So, I received my copy of Rome West today, and was wondering if anybody would like to help me flesh it out a little bit. A bit of background: Rome West is an alternate history comic book originally released online and published in physical form by Dark Horse Comics. The PoD is a Roman fleet being swept (very far) off course by a storm, making landfall on Manhattan Island in 323 and laying the groundwork for a multiethnic Roman Empire that grows to encompass the majority of North America. I'll lay out the solid facts of the timeline, and welcome discussion about the broader world, because I found it pretty entertaining, if not necessarily rigorous in its plausibility.

First, for those interested in reading it, I'll give a review. Following descendents of the Valerius family over the centuries (and cycles of boom and bust), Rome West has a disjointed style, collecting a series of short vignettes following the family's fortunes and featuring a new protagonist in each one. While some readers may dislike this style, I personally enjoyed it, as I think a timeline of such a long scale would get too deep in the weeds focusing too heavily on each story. The series is likely to have only one collection, so the stylistic choice makes sense. One more serious concern is the panel layout. Because the series was originally released on an app, each page is divided into 4 panels, each of which represents a page of the original format.

Now on to the history. Founded in 323 AD, Rome West is a large socially stratified nation, with a wide range of ethnic diversity and an enshrined principle of religious plurality. The top of the social hierarchy is made up of the descendants of the original Roman sailors, who married into native families but went to great lengths to maintain social power. The majority of the population is made up of annexed and assimilated native tribes, who have a role in the country's government but are still at a disadvantage against the Roman ruling class. For this reason, there is prejudice on both sides of the class divide. Citizens of Rome West are called "Westerners" by foreign powers. I'll lay out a timeline based on each vignette. All dates are AD, although the Westerners have forgotten about Christianity by the time the Spanish arrive in the Americas.

  • 323- At the urging of Lucan Valerius, the Roman survivors agree to intermingle and share technology with the Lenape tribe, laying the foundation of Roma Occidens and establishing the "First Families" who will dominate the new nation for centuries.
  • 847- Rome West has grown, stretching from the Great Lakes to Chesapeake Bay, and in order to secure the passage of a law meant to devolve more power to the constituent tribes over "moralistic" objections that it incentivizes miscegenation and dilutes the power of the Roman ruling class, agents of Janus Valerius assassinate his two primary rivals, seizing control of the Capitol, in OTL New York City.
  • 990- In OTL Newfoundland, an outpost of soldiers under the leadership of a Valerius fight off an incursion by Viking raiders. The survivors return to Europe with a Western shield blending Roman and indigenous iconography.
  • 1492- Arriving in the New World, Christopher Columbus is captured by the Arawak Islands Legion. His men are sent off on the Santa Maria, with the Nina and the Pinta reverse engineered to give the Westerners the secrets of black powder weaponry. This event creates long-standing hostility between Rome West and "Iberia", eventually laying the foundation of the Sons of Columbus terrorist organization. While imprisoned, Columbus meets Marcus Valerius, imprisoned for protesting military adventurism against the Apaches and the Aztecs.
  • 1503- The Valerius Arms Company, under the leadership Marcus's brother Maddox, is working around the clock to develop a new generation of weaponry while also fighting off an attack by the vengeful Iberians. The fortress factory is saved at the last minute by the Cherokee Legion.
  • 1545- In the midst of a war with the Aztecs and the outbreak of the Aztec flu, the Valerian Works Company is attempting to build a canal through OTL Panama (using suspiciously advanced steam technology), and a distant relative of the family is conscripted to the trenches to protect the project in return for the promise of 500 acre land plots in the west promised to veterans of the conflict.
  • 1869- Alameda Valerius, in a bid to become a journalist, travels from OTL Chicago to OTL San Francisco, in this timeline an independent city-state settled by the Dutch called the Port of Berentsland. A generation after the Colony Wars, colonization in this timeline seems to revolve on archipelagos of port cities. Rome West is bordered to the northwest by New Brittania and stretches down into OTL Mexico, while an alliance between the French and Dutch control several cities around the world (including New Orleans) and the Spanish colonial empire focuses on the Pacific islands (including Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia), along with the Congo. The peace is coming to an end, however, as Spanish adventurism leads to the outbreak of the Sino-Iberian war.
  • 1939- In the wake of a global Great War that saw Rome West triumph over the Eastern Empire (which is then dismembered into Ruthenia, Anatolia, Judea, the Kingdom of Saud, Persia and Indica), in the Port of Berentsland a veteran descended from the Valerius family and his Indian partner are dealing with labor unrest among the Aztec immigrant population while investigating a series of serial murders carried out by the Sons of Columbus, a terrorist organization that attempts to stir up ethnic strife to create more rigid borders between nations and ethnic groups. Ironically, they are willing to accept members of all races and religions, as long as they don't trace their ancestry to Rome West. Oddly, although railroads and aqueducts crisscross the continent and there's a Panama Canal, sea travel continues to rely on tall ships.
  • 1941- A Valerian descendant working as a nurse marries into a Washoe family, only to face ethnic discrimination based on her European heritage.
  • 1979- Rome West is involved in a Cold War with Ruthenia, the most powerful successor state to Constantinople, and a Valerius working for the Roman Security Bureau is forced to break cover in order to steal Ruthenian maglev technology. Satellites are in common use, and Rome West has made the transition to clean energy by this point in time.
  • 1989- In an increasingly authoritarian Rome West, Calliope Valerius faces intense discrimination on her college campus, as a scion of the ruling class and the largest and wealthiest corporation on Earth. The fact that Val-Arms has the paramilitary contract to put down student unrest doesn't help matters.
What does everybody think? It really is worth a read, and it's fairly short, being one slim volume.
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