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Give me back my Legions!
  • Текст добавлен: 9 октября 2016, 01:56

Текст книги "Give me back my Legions!"

Автор книги: Harry Norman Turtledove




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Текущая страница: 21 (всего у книги 21 страниц)

Our written sources for the battle are less good than we might wish they were. Closest in time is the account of Velleius Paterculus, a retired military officer who wrote his epitome of Roman history around A.D./C.E. 30. His work does not get much respect from modern historians; he was no great stylist, and he was an admirer of Augustus’ successor, Tiberius, whose character had a good many features less than admirable. Imagine a modern U.S. colonel who served in Vietnam and some years later wrote a memoir full of extravagant praise for Richard Nixon. That will give you some notion of why historians raise an eyebrow at Velleius Patcrculus.

On the other hand, the man actually served in Germany. He knew at least some of the people involved in these campaigns. And he has information about them that we simply can’t get from anyone else. So his account is certainly worth reading.

Other historians in the Roman Empire who touched on the fight in the Teutoburg Forest wrote at least a lifetime after the events occurred. They include Florus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio (also known, at least as often, as Dio Cassius), the last of whom wrote in Greek rather than Latin. In addition, Tacitus mentions the battle in passing as he treats in more detail the retaliatory campaigns the Romans waged in Germany in the early years of Tiberius’ reign. Augustus’ anguished cry of “Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!” comes from Suetonius.

For manv years, the actual site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest was unknown. There is a large, heroic statue of Arminius holding an upraised sword near Detmold, Germany, which was believed to be close by the battlefield. In fact, it is farther north and east, near the village of Kalkriese. This was proved beyond a reasonable doubt through the excavations conducted by Tony Clunn, one of the gifted amateurs who have contributed so much to archaeology. In the 1980s, Clunn was a British Army officer serving in Germany; the coins and other artifacts he uncovered – including the remains of the rampart Arminius’ men built up – demonstrate where the fight took place.

Clunn has written a fascinating book detailing his discoveries: The Quest for the Lost Roman Legions: Discovering the Varus Battlefield(Savas Beattie: New York, and Spellmount, Limited: Staplehurst, UK, 2005). Also extremely valuable, in addition to the primary sources, was Peter S. Wells, The Battle That Stopped Rome(W. W. Norton & Company: New York and London, 2003). I have not always agreed with their conclusions, but console myself by remembering that I am writing a novel, not history. (Clunn also includes his own fictional version of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, its installments separated by italics from the rest of the book. I carefully did not read those installments, not wanting his take on things to influence my own.)

Arminius, Augustus, Caldus Caelius, Ceionius, Lucius Eggius, Publius Quinctilius (sometimes spelled Quintilius) Varus, Segestes, Sigimerus, Thusnelda, and Vala Numonius are real historical figures. So are Claudia Pulchra, Flavus, Julia, Maroboduus, Tiberius, and Varus’ son (to whom I have given the praenomen Gaius; his actual praenomen is unknown), who are mentioned but stay offstage, as it were. Accounts of Caesar’s deeds in Gaul and Germany a couple of generations earlier than the time in which Give Me Back My Legions!is set are as accurate as I could make them; so are those of Crassus’ less fortunate deeds farther east. Varus’ father did commit suicide as described.

Two key questions underlie the events leading up to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. First, why was Segestes so strongly opposed to Arminius? Second, why did Quinctilius Varus prefer to believe Arminius rather than Segestes?

Arminius didelope with Thusnelda, Segestes’ daughter, after Segestes betrothed her to another man. When this happened is uncertain; it may well have been later than I’ve put it, perhaps even after the battle. I’ve chosen to move it forward in time to give Segestes a strong motive for disliking Arminius – and to give Varus a reason for discounting Segestes’ claims about Arminius, as he reckons them fueled by personal animosity. I’ve also made Varus especially susceptible to Arminius’ deceit by having the German remind the Roman of his own son. I can’t prove either of those speculations. Then again, I don’t have to: I’m writing fiction. I can, and do, hope my readers will find them plausible.

In the novel, I’ve mixed modern and ancient place names. Where modern names are likely to be more familiar to the English-speaking reader, I’ve used them: e.g., Rome, Athens, Rhine, Danube. Less widely known places go by the names the Romans gave them: e.g., Vetera rather than Xanten, the Lupia River rather than the Lippe. Gaul is a special case; to call it France after the Franks, the Germanic tribe that later affixed a new name to it, would be anachronistic. The Romans’ large encampment in central Germany was built where the modern town of Minden lies. No one knows what the Romans called it, so I’ve given it a classical-sounding name based on the modern one.

Thusnelda’s giving birth to Sigifredus is fictitious, as is, of course, that baby’s death. A few years later, she did bear Arminius a son. To this day, no one has discovered just where the Roman fortress of Aliso lay. Roman forts east of the Rhine were abandoned in great haste after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

Arminius and the pro-Roman Flavus faced each other in war when Flavus served with the punitive expedition in the time of Tiberius. Arminius was killed by men of his own tribe, the Cherusci, in A.D. /C.E. 21. Maroboduus, the king of the Marcomanni, ended his days in exile inside the Roman Empire. While the Germanic tribes did eventually help overthrow the Empire’s western half, this did not happen till centuries after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The battle marked a crucial turning-point in history, but no one should make the mistake of thinking it marked an immediate one.

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