“There are people who want me dead for no other reason than they’d rather be in charge themselves. Every decision I make, no matter how fair and just, will result in someone I’ve never met praying nightly to the gods for my death simply because I did not decide in their favor. If any of these people believed they could destroy me, they would not hesitate to do so. There is an aphorism in warfare that ‘true safety lies not in counting on your enemy not to attack, but in making your position unassailable.’ This applies in politics as well as combat. By brutally executing the men behind this attempt on my life, it discourages others who may want me dead from making similar attempts.”
—Queen Viarraluca of Kel Fimmaril, Hegemon of the Northern Vestic Sea, First Empress of all Tollesia
Queen Viarraluca (Viarra to her friends and Queen Vi to her soldiers) is the title character of my novel-in-progress, First Empress. The novel is a fantasy based on my studies of Ancient Greek History, with an assumed Ancient Mediterranean setting, Hellenic culture, and Iron-Age technology level (around 400s BCE, if it helps to have a reference point). I’ve done write-ups for Adelruna’s work in the past; impressed with the elegance of her work, I commissioned this painting of Queen Viarra for my personal use. I gave Adelruna mostly free reign, curious to see her interpretation and visualization of the character, and I am very pleased with the end result.
I make no apologies for the fact that Queen Viarra is a tyrant—both in the Ancient Greek sense of “illegitimate ruler” and the modern sense of “despot with absolute power.” While she loves her friends and rewards soldiers and citizens who serve her well, she is ruthless and brutal toward those who cross her. I don’t see her as opposed to people’s individual freedoms as such, but she places more value on the security and stability of her empire. Tough, introspective, and politically savvy, the copper-haired queen quickly expands her influence, bloodlessly conquering the Hegemony of Andivel within two months of her rule, eventually bringing all of the Tollesian city-states on the northern Vestic Sea under her imperium.
On top of being a strong ruler, Queen Viarra is known as a fierce warlord. Though trained to ride horses and shoot a bow, Vi prefers to fight on the phalanx beside the hoplites in combat. Tall and athletic, the queen has trained as a heavy infantrywoman since her early teens and wears various types of hoplite armor both in battle and in public. I let Adelruna choose which kind of armor she wanted to draw, and I kind of wish I could high-five her in person over how awesome it looks.
Her majesty’s helm is burnished bronze with a crested horse-hair plume. The heavy bronze keeps the queen’s magnificent brain intact, while the nose and cheek plates keep her face pretty. As well as looking intimidating, the crested plume protects her fellow soldiers by catching or deflecting enemy arrows. The dark green cloak enhances Viarra’s imperial authority and protects the queen and her armor from the sun, rain, and sea spray.
Queen Vi’s armor is a linen cuirass, or linothorax, a common form of Iron Age armor across the Ancient Mediterranean. Made from composite layers of hardened linen and/or leather (depending on which historian you ask), the linothorax offers fair absorption and excellent deflection in combat. They work particularly well against spears and arrows, possibly even against a straight shot. Viarra’s abdomen is further protected by a layer of stamped bronze scales, offering superior deflection against enemy spears and swords. The studded strips and linen pleats offer additional protection from disabiling attacks to the queen’s hip joints.
Lastly, bronze greaves protect the queen from disabling stabs and slashes to her lower legs. While the picture doesn’t show, it should also be noted that Queen Viarra is likely barefoot in this image. Though many hoplites wore sandals to protect their feet when marching, for combat they preferred to fight barefoot. The reasoning had to do with traction: sandals at the time typically had wooden or leather soles, offering poor traction when running or climbing a slope, and heavily reducing staying power between two phalanxes shoving against each other.
In the field, Viarra’s primary weapons are spear and shield. The spear, called a “dory” was standard equipment for hoplites across the Mediterranean, about 8–10 feet long with a bronze spike on the butt end. Her shield is a hoplon, a dished wooden shield with a leather or bronze face. Vi’s shield here features four stylized guard dogs, symbols of Avilee, goddess of the common soldier. It’s probable that her majesty wears a sword on her hip, either a kopis for slashing or a xiphos for stabbing, should the fighting come to close quarters.
Sincerest thanks once again to Adelruna for her amazing depiction of Queen Viarraluca. As always, thanks for reading, folks! Take care and stay awesome!