Beverly Jennings, during the most recent Roman Mystery Book Chat, made this interesting comment:
I think no matter how hard an author tries, you couldn't completely put yourself in the mindset of an ancient Roman.
I'm sure Beverley's right, but lacking a time machine it's not a testable assertion.
Can I duplicate the mindset of an ancient
A lot of the trick in my view is forgetting. Forgetting 2,000 years of history and culture, and immersing yourself only in what the people of the time knew, read, heard and thought.
For example, you can search the ancient sources as much as you like, and you will not find one word suggesting slavery is anything other than a natural condition.
Christian morality has to go, especially Christian sexual morality. Pericles was considered weird in his own time because he was so besotted with Aspasia that he didn't go to perfectly respectable orgies.
The mediaeval concept of chivalry has to go. That's more than you might think; an awful lot of modern manners derive from chivalry, in particular the social rules for gentlemen and ladies, and the concept of fair play.
Women can't own property, they are property.
National patriotism is not a concept. The order of loyalty is to yourself, your family, and to your city.
A very deep understanding of the human condition, far beyond what most people today can manage, because the Greeks experienced life in a fast-forward sort of way. They lived lives which the modern office worker can only dream about (though the dream might be a nightmare). Wild reversals of fortune are the stuff of life.
They believed in luck.
Their Gods are reality. Diotima gets excited about the subject in Magnesia Sanction:
"Can you really look around you, and tell me Love and War and Lust and Death don’t rule our lives? Wisdom and chaos and motherhood and the madness of wine and the beauty of music, they and the seasons and the sun are what we Hellenes worship, and anyone with the wit to open his eyes can see they’re as real as a smack in the face."The Greeks demanded personal excellence. They had nothing but contempt for anything less, but praised the excellent in extravagant terms, even if the subject was an enemy.
You have to keep in mind that DNA has not changed in a mere few thousand years. The same diverse human nature we see today is exactly the same spread among ancient peoples, from morons to geniuses, the deeply compassionate to the remorselessly self-serving, the lazy to the energetic, the modest to the arrogant, the cowardly to the brave, and all the while the majority are in the middle of the bell curve. The difference between then and now lies not in the nature of the people, but in the way the culture directed their natures.
My stories begin in Athens at the very birth of western civilization. By definition it means we're starting with something which is not western. In fact Athens would have been recognizably Asian or Middle Eastern in mindset. As the series proceeds (the Publishing Gods willing) we see western ideals actually being invented.