NOT BY FORCE BUT BY GOOD WILL: The Odyssey of a Runaway Slave At the Time of Constantine the Great
Finalist in USA Book News National "Best Books 2007" Awards!
́Not by force but by good will ́ reads the inscription over the gate of a market farm in Puteoli, Roman Campania. Quintus the master lives by these words. Lucan his slave defies them. Both are nearly destroyed by them.
The fugitive slave Lucan, seeking asylum, crashes the farm gate of Good Will, and Quintus rescues him. ́Slaves, serve your master as you would your Lord, ́ Lucan is told. How can he possibly do that? Quintus sows discontent among his sixteen slaves by choosing Lucan for a companion. Letitia the young slave girl refuses to grow up in defense against the deprived farm slaves. She eyes Lucan and longs for her inevitable marriage to be a bond, not a bondage. An insidious bet regarding Lucan convulses the farm and he runs to the safety of the church. But the church will not let him live a lie.
The historical novel, Not By Force But By Good Will, resurrects the grass roots of the fourth Century Roman empire. Like the farmer Quintus, three-fourths of the free populace are rustics, and like Lucan, two-thirds of the populace are slaves.
The Emperor Constantine ́s foreign war and civil war triumphs and edicts have momentous impact on Quintus. The draft leaches the farmland of his brothers and their men to defend an overextended front. Excessive production quotas exhaust the soil. Taxes to support the state, to build churches and Constantinople, the New Rome in the East, gut him. Nor can Quintus escape; the Colonate law binds farmers and slaves to the land as serfs. Failing to meet his production and tax quotas, Quintus faces prison, and confiscation of his land and household by the state into vast plantations. Since no free person would marry a serf, anyone seducing or cohabiting with a slave, and the family, are threatened by Constantine ́s morality edicts with the death penalty and seizure of land. Only Lucan can save them.
Running from Puteoli to Nicaea, to Rome and back, Lucan experiences the grassroots impact of the Nicene Council of Churches, convened by Constantine, that settles a schism threatening to divide the empire newly united by the sword. The Council gives the Nicene Creed to posterity. The consequences to Lucan ́s life are profound.
Peopled with vivid characters, Not by Force but by Good Will explores how slaves like Lucan may have struggled to transcend slavery and obey the scriptural mandate to serve the master as the Lord, even when there was not so much as a whisper of hope for freedom.
Readers ́ Comments
Good Will is more than a farm.
I just finished your book and am so glad that I have read it. Thank you for a lifetime of work, your many rewrites and deep scholarly insights. I was amazed at all of the detail of people ́s lives, places in the Roman Empire, political/military strategies and the trap of slavery that existed. The personal emotion-from anger to hope to love (in all forms!) was moving and clearly felt. I had never thought about Christianity through the eyes of a slave at that time. Now, I am recalling that much of the text of the Old and New Testaments was spoken to people in bondage and with no hope of anything else. Jesus ́ message and writers of the time had them in mind. We think of those words quite differently now. The story kept me wondering right up to the last paragraph.
I loved reading this book - I couldn ́t put it down! Wow, what an amazingly engaging immersion in that time - truly spectacular and very enjoyable. It not only opened my eyes but often raised my eyebrows, which is also a very good thing.
What people are saying - Write a review
Other editions - View all
Not by Force But by Good Will: The Odyssey of a Runaway Slave at the Time of ...
Hannah Bonsey Suthers
No preview available - 2006