I’m thrilled to be able to share with you today the trailer for Aphrodite’s Tears, which will be published next month. I hope you enjoy watching it and learning a little about my new novel.
My upcoming novel, set on a Greek island and rich in ancient mythology, is called Aphrodite’s Tears. No doubt you know that Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty and pleasure (like her Roman counterpart, Venus). But do you know how, so legend tells, Aphrodite came to be?
Perhaps you have seen paintings, like the one I’ve shared here by Sandro Botticelli from the Italian Renaissance, and so you have the idea that Aphrodite was born of the sea. Indeed, her name means ‘risen from the sea-foam’ (aphros).
In my novel, the two main characters, Damian and Oriel, discuss this ancient goddess over a meal, and Damien explains what precedes Aphrodite coming ashore in a scallop shell:
‘Uranus and Gaea bore a race of deities that were hideous to look at. Uranus did not care for these children due to their monstrous appearance and banished them to the abyss beneath the underworld, known as Tartarus, the Greek equivalent of the dungeon of Hades. Gaea became angry about this and conspired with her children to depose their father. Then, while Uranus was bedding her, Kronus, their son, escaped from Tartarus and castrated his father with a sickle of his mother’s creation. The testicles were thrown into the sea and they foamed into the ravishing Aphrodite.’
Oriel’s reaction (and perhaps your own at this point): ‘Gruesome!’
Damien’s words are based on Hesiod’s account of Aphrodite’s birth. Hesiod was a Greek poet from the seventh and eighth centuries BC, a contemporary of Homer. According to Homer’s epic poem the Iliad, Aphrodite was the daughter of king of the gods Zeus and the Titaness Dione.
(A brief chronology: First came the primordial deities, including Uranus and Gaea. Their offspring were the Titans, including Kronus. Kronus overthrew his father and the Titans became the ruling deities. Then Kronus’s children [Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Hera and Demeter] overthrew the Titans and ruled, unchallenged, thenceforth from Mount Olympus.)
In Hesiod’s account, Kronus’s dismembered parts ‘were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew’. The girl was borne out of the sea on a shell. Where she came to shore is known as Aphrodite’s birthplace, but in fact the exact location has always been contested. Some believe she came ashore on the Ionian island of Cythera, and thus she was also known as Cytherea, the Lady of Cythera – Homer called her, in his hymn To Aphrodite, ‘rich-crowned Cytherea’. Others called her Cypris, the Lady of Cyprus, for they believed she first set foot on land at Paphos, Cyprus. Some take the middle ground, and attest that Aphrodite went first to Cytherea and then to Cyprus; certainly she was worshipped in both places, in temples dedicated to her.
Visit Paphos and you can see Aphrodite’s Rock, a magnificent sea stack that juts towards the heavens. As local legend has it, the rock is part of Kronus himself. There is a local custom too: anyone who swims around the rock will be beautiful forever. Unfortunately, however, the sea by the rock is treacherous, and people are warned not to swim, and so any who seeks eternal beauty risks that beauty being only in the afterlife.
The birth of Aphrodite (and her Roman counterpart, Venus) has been inspiring people for centuries, not only those followers of Aphrodite who seek beauty and love, but also those artists who look to explore all that is fantastical, dramatic and sensual in the myth. Pictured with this article is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (c. 1485), on which, as you can see, I have discreetly overlaid a caption. Modesty, you see, does not come into play when depicting Aphrodite! In just about every artwork – be it painting, mosaic or sculpture – the goddess is depicted naked, rising from the water. She is absolutely beautiful too, of course, which accounts for how she came to have so many lovers, both gods and men. But that is a whole other story, which I shall save for another day…
Two marble hands reaching for each other, immortalised for all time; these are the 12th-century lovers Diego and Isabel, whose tomb to this day attracts romantics from all over the world.
Here is the legend of Los amantes de Teruel:
In the city of Teruel in northern Spain (the region of Aragon), childhood sweethearts Diego and Isabel grew up and fell deeply in love with each other. They wished to marry, but Isabel’s rich and powerful father did not find Diego a suitable suitor, for he was a second son and not sufficiently wealthy. Diego came up with a solution: he would go out into the world and make his fortune, returning in five years to marry Isabel.
Isabel waited the long years for her love’s return, never once straying from her commitment to him. But Isabel’s father was impatient, and when they heard nothing from Diego, he assumed him gone for good. On the day after the five-year period had elapsed, he made his daughter marry another, Don Pedro – only to find Diego riding into the village right after the ceremony, now a wealthy man and ready to marry his Isabel (Diego had begun the five-year count the day after he agreed it with the father, hence he thought he was right on time).
The poor, thwarted lovers! That evening, as Isabel lay in bed with her new husband, Diego crept into the room.
‘Kiss me,’ he said, ‘for I am dying.’
‘I cannot,’ she told him, ‘for to do so would be to betray my husband, and to displease God.’
Isabel’s faith stood between them, an indomitable force. Diego was heartbroken. After imploring her again to kiss him – to save him – he collapsed to the floor, dead.
The next day, a funeral was held for Diego in the local church. A devastated Isabel decided she must grant Diego his dying wish. She walked down the church to his body, lifted her veil and kissed her love. In an instant, she too had fallen to the floor, dead.
Moved by the story of these two tragic lovers, their families buried them side by side, that they may be together at last, in the eternal life.
So ends the legend of Spain’s very own star-crossed lovers. It is a legend, though it has been taken seriously by many ever since, in 1578, two mummies were exhumed in the Church of San Pedro in Teruel which, it was claimed, were those of Diego and Isabel. The mummies were laid to rest in a new, beautifully sculpted tomb, atop which their effigies reach for each other but do not quite touch, to represent the purity of their love.
In fact, the mummies are not the true Diego and Isabel of history (recent DNA testing has discovered the remains are not quite old enough, and both are male), but that does not diminish the romance of the legend, which has put Teruel on the ‘Europe in Love’ map, along with places like Verona.
The story has captured many creative imaginations. Here are the lovers depicted by painter Antonio Muñoz Degrain (1840–1924):
Recently, the lovers’ story inspired an opera, produced by the Amantes Foundation and performed at the Church of San Pedro in Teruel, where the lovers – and their legend – rest.
This month, I’m having a FAN-tastic Fiesta, to celebrate the launch of my Andalucían Nights trilogy in a special, all-in-one edition.
The award-winning epic Andalucían Nights Trilogy sweeps the reader from the wild landscapes of Spain in the 1950s, through a history of dangerous liaisons and revenge dramas, to a modern world of undercover missions and buried secrets. Romantic, exotic and deeply compelling, and featuring a brilliant cast of characters, including a passionate young gypsy, a troubled young writer and an estranged family, The Andalucían Nights Trilogy is a romantic treat waiting to be discovered.
Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Andalucian-Nights-Trilogy-Award-winning-Romantic-ebook/dp/B06XKZ2XKC/
You’ll find my Fiesta touring on various book blogs in the next two weeks; be sure to check my Facebook and Twitter to read excerpts and guest posts on the books.
Here’s what you can win in the Fiesta!
That’s six prize in total: each book in the Andalucían Nights trilogy, plus three beautiful, authentic Spanish hand fans. Entry is open to all (I will post internationally) via the Rafflecopter form below.
All that is left to say is Buena suerte – Good luck!
There is so much that drew me to the Spanish region of Andalucía when it came time to choose a setting for my romantic trilogy. But given that core themes in the trilogy are roots and legacies, the rich history of the Andalucía was a big attraction.
Andalucía is steeped in history. I have written before about the Moors who ruled ‘Al-Andalus’, modern-day Andalucía, from 711 to 1492 (see my blog post http://hannahfielding.net/the-moorish-legacy-in-andalucia/), and today I want to focus on another important people who took control of Andalucía and helped to shape its history: the Romans.
The Roman occupation of Andalucía dates back to the sixth century AD. They conquered the region, which was controlled by the Carthaginians, and bought it into their empire, naming it Baetica (part of Spania). It became an important part of the Roman Empire: emperors Trajan and Hadrian hailed from here, and in mythology Hercules was said to have founded the city of Cadiz.
The Romans lost Andalucía to the Moors many centuries ago, and yet their influence is felt still, most especially in the distinctive architecture of the region. The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba (the Mezquita) is a beautiful example of Roman-inspired Moorish architecture. It was in fact constructed using materials from Roman buildings, including a temple dedicated to Janus that had stood on the site and the Amphitheatre of Mérida.
For me, original Roman buildings are even more interesting. When I visited Andalucía, I spent some time touring archaeological sites. I especially loved the Roman amphitheatres: the Acinipo, near Ronda; the Italica, Seville; and the Malaga theatre.
[Picture credits: Apinicio Falconaumanni; Malaga Andy Nash; Italica Diego Delso.]
Baleo Claudia, in the Cadiz province, is really stunning. There, archaeologists have uncovered an ancient town, complete with basilica, theatre, market, and the temple of Isis – all at a spectacular stretch of coastline.
I found stepping back into the Roman Empire in Andalucía fascinating – and inspirational. When you read my Andalucían Nights trilogy, you will find echoes of the distant Roman past interspersed in these modern-era stories.
For example, in Indiscretion Salvador considers what makes the Andalucían horses the family breed so special:
‘Look at our cartujanos. Over the centuries, their bloodline lost its purity and was injected with new strains that have made it stronger. Today, not only does the blood of their Moorish ancestors run in them, but also that of the Nubian horse, which the Romans used in their chariot races.’
Also in Indiscretion, the heroine Alexandra visits Ronda, and feels a sense of the past when she steps into the bullring:
The following afternoon, La Plaza de Toros in Ronda was drenched with the blinding white glare of a fierce sun. The huge, tragic amphitheatre with its floor of red sand, reminiscent of the Roman arenas of old, had been the scene of many bloody and barbarous combats between man and beast since the end of the eighteenth century.
I could not resist drawing on the Roman influence in my characterisation as well. In Legacy, for example, the heroine finds herself likening Ruy to a Roman god.
He was coming towards her, bare-chested, his eyes shining. He looked like a primitive Roman god and the sexual stir she felt in her belly was instant, confusing her thoughts.
Of course, beyond Andalucía itself, another Roman influence can be found in all my writing – that of the great Roman philosophers, Marcus Aurelius in particular. I will leave you with one of my favourite Aurelius quotations from Meditations, whose sentiment guides my writing hand:
‘Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.’