Rome in Africa

Leave a comment on today’s Mutterings for a chance at winning a copy of the Garment of Shadows ARC.

Among other oddities of this extraordinary country, Morocco was part of the Roman empire.  As Hadrian’s Wall, between England and Scotland, marked the northern point of Rome’s West, the city of Volubilis occupied its south-western fringes.

Volubilis lies about forty miles from Fez, at the foot of the hills containing the shrine of Moulay Idriss.  You can see both in this 1940s documentary, not very different from what Sherlock Holmes saw in late 1924:

The road turned north, bringing into view an unlikely piece of architecture, away in the distance.

“Is that the ancient city of the Romans?” he asked the man.

The man followed Holmes’ eyes to what could only be a triumphal arch and began a detailed story about the time his wife had got it into her head that what their farmyard needed was a stone entranceway and how much time he’d had to spend hauling blocks out of the place until she was satisfied.

Clearly, not a student of archaeology.

To read more from Garment of Shadows, go here.

To order a copy—hardback, audio, e-book, or signed—go here.


  1. One of the wonderful things about the Middle East is the Roman ruins that seem to pop up no matter where one roams. They were truly the master builders!

  2. Allison T says:

    I never thought about the Romans making it that far west in Africa, though if they made it to England I guess it was never out of the realm of possibility.

    In Alexandria (al-Iskandria), Egypt, they still have the ruins of ampitheatres and bath houses, and about 2 blocks up from the train station is a really well preserved one with a very impressive collection of statuary that they have brought up from the water.

  3. Gillian Barr says:

    2 friends of mine were just in Morocco visiting their daughter who is there on an exchange program. I can introduce them all to Russell and share the ARC if I win it.

  4. Erica Ruth says:

    It makes me shudder to think how often that has happened over the course of history….

  5. I enjoyed the excerpt. Thank you!

  6. Melissa Adkins says:

    Living in America, seeing and reading about the sheer weight of ancient history in other countries is mind-boggling. Seeing places that have been inhabited for centuries or even millenia is such a humbling reminder of the ephemeral quality of a human lifespan; I suppose this should be morbid but I think of it more as “carpe diem”!

  7. May I have some more, please?

  8. susan Steinhaus says:

    I love the homework for the new book. I will “bee” prepared when it comes out!

  9. Robbin Stull says:

    On a lesser scale, visiting a home for sale with beautiful woodwork including original pocket doors and being told of the previous visitor, who is an all cash buyer, saying how lovely the rooms would look if the walls were knocked out and the woodwork painted white…

  10. TheMadLibrarian says:

    I am amused by the Roman column with the stork? nest on top!

  11. A column with a stork’s nest, ha! Just goes to show nature will take back what is hers. And the sunset behind the arches? Breath taking!

  12. Hahaha! the excerpt was funny! although I would like to go to this place and see the ruins. I don’t get to travel much and these pictures make me want to take a yearlong summer vacation traveling among the ruins.

  13. Madonna Smith says:

    What lovely pictures. And I think these are just as Mary Russell would have seen them.

  14. P. Brennan says:

    Love the pictures, can’t wait for the new book, pictures are setting the scene for it!

  15. Meredith Taylor says:

    Those images from the forties! astonishing.//Meredith

  16. Can’t wait for Garment of Shadows!

  17. Michael says:

    Love the pictures… now I need to read the book!

  18. Katherine says:

    Haha this snippet made me laugh 🙂

  19. jtb1951 says:

    I am always fascinated by the geographic range of significant Roman ruins!

  20. Jill Altman says:

    As a former archaeologist it has always fascinated me to see what the ancients did with building materials that were ancient even in their time. Recycling at its best.

  21. Oh my goodness! I am bursting with excitement!

  22. Rachel Ratliff says:

    Seeing the world through the eyes of Russell and Holmes is a great way to travel. : )

  23. I loved the excerpt and the photos, especially the nest atop the column. Thank you for sharing so generously.

  24. Susan Pence says:

    Morocco is one of my favorite places in the world! Where else could you take an overnight trek into the Sahara on camels, take in the sights/smells/sounds/tastes of a souq, enjoy a very proper Moroccan tea with a guitar-playing Kenny Rodgers imitator, marvel at the intricate calligraphy and architecture one moment and learn how to use a primitive squat toilet the next, stay up all night discussing western and eastern lifestyles around a fireplace after hiking through a magnificent gorge, choose to eat tajine or taco bell, stay in a traditional Bedouin tent or a meticulously run hotel, learn how to wrap an indigo blue turban from our Bedouin hosts and how to shop in a traditional Moroccan pharmacy in Marrakech with an up-to-date young woman. It is a place that lives in my dreams and memories! Some day, I will go back. As for now, I am anticipating my next journey with Russell and Holmes with great relish!!

  25. Rachel Adrianna says:

    i’m so glad you share your intensive research with us! thank you!

  26. Sarah R. says:

    The pictures are beautiful! I’ve always longed to see Roman ruins, they built to last-even against time itself.

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