On the Importance of Clear Note-taking

October 24, 2011

Last week, I posted an article on historical accuracy and whether it matters. My general contention is that I won’t change anything in history unless there’s a very good plot reason for doing so. And even though I am willing to move a battle, I try very hard to get the small things right. I wrote, “If I make mistakes–and I will–I promise to admit them.”

So, it’s time to admit a mistake which was recently brought to my attention by the very astute Joanne Renaud.

When choosing a name for Cleopatra Selene’s freedwoman, Chryssa, I decided to forego the usual male-dominated naming conventions of the time (which might have resulted in a Antonia Chryssa or Julia Chryssa or Julia Chryssa Jubatiana) in favor of using the names of actual freedmen and servants found on inscriptions in Mauretania. To that end, I chose the name Cleopatra Antonianus. It looked very strange to me–not in keeping with Roman naming conventions. One might have expected a Cleopatra Antoniana at the very least. But who was I to question the translation of an inscription by a scholar? How much better to incorporate a strange but historically accurate name, right?

I thought I was being very clever. And right there, in my notes, I had culled the name from the scholarship: Cleopatra d C. Antonianus

Except, what do those abbreviated letters in the middle mean? The actual reference is: Cleopatra daughter of C. Antonianus

A rather big difference. Clearly, I’m not allowed to abbreviate anything in the future. I remember obsessing about this name for quite some time, so I’m not sure how I managed to get this one so wrong.

I’ll have to figure out how to handle this in the next book. Suggestions?

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