Karavansara Free Library: Georg Ebers
You have to admit the idea had potential: popularize the subjects of Egyptology and Ancient History by writing historical romances.
And so Egyptologist Georg Moritz Ebers, a German that had pursued a legal career before he moved on to Egyptology, becoming teacher of Egyptian language in 1868 in Jena, decided to pursue a parallel career as a novelist.
The guy was a legit Egyptologist, and today is mostly known for the Ebers Papyrus, a medical text from 1550 BC, in the form of a scroll containing 700 magical spells and practical remedies.
Ebers had not actually “discovered” the papyrus – he had just purchased it from Edwin Smith, an American from Orlando, Florida, that lived in Egypt and acquired various documents from sources unknown.
This is not actually strange – a lot of Egyptian antiques were not discovered, but bought by Europeans and Americans from various purveyors of ancient goods.
Ebers published a translation of the medical text, and a number of essays, but seeing that the general public was not so hot about learned essays on Egyptology, he moved to fiction to popularize his field.
In 1862 he published An Egyptian Princess, that came with massive documentary resources, but was a solid potboiler. The introductions and the notes give the impression that Ebers was really eager to push the factual information – but the story works just fine, and while a little dated, is still a fun read.
In 1876 it was the turn of Uarda, a Romance of Ancient Egypt, that threaded much of the same territory, with the same learned annotations in the margins of a story full of intrigue and tragic love in the times of Ramses.
Bride of the Nile came out in 1886, this time a story set in the seventh century AD, at the time of Arab conquest and control of the ancient land. The book lacks the annotations and learned introductions, and is a much more straightforward historical narrative.
Ebers was indeed developing quite a following as a writer of historical fiction, and had expanded in different lands and time periods.
In 1893 he published Cleopatra, a much fictionalized biographical romance about the last queen of Egypt. More titles in the Ebers catalog include Serapis and Homo Sum, set in the Sinai peninsula and environs.
A lot of Ebers works can be found in the Gutenberg Project pages.
The style is sometimes very dated, and action thrillers these are not, but they make for an interesting read.
And after all, they are free.