In late 1903, Edward Elgar took his family away from the cold and damp of an English winter to Alassio, a town on the Italian Riviera. The composer loved strolling among the nearby flowery hills and the seashore where, even in winter, the sea was a bright, sparkling blue. The beauty of this lovely spot provided Elgar the sources of inspiration for this concert overture. He later recalled:
"The shepherd with his flock and his home-made music: the massive bridge and road still useful, and to a reflective mind awe-inspiring: the music developed to paint the relentless and domineering onward force of the ancient day and give a sound-picture of the strife and wars ( 'the drums and tramplings') of a later time: streams, flowers, hills; the distant snow mountains in one direction and the blue Mediterranean in the other.
In a flash it all came to me - the conflict of the armies on that very spot long ago, where now I stood - the contrast of the ruin and the shepherd - and then, all of a sudden, I came back to reality. In that time I had composed the overture - the rest was merely writing it down."