“The Pharaoh and the Librarian” is a work of fiction. Alternative fiction. “What if” fiction. Most of the places Alex and Cleo visit are real – or what they might have been if I’d been there to do feet-on-the-ground research. Therefore, settings are as real as my imagination can make them.
Our journey begins with Alex’s arrival in Wales…
Anglesey Island off the Welsh Coast is quite real. I searched for a site that could have been a safe hiding place for books from the Alexandrian Library in the 1st century. A place that could possibly have been already a library. I chose isolated Anglesey, for it was said to have been an ancient center of learning.
I chose to use the British name Anglesey rather than Yns Môn (from the Roman name Insula Mona) or the later Welsh because we don’t know what early people’s called it and the British name is easier to pronounce than the Welsh. Side trip: Anglesey is home to a village with the longest one word place name in the world –Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
I never visited Anglesey – but watched the movie “Half Light,” a spooky thriller starring Demi Moore, about a writer who after her five-year-old son drowned, escaped to a cliffside house on Anglesey Island called “Ingonish Cove.” Scenes were filled with beautiful, terrifying images, landscapes, and wild seas and surf as high as craggy bluffs. Soft light, dangerous steps cut into black rocks, and a mysterious lighthouse added to the overall creepiness.
Anglesey was believed inhabited by farmers since 4000 BC and Romans since 410 AD. The island is about 400 miles square and known for standing stones and burial chambers. Its Holyhead Mountain is 700 feet above sea level.
Described as a misty green isle with yews, oaks and sycamores which never knew war, yet Roman historian Tacitus (Annals of Imperial Rome XIV, 29-30) wrote about the invasion of AD 60 much later in AD 115-120 – “Along the shore stood the enemy in a close-packed array of armed men interspersed with women dressed like furies in funereal black, with streaming hair and brandishing torches. Round about were the druids, their hands raised to heaven, pouring out dire curses. The Roman troops became rooted to the spot as though their limbs were paralyzed.” There is no evidence that Tacitus used eye-witness accounts for his work.
Ceasar, Gallic War VI, 14 writes “They (Druids) consider it improper to entrust their studies to writing…because…that the student should rely on the written word and neglect the exercise of his memory. It is normal experience that the help of the written word causes a loss of diligence in memorizing by heart.” Caesar also claimed their students were required to learn 20,000 verses.” By heart was common in Greece and Rome so he considered it important. So memory was as important as writing.
Nevertheless, Anglesey was the last stronghold of the Celts and Druidic priests. More about Druids and their memory teachings later…