Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why I Love to Write About Ancient Egypt by Anna Patricio

I developed an interest in ancient history in my teens. When I was 17, an acquaintance recommended to me Wilbur Smith's Ancient Egyptian novel 'River God,' which was my introduction to historical fiction. Up until that time, I never even knew there was such a genre, so I did not know what to expect. But from the moment I came across a copy of the book, I immediately fell in love with it. It was so entrancing. I loved how Mr Smith brought this lost world to life: the flowing green waters of the Nile, the grandeur of the palaces, the serenity of the water gardens, the sweeping beauty of the African wilderness which our heroes ventured to later in the novel. I could nearly smell the sweet scent of the lotus blossoms and the dust-filled, camel dung aromas of the desert.

I suppose this had a profound influence on my writing, because when I began to conjure up ideas for my first novel, I immediately felt an inclination to set it in Ancient Egypt. I love all of the ancient world though, especially Egypt (needless to say), Israel, Greece and Rome - and I hope to get better acquainted with the Ancient Near East in the future. However, for me, Ancient Egypt is the most enjoyable to write about because it has a unique and exquisite beauty like no other.

I heard that the Ancient Egyptians loved their land so much, they believed it was a reflection of the world of the gods. And though I have certainly never lived in those times (though how I wish), I can imagine why they thought that way. You might have seen the ancient monuments - the temples and the pyramids. They are impressive, without a doubt. But in ancient times, they were literally dazzling. They were covered in gleaming imestone and alabaster, and the murals were made up of colourful precious stones. Not to mention that there were gardens which, according to the research, were amazingly beautiful - acacia trees, flower beds, and ornamental pools brimming with lotus blossoms. Those who had houses by the river even had water gardens, which allowed a portion of the river to flow into an alloted space in their home. Alas, there are no water gardens in my current novel, though there will be in my second. But anyway, when writing my novel, I was thus given the opportunity to picture how everything in Egypt was originally like - this glorious Gift of the Nile with its sparkling monuments and lotus gardens - and escape into it.

Speaking of temples, I loved too that I was able to incorporate temple life and rituals into my novel. I am an aficionado of mythology, and as we know, the stories of the gods played a big part in the Ancient Egyptians' lives. There is an important temple ceremony scene in my novel, and while a lot of it was made up (it wasn't one of those well-known rituals like the Daily Ritual in which the priest washes and "feeds" the idol), I tied it up with the tales from Egyptian mythology. There is also a part in my novel which features a play about the murder of Osiris and the fight between Horus and Seth, and that was fun to develop.

And of course, the ancient Egyptians themselves are fascinating people. They lived in this lost world of legends and colourful temples, yet undoubtedtly, they had the same thoughts and preoccupations as we do today. In writing about my characters, I thus tried to imagine how different and similar these ancient peoples might have been to me, my family and friends. Additionally, I love describing the Ancient Egyptians' costuming, especially the cunning kohl streaks that line their eyes. They had the most unique and stunning fashions. And as a dog lover, I was very pleased to learn that the Ancient Egyptians were fond of pets. Statues and paintings often show doting owners with their furbabies. Pharaoh Ramses II, I heard, had a dog and even a lion. I love Ancient Egypt, and loved it even more upon hearing that they were a society of animal lovers.

Writing 'Asenath' thus allowed me to escape into this lost, beautiful world by the Nile. I don't have plans to leave Egypt soon; my second novel is still set there but hundreds of years after the events of 'Asenath.' In the future though, I hope to branch out to other ancient historical settings like Ancient Judea. But for now, I am having a marvelous time in Ancient Egypt.


Anna Patricio studied Ancient History at Macquarie University. She focused mostly on Egyptology and Jewish-Christian Studies, alongside a couple of Greco-Roman units, and one on Archaeology. About a year after graduation, she began writing her first novel ASENATH.

Recently, she traveled to Lower Egypt (specifically Cairo and the Sinai), Israel, and Jordan. She plans to return to Egypt soon, and see more of it. In the past, she has also been to Athens and Rome. She is
currently working on a second novel, which still takes place in Ancient Egypt, but hundreds of years after the events of ASENATH.
You can find her blogging at Anna PatricioASENATH was released on August 30th by Imajin Books.


  1. I really like reading about Egyptian history too! One of these days I will make it there to be able to see where these people lived!

  2. Anna, you capture perfectly why I also love writing about ancient Egypt. They're so similar and yet so different, and theirs was one of the most unique in the ancient world. I too hope that someday I can branch my writing into ancient Judea and other parts of the ancient near east and Mediterranean. I wish you great success!

  3. *their civilization was one of the most unique in the ancient world, I mean. I need to reread more carefully before I click!

  4. Thank you for the post. I love reading about Egyptology too. My first introduction was through a popular mystery series by Elizabeth Peters which led me to start reading non- fiction on Ancient Egypt and Egytology.