From canonical and extra-canonical gospels to the modern phenomenon of the ‘Jesus novel’, people have been fictionalizing Jesus by filling in gaps in the historical and narrative record. This essay inaugurates a field of inquiry by contrasting two recent novels, Norman Mailer’s The Gospel According to the Son (1997) and Nino Ricci’s Testament (2002). In particular it examines how each of the novels depicts the role and character of Judas Iscariot, the question of Jesus’ performance of miracles, as well as how each novel depicts Jesus. In all, the remarkable historical plausibility of these novels, or parts of them, raises the very interesting issue of the relationship between story and history, between fiction and history.
The siege of Veii represents Rome’s first attempt to capture a major, fortified city; at the time, the siege was unprecedented in terms of scale and long-term investment. The Roman army in the fifth century BC was primarily focused around short-term campaigns and small-scale raiding. This kind of warfare typified the conflicts between Rome and neighbouring peoples such as the Sabines, the Volscians, and the Aequians. The siege of Veii required a yearlong military presence around the city; this would have severely tested the limits of the Roman military system, which was not designed to conduct a long-term campaign let alone the prolonged investment of a city. In order to address this manpower shortage, the Romans opted to look outside of their traditional military system. With the newly instituted stipendium as an incentive, ‘voluntarii’ presented themselves for service, giving the Roman military access to a manpower reserve outside the formal system.