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BLOG: Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome

I've spent a lot of time in my yard lately, raking out last fall's leaves, mulching, weeding, mulching, digging out root systems and bulbs... did I mention I was mulching? It's hard work, good exercise, and great to see the results when you're done.

Occasionally, I have other authors contact me regarding their book--asking for help in their launch and seeking support from other authors, and wanting to post blogs on my website. Author Kate Johnson's new book is historical romance and her subject matter naturally attracted my attention, since her story takes place during the Second Punic War, the conflict between Rome and Carthage.

Hopefully, Kate's book will be just like my yard--tenderly cared for, it will blossom, and provide entertainment for thousands of readers, becoming evidence of Kate's attention to detail, in-depth research, and hard work. So (without adding any mulch), I'd like to warmly welcome Kate Johnson to Brook's Journal this week!

Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome: What's All the Buzz About?

Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome is a historical romance set during the 2nd Punic War (218-201 BCE), one of the most dramatic periods in the Ancient World. History seems to have been on overdrive through these two decades, etching the names of opposing generals, Scipio Africanus and Hannibal, on the shortlist of greatest of all time, and solidifying images of elephants crossing the Alps into our collective consciousness forever. Some of the most brutal events in human history took place during this series of wars between the Roman Republic and the city of Carthage. At the pivotal battle of Cannae (216 BCE), 50,000 Romans were slaughtered in a single day, pushing the Roman Republic to the brink of collapse. But ultimately, it was Romans at the gates of Carthage in 202 BCE, and by the end of the 3rd Punic War (149-146 BCE), Carthage had been reduced to rubble, its citizens exterminated, and salt sown into the ground so no city could rise to threaten Rome again. This ‘Carthaginian peace’ as it’s known today, is code for the total destruction of an enemy.

The defeat of Carthage marks the beginning of the Roman Empire. At the start of the 1st Punic War in 264 BCE, Rome was still an emerging power in the Mediterranean, having only recently subdued the entire Italian peninsula after centuries of war with the Samnites (­290 BCE) and Etruscans (265 BCE). The former Carthaginian territories were Rome’s first overseas acquisitions, and they flooded Rome with unprecedented riches and slave labor. Latter day Romans would look back with nostalgia on the (probably imagined) virtuousness of Romans at this time, when their forefathers were poor farmers who picked up arms only when called upon to defend their city. But none of this could have been foreseen after the battle of Cannae, forever after known as Rome’s darkest day, when history was poised on a knife’s edge of being re-written. This tension between what was and what could have been captivated me, and being the lifelong lover of romance that I am, I couldn’t help but imagine a love story flourishing in these dire circumstances. Against this historical backdrop, the story of Elissa Mago, ‘Daughter of Carthage’, and Marcus Gracchus, ‘Son of Rome’, was born.

First, a bit of background: Carthage was first colonized in 800 BCE on the northern tip of Africa (modern day Tunisia) by Phoenicians, the Semitic sea peoples who prospered following the Bronze Age collapse in the 1100's BCE. Carthage grew rapidly due to its location on the lucrative Mediterranean trade routes, acquiring territory in northern Africa, southern Spain, Sardinia and Sicily. At the start of 200s BCE, Rome and Carthage were the two dominant cities in the Western Mediterranean, and with the benefit of hindsight, a clash between the two superpowers was inevitable.

The 1st Punic War lasted from 264–241 BCE and involved some of the greatest naval battles of antiquity, with hundreds of thousands dead on both sides. After a 23-year war of attrition, the Carthaginians accepted a bitter peace treaty that resulted in the loss of Sicily and Sardinia, and humiliating reparations to Rome. Although economically crushed, the Carthaginians were desperate to regain their dominance over the seas. The rise of the Barca family, led by the brilliant young general, Hannibal, who had a blood debt from his father to pay against Rome, was the ember that set the fires of war raging once again.

Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome takes place between 218 and 216 BCE, beginning with Hannibal’s invasion of Northern Italy by way of the French Alps, and ending with the Battle of Cannae. Elissa Mago is fictitious, but her family, the Magos, were prominent politicians in Carthage before the rise of the Barca family. The name Gracchus will be recognizable to any Roman history buff, however, Marcus Gracchus is also a work of fiction. I envisioned him as the grandson of the first member of the Gracchi family to attain the consulship, the highest political position in the Roman Republic. His success paved the way for his descendants, the famous Gracchi brothers, Tiberius (163-133 BCE) and Gaius (154-121 BCE), to become Tribunes of the Plebs over 100 years later. Marcus’s brother in the novel, Tiberius Gracchus, is based on the actual historical figure and includes references to his controversial land reforms, which heralded in a tumultuous period of civil war in Roman history. (I hope historically faithful readers will forgive me – I thought it was better to have met Tiberius Gracchus than not at all!)

Photo credit: Encyclopedia Britannica. “Hannibal” (1964) London: William Benton. pp. 65–67.

Marcus and Elissa’s story follows the major battles between Carthage and Rome after Hannibal’s invasion of Italy in 218 BCE. Although Hannibal’s exact route through the Alps is unknown, it was certainly brutal. The Carthaginians entered the mountains with approximately 50,000 men and 67 war elephants and arrived in Italy with only half their army and one elephant remaining. Hannibal faced two quick battles on the Ticino and Trebia rivers, where his tactical genius and superior Numidian cavalry were on full display. The Carthaginian army then marched down through the Apennine Mountains, suffering further casualties and desertions, before emerging in central Italy on the banks of Lake Trasimene. This battle features prominently in Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome, and I remained faithful to history in its depiction. The Carthaginians ambushed the Romans along the northern bank of the lake, pinning them between the water and the previously hidden Carthaginian army now descending from the hills. The story concludes at the high-water mark of the Carthaginian campaign in Italy; Hannibal’s coup de grâce in Cannae, where he managed to totally envelop the Roman army despite having a much smaller force. I thought it fitting to conclude a passionate love story at this time of possibility, when it could easily have been the Carthaginian empire that went on to conquer the world. But of course, that is not what happened, and the great city of Carthage now lives on only in our imaginations.


Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome - Unexpected love in the midst of war in ancient Rome—a passionate story of conflicting loyalties, constant danger and fierce courage in the face of life-threatening risk. Elissa Mago, a Carthaginian heiress, recklessly flees the prospect of a despised arranged marriage and arrives in Italy vulnerable yet defiant on the cusp of Hannibal’s audacious crossing of the Alps and invasion of Roman territory. Marcus Gracchus, a brilliant and celebrated Roman Centurion, questions his own loyalty to Rome after his brother is murdered and he is ordered to serve under the leadership of the vindictive man who orchestrated his brother’s death. A chance encounter thrusts the two together, first as captive and captor. But violence both on the battlefield and within the Roman legion eventually leads them into an alliance that is tested repeatedly by their ties to home. Ultimately, they must choose –their love for one another or their loyalty to their country.

Published by Bellastoria Press, the novel launches on April 23, International Lover's Day, and is available for presale now.


Kate Q. Johnson is a scientist, new mom, and outdoorsy chick living in the Pacific Northwest. Originally hailing from the frigid Great White North, her creative juices only really got flowing when she moved to the warmer climate of Vancouver, BC for graduate school. Her debut novel, Daughter of Carthage, Son of Rome was the stuff of daydreams at bus stops, learning about epic wars and earth-shattering events through history podcasts. She figured the only thing missing was a daring heroine to save the day! Kate is passionate about bringing history to life through action-packed stories of love and adventure. Stay up to date with her latest projects at, and on Twitter @kqjohnwrites.

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