Thursday, January 21, 2010

A quiet glance at history -

TV programming being what it is at this time of the year there is not much out there to unwind the mind of an evening.

So it was that I happened to dip into the first programme of a series on the history of the Celts. It was quiet interesting, and covered the first known history of these peoples from the period of roughly 10AD on. That period also saw the decline of the Roman Empire and the relationship between our "known history" of the time, written by the Romans, has persevered because generally they were the victors. The Celtic side of these wars was not recorded as they had no written record.

The wars against "the barbarians of the north" are generally accepted as the defence of the Roman Empire from ravaging hordes of uncivilised naked warriors out on raids of looting, pillaging and rapine. Well, that is how the Roman record has it.

The programme was based around the archeological studies of two Celt cities; one in southern Germany, the second the French stronghold of Gretorex where Julius finally "subdued" the last remnants of the Celtic military structures about 30 years later.

One of the earliest Roman actions was effectively a "pre-emptive strike". The Helvetic tribes approached the Romans for permission to cross through the then northern reaches of the Empire, toward what is now southern France. That permission was given, but followed up with what might now be considered "genocide and crimes against humanity".

That first programme ended with this quotation from Tacitus' history of the Roman General, Agricola -

...Meanwhile, among the many leaders, one superior to the rest in valour and in birth, Galgacus by name, is said to have thus harangued the multitude gathered around him and clamouring for battle:--

30. "Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succour, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain's glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.

Ah, history... and it still happens.

1 comment:

T. F. Stern said...

At one time history was just a class to take in school, and taught only to satisfy the credit points required to get to the next level.

Now that I no longer work for a credit point, history is much more important; go figure.

Like you, I find little if any enjoyment in the offered run of the mill television programming and rely on the History Channel, Discovery and similar outlets to fill in the blanks.