WARNING: This page contains major plot spoilers.
If you haven’t read Origins yet, you should not view this page. It is intended as an extra to supplement the book and contains material that may spoil the plot.
The following are elements that I used for my research when writing the book. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
When I planned the novels of the Seventeen series, I knew the fifth book would be the origin story of the Immortals. While researching when and where to base the formidable empire they once ruled so as to meld it with the known factual history of the time, the 4th millennium BC and the birthplace of one of the most advanced, ancient human civilizations made logical sense.
Mesopotamia was famed for being one of the earliest known ‘cradles’ of civilizations, the other two being the Levant and the Nile River Delta. It included the lands between and around the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates (known by their old Persian names of Tigra and Ufratü in Origins), in what is now modern East Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait, and saw mankind’s transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, the beginnings of agriculture, the invention of writing, architecture and animal husbandry, and the origins of a class-based human society.
Of all the incredible kingdoms that took root in those fertile lands, from the Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Akkadian, and the later Persian and Parthian empires, one struck the deepest chord in me and formed the backbone of the human alliance that would rise against the Immortal kings in Origins and become the first human empire to lay claim to the throne of the fictional Uryl.
That civilization was that of Sumer and the capital of the Immortal Empire, Uryl, is a play on the factual Uruk, a Sumerian city said to be the largest in the world at the time, and which was similarly situated on the banks of the Euphrates River. The other cities and garrisons of the mythical Immortal Empire are also based on factual Sumerian cities, as are those of its extended territories in Ancient Anatolia, the Aegean Sea, the Nile River Delta, the Indus Valley, the Yellow River, and the Levant.
Ziggurat at Ur.
For those of you with some knowledge of history and religion, Gilgamesh will not be an unfamiliar name. He was a Sumerian King thought by some to be a mythical demi-God and by others to be a true historical figure. His father was Lugaldanda, one of the Kings of Uruk, and his mother was Ninsun, a goddess descended of a sky god and a goddess of the Earth. Gilgamesh is the subject of a series of Sumerian poems entitled The Epic of Gilgamesh, on which many fictional stories, games, and comics have been based.
While studying the Sumerian King list inscribed in a variety of archaeological artifacts recovered from Iraq, the oldest and most fascinating of all being the Weld-Blundell Prism in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, I fell in love with the story of Mesh-ki-ang-gasher, the founder of the First Dynasty of Uruk. Hence, I decided that Gilgamesh’s father, and the first king of the human empire that would follow the fall of the Immortals in Origins, would be Megash, and his mother would be Nisuna, a play on Ninsun. Although I never overtly addressed Megash and Nisuna’s relationship in Origins, I hope I hinted heavily enough to show that theirs was a marriage based on love, mutual respect and a deep attraction, with a large modicum of sexual humor, which often exasperated Megash’s fictional older brother Aäron.
As for Gilgamesh, he is but a boy in Origins and I loved depicting him as an incredibly intelligent, solemn child whose relationship with Mila, the Immortal Warrior, would inspire him to accomplish the great deeds of his unparalleled future and establish him as a legend of his times.
As you may have deduced from reading Origins, I carefully avoided using time references such as seconds, minutes, and hours in the story. It made for some convoluted writing while I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, by not using units that didn’t exist then.
The Sumerians invented a sexagesimal system (a numeric system based on the number sixty) for counting time, angles, and distance. Why sixty? The common theory among historians is that people in those days used their thumb to count the three segments of the four fingers of one hand (making the total of segments twelve) and then multiplied it by the five fingers of the other hand (making that total sixty). Sixty and twelve became incredibly important numbers in the civilizations that followed, and the twelve lunar cycles and twelve constellations of the Zodiac all derive from the ancient Sumerian system of counting, as do the modern systems of calculating geographic coordinates.
The Sumerian Calendar was a lunisolar one, based not only on counting on the human hand but also on the phases of the moon and the sun.
A year was the time needed for the Earth to complete one orbit around the sun, and hence became known as a solar year. It was equivalent to 360 days or the 360 degrees of the sun’s ecliptic path through the celestial sphere.
A month was the time needed for the moon to orbit the Earth, and hence became known as a lunar month. It was equivalent to thirty days and was further divided into four phases; the new moon, the first quarter/half moon, the full moon, and the last quarter/half moon. Each phase was thus roughly equivalent to seven days.
The day was the duration of the Earth’s full rotation upon its own axis. Day and night were each further divided into twelve periods each, ranging from sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise. Hence, the first hour of the day would be around the modern 6am, whilst the first hour of the night would be around the modern 6pm. Making the sixth hour of the day midday and the sixth hour of the night midnight.
In Origins, I use years, months, full moon, new moon, half moon, days, and portions of days to denote time. The use of century and millennium did not come until the later Roman, Julian, and Gregorian Calendars. Fun fact: century is derived from centuria, the basic 100-man-strong fighting unit of the Roman Legion.
Military & Weapons I
The Stele of the Vultures is the oldest known historical document known to man. Assembled from a series of fragments discovered in the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu and now residing in the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the stone tablet narrates a war between the Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma, and the victory of Eannatum, the King of Lagash at the time. It has been dated to around 2450 BC and shows the use of helmets, pikes, shields, battle axes and chariots at the time, as well as the phalanx military formation, where soldiers arranged themselves in a rectangular mass behind interlocked shields with spears and pikes protruding in front and above. This is the battle formation used repeatedly by the Immortal-Human Alliance during the war to defend and advance against the army of the Immortal kings.
Military & Weapons II
With the Bronze Age just beginning at the time of ancient Sumer, swords and daggers were made of copper alloyed with arsenic, tin and bronze, and often overlaid with silver, gold, and gems. Other weapons and protective guards used at the time were similarly made.
As for the Immortals and their soldiers’ battle outfits, these consisted of metal breastplates overlying chainmail dresses and tunics, leather elbow guards and shin greaves reinforced with polished bronze plates, metal helmets, and leather sandals and short boots. Along with broadswords, they used daggers, battle axes, bows and arrows, and spears. Note that broadswords are not factually accurate to the time, being inventions of 16th and 17th century Europe. Sumerians used sickle swords instead, which were slimmer, shorter and curved.
I thought broadswords were more kickass. Who wants to fight with a cheese stick when they could have a power sword?