Tuesday 30 April 2013

ZOSIMUS- who he?

ZOSIMUS is my Z …maybe even zealous....and of course, some ubiquitous ZZZZZZZZs!

Zosimus? Am I joking? Did I just invent that word to have an eye-catching ending to the A to Z Challenge?  No, I really am continuing with my Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84 posts.  You could even say I'm zealous about them.

So where did the word Zosimus come from?

As I already mentioned in my 'N for Names' post I like to give my characters a suitable name according to their nationality and/or character traits. In my most recent publication, TOPAZ EYES (an ancestral ‘treasure hunt’ mystery), my characters are of mainly European (Dutch/ German) descent. To find suitable names I looked in baby naming sites. Granted, I do hope that the information I pick up from there is accurate- and occasionally I recheck on alternative sites. I've also used baby naming sites for Celtic boys and girls in my historical novel THE BELTANE CHOICE. My tendency is to choose a name which has a give meaning and thus fits the attributes of my characters..

During the writing of my current historical sequel I needed to have a cast of Celtic characters and a cast of Roman ones. In my sequel I have a particularly 'dense' tironis (raw recruit in the Roman army) who required a fantastic name. While trawling the sites for ancient Roman/Latin names I came across ZOSIMUS.

ZOSIMUS – meaning – one likely to survive, survivor. 

Likely to survive was so NOT appropriate for my ‘slow into action’ lugubrious character that I just had to use it.


Zealous: filled with or inspired by intense enthusiasm or zeal; ardent; fervent

Whether or not you're interested in my theme period of AD 71-84 Celtic/ Roman Britain I hope someone can say that I've been pretty ZEALOUS in my posts all the way through from A to Z. I've really enjoyed sticking to my theme and have learned a lot along the way. I hope you have, too, if you've followed any of my A to Zs. 

Zosimus? Does that apply to me? Am I a survivor? I definitely am of the A to Z Challenge and I'm very thankful to the organisors for setting up the challenge!

BELTANE is tomorrow- 1st May. For 1 more day (ie April 30th) My historical adventure  - THE BELTANE CHOICE  - can be yours for the bargain price of 77p /99c on Amazon UK/US. 

Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/UdT8v0
Amazon.co.uk  http://amzn.to/Rqg7yY
And... There's one day left to WIN an ecopy by entering my competition! Check my A to Z blog post of Sat 20th April HERE 

Find the answer to this question...Which Beltane concept did I know I could definitely use in my novel The Beltane Choice? 

...and then email your answer to win@crookedcatbooks.com
Draw will take place tomorrow, the 1st May.
Good luck!

Monday 29 April 2013

Y? It has to be Roman York

 Y is for York – Roman name ‘Eboracum’

Am I cheating on my A to Z post title for Y? Probably, but please forgive since York/ Eboracum became a very important place during the many centuries which followed my target era of Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84.

Was York/ Eboracum even started during my focus time period? 

Yes, it was.

The date of AD 71 is the one that was generally credited with being the beginning of Roman occupation of the land on which Eboracum evolved. Governor Cerialis would have been incumbent at that time, but there are now signs that the site was, in fact, used even before Cerialis - though in what way has still to be established. What is documented by Tacitus is that Governor Cerialis sent around 5000 soldiers of the Legio IX up from Lindum (Lincoln) to set up camp, the camp evolving into a more permanent wooden fortress.

Assuming, though, that the first wooden fortress appeared in York/Eboracum around AD 71 – do we know what would it have been like?  As in my last post ‘X for Xystum’ a typical to Britain fortress layout was likely used in York/Eboracum, based on a rectangle. The site chosen for the York/Eboracum fortress was on a slightly raised ridge at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss. This meant the rivers strengthened Roman defences.

What was strategically important about the site? A continual fresh water supply was guaranteed for the huge amount of troops, the surrounding flat land which bordered the camp would have had good grazing for the horses of mounted troops and pack animals, and being relatively flat was easy to build on. (those conditions always sought by the Roman exploratores/ agrimensores - engineers) Even more important the river Ouse gave them access to the North Sea meaning supply vessels could sail up river on a regular basis to offload both goods and men.

Archaeological excavations have not yet revealed much in the way of evidence of the site having been used by Celtic tribes before the Roman Empire took it on.  Reasons for this may have been because...

the site at Eboracum was also close to the territorial borders between the Brigante and the Parisii tribes.

This would have been important if the territory was regarded as a sort of no man’s land between the two. When Cerialis had his troops set up camp, the intention was to subdue and control the whole Brigante border with other southern Celtic tribes- the Coritanii, the Cornovii and the Deceangli - the Brigantes having become an unstable client kingdom after the ‘Fall of Cartimandua’ (already covered in a different A to Z post).

What was the fate of the York/ Eboracum fort that Cerialis laid down? It’s thought Agricola further strengthened it and used it as a main supply base for personnel during his term as Governor AD 78-84. Tacitus and other Roman writers mention he sojourned a number of times to the base at York/Eboracum where he both planned his military campaigns in the north (to subdue the Celtic tribes of the far north/ in modern day Scotland) and to oversee the legislation he put in place to improve on Celtic/ Roman relations (domestic, social and judiciary/taxation reforms).

The wooden fortress at York/Eboracum evolved into one of stone by the late first century, what remains giving a good idea of what the buildings were like.

In my sequel to THE BELTANE CHOICE I've included the first wooden fort at York/Eboracum being built, and Agricola nips back down there a couple of times to do that overseeing of social reforms mentioned earlier! 

Modern day York/ Eboracum  (York was also known as other names during the two millennia of its existence)
I've visited York a number of times, love the city for all of its many historical eras, and have visited as many of the tourist sites and museums as possible.

A particularly fascinating (though highly touristy) tour was in subterranean levels showing that York has been settled on by many generations of people, and builders. Passing through some very damp-dripping walled cellars some lucky tourists just might be 'fortunate' to see the resident ghosts and hear the clomping hob nailed feet of the auxiliaries tramping on the still-in-place Roman cobble stones that you see below the panelled walkway you're standing on. The most popular resident ghost is said to be of a Roman horse, only the upper part of it visible since the soil levels have changed dramatically over the two thousand years of occupation and the lower legs and hooves are 'not visible' at the lowest cobblestone level.

Over dramatic? Perhaps, but it did hit it home how tricky archaeology can be sometimes when an area is settled by so many peoples for so long.

A walk along the Roman Wall at York/ Eboracum is a 'must do', as is a nip into one of the guard towers that still pepper the length of the wall - of course the wall was NOT built in the period AD71-84 but in its first form appeared a few decades after Agricolam times. The turf covered rampart slope is, however, likely to have started even before Agricola set foot on it.

These photos were taken during one of my trips, somewhere around the mid 1990s, about two thousand years after the wall was possibly started.

Hey! That woman wearing the tartan skirt is ME!


Now only 2 Days left to BELTANE on the 1st May. My historical adventure  - THE BELTANE CHOICE  - can be yours for the bargain price of 77p /99c on Amazon UK/US. 

Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/UdT8v0

Amazon.co.uk  http://amzn.to/Rqg7yY

And... There's still time to WIN an ecopy by entering my competition! Check my A to Z blog post of Sat 20th April HERE 

Find the answer to this question...Which Beltane concept did I know I could definitely use in my novel The Beltane Choice? 

...and then email your answer to win@crookedcatbooks.com
Draw will take place on the 1st May.
Good luck!

Sunday 28 April 2013


I'm taking a rest from April A to Z Blogging, since today is Sunday, and I'm posting something new.  Grab your copy in time for Beltane!

With only 3 Days left to BELTANE on the 1st May, my historical adventure  - THE BELTANE CHOICE  - can be yours for the bargain price of 77p /99c on Amazon UK/US. 

Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/UdT8v0

Amazon.co.uk  http://amzn.to/Rqg7yY

And... There's still time to WIN an ecopy by entering my competition! Check my A to Z blog post of Sat 20th April HERE 

Find the answer to this question...Which Beltane concept did I know I could definitely use in my novel The Beltane Choice? 

...and then email your answer to win@crookedcatbooks.com
Draw will take place on the 1st May.
Good luck!

Saturday 27 April 2013

Xystum! And win...

 Xystum is my X for the day. 
I’m nearing the end of my Celtic/Roman AD 71-84 theme …and still going strong, the content of my posts having been relevant to my historical novel THE BELTANE CHOICE or to its sequel which is my current writing in progress.

(*****Beltane Bargains for you are at the end of this post*****)
Xystum is an architectural term. It can refer to a wall,, alley or open path, promenade or collonade. It can also refer to an atrium (Roman Courtyard), ambulacrum, or parvis in front of a basilica.

This post, in a way, follows on from my previous post on the temporary wall building of marching camps.
Based on a rectangle, or a square, the Roman temporary camps (as described in my W is for Walls post) sometimes developed into forts, the earliest of these in Britannia likely to be constructed of wood before some were converted into stone as the decades moved on.

Within the regularly used designs for the forts and fortresses were areas which were relevant to the word Xystum.

The plan above is of a fortress in Germany but the main areas would have been similar in northern Britannia. Around the central principia (the main headquarters building) would have been xystii (apologies-the plural spelling is guessed at)/ walkways since the basic designs were drawn around the ‘streets’ from the main entrances to the central principia. When built of wood the principia would have had columns of wood supporting the portico in front of the aedes (the temple building/ great hall) and a covered xystum/collonade was likely around the interior of the principia courtyard, to protect the doorways from the sun - in Britannia more likely to protect pedestrians from inclement weather.   


The plan for the Roman fortress at Inchtuthil in Scotland is one of particular interest to me as some of the best action in my current writing in progress takes place not too far away. Started by Agricola, around the early AD80s, Inchtuthil fort was never completed though, and a collonaded atrium around the principia (P at centre of image),and other properly paved walkways were possibly never finished.The fortress played a very important strategic role during Agricola's campaign. Excavations have shown it was a critical supply base for the troops in northern climes and was likely to have been a crucial site for gathering/ housing arriving troops before the batlle at Mons Graupius.


In my sequel to The Beltane Choice there are many references to Roman forts and fortresses and I’ve even taken the liberty of including covered walkways around the exterior of the principia – knowing just how needed protection from the weather might have been. Though the word xystum does not appear yet in my current WIP, I’m thinking I might just squeeze it in somewhere to join all the other Latin names.  

(ps Apologies to any architect who might read this and tell me I'm not totally accurate. I'm no expert but I'm trying! Corrections are welcome if they can improve my knowledge.)

                            *****COMPETITION AND BELTANE BARGAINS*****
Please check out my competition to win an ecopy of my historical adventure The Beltane Choice -  the competition going on till BELTANE on 1st May when the name of the winner will be drawn. 

                              For the details of how to win click HERE.

Multi 5 * rated THE BELTANE CHOICE is ALSO available from Amazon for 77p/99c from Sat 27th April through Beltane 1st May. 

Friday 26 April 2013

Walls R US

W is for Walls

Who built them, and what did they build?

Continuing my A to Z Challenge theme of Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71 – 84…

When thinking about walls in the context of Roman Britain we tend to think of the larger structures- Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall - but both of those came well after the era of my theme which is AD 71 -84.

The walls I’m referring to in their own way, I believe, are actually more impressive. Evidence is being uncovered as we read of more and more Roman Marching Camp walls.

Detecting the walls of the Roman Marching Camps, during the time that pre-dated the first aerial surveys, depended on there being reasonable amounts of ditch and ramparts still undamaged for archaeologists to inspect and measure. The acreage the walls covered indicated how many Roman soldiers would have been housed at that particular time.

Aerial surveys have greatly increased the knowledge of the camp structures since then, and other more recent geo-physical techniques add to the data.
Unity was the topic of my last blog post and that subject overspills into this post for the letter W. The Roman Army ethos was team work, and a superb example of this was creating their own little barrier at the end of a long march.  

Why did the Romans build these temporary walled camps in hostile territory? Some of the camps were only inhabited for an overnight stay, some for a few days, and perhaps some were for durations lasting a little longer. The rampart walls of the camp undoubtedly served as a barrier to prevent surprise attack from marauding Celtic tribes who were not enamoured of the Roman Army barging in to their territory, but there were other impressive reasons for sequestering themselves behind the soil ramparts.

Keeping up the morale of the troops was incredibly important; keeping them fit and strong; and keeping them feeling secure was paramount. After a long march of some 12- 20 miles in hostile territory, the last thing you might think the Roman command structure would have been doing was working the men even harder. Regardless of unfavourable weather conditions those camps were built; creating the walls the most important work involved. Keeping the troops well drilled, and honing their discipline was psychologically important as well as strategically. 

What did the troops have to do before they fed and bedded down for the night? It's imagined that they did the same in northern Britain as Roman troops did elsewhere in the Empire. Polybius, a Greek historian, wrote a good account in the second century BC of how a typical Roman marching camp was set up. 

Whenever the army on the march draws near the place of encampments, one of the tribunes and those of the centurions who are in turn selected for this duty go ahead and survey the whole area where the camp is to be placed. They begin by determining the spot where the consul’s tent should be pitched... and on which side of this space to quarter the legions. Having decided this, they first measure out the area of the Praetorium (command centre). Next they draw the straight line along which the tents of the tribunes are set up, and then the line parallel to this, which marks the starting-point of the encampment area for the troops. In the same way they draw up the lines on the other side of the Praetorium.... All this is done with little loss of time and the marking out is an easy task, since all the distances are regulated and are familiar. They then proceed to plant flags; the first on the spot where the consul’s tent is to stand, the second on that side of it which has been chosen for the camp, a third at the central point of the line on which the tribunes’ tents will stand, and a fourth on the parallel line along which the legions will encamp. These latter flags are crimson, but the consul’s is white. The lines on the other side of the praetorium are marked sometimes with flags of other colours, sometimes with plain spears. After this they proceed to lay out the streets between the various quarters, and plant spears to mark each street. The result is that when the legions on their march have arrived near enough to get a good view of the site, the whole plan quickly becomes familiar to everyone, as they can reckon from the position of the consul’s flag, and get their bearings from that. Everyone knows exactly which street and in which part of that street his tent will be situated, since every soldier invariably occupies the same position in the camp.

(Historia VI 41)

If what Polybius has indicated was replicated in Britannia - or something simpler yet similar - then after the interior area was set up, the vallum (walls of the temporary camp) would be built beyond the intervallum, a sizeable margin area of around 200 feet. This empty space served as a safety zone, an area which was beyond the reach of arrows or spears. It could be used as an access route around the whole camp to avoid treading amongst the tents, and could have been used for drill practice. The evidence found in northern Britain indicates a similar organisation in the layouts of the temporary camps and the permanaent forts, the designs standard and made according to basic rectangular or square patterns. 

While some soldiers stood guard around the area for protection, others who would have been on rotation for this duty created the walls. The shovels, or entrenching tools  the men carried on their furca (carrying pole), would be used to dig a trench. The excavated soil was piled up behind them and towards the interior of the encampment to create a rampart which they strengthened with the cut sods of earth and the sudes (wooden stakes) which had also been carried on the furca. Depending on the terrain and the amount of men the wall might take a couple of hours to set up. The walls served as a defensive barrier but the encampment could also be used to retreat to after engagement with enemy Celts. 

The temporary camps were set at feasible walking distances apart and the exploratores (scouts) along with a tribune, or other skilled officer, would choose a site depending on the local water supplies. A source of fresh water for the troops was critical to that choice, as was suitable field grazing for the horses of mounted patrols and any pack animals involved in the campaign.

The temporary camps were used as places for strategic planning and for easily transporting necessary supplies.  

The map at left shows those camps that have been identified as Roman ...and there may well be others as yet unidentified.

The building of walls for temporary camps do feature in my curent WIP- my sequel to THE BELTANE CHOICE set in Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84.

If you look at the white squares on the map - the Agricolan ones - then those are the ones I'm writing about!

The walls went up...but I'm so glad they didn't take them down or I wouldn't be able to use W is for WALLS!

Image:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:North.Britain.Roman.marching.camps.jpg


Thursday 25 April 2013

See Vs!

Venutius …and Vellocatus - My two Vs  

 Two men who knew one woman very well!

My theme for the April A to Z Challenge is Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71 -84

Only a few more letters of the Alphabet to go now, and this post is more about Celts than Romans… and it starts a little bit before AD 71.

What do we know about the two characters in history called Venutius and Vellocatus? Mainly what the Roman historian, Tacitus, tells us about them in his writing.

Venutius was the husband of Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes.  Some experts believe he was of noble birth (possibly of the Carvetii tribe) but Cartimandua’s lineage was higher, her tribe more important, and in typical Celtic fashion Cartimandua assumed the leading role as Queen of the Brigantes with Venutius as her consort.  

It’s possible she had already assumed the role of Queen of Brigantia when the Romans arrived in Britannia in AD 43, and that she surrendered to the Emperor Claudius along with many of her Celtic counterparts in the south of Britannia. She is recorded by Tacitus as being of Roman 'Client Queen Status' in AD 51. For a number of years it appeared both Cartimandua and Venutius bowed to the yoke of Rome, in return for which they were largely able to govern what was a very large tract of land in modern day northern England, with added bonus of the Roman Army to protect them from other marauding Celtic tribes on the warpath.

Matters seem to have deteriorated when King Caractacus of the Catuvellauni, fell foul of the Romans in the lands of the Silures and Ordovices (Modern day Wales). Caractacus had been conducting guerrilla warfare tactics against the Romans for many years, but found himself in a compromising position when the Roman Army overran the hillfort he was attacking from. His family members were captured but he fled to Cartimandua- her Brigantia being almost the ‘next door’ tribal land – but she bundled him in chains and packed him off to the Roman Emperor. In doing this she strengthened her loyalty to Rome.

Caractacus petitioned the Emperor Claudius and was allowed to live out his life in Rome.  

(Caractacus before the Emperor Claudius at Rome)

British Museum

I personally like this engraving for its interesting little details...ie the totally bored? or depleted? figures surrounding Caractacus.  What the Roman soldier is doing on the left is very interesting!

{{Information |Description= {{en|''Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome'' Engraving by Andrew Birrell of a painting by Henry Fuseli Original is a D size print.}} |Source= Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-pga-00226 (d

However over the next years it seems that Cartimandua and her husband Venutius were no longer of the same mind, Venutius becoming a leading light in leading the anti-Roman elements in Brigantian territory.

By AD 57 it appears that Venutius and Cartimandua separated, an official divorce possibly taking place. The problem with that was that each in their own right built up opposing factions which led to instability in Brigantia, skirmishes happening against each other, Rome supporting Cartimandua.

Things now got even murkier.

Vellocatus was a friend and armour bearer of Venutius, and his closest confidante. When Cartimandua made public the taking of Vellocatus as her lover, and gave the intention to declare him her husband,  her subjects seem to have become less enamoured of her. Whether that was because he was not fit, not highly enough born for the job; or whether he was not Brigantian; or even whether she was still legally married -  isn’t certain but it caused a high degree of resentment in her tribe.

Venutius took up arms against Cartimandua in AD 69. The best Rome could do for her was rescue her and leave Venutius to assume the kingship of Brigantia. What happened to her after that is unclear, but she disappears from the history books. 

(This is a good site for Cartimandua

Venutius continued to lead the anti-roman factions in Brigantia till AD 73 when the Brigantes suffered a huge defeat, possibly near the hillfort of Stanwick (in present day northern England). What became of Venutius is unclear but from AD 73 the Brigantes seem to have been leaderless as the Roman Army captured more and more of the Brigantian territory- though that process took many years.

The fate of Vellocatus is also unknown after AD 71. 

Following is a translation from the controversial, and most likely biased, writing of Tacitus.

"Inspired by these differences between the Roman forces and by the many rumours of civil was that reached them, the Britons plucked up courage under the leadership of Venutius, who, in addition to his own natural spirit and hatred of the Roman name, was fired by his personal resentment towards queen Cartimandua. She was ruler over the Brigantes, having the influence that belongs to high birth, and she had later strengthened her power when she was credited with having captured king Caratacus by treachery and so furnished an adornment for the triumph of Claudius Caesar. From this came her wealth and the wanton spirit which success breeds. She grew to despise her husband Venutius, and took as her consort his squire Vellocatus, whom she admitted to share the throne with her. Her house was at once shaken by this scandalous act. Her husband was favoured by the sentiments of all the citizens; the adulterer was supported by the queen’s passion for him and by her savage spirit. So Venutius, calling in aid from outside and at the same time assisted by a revolt of the Brigantes themselves, put Cartimandua into an extremely dangerous position. Then she asked the Romans for protection, and some of our auxiliary troops, cavalry and infantry, after meeting with indifferent success in a number of engagements, finally succeeded in snatching the queen from danger. The throne was left to Venutius, the war to us." Tacitus (Histories iii, 45).

So there you have my two Vs.

Venutius is mentioned briefly in my historical novel THE BELTANE CHOICE, but he features a lot more in the sequel to it - my current WIP. 


Wednesday 24 April 2013

Unity - and maybe undone

Unity  - U is for unity

Continuing with my Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84 theme…

U is for unity, the lack of which is an undone, ruined army.

I’m starting with the definition of unity in my Collins Concise English Dictionary.

Unity : – 1. the state or quality of being one; oneness. 2. the act, state or quality of forming a whole from separate parts. 3. something whole or complete that is composed of separate parts. 4. mutual agreement; harmony or concord. 5. uniformity or constancy; …..

From my Collins Latin dictionary:
uniter: (adv.) together in one  

Sadly, during the skirmishes and battles between the Roman Army and the indigenous Celts of Britannia, the Romans had a lot of ‘unity’ and the Celts appeared lacking in maintaining that concept.

The Celts, en masse against the Romans, were still the fighting force that would have been battling against a neighbouring tribe, the fighting tactics similar to small scale warfare. The Celts in no way lacked courage, but they did not have the discipline that the Roman Army had.

That state or quality of unity - of being ‘oneness; complete but composed from separate parts’ does not seem to have been acquired in sufficient strength by the Celts who engaged in warfare against the Roman Army in Britannia.

Why did the Celts of northern Britannia lose against the Romans?

The Celts were fierce fighters; they were highly skilled horsemen and charioteers, so what was lacking? 

They tended to be the more lightly armoured; were said to be sometimes even naked (though I personally doubt that in what we would now call present day Scotland due to my knowing what the weather is like); were less weighed down and in Britannia they knew the terrain better than the Romans. Should that not have gained them a huge advantage?

Celtic battle tactics seem to have been full frontal attack after much rallying to the cause in chanting and taunting the enemy. That was an initial form of unity, of bringing their fervour together, and the noise they must have made would have been terrifying to most enemies, but it seems the Romans were able to withstand that pre-battle fervour named as the ‘Furor Celtica’. Their initial unifying at the beginning of battle didn't last, and the hollering and bawling must have taken a great deal of their energy. . 

The Celts were adept at forming a defensive shield wall when they charged the enemy as ‘one’. Yes- they could run together as one line of warriors, but it soon broke up when they engaged with the enemy, when one to one combat started. 

The mounted Celtic warriors were highly skilled and well balanced sitting snug and tight within their four ‘posted’ pommels giving themselves free movement of their arms to hurl their spears and use swords and shields. They were effective during battle with the Romans, the height gained meaning they could fire their spears over a higher area and more accurately hit their target.

The Celtic charioteers were amazingly good at weaving their light vehicles in amongst the engaging warriors, the spearman fighting directly from his chariot.
So why did the Celts not win many major battles against the Roman army in Britannia?

Unity. Discipline. A long line of command structure which issued orders and had them obeyed if not instantly then pretty darned quickly! Who had that?

Back to those two very important concepts-unity and discipline. Celtic warriors trained in one to one combat very effectively but it was each man to his own when on the field of battle. Once the battle was started, in general it was a fight to the death with few, or none, in the Celtic battle lines calling the warriors to order.

What of the Roman soldiers? They trained too, but they trained and acted upon calls from the centurion or a superior soldier nearby. Their tactics were more planned and they were more standard in their formations. Their contubernium groups of eight or ten infantrymen, whether legionary or auxiliary, defended each other and attacked alongside each other –at the behest of the decanus in charge of the small unit, or above him on orders from the optio who was second in charge of the century of 80 or so men. The tessarius, a guard commander, might also be giving orders.

To enable those mentioned to issue their orders the cornicen, horn blower, drew the attention for listening to new orders.

And, of course, above all of those were the junior tribunes, tribunes angusticlavii, and tribune laticlavius. Have I forgotten to mention the legatus and the Roman Governor

Unity? I could not forget to mention the seriously tight formation tactics used by Roman soldiers when the command was given to form what we now call 'The Tortoise'. For the contubernium groups who worked together it was a case of shields tight and shields overhead - making and almost impenetrable barrier that the ferocious Celts could rarely break up. 

Unity was crucial. 

I've included some battle scenes in my sequel to The Beltane Choice which mention some of the above tactics. I'd love to have the northern Celts, my Caledons, win the Battle of Mons Graupius but I fear that would be stretching history just a bit too far for my novel purposes. 


Tuesday 23 April 2013

What's for T? - Tribune is my T for the day

 T is for Tribune

Yes! I'm still continuing my theme of Celtic/Roman Britannia AD 71-84 but today's post is short one. 

Who might the local Celts of Brigantia, in northern Britannia, have feared most in AD 71? The Governor of Britannia was not their favourite person, and neither would the Legatus Legionis of the XX and IX legions have been, but the main men of every day decisions were the next tier down on the Roman Army hierarchy – The Military Tribunes. The Tribunes would definitely have been the ones to watch!

Directly below in rank after the Legatus, and second in command in a legion was the Tribune Laticlavius, the one who bore the right to wear the broad senatorial stripe on the toga or some similar indication on his uniform. The Tribune Laticlavius would have been appointed by the Senate or by the Emperor himself.

This command would likely have been reached around the age of 25 after serving in various more junior levels and the term of office as Tribune Laticlavius would have been for a year. Though technically in control of the legion in the absence of direct orders from the Legatus, the Tribune Laticlavius was more likely to have made decisions along with the Praefectus Castrorum, the Camp Prefect, who would have held their position for a much longer duration and would have been very familiar with the current situation the Legion was finding itself in.

The tribune’s uniform remained fairly constant from Republican times into the Imperial period.  A plumed, engraved helmet was worn. A ‘muscled’ cuirass was common, with a red sash tied over it to indicate senatorial rank. The red cloak also indicated his rank. 


Below the rank of Tribune Laticlavius was the level named Tribuni Angusticlavii . These men were of equestrian class in Roman society, from families who had money and some clout but who were not yet of senatorial rank.

Each legion had 5 Tribuni Angusticlavii. Many of these were career officers who moved up through the ranks doing important administrative tasks, some of whom had first served under others in this post in junior officer positions. These men all had full tactical command during times of engagement with the enemy.

A Roman Officer's decorated helmet

I have chosen to make my main Roman Character a Tribune Angusticlavii in the sequel to The Beltane Choice. Gaius Livanus Valerius has served as a junior tribune and has gained much experience in Britannia. For part of the novel he is under the command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola when Agricola was the Legate for the Legio XX. Gaius is also under orders from Agricola when Agricola becomes the Governor of Britannia in AD 78 and marches north into what we now term modern day Scotland.    

For the Celts amongst us you might wish to know that my character, Gaius, meets a sticky end at the hands of some brave Celts near the area we now call Dundee! 

If anyone reading this post has some lovely images of a 'tribune angusticlavii'  that has free an easy usage on the internet - please share? 


Sunday 21 April 2013

Oh...those Stylish Celts - My S for the Day

S is for Style

Hello there! I’m still continuing my Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84 posts.

According to Roman writings the Celts were as fastidious as the Romans about personal hygiene and kept themselves clean on a daily basis. It would not have been such an easy job washing oneself if living in a Celtic roundhouse compared to the spectacular bathhouses the Romans frequented, but accounts indicate regular washing was the norm.  As far as I can see there was little, if any, communal aspects to Celtic bathing though evidence does suggest that latrine pits/ areas were likely in the roundhouse villages.

Hot water could only be produced from the fire so it was important to keep that fire going all day long.   

The Celts liked bright clothes. Evidence of woven patterns has been found in fragments of woollen cloth, the fibres of which had been dyed with berries and lichens.

The typical Celtic male in Britannia AD 71-84 would be wearing clothing appropriate for the climate. In modern day Scotland, or the borders area between Scotland and England - areas which feature in my historical novels- that would mean wearing warm woollen clothing to ward off the cold and damp, the snow, and the searing winds during the winter months. Little was likely to change during the warmer months- a long sleeved tunic might be replaced by a short sleeved one.
It appeared the well dressed Celt liked to have braies (trousers) in different patterns from the tunic. A bratt (cloak) was worn to ward off the chills and to enwrap themselves, if sleeping rough while travelling. The belt was an important part of the outfit as it could be both decorative, the leather studded with copper or gold embellishments, and also functional as it secured the waist pouches and scabbards for knives and other items. The sword scabbard might also be hung from the belt. Leather footwear was sometimes stuffed with mosses or perhaps wool to warm the feet, thronged crosswise over the bottom of the braies to keep them in place.

Some fantastic jewellery has survived showing that the goldsmiths were excellent craftsmen – bratt pins, gold neck torques and armbands had superb designs and were sometimes enamelled or with precious stones incorporated in the designs.

The hair tended to flow below the shoulders, often cut short at the crown, and with two thin braids hanging at the ears. The shorter hair at the crown appears to have been 'lime' smeared to create spikes. This application of lime paste would also have ligthened the hair and may, perhaps, have given the illusion that they were all light haired.

Female dress was simple.  A loose flowing tunic would hang to almost ground length and was tied at the waist with a cord or leather belt. Like the males it was also functional and an array of pouches suspended from it would hold a knife and other small items like a comb. A bratt also enwrapped them to keep out the draughty chills though these may have been a bit shorter than that of a Celtic male.
The woman’s hair was worn in two long braids hanging at the front or the hair might be worn loose. Golden circlets have been unearthed which would have held the hair back from the brow on females of higher status in the tribes; likewise armbands, neck torques and bratt pins.

Footwear was likely to be similar to the men.

Make-up? Wode for war was elaborate and part of the whole ritualistic build up to battle. Whether they always went to war naked or naked from the waist up, their wode decorated bodies were intended to intimidate-along with their hollering and chanting.

I have made no mention of the warriors in THE BELTANE CHOICE taking time to decorate themselves with wode but it just might appear in the sequel!   

My internet access is seriously limited at this time of posting or I'd give many references to great sites for viewing Celtic gold and silver and wode decorated warriors. They are out there!

Saturday 20 April 2013

Ritual- Beltane!

R is for Rituals – Beltane in particular

It’s now day 18 of the A to Z Challenge Blog Hop and my theme continues to be Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71- 84.

The rituals of the Celtic Festival of Beltane will be celebrated soon, on May 1st

Beltane literally means shining/bright fire, and the Beltane festival has a central fertility theme.

For the ancient Celtic tribes of Britain the rituals of Beltane heralded a time of optimism and hope that the coming seasons would be fruitful for the land, the animals and the people. Abundant crops and productive animals were crucial to survival, living off the land the way of life for them as most Celtic tribes were basically farmers. The rituals of the festival were therefore designed to encourage successful growth for the animals and crops and to rid them of potentially deadly disease.

While researching the Celtic tribes of Britain, particularly the Brigante and Selgovae tribes who inhabited the area of the UK we now call the borders between Scotland and England, I loved the Beltane ritual of the fire festival where the cattle were driven through a corridor of fire to purify them, ward off any disease, and to wish them great health during the coming summer and autumn seasons. The Beltane ritual, designed to keep people free from harm from ‘other worldly’ spirits, was a great idea too though I wasn't sure how I could incorporate that into my historical novel. 

(Apologies for the lack of a professional image- I couldn't find one, tried to draw my own for my Book Trailer Video for The Beltane Choice but abandoned the attempt at left as too awful. I'm subjecting you to it today, though - imagine a "Smiley face here")

After the feasting and the traditional rites of Beltane the women of the tribes sloped off with a chosen mate to hopefully conceive healthy offspring that would survive - children who were conceived on the night of Beltane being regarded as children favoured by the gods and goddesses. I knew I could definitely use that concept!

In my romantic adventure novel, The Beltane Choice, my female lead character must choose a suitable mate before Beltane night. My initial researches indicated that in Celtic tribes a woman was free to choose her own lovers, and especially at Beltane. That should make it an easy job for Nara of the Selgovae, but as in all novels it’s not such simple task and she has a large dilemma to face during the rituals when Beltane eventually comes around.

Set in AD 71, a time of turbulence in Celtic Britain when the Roman Empire is tramping its way northwards in Brigantes territory, Nara is captured by Lorcan of the Brigantes, a traditional tribal enemy. Lorcan aims to use her as a hostage, to force unity among the tribes of the north to give them a better fighting chance against the might of Rome. The bargain made between the Selgovae and the Brigantes removes Nara’s possibility of choosing her own mate.

I’ve included a Beltane scene where Nara’s participation in the Beltane rituals is not quite the happy celebratory ritual she had initially anticipated. A druid officiates at the Beltane rituals, the cattle are driven through the corridor of fire to the chanted rites but what happens after…well, you can find out in the novel!  

There are now many current festivals to celebrate Beltane, the nearest large one to where I live is 150 miles away in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. I’ve never made it yet but might manage to pop down some time to experience the Beltane rituals in Edinburgh, home of my publisher of The Beltane Choice - Crooked Cat Publishing. 


Beltane is coming! 

There’s a copy of The Beltane Choice going to one lucky winner.

How could that be you? 

My April A to Z Challenge Blog Hop post on 20th April is ...“Ritual is my R for the day!

Pop in and find the answer to the following question: 

Which Beltane concept did I know I could definitely use in my novel The Beltane Choice? 

Email your answer to win@crookedcatbooks.com

Draw will take place on the 1st May.

Good luck!

Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army? AD 71
 Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.  
When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?