Romans in Sci-fi and Fantasy

There’s a lot of historical fiction featuring the Roman Republic/Empire.

But this post features Sci-fi and Fantasy fiction that feature Romans or something equivalent to Romanic culture.

How do you know you’re reading something heavily inspired by the Roman culture?

Usually it would have:

  • A ruling class full of familiar sounding Roman names like Marcus, Titus, Brutus, Julius and any other male names ending in “-us” or names of notable historical Romans like Plutarch, Seneca, Caesar, etc. Usually, you would expect this ruling class to be decadent, complacent and usually just concerned with eating, drinking and “being merry” (whatever that may mean).
  • GLADIATORs or any sort of entertainment that involves death and violence
  • A government ruled by a tyrant and alternatively backed and subverted by a Senate full of Senators only concerned with keeping and/or gaining power and influence
  • Conquered lands full of oppressed people who have no choice but to submit to the yoke of the ruling empire. This oppression usually takes the form of some sort of slavery or tribute (whether in food, taxes, labor or all three)

Having said that, it isn’t really a stretch to say that the people of today don’t really have a great opinion of the Romans. But maybe modern fiction just seems to focus on the declining stage of the Roman empire rather than the rise.

Love them or hate them, the Romans continue to be part of popular culture though they usually take on the role of an oppressive, decadent empire (one that’s on the decline) that has to be overthrown.

Hence, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to know that protagonists of such stories often come from one of the subjugated masses. Or at least, someone directly and negatively impacted by whatever policies the ruling “Romans” have enacted.

Having said this, such novels usually involve themes of having to change the status quo in order for something (hopefully) better to grow.

Here are some novels you might want to try out

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown’s best-selling sci-fi book set in the distant future with a class known as the Golds taking on the role of the Romans. Main protagonist Darrow is a Red who decides to infiltrate the Golds to bring them down and gain freedom for Reds and other classes under Gold oppression

Notes: This is one book series I’m just waiting for HBO/NETFLIX/or any other cable network to adapt for TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s popularity equals GAME OF THRONES once it’s out (yes, I’m that confident it will be adapted one of these days)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I think a majority of us has seen the movie. Protagonist Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute to save her sister from this book’s version of gladiatorial games, the so-called Hunger Games where participants win by being the last one alive.

The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Protagonist Nemesis is a diabolic. Meaning that she has been bred and engineered to protect a chosen member of the ruling class even to the death. She has been programmed to love Sidonia. And when the emperor orders Sidonia to come to the capital to serve as a hostage to ensure her family’s good behavior, it was a no-brainer for Nemesis to take Sidonia’s place.

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

This book’s Roman Empire equivalent requires tributes of young women every year. These women get burned after suffering horrible conditions. Main character Gilene is her village’s tribute. Her abilities with illusion and fire ensures that she survives only to be sent as tribute for the next year. However, by the start of the book, things do not go as planned. One of the gladiators recognize her and decide to use her to escape and plan his revenge against the empire.

NOTE: This book is one of my favorite books of 2018. Definitely not a book for kids. But for those who enjoy romance as well as an engaging plot, this is for you

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Protagonist Mia takes on the path of the assassin with the long term goal of avenging herself and her family from the man who betrayed them. That man just happens to be the current ruler of the realm. But in order to get to him, she has to graduate from assassination school first.

NOTE: Another series not for kids though the first book is mostly set in what I would call as an assassination boarding school. Full of betrayal, death and graphic sex, I believe the author when he says that he doesn’t believe in happy endings. But boy did I enjoy this book!

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

While not as dark as the other books mentioned, the Alerans are implied to be descendants of the Romans. They have an army similar in structure to the Roman army (eg. centurions, tribunes, etc), a ruling class with Latin names, slavery, and ongoing wars/skirmishes with what they deem as barbarians. The only thing different is that the Alerans are more destructive with their power to use furies (i.e. something like elemental spirits). In fact, every Aleran are able to do it. Which is why protagonist Tavi is seen as some sort of freak of nature because he hasn’t been able to manifest any sort of ability by his age. Of course, awesomeness ensues when he manages to do a lot of things without that power

NOTE: This series is one that surprised me by how much I love it. It definitely took some time for me to warm to this book. I started the series during the new year. And at the time of writing this post, I’m already on the last book of the series!

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