I’ve based the setting of Some Golden Harbor on political and military events taking place during the early 5th century BC in Southern Italy (Aricia, Cumae, and the Etruscan federation). All right, that’s a little obscure even for me, but I found the discussion of Aristodemus of Cumae in an aside by Dionysius of Halicarnassus to be an extremely clear account of the rise and eventual fall of an ancient tyrant.
There’s more real information here than in the lengthy, tendentious, and generally rhetorical disquisitions on Coriolanus (a near contemporary, by the way). I suspect that’s because Aristodemus is unimportant except as a footnote to Roman history, whereas Gaius Marcius Coriolanus provided one of the basic myths of Rome. The real Coriolanus and the real events involving him are buried under a structure of invention, but nobody had a reason to do that in regard to Aristodemus.
While the basic politico-military situation comes from ancient history, I took most of the business on Dunbar’s World from the South during the American Civil War and the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. I’ve enormously simplified what went on in both cases.
Every time I really dig into a period I learn that what a secondary history gave two lines to was an incredibly complex business that could’ve as easily gone the other way. I’m pleased when I meet people who know any history at all, but I do wish that people who’ve read only secondary sources (or worse, have watched a TV show on the subject) would keep in mind that there’s a lot beneath the surface of any major historical event. I want to scream every time I hear someone say something along the lines of, “What really caused the Roman Civil War was–”
No, it didn’t. Nothing that complicated has a single, simple causation. When somebody frames his statement in those terms (those doing so have invariably been male in my experience), he proves that he doesn’t know enough to discuss the subject.
The scattered human societies I postulate for this series would have many systems of weights and measures. Rather than try to duplicate that reality and thereby confuse readers without advancing my story, I’ve simply put Cinnabar on the English system while the Alliance is Metric. I don’t believe either system will be in use two millennia from now, but regardless: my business is storytelling, not prediction.