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Timeline of the Gothic War

posted Jul 15, 2018, 4:41 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated ]

The Gothic War - a brutal struggle between the Eastern Roman Empire and an entire people fighting for their very existence. The timeline below charts the key 'beats' to this historic war: the rise and fall of emperors, the chaos of battle and the journey of the XI Claudia through it all...

***Warning: series spoilers ahead***

Late 376 AD:
 The Huns surged across the great steppe towards Europe, in what we now call the Great Migration. The Gothic tribes lay directly in the path of these warlike horsemen. So, united under the banner of a Iudex (a judge or dictator) named Fritigern, most of the Gothic groupings travelled to the banks of the Danube, seeking peaceful entry into the Eastern Roman Empire. They probably numbered at least one hundred thousand people.

Left: The Huns came like a storm from the great steppe...
Middle: The Goths were in their path, and had no option but to flee across the Danube and into Roman lands.
Right: The refugees were placed in a temporary camp in Moesia Inferior (a province in the northern part of the Diocese of Thracia).

Early 377 AD: The Romans settled the Goths in a temporary camp somewhere in northern Thracia… then proceeded to make an absolute mess of matters. The odious officer, Lupicinus, oversaw severe maltreatment of what was effectively a refugee population. Tales of his soldiers offering the starving Goths only rotting dog meat, in exchange for their children to sell as slaves, have stained the history books ever since. Inevitably, the refugees broke out in revolt, and the Gothic War began.

Left: The Romans made a mess of the refugee crisis.
Right: Revolt! The Gothic War begins...

Spring 377 AD: The Goths now moved around Thracia as a horde - self-sufficient and with a colossal army that dwarfed the legions present in Thracia. Emperor Valens, engaged on the Persian front, despatched to Thracia what legions he could spare.

Valens managed to conclude a truce on the Persian frontier, allowing him to concentrate fully on troubled Thracia and the Gothic War.

Early summer 377 AD: The Gothic horde rebuffed the empire's first attempt to meet them in battle at Ad Salices (the 'town by the willows'). The result was technically a draw, and this left the Goths penned into the northern part of Thracia, behind the Haemus Mountains, while the bruised legions held Thracia's southern tracts.

Autumn 377 AD: A peace was concluded between Rome and Persia, rendering the eastern frontier stable for now. Emperor Valens set about rounding up the rest of his Persian frontier forces - elite legions and crack palace cavalry - in order to personally lead them to Thracia to end the Gothic War. But this would take time, and in the interim, he despatched one of his best generals, Saturninus, to the troubled land to make sure the Goths stayed penned beyond the Haemus range.

Late 377 AD: Saturninus established stony forts and redoubts in the five key Haemus Mountain passes. He managed to marshal his scant forces and hold these passes for a time… but eventually the Goths overran the blockades and spilled into central and southern Thracia. The legions and the Roman people were forced to take refuge in southern Thracia's high-walled cities.

Left: The Haemus Mountains were like a barrier, penning the Goths in northern Thracia.
Right: But the Goths broke through and marauded around central and southern Thracia.

Early 378 AD: With the Romans holed-up behind their city walls, A Western General, Sebastianus, ventured out into the Goth-ridden countryside to try to curtail the destruction. He lead a tiny crack force of legionaries in a new-style guerrilla warfare - striking at Gothic camps in the night, executing hit-and-run raids on their supplies.

Left: Thracia has been overrun by the Goths
Centre: A legionary can only look on from the stout walls of Constantinople as the Goths ravage the Thracian countryside.
Right: General Sebastianus struck back with what little forces were available, leading guerrilla-style attacks on the Gothic camps.

Late Summer 378 AD: Emperor Valens arrives in Thracia at last, with his finest regiments in tow. They march to a site north of the city of Adrianople and meet the horde on a baking hot summer's day. The Battle of Adrianople turned the golden fields red, and the result has echoed through history as one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the empire. Emperor Valens died in the fray, along with two-thirds of the Eastern Army.

Left: The Battle of Adrianople - one of the darkest days the empire ever experience.
Middle: The battle turns and Emperor Valens senses disaster.
Right: Glory to Wodin! The Goths have smashed the army of the Eastern Roman Empire and are masters of Thracia!

Early 379 AD: A new emperor rose to the Eastern Throne. Theodosius I took control of a realm in turmoil. Thracia was virtually a Gothic land, and the Romans were now the refugees, with just the well-walled cities of the empire serving as islands of sanctuary. Theodosius set about reforming and rejuvenating the broken eastern legions, recruiting slaves and criminals and recalling broken old veterans. He did achieve some success thanks to General Modares and his small band of hand-picked forces, who defeated a significant wing of the horde.

Summer 380 AD: However, the first major meeting of the Eastern legions and the horde (and Theodosius' first chance to prove his mettle as a warrior-emperor) took place somewhere in Macedonia, probably near Scupi. Fritigern's forces routed Theodosius' army, and all the rejuvenation efforts were undone.

Left: Theodosius set out to rejuvenate the broken Eastern Empire.
Right: He led them to war to avenge the defeat at Adrianople... only to suffer another monumental reverse.

Autumn 380 AD: A major split occured in the leadership of the horde. One half left the East behind, heading West in search of fresh spoils there. But Emperor Gratian's Western legions stood against them near the city of Sirmium on the east-west border, and achieved a long-needed victory.
The Blood Road follows the Gothic War to its gory climax.


381 AD: Gratian's forces roved east, in search of the remaining half of the horde. A game of manoeuvring and skirmishing ensued - a struggle that lasted all year and stretched across Thracia and Macedonica. During this period, Iudex Fritigern died.

382 AD: The legions gained the upper hand and forced the Goths into a retreat, driving them into northern Thracia. Cornered, the Goths had no option but to sue for peace. The nature of the peace deal would define all of Europe for centuries to come…


Assassin's Creed... and the war that tore Ancient Greece apart

posted Jun 28, 2018, 7:42 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Jul 3, 2018, 8:13 AM ]
I've been quiet for a while, but - by all the gods - I've been busy. This autumn, my top secret project will finally see the light of day!

Late last year, Ubisoft approached me with a view to me novelising the next blockbuster instalment of their hit gaming series 'Assassin's Creed'. Assassin's Creed Odyssey will be set in the cauldron of the Peloponnesian War: Sparta vs Athens, a brutal struggle that redefined warfare. The great clash between these two ancient superpowers has intrigued me since I was a boy. How could I say no?

The Assassin's Creed universe is deep and complex, with a long and successful series of games and accompanying novels. It was a daunting but tantalising prospect to work with such a long-established and well-loved franchise. The experience throughout has been hugely enjoyable: collaborating with the team at Ubisoft and Penguin has honed my skills as a storyteller and allowed me to experience a really immersive, team-based creative process.

The storyline of the novel is an absolute rip-roaring adventure, and while I don't want to give too much away, here's the official teaser:

Greece, 5th century BCE. Kassandra is a mercenary of Spartan blood, sentenced to death by her family, cast out into exile. Now she will embark on an epic journey to become a legendary hero - and uncover the truth about her mysterious lineage.

Get ready for Odyssey: journey deeper in the world of Assassin's Creed in the official novel of the highly anticipated new game, coming October 2018.

The novelisation of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey will be published by Penguin in October 2018, and is available for pre-order now!

Legionary: The Blood Road

posted Jun 28, 2018, 7:11 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Jul 10, 2018, 2:57 AM ]

The Official Trailer:

381 AD: The Gothic War draws to a brutal climax, and the victor's name will be written in blood...

The great struggle between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Gothic Horde rumbles into its fifth year. It seems that there can be no end to the conflict, for although the Goths are masters of the land, they cannot topple the last of the imperial cities. But heralds bring news that might change it all: Emperor Gratian readies to lead his Western legions into the fray, to turn matters on their head, to crush the horde and save the East!

The men of the XI Claudia legion long for their homeland’s salvation, but Tribunus Pavo knows these hopes drip with danger. For he and his soldiers are Gratian’s quarry as much as any Goth. The road ahead will be fraught with broken oaths, enemy blades... and tides of blood.

The Scourge of Thracia - Il Flagello Dell'Oriente

posted Feb 8, 2018, 7:45 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Feb 8, 2018, 7:45 AM ]
Delighted to see that Legionary: The Scourge of Thracia, has been launched in Italy, thanks to Newton Compton Editori.
The Legionary series has picked up quite a following in the homeland of the Roman Empire, and the even better news is that the next instalment is already being prepared for publication too.
Thanks to all the Italian readers out there for making this a success, and to all my readers in any language!


Felice di vedere che legionari: The Scourge del quartiere è stato lanciato in Italia, grazie a Newton Compton Editori.
La serie Legionario ha raccolto un bel seguito nella patria dell'Impero Romano, e la notizia ancora migliore è che la prossima puntata è già in fase di preparazione per la pubblicazione anche.
Grazie a tutti i lettori italiani là fuori per rendere questo un successo, e per tutti i miei lettori in tutte le lingue!

'Tis the Season for Swords & Sandals

posted Dec 17, 2017, 4:05 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Dec 17, 2017, 4:12 AM ]

Just a quick festive newsletter to let you know the latest in Doherty-world. I'm writing like a dervish, and balancing five projects at the moment. There's quite a big backlog of books ready or nearly ready to go but just awaiting placement (traditional publishing or self-publishing), so I'm hoping 2018 will be a prolific one release-wise. So what's on the go?

The Gothic War is shuddering towards a frantic finale and the net is closing in on Pavo as old enemies approach from every direction. I've only written one-third of the first draft, but it's like settling into a comfy old soldier tunic and boots. I have packed rather a lot of gutter humour into the draft so far... oh, and a fair few horrific deaths :-) The likelihood is I'll have this novel ready for summer (ish) next year.

Forged in Fire
The talented Ms. Prue Batten asked Simon Turney and me if we'd like to put together a boxed set of books in time for Christmas. We said yes, and here it is!

​The fire could be viewed as a) a furious blazing inferno of battle and destruction or b) a cosy Christmas log-fire by the tree. You might have read Strategos: Born in the Borderlands already, but if not, this boxed set might be for you - as it comes with Simon's Roman Epic 'Marius Mules' and Prue's excellent Byzantine Tryptich Chronicles opener 'Tobias'. All for the price of a coffee and a cake. Check it out here.

Empires of Bronze
So the Hittite saga I've been bleating on about for a while now? No, my dog hasn't eaten the script - it's just taking its time to find a home as mentioned. The series, when it arrives, will be known as 'Empires of Bronze', and it will catapult you back to an age before Rome had risen, before classical Greece too. To an age of the first great civilisations and ferocious heroes... and the odd cataclysmic battle here and there. Hoping this will see the light of day in 2018, and when it does, I'll be able to reveal much more about it. I might be completely biased but I believe it is going to be a real thrill-ride of a read - a bit like this pic, even:

Inline image 7

Joint Project with Secret Agent Turney
When the fox flies at midnight and the blue-eyed goat sings soprano... okay, we dispensed with the super-secrecy a while ago: Simon and I have nearly completed a trilogy set in the time of Constantine the Great, during his rise to power. It's a real pow-wow of powerful personas, me taking up the mantle as Constantine and Simon as his great rival, Maxentius. It's Roman, it's written by me and Simon... therefore, as well as having a high number of fart jokes in it, it also promises to be another cracker. Fingers crossed and this might land in 2018 too.

Super-secret project #2
It's super-secret, and super-exciting. All I can say is: watch this space!

So that's what's going on with me. Now, it's time for a break, a mince pie and a beer :)
All the very best to you and your families for the festive period and best of health for 2018.

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Forged in Fire

posted Dec 10, 2017, 9:19 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Dec 10, 2017, 9:19 AM ]

Simon, Prue and Me. We've been helping each other out for ages. Seemed a no-brainer to do a boxed set together!

Excited and honoured to team up with super-skilled wordsmiths and good friends Simon Turney and Prue Batten in this fiery feast of words and warfare. Forged in Fire brings together the acclaimed Marius Mules I - a rollicking take on Caesar's Gallic Wars, Tobias - a spine-chilling and intense look at the shadowy world of Byzantium and its secret dye, and Strategos - a story of a divided land and a troubled young man who finds himself drawn into a war that will shake the world.

All three books for the price of a coffee and a cake. Go on - bag a copy and settle down by the fire for some unforgettable Christmas reading :)

Strategos: The Boxed Set

posted Aug 10, 2017, 2:25 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Aug 16, 2017, 1:20 AM ]

The tale of Apion, Strategos of Chaldia, is now available in a boxed set - currently on sale at just over half the price the individual books (below) would cost:

For now it's eBook only, but if this proves popular enough I'll look into getting it produced in physical format too.
If you've read the tale, pass on the word to friends who have not!

Legionary: Empire of Shades - paperback giveaway!

posted Jul 19, 2017, 2:49 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Jul 19, 2017, 2:52 AM ]

Strategos: Island in the Storm - the audiobook

posted Jul 4, 2017, 2:03 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Aug 3, 2017, 6:03 AM ]

It is with a great sense of satisfaction that I can announce the launch of 'Strategos: Island in the Storm' on Audible. It's been a while since I finished writing the trilogy (2014 I think), but it has always felt like there was something missing, and adding the audio version of books 1, 2 (see smaller thumbnails, below) and now 3 really have given things a sense of completeness.
Rob Goll has been an absolute joy to work with  - funny, witty and inventive in his approaches to narrating this third and final volume of Apion's tale. You can hear a sample of his work here.

Hope you like. And here's hoping the Greek translation (agreed but parked for the moment) will happen soon. 

Turma! Roman Cavalry Charge

posted Jul 2, 2017, 11:02 AM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Jul 2, 2017, 1:07 PM ]

Just back from a top weekend in Carlisle watching many groups of experts and re-enactors coming together to put on a rather amazing Roman cavalry display. We had Legionary battles and displays, horse parades and mock-battles (Hippikia Gymnasia), all judged by Emperor Hadrian himself. And just how intimidating and spooky are the masked, plumed elite riders?!
One of the many things I took away from this was the sheer 'presence' of a turma. I have been guilty of writing about such a 30-strong group of horsemen as mere skirmish-fodder, but these guys showed just how much a unit this size, draped in full armour, standards and colours could inspire awe and fear in those they might be fighting or protecting. Here are a few pics:

Left: Me and my mucker, Simon Turney. Right: the Ermine St Guard on the march

Left: Hadrian leading his elite cavalrymen. Right: Perfect ranks cantering past.

Left: The elites - how intimidating would it be to face them in their emotionless, steely masks and bright, rippling plumes? Right: a bit blurry, but here they are hurling blunted lances at one another, watched by Emperor Hadrian.

Published at on 2nd July 2017

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