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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Proso What??

Prosopography – try saying that 10 times fast. It is the study of collective groups based on biographical data. There are several volumes dedicated to the information gathered from ancient cultures. It looks at appearance, occupation, personality traits, etc. It then extracts statistical data in order to define groups of people.

This word found its way to my inbox yesterday & I couldn't help myself. I had to look it up. Which led to the reading of 2 dissertations; which led to blurry vision & a minor headache. But, I survived.

Now, I love statistics & I have the MBA to prove it. I love it for 2 reasons; numbers are empirical & the data can then be skewered any way ya want. We are all familiar with Gallup Polls – same thing, different goal. And, of course, there is always the variation disclaimer. For this exercise, and because our sample group is miniscule, we can assume tremendous +/- percentiles. 

Another thing I love - Arthurian legend. I have read Mallory, Whyte & others. I have seen the movies. Of course, Captain Picard as Round Table guy is only freaky when viewed in retrospect. Although, I am a big fan of Gwen as strong female rather than cheater. And then, there is the Sam Neill mini-series & the SyFy Merlin. So, here we are, looking at some interesting possibilities from the early to mid 500s.

Town - Camolodunum (aka – Camelot)

Biographical Data
Anglo-Saxon/Celt (just guessing)
Gaul (French)
Marital Status
Yes – 2 deceased, 1 committed
1 (incestus accidentus)
1 (Galahadicus redemptus)
Celtic/Christian (depending)
Social Standing
Cause of Death

So, from this very small sample & based on myriad sources, what can we extract? Hmmm, well, let’s peek. Two different regions; not much there. Career – lifelong commitment after ascending the food chain. These people are definitely in the marriage business. But, they don’t appear to have many children – this would of course require more study. Religion may or may not be important. As for social standing, it looks like being these two pays, sorta. Last is cause of death, and here is where some might be inclined to fall off the cliff; because, war & heartbreak seem to being leading causes during this time period. Now, I don’t know if this means these guys are saps, if the heart is a highly guarded commodity or what. But it is interesting nonetheless.

What does all this have to do with writing & characters? Well, whether we are writing historical, contemporary or futuristic, there exists a stock of background characters necessary to the enrichment of the environment. And, prosopography provides interesting tidbits from which we can weave realism into our characters & tales.

Happy Writing,


  1. Great post--I'd never heard of prosopography (is that right? LOL) before.

  2. I've never heard of the word either but look at the result. I love learning about cultures and backgrounds and statistics. Great post.

  3. Hey Ladies,
    I had never heard it either until dictionary.com sent it to my email. Glad you both enjoyed it!!