The Vanguard: My Current #WIP and Some Cool Ancient Civilization Facts!

My current work in progress (WIP)is “The Vanguard: The Cats that Conquered Egypt.” This is about the Battle of Pelusium, which took place in 525 BCE between the Ancient Egyptians and Persians. Legend has it that the Persians put cats (and other animals, although this part gets left out of a lot of retellings) on the battlefield before them in order to discourage the Egyptians from attacking; the Egyptians at that time held cats sacred and actually put to death anyone who killed a cat, even if it was by accident.

When Cambyses attacked Pelusium, which guarded the entrance into Egypt, the Egyptians defended it with great resolution. They advanced formidable engines against the besiegers, and hurled missiles, stones, and fire at them from their catapults. To counter this destructive barrage, Cambyses ranged before his front line dogs, sheep, cats, ibises, and whatever other animals the Egyptians hold sacred. The Egyptians immediately stopped their operations, out of fear of hurting the animals, which they hold in great veneration. Cambyses captured Pelusium, and thereby opened up for himself the route into Egypt.

Polyaenus - Strategems, VII.9 (Published 163 A.D.)

Realistically, this almost certainly didn’t happen and if anything like it DID happen, the Persians probably just painted cats and/or Egyptian gods on their shields. But it’s a great story, and I do love my cat legends.

This is the African Wildcat. From what I’ve been reading, this is probably what ancient Egyptian cats looked like. Honestly, it’s probably what ALL cats looked like at that time. But for the sake of differentiating them in my head, I’ve been envisioning just Bahadur (Persian cat) as an African wildcat (i haven’t been able to find ANY descriptions of cats in ancient Persia because than I just pull up “Persian cats,” which probably didn’t develop until like, the 1700s).

This is the African Wildcat. From what I’ve been reading, this is probably what ancient Egyptian cats looked like. Honestly, it’s probably what ALL cats looked like at that time. But for the sake of differentiating them in my head, I’ve been envisioning just Bahadur (Persian cat) as an African wildcat (i haven’t been able to find ANY descriptions of cats in ancient Persia because than I just pull up “Persian cats,” which probably didn’t develop until like, the 1700s).

The story starts about a year or so before the battle and tells the background leading up to the battle from the point of view of two cats. One cat, Bahadur (this is Farsi for “fighter”), lives in the royal palace kitchens in Persepolis, Persia, and ends up befriending an Egyptian woman who is sent to the Persian King as a decoy wife (he had asked for the current pharaoh’s daughter in marriage; he actually sent the PREVIOUS pharoah’s daughter instead, which Cambyses took as a grave insult). The other cat, Nedjem (which actually just means “sweetie” - Egyptian cats weren’t usually given individual names), is the in-house cat in the Department for the Protection of Cats (Upper Egypt branch) in Thebes. This government agency (which actually existed, although we have no idea what it was actually called or how exactly it functioned) existed to prevent the exportation of cats out of Egypt. I’ve also put them in charge of punishing people who hurt or kill cats, as it makes sense to me, but I have no actual evidence that this was the case.

I had planned on publishing this on Amazon in July but it’s actually still not finished, for a few reasons. The primary reason is that my face and head have hurt for most of the last month, which made it harder for me to like, concentrate on anything, and I’ve had to spend a lot more time at various doctors’ offices lately than I’d like. Ends up I have a deviated septum which is causing all the problems and I’m getting a septoplasty next Wednesday for it. Yay. PLUS, this story has honestly just been a lot more complicated and interesting and difficult than I thought it would be. It’s turned from a short story into more of a novella, as it’s over 14,000 words now and I still have a few more chapters to write.

So since the story itself isn’t quite out yet, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tidbits I’ve learned in my research.

It’s unlikely that cats in ancient Egypt actually looked like an Egyptian Mau looks like now, but they’re so pretty, and I love them, so I’m imagining Nedjem as a Mau. :)

It’s unlikely that cats in ancient Egypt actually looked like an Egyptian Mau looks like now, but they’re so pretty, and I love them, so I’m imagining Nedjem as a Mau. :)

Egypt:

There’s evidence that every cat in Ancient Egypt was considered a demi-god. Mere humans couldn’t own a cat, and all cats were under the guardianship of the pharaoh.

Diodorus Siculus wrote “Whoever kills a cat in Egypt is condemned to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not. The people gather and kill him. An unfortunate Roman, who accidentally killed a cat, could not be saved, either by King Ptolemy of Egypt or by the fear which Rome inspired.”

Instructions for the deceased were written on the inside of sarcophagi. These would remind the soul of who they’d been in life and what to do in the afterlife.

Persia:

Ancient Persians practiced Zoroastrianism, the world’s oldest monotheistic religion. Zoroastrians consider both water and fire life-sustaining, so they generally pray in the presence of some form of fire. They did not build temples, altars, or statues of their god. As they conquered numerous other countries, they allowed them to keep their temples and practice their religions, but did not build any new ones. It’s believed that the tenets of Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were all shaped by Zoroastrianism, as it established the idea of one god, heaven, hell, and a judgment day. It’s still practiced today, particularly in India.

Oh fun fact - “Magi” literally refers to priests of zoroastrianism. So the three Magi were three…priests of zoroastrianism. I thought all this time it was just a fancy word for “wise men.” That must be a thing they just tell you at church.

Zoroastrians didn’t really like cats - it was sad they were created by an evil spirit and there were numerous supersitions against them- but plenty of ancient Persians kept cats as pets anyway. At one point, there was a prince who loved his cat so much that petitioners would write out their requests and tie them to the cat’s collar so he’d have to see them!

Story Ideas from History and Dreams

So I keep a note on my phone called “story ideas” that I just fill with different ideas as they strike me. Sometimes these are from dreams, often they are from books or history podcasts, some are just thoughts that come to mind that I have to get down on a page /right then/ or I’ll forget them!

Numerous of these scribbled ideas have turned into future stories. I had the idea for Most Horrible probably…a year and a half before i actually started turning it into a one act play? The entire concept of “Big Dave’s Goliath” came from a simple fact I had scribbled down- that various popes had ordered the removal of all the penises from the nude statues in the Vatican museum. When I came across the call for submissions for “Big,” which asked for stories around something or someone gargantuan, the idea of a giant replica of Michelangelo’s David, and the shenanigans that ensue when someone vandalizes the statue by cutting off its genitalia, came into being. True, it’s totally absurd (and that story was HIGHLY influenced by the over the top style of Carl Hiaasen), but it was really fun to write! And now it’s published in Colp: Big. :)

Here you can see notes on one of my history story ideas and one of my dreams!

Here you can see notes on one of my history story ideas and one of my dreams!

The Caterer and the Vanguard (current work in progress) both were inspired by historical legends chronicled in “100 Cats Who Changed Civilization,” by Sam Stall. John gave it to me last December just as a fun gift; he had no idea what it would lead to! Hah. I have numerous other ideas for the AntiquiCats series originating from that book and other cat history sources online.

Here’re two snippets of my current “story ideas” note, featuring a few of my favorite ideas.

So Leichenhauses were WAITING MORTUARIES for people who were scared of being buried alive (circa 1800s). After death, the bodies would be set out and have like, strings tied between their bodies and either a bell or a harmonium or whatever. Then someone would sit up with the bodies and listen for movement noises. Bodies actually move a lot while they’re decomposing, so it must have been quite frightening! They were also viewed as a common tourist destination? It sounds utterly fascinating. I REALLY want to write a story set in one at some point and just haven’t found the right plot yet. I first heard about these from the brilliant Stuff you Missed in History Class podcast called “Not Dead Yet - Safety Coffins and Waiting Mortuaries.”

public.jpeg

I’ve also gleaned several ideas from a book I’m currently reading - Black Tudors, by Miranda Kauffman. It’s very good but very dense and academic, so I’ve been reading it off and on for MONTHS. I’ll finish it some day.

"The Caterer" is Free on Amazon July 16-17!

So my ebook short story The Caterer: How a Cat Survived Richard III is free today and tomorrow (July 16-17) on Amazon. You can get that here at http://tinyurl.com/thecaterercat . So if you haven’t downloaded it yet, now’s a good time to do so! It really helps drive up the ranking of the book and get it more exposure and attention. Reviews are greatly appreciated as well. :)

The next story in the series is called "The Vanguard: The Cats Who Conquered Egypt" and focuses on the Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, through the eyes of two cats. I plan to publish that in late July! :)

My First Short Story eBook is up on Amazon!

Yesterday I published my first volume in Antiquicats: Felines of History on Amazon! I’m super excited about this. Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T75WZ46

the caterer cover.JPG

It’s currently priced at $2.99 so I can keep it in the Kindle Unlimited program; I’ll be offering some free promotions for it soon, but am still figuring out all the details of it. I also need to figure out how to format it for print, in case anyone would like a physical copy to hold. There’s a lot to learn with self-publishing and promotion! I’ll definitely share it here as soon as I’ve figured it out.

Doesn’t that cover look amazing? Erica Noorderrmeer designed it after seeing my own feeble cover design attempts in a arts and crafts Facebook group; I love it way too much!

I’ve started work on my next AntiquiCats story and hope to have it up in July! It mayyyy be about an ancient battle between the Persians and Egyptians. More news soon!