‘Death in the arena’ is the new book of fiction by Caroline Lawrence. It was published in July ’17 by Orion Children’s Books and the Trust has been following it with interest. Caroline is a well-known children’s author who lives in London. Her new series of books – ‘The Roman quests’ – are set in Roman Britain. ‘Death in the arena’ is the third in the series and its story takes place in AD 95. The third and final section of the book – 14 chapters – is set in Roman Colchester. It includes a chapter titled ‘Camulodunum’ (the Iron Age precursor of Colchester: Chapter 43) and a chapter titled ‘Circus’ (Chapter 47). In the Roman Colchester section, there are also chapters titled ‘Meta’ and ‘Basilica’, and the story features a meta (one of the turning-posts in a Roman circus) and the town’s basilica or town hall, and a Roman theatre opposite the basilica, as well as the Roman town wall and the north gate. The dramatic climactic scene of the story takes place in a race-track at Colchester, where a stone and timber Roman circus is being constructed. (We think that the Colchester Roman circus was in use from the early 2nd century, but there may have been a previous race-track on the site: it is the remains of the stone and timber Roman circus which we have investigated.)
Other Roman towns also featured in ‘Death in the arena’ are Corinium (Cirencester), Viroconium (Wroxeter), Deva (Chester), Mamucium (Manchester) and Eboracum (York). It is a lively adventure story which takes the reader on a journey through Roman Britain and brings these Roman towns and their public venues to life – including the only known Roman circus in Britain! The main character of ‘Death in the arena’ is a Roman girl called Ursula who, at the beginning of the story, is training to be a druid in Britannia. Ursula sets off on a quest, travelling with a troupe of people and animals who perform in public entertainments in these public venues. The venues are the amphitheatre at Corinium, the wooden amphitheatre at Viroconium, the amphitheatre at Deva, the wooden arena at Mamucium, an amphitheatre at Eboracum, and the Camulodunum Roman theatre and race-track…
Caroline is hoping to encourage children’s interest in Roman monuments in Britain with her new series of books. Roman remains and sites which you can visit, of towns or venues featured in ‘Death in the arena’, are Cirencester amphitheatre, Wroxeter, Chester amphitheatre, Manchester and York – and, of course, the remains of the Roman theatre and Colchester Roman circus site and visitor centre!
Caroline Lawrence very kindly sent a review copy of her new book to the Trust and it arrived today (9th August), complete with a great inscription by the author! Very appropriately, today is also World Book Lover’s Day.
With many thanks to Caroline for her interest in and support of the Colchester Roman circus and for sending us a review copy.
The images show the front cover of the book, Caroline’s inscription including her self-portrait, and the title of Chapter Forty-Seven – ‘CIRCUS’.