Monday, 1 April 2013

A...is all down to… Agricola

It's A for AGRICOLA

It's also for Arlee Bird, the founder of this blog hop, without whom I wouldn't be starting this fantastic challenge. Thank you so much ARlee/Lee for making this possible.

My A-Z Challenge has a particular theme which you may have guessed from today’s blog title. I'm currently writing a novel set in Celtic/Roman Britain AD 71-84 so it seems natural to me to centre my blog posts for this exciting challenge around the research I've been doing on that period.

Though my title doesn’t indicate it there's a sub-challenge of History versus Archaeology. What has been the best for me to use? Facts gleaned from historical sources? Or facts as are deduced from archaeological evidence recently uncovered? Both have disputable elements, and both have provided me with interesting information. I hope that you enjoy some of the research I'm sharing with you in the April posts.

www.123rf.com
I'm no expert so, please bear with the fact that information I include here is my interpretation of it as a writer!

In my current novel in progress Gnaeus Julius Agricola plays no starring role, but what happens to my characters is very dependent on Agricola’s movements during the period of approximately AD 71-84 in what the Romans termed the island of Britannia.  

The knowledge of Agricola’s involvement comes from conjectural sources since there are few surviving references to him, and those that do exist - like the works of Tacitus - are somewhat biased in his favour. From those references, it appears that Agricola spent quite some time during his military career in Britannia, employed in varying roles.
           
Around AD 58, approximately aged 18, he served as a tribune on the staff of the current Governor of Britannia – Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. It’s likely he sharpened his military teeth to fine points during the uprisings of the famous Celtic Queen Bouddica, and no doubt learned a good deal about the Celtic tribes of southern Britain during the years AD 58-62.

 
Having distinguished himself elsewhere in Rome, and in the Empire, during the years following AD 62, Agricola was awarded the post of Legate, in command of the XX Valeria Victrix Legion based in Britannia, by the Emperor Vespasian in AD 69. By AD 71 the governorship of Britannia was changed, Quintus Petilius Cerialis having replaced the weaker Marcus Vettius Bolanus. This change of governor seems to have given Agricola leave to be even more aggressive as Legion commander.  
I’m writing a novel therefore it’s my interpretation of the events of the time. I like the idea that my Celtic characters are battling against a leader, Agricola, who’s not only charismatic but tactically powerful. Agricola was instrumental in destroying the Celtic tribes of the west during his time as Legate of the XX which lasted till AD 74; a man feared by many.

My characters, Brigantes of northern Britain, breathe a small sigh of relief when Agricola is recalled to Rome in AD 74 - only to find he returns again in AD 77/78 as the newly appointed Governor of Britannia in full charge of the destiny of thousands of Celtic men, women and children. His relentless subjugation from AD 78 through to AD 84, as he strides his way to the Moray Coast of Scotland, puts fear into the very core of my characters.  
(Image from:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_baths_julius_agricola_01.JPG?uselang=en-gb)

My research has been extensive, and I like to make my settings as believable and as realistic as possible, but the dates appropriated from historical sources don’t quite seem to match the most recent archaeological evidence that’s now uncovered on an almost daily basis. Till very recently, the advance of the Roman Army into northern England, and then over the border hills into Scotland was mostly attributed to the campaigns of Agricola during AD 78-84. Yet, as a novelist, it suits me to accept the very recent archaeological theories that many of the marching camps and small auxiliary forts in the lands of the Brigantes were established some years earlier, perhaps by Cerialis.

During this month of the A-Z challenge I hope to enlighten you a little more about Roman Britain during the period AD 71-84- but what you will get will be my interpretation of history versus archaeology!

Slainthe! 

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26 comments:

  1. Research Research Research .. it's all in the research.. and good writing of course! Nice post Nancy

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  2. I adore ancient history and love it when we can weave it into our tales. Great post, Nancy!

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  3. Thanks, Jim. I'll look forward to reading your posts.

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  4. I love reading ancient history, Nancy and you make it come alive. I just with the buggers had easier names to remember!

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    1. You just hit the nail on the head, Cameron! I'm at the point where my list of character names is rather large- maybe too large, but what to do about it? :-)

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  5. Look forward to reading your posts, Nancy. My memory of Roman British history is hazy, to say the least!

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    1. Ditto! I look forward to lovely photos and info from you too.

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  6. Excellent post, Nancy. Best wishes, Lindsay

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes and for popping in, Lindsay.

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  7. Very cool! I love Celtic history and can't get enough of it really.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

    Tim
    The Other Side
    Red Sonja: She-devil with a Sword

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  8. Fascinating. I love reading your posts. Looking forward to the rest of the alphabet!

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    1. Hi Willa, that would be great. Hope you enjoy the rest!

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  9. Fascinating! I love tales with snippets of true events. Enjoyed the post!

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I'll try to keep up with yours!

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  10. I love history and Roma fascinates me but my strongest suit is the time of the Emperors. No doubt you have devoted a lot of time in researching!

    Father Dragon Writes

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    1. Thank you. I like to research as much as to write and leisure read.

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  11. What can I say? My surname is Kelt! We Kelts (or Celts - my grandad traced it back a bit) don't take dictators lightly. We hold long grudges and have really, lovely friends on Facebook, who are probably too polite to tell us to shut up. So, I studied Latin. Didn't mind the Romans, as long as they stayed in the text book. Bullies, the lot of them. Looking forward to the new thing. You can't go wrong with the research.

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    1. Hello PK! I wish I had studied Latin. Guess it's not too late, but finding the time to learn is not so easy.

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  12. I really enjoy the research aspect of writing. Plus, it's essential to the story especially when writing historical fiction. Great theme!

    A-Z participant blogging from Elise Fallson

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    1. Hi Elise. If you like the theme, check out the reviews for my historical - The Beltane Choice - on Goodreads and Amaz. Might be your kind of reading!

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  13. I'm sure the Internet has helped! Can you imagine trying to find a book on him at your local library?

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    1. Hi Alex. I did try and they helped by sourcing one on loan from The British Library!

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  14. Hi Nancy,
    This is quite a fascinating time in Roman and Celtic history. I know this period very well. My first book was based on the famous battle of Mons Grampius. I think history might have turned out much differently if Agricola had not been called back to Rome. I love these lesser known time periods and look forward to your book. :)

    Kelley

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    1. Hi Kelly. What's the name of your book? Mons Graupius features in my current WIP, and I live very close to one of the probable sites!

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Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)