As you may know, I am in the process of writing a novel about the evangelist, Matthew.
The book is going to open with a Greek merchant, Maes Titianus, somewhere in the desert, north of the toll booth of Capernaum. Maes Titianus is a real historical figure. More about him in a moment.
I have given him another Greek merchant named, Peukestas, as a companion. This name was the name of one of Alexander the Great’s generals who came from Mieza in Macedonia. Peukestas saved Alexander’s life in India. He is one of Alexander’s thirty-three trierarchs (captains of a ship). He was only one of three who won a golden diadem for his valor. In ancient Greek, the name Peukestas (or Peucastas) means ‘one who is sharp’.
Maes Titianus is recorded as having travelled farthest along the Silk Road from the Mediterranean world. He reached the famous Stone Tower, in Tashkurgan in the Pamirs, Tashkurgan means Stone Tower in the Turkic languages and is located just over the border of China. The Pamirs are the mountain chain at the junction of the Himalayas and the Tian Shun and other mountains in Asia. Obviously, these are very tall mountains.
Almost our entire knowledge of Maes Titianus is limited to a brief credit in Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography, 1.11.7. This entry reads as follows: “Marinus tells that a certain Macedonian names Maen who is also called Titian, son of a merchant father, and a merchant himself, noted the length of his journey (to the Stone Tower), although he did not come to Sera in person but sent other there.”
One other thing that also comes out is that Maes Titianus apparently kept a journal of his travels. This journal may have been published during the first century AD. Although, there is some debate as to when he lived, it is clear that he reached the Stone Tower either before 50 AD or after 75 AD. This is because the road became blocked during this era, due to an uprising of a nomadic people called the Kushan. I have chosen to use the earlier date for purposes of my story.
Both of theses Greek merchants will figure into my story and will meet Matthew. How and why, I shall leave to the novel itself.
The novel now is still very much in its a nascent form. I am going to take a trip where I will learn how to ride a camel through a desert. You might be able to guess why I need to acquire this skill or maybe just the experience of having done it!
The setting for much of the novel will be in and around Capernaum, which explains why I have been researching this town and area, some of my research I have shared with you.
I will periodically release research that I am continuing to do concerning Matthew and his Gospel. There seems to be a great deal of interest in my research in this area, judging from the views of my blog.
I will also continue to update you concerning my novel’s progress.
However, I want to address one question which has been posed to me: Why do I write novels and not text books? In a novel, I can weave into the story all of my research and hopefully bring to life the era, that is the context in which the people live and move, their experiences, the geography in which they live,, the food they ate, the jobs they did, and so forth. It allows me to tell a story and to fill in details which may not otherwise have been verified by archaeology or other scientific means. I am pleased that in the past some of the things which I have imagined have been later verified through archaeology and other scientific means.
Writing a text book, while appealing to me in one way, is also not appealing in many other ways. There are other and better writers of textbooks alive. I am best sited, I think to write fiction and to use my imagination. I would not be able to do that in the context of a text book. Although, I strive for the greatest possible authenticity in my novels, it is clear that in a text book, I would not be able to explore an interesting character, such as Maes Titianus, as a person-there is just too little known about him to do so. But in a novel, I can explore him in depth, because I can use what is known about merchants of the era, what is known about Macedonian Greeks of the era, what is known about the travels that merchants did undertake as published in their journals, which became ‘bestsellers’ in the Roman world, and so forth.
So, I hope to keep you informed about where my novel is going and to give you some teasers in future blogs.