As readers of, well, pretty much any of my books will know, I’m not big on descriptions. I favor a swift pace and paint images with broad strokes. This extends even to my characters’ names: I eschew names unless they’re absolutely necessary. So, my books have a lot of ranks (“the sergeant walked into the room”) and relations (“…his mother said”) and precious few names. This is a conscious choice, made for a number of reasons.

Any name will inevitably remind you of someone. And, as the joke goes, you don’t know how many people you dislike until it’s time to name your baby. So, my naming a character Tom, Dick or Harry will bring to the reader’s mind their own experiences with Toms, Dicks, and Harrys. To me, this will taint the reading experience.

Also, lengthy descriptions tend to bore me. I prefer finding out what happened next rather than just how ornate a teacup was or what the exact contents of a room were. Therefore, I assume details like these will also bore my readers as well.

Finally, but probably most importantly, when it comes to faces and people, I’d much rather let readers use their imagination. I wish for my characters to be a blank canvas upon which readers can project their own imaginings.

What Roman Emperors Really Looked Like

All this is why I found it extraordinary when I came across the work of a young Spanish sculptor and the person behind the Cesares de Roma project. As Bored Panda reports, he took it upon himself to commemorate three notorious rulers from ancient times of Rome – Caesar, Augustus, and Nero – by sculpting hyperrealistic busts for each of them.

So, what do you think? Do their faces match how you imagined them?

Julius Caesar | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Julius Caesar’s assassination, immortalized in Shakespeare’s play, led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.

Emperor Octavian Augustus | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

But it was his ruthlessly ambitious nephew and adopted son, Octavian Augustus, who transformed little by little the old Roman republic into an authoritarian monarchy, accumulating titles under support from his armies. After forty years of office, Octavian Augustus died at the age of seventy-six. His last words were:

Did you think I have played my role well in this comedy of life? If you liked it, applaud with joy in our honor!

Words worthy of the man whose reign was both dubbed ‘Pax Romana’ and opened the door for someone like Nero Claudius to wield absolute power.

Emperor Nero | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

It is said that his adoptive father, Claudius, married Nero’s awful mother knowing this would lead to Nero becoming Emperor. He did so in the hopes that Nero’s reign would be so disastrous that the Romans would reinstate the Republic and forego the excesses of the Empire.

Alas, it is hard to turn the tides of history and the Empire forged on. Still, and as Claudius had predicted, Nero pursued his own tastes and pleasures and made a spectacle out of the revered title of Emperor. But it was a devastating fire, which destroyed much of Rome, that earned him his notoriety. Nero held Christians responsible, leading to their ruthless prosecution and earning him the title of Antichrist in the early Christian tradition.

You can see more of this remarkable project on the Cesares de Roma website.

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