nature of the series has both its advantages and disadvantages. Since I’m trying to encapsulate 1500 years of history in a mere 64 short stories, there is seldom chance for a character to develop over the length of time you could give them, for example, in a novel. Once I’ve finished the series, I will have something quite special though, a universe in which I can place many, many stories, some short, some longer, some novel length covering other parts of the history, or develop some of the pivotal characters in greater depth.
The sixty four e-book episodes, and 3 print volumes will not be the end of the sage of The Carthaginian Empire – but rather the beginning.