There is often the perception that since I am a combat veteran I must have a deeper insight into what it was like to fight as a legionary. The truth is, unless one has had similar experiences it is impossible to completely grasp what they went through. I will say though, that one advantage of being a combat veteran does give me is the ability to convey genuine emotion into situations the legionaries faced. Writing the cold, brutal, (and in the case of my books, extremely graphic) facts of an ancient battle is pretty easy. Watch Gladiator or the series Rome and you can see readily enough what happens when you stab someone with a sword or chop off an extremity. What draws the reader in is the ability to project what was going through the minds of individual soldiers as they battled for their lives.
Another advantage is an understanding of the daily grind that’s gone into the lives of soldiers since organized armies first came into existence. The epic battles only made up a miniscule portion of a soldier’s career, even when embroiled in a terrible war like the Romans and the Germanic Alliance were during The Legionary. What I’ve attempted to convey is a sense of what it could have been like living day to day as a soldier of Rome. In all honesty, I doubt that it was very different than it is for soldiers of today. While researching military campaigns of various ages, I find that the ordeals of soldiers are all very similar. There are the issues with inadequate supplies, lackluster food, among other things.
I’ve been questioned a few times about the way the legionaries in Soldier of Rome talk. The language is quite colorful, and oftentimes extremely vulgar. My conversations with several Latin scholars have revealed that the Romans, in particular the army, had quite an extensive array of profanity that they used quite liberally.
One thing that I have noticed is a glaring discrepancy when a nonveteran writes a military novel is the demeanor of the officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Hollywood perceptions often permeate these stories and make them not believable. I remember reading one book in particular where the Centurion’s dialog reminded me of the Drill Instructor in the movie Full Metal Jacket. While this may be accurate for the way new recruits were handled, it just isn’t plausible for how a Centurion would address his soldiers on a day-to-day basis. My intent is to get away from one-dimensional stereotypes and show that the men who led soldiers of Rome were really little to no different than the officers and NCOs in a modern army.