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Subject:

Re: AD 410 website

From:

Mike Weatherley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 18 Nov 2009 01:22:14 -0000

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Hi Kirsten,
----- Original Message -----
From: "Kirsten Jarrett" <[log in to unmask]>
>>And reason to look at not just how Roman cultural life disappears in the East
>> - while surviving in the West - mid 5th c. onwards, but the external reasons for that.

>When we are already aware of widespread external instabilities, it's perhaps as important -
>if not more so - to consider internal mechanisms of change. Culture isn't something 'done to'
>the various people who use it (though there may be significant external cultural influence) - it
>requires active adaptation to suit changing conditions (which may include deliberate attempts
>to perpetuate established meanings within transformed circumstances, or reinvestment with
>different meanings, potentially leading to structural change).

Which is why we have the term 'Romano-British', of course, since 'our' form of Romanitas
was different from that elsewhere. But it's like the different forms of 'Americanism' you find
going between various States. They have varying local laws, but overarching Federal ones.
And an external attack on any one of them tends to be seen as an attack on all.

>>>And do you see all 'Roman' culture as having the same 'meaning' at all times, to all
>>>people, in all places?
>
>>That dog wouldn't hunt, as they say, for the reason above. I hope I've never suggested
>>that (or even been misinterpreted as having said it) as it's hopelessly misguided.

>I was't trying to misrepresent you here...

I know; you were giving me a chance to show that it wasn't what I thought. Thanks.

>... but was leading to the point that concepts of continuity by their very nature often assume
>immutability; and that we should question whether 'Roman' culture was necessarily seen as
>'Roman' by all those who used it (considering change over time).

That sounds heavy. People living like Romans who might not even realise that that's what
they're actually doing. But for 5th/6th c. Britons, who are in peaceful contact with Byzantines,
(and in conflict with Anglo-Saxons, Picts & Scotti) I think we can see that they know which
side their bread is buttered :o) As for the Byzantines themselves, as the inheritors of the Roman
world after the fall of Italy, their 'lingua Franca' was actually Greek, not Latin; but they still
called themselves 'Romans'. And just occasionally, those invading Anglo-Saxons, who called
Brits 'Wealas' (which already implied 'Romanised Celtic foreigners') emphasised the point by
calling us Rumweals (Romanised Welsh). So if both your friends and enemies agree that you
are Roman, then maybe that's all the indication you need.

>Rather than signifying a continued sense of 'Roman-ness' - indicating continued belonging
>within the orbit of Rome -

Or Constantinople, from the late 5th c. onwards.

>... might apparent continuity of material culture represent something different during and after
>the 5th century, at least in some cases?

But what else do you suggest? It's not a return to IA Celtic tribalism or a conversion (yet)
to Anglo-Saxonism. If you can't suggest what else to call it, then surely the best 'fall-back'
position is still to go with 'Romano-British'.

>(I would argue that some aspects of 'Roman' culture were maintained, as they were
>efficient in emphasising social difference, for example, rather than cultural affiliation).
>I'm afraid concepts of power have to come into it:

Well, assuming that's true, those few aspect you infer for social difference don't negate
the aspects that apply to cultural affiliation.

>But we can no more consider the Roman or post-Roman population as homogeneous,
>than consider the modern population as a single group - we are talking about culture, which
>is created and negotiated at a multitude of social levels and within a range of contexts.

Of course. And that goes exactly the same for whatever culture you're talking about.

>If we ask why 'Roman' culture was adopted at all (which is relevant to why aspects of this
>culture continue in use, though we shouldn't expect the role of culture to remain static), I
>don't think we can avoid considering politics or class.

Well they'll always be there, unfortunately (in every culture). But the fundamental question
in this thread is: was Romanitas only relevant for the 'elite' or to everyone and did it continue
past 410.

>I'm not so sure that we can say with confidence that the inscribed stones represent a cross
>section of society.

David Howlett (editor of the Oxford Latin Mediaeval Dictionary) says so. And despite what
David Petts says, Howlett claims these Dark Age inscriptions number over a thousand (though
I'll leave them to argue it out between them). Even Francis Pryor (God bless him) agrees:
"These are the memorials, not of kings or priests, but of ordinary people, committing their
thoughts to stone."

>With regard to 'class': when we consider burial and settlement evidence, these stones were
>clearly not commonly erected to memorialise the dead.

With regard to 'class', I suppose you have to be clear if you mean I or II (Dark Age joke :o)

>Considering the investment of time involved in creating a memorial, as well the assertion
>of lineage, and use of text to demonstrate literacy, they are more likely to represent the
>burial of elite, as well as landownership.

See above. Have you seen them? Most are extremely 'ropey'. Personally, I'd expect
something a bit more splendid if I were a member of the 'elite'.

>They are also not representative in other ways - there are very few women and children
>mentioned, for example...

Ah... and here we come to the nub of the matter. But as you know, Roman society was a
very patriarchal one. Surely, if these people were living as Romans rather than Celts, this
is exactly the kind of misogyny we'd expect to see (and no, I don't particularly like it any
more than you do - however it would rather prove the point about them being 'Romanised' :o)
How about 'Audiva', though, the bishop's wife. Or 'Viola', the woman who actually wrote
the memorial for Carausius (according to Howlett). Those are the only two I can think of
straight-off (but then I hardly know any of them, to be honest).

>>I'll stick with your first suggestion; except perhaps to add that it's more important to
>>recognise the religious ideological ties that 5th/6th c. Britain had with the rest of the
>>Empire than any supposed 'classical-cultural' ties.

>Perhaps David has something to say about whether we can easily divorce cultural
>identities from Christianity?

Are you two working as a 'tag-team' :o) Btw, I wasn't trying to 'divorce cultural identities
from Christianity' (and here you *might* be guilty of misrepresenting me). To assume that
being 'Roman' in the 5th/6th c. did have anything like the relevance from 'classical' religion or
art that it had during the pagan Empire really is a mistake. There were clearly other 'cultural
identities' at work than the 'classical'. I was actually very interested in your blog about
Crickley, and the lovely military belt-buckle (which you date 5th, rather than 4th c.) And
yes, I agree with you that it's clearly been broken (showing its length of service, no doubt).
But you'll notice that the ubiquitous dolphins (on the complete version of this design which
you found in the BM, in the upper of the photos) are typically stylised (as per the 4th c.
onwards). We've moved away from classical representations in art in the army to a form
which was (until recently) mistakenly thought to be 'Germanic'. Unfortunately, these motifs
are quite abundant in Celtic Gaul & Britain, and have no association with Germany. Bang
goes the erstwhile theory of Anglophiles that they all represent Anglo-Saxon mercenaries.
No. They're British & Gallic Roman soldiers.

Speaking of which, I'm off to visit the renovated Ashmolean Museum, tomorrow. I'm just
tingling all over to think how they're representing those dolphin buckles from Dorchester-
on-Thames. Are they still relegated to the 'Anglo-Saxon' gallery, I wonder, or have they
been promoted to the Roman collection, which is where they belong...

>>... the entire notion of 'Romans go home!' is nonsense.

>As a generalisation, yes:

'Ding!' We agree at last.

>Many considering the significance of 'Roman' material culture suggest that divisions such as
>'native' and 'Roman' are unhelpful, with which I would generally concur, when discussing
>the evident structural and material changes witnessed during the Roman period. Although
>some pre-Roman practices are continued through the Roman period, 'Roman' practices and >material culture
had permeated and become embedded within all levels of society and most
>social contexts over the Roman period. Even if opposition to 'Rome' did develop, and was
>accompanied by a deliberate rejection of culture seen as 'Roman' (the concept of which is
>highly problematic, and I don't accept), it would in fact have been incredibly difficult to
>discard all things 'Roman', in a 'return' to what came before (as might be argued within 'Celtic'
>revivalist arguments). So for us to distinguish between 'Romans' and 'natives' in the
>archaeology of late Roman Britain is perhaps a fruitless exercise.

Bingo! And back to those British army buckles: Of course, you know that the ones which
incorporate 'horse-heads' are not just of a Celtic, rather than Germanic, design; they are
specific to Western Britain (which would equate with the province of Britannia Prima). We
see them throughout Wales and there's one at Dorchester-on-Thames. There are also two at Richborough
Saxon Shore fort, in Kent - but that's no surprise, since the IInd legion was
transferred there from Caerleon; so it all fits. There are also many army buckles in Lincolnshire (which
would equate with the province of Flavia Caesariensis) with 'Celtic heads' in addition
to the dolphins (a variation on the horse-heads of the S-W, but a rather more grizzly reminder
of the IA Celtic obsession with human heads). But again, as you say above, this is a fusion of
Roman & Celtic. Which empasises my point at the start of this message, that we are talking
about a unique 'Romano-British' culture (a fusion of the two) just as Gaul saw 'Gallo-Roman'
culture. It's just like being Americans, except that you're apparently from Texas, and I'm
from Minnesota (the Vikings are my favourite football team, with our best shot for the
Superbowl in 11 years - since we lost Randal Cunningham & Dennis Green :o)

>And, as you rightly state, the army evidently incorporated soldiers from across the empire
>(including Britain), with local loyalties perhaps holding greater significance than any affiliation
>with 'Rome'.

Oh surely. Once the army converts to Christianity, there's no choice. You have to get
respectable, and that means marriage. Hence the conversion of barracks at forts in Britain
away from communal 'dormitories' to individual 'chalets'.

>The concept of military identity is perhaps important with regard to notions of 'Roman'
>identity - there's some interesting work by Andrew Garnder (UCL) on this (can provide
>references if wished).

Please, swing away...

>AG argues that members of the army may have held a multitude of identities, affiliation with
>their local military unit perhaps most significant, due to daily interaction within that sphere.

Hmmm. Rather a truism, though. I'd suggest that affiliation with your family is the most
important 'identity'; compared to that, Rome can go hang. (Even I'd say that :o)

>But: That does not mean that members of the army did not express 'Roman' identity within
>some contexts, or that they did not embody this identity to others.

Look. Each Diocese (collection of provinces) faced its own barbarian threat by the 5th c.
Therefore each unit's experience is unique. Static frontier troops (Hadrian's Wall, Saxon
Shore) were the most 'embedded' in the community, as they didn't go anywhere, and had
extended families in the locality, going back generations. The mobile field-army, though -
by definition - could and would be transferred between dioceses as and where the threat
was greatest at any one time. But they would theoretically still transfer back to their parent
diocese once the panic was over. That's what the Brits asked Aetius for c.450: a temporary
re-inforcement by the Gallic field-army to deal with their pirate-problem (there was already
a 1,000 man detachment of that British IInd legion serving in the Gallic-field army, as a
permanent loan - no doubt they would have appreciated seeing gramps again). I don't know
why you seem to be trying to draw some distinction between being a 'British' soldier and
a 'Roman' one, since they were both the same. They were ethnically British and culturally
Roman. They spoke Britonic (as well as Latin) but fought in a Roman way (same as all
the other troops in the Empire. It's not mutually exclusive. They can be both things at the
same time. They can 'multi-task' (just like women, today). They use Roman equipment and
Roman tactics and they fight the Empire's common external enemies. But by the 5th c. their
biggest loyalty is to the land of their fathers and their living families. And so long as each
diocese has enough troops, that works just fine.

>It's important to note that the categorisation of 'Others' (which is common during periods
>of social stress, and I would argue we see increasingly during after the end of the 4th century)
>often incorporates constructs that do not always correspond with the attitudes of those being >labelled,
nor inevitably represent fact.

Well the 'others' are the barbarians threatening to enter *your* diocese and to kill your
family and burn your farm.

>Even if members of the army (etc.) did not necessarily see themselves as 'Roman', this does
>not remove the potential for this identity to be imposed upon them by others in the creation
>of new structures of power and identities.

But the soldiers are now recruited from the local community - because this is now a fully-
developed 'Empire/Commonwealth' in which everyone is a citizen and in which troops fight
in their native province (barring transfers complete with families or temporary relocations of
field-armies). You (or anyone) can theorise that the local population might label the troops
as 'foreign' or 'other' for being part of a 'Roman' army (if that's the suggestion) but I don't
think it likely. Why do you think everyone has such trouble in trying to confirm that urban-
myth about: "all the legions in Britain being withdrawn to 'Rome'"? Because there's no
evidence for it, as I've said. Because they wouldn't have gone even if that order had come.
Magnus Maximus took units of barbarians, related to Scotti/Picts (Attacotti) to Spain, not
all the regular British troops. Constantine III went to Gaul to mobilise the Gallo-Roman troops
to guard the Rhine frontier (because the British troops elected him to do so, to defend them
and their families) and a couple of his generals went with him, but there's certainly no mention
of vast swathes of the British garrison going. I've seen how many have failed to find any such evidence.
It's all conjecture.

>We can see this construct developed by the mid 6th century, as Gildas distinguishes between
>'Britons' and 'Romans'.

Yes, we can see it developing *in the pages of DEB*; but that's about the only place it
occurs, as Gildas was a prize pillock. He gets marks from me for being a patriotic Brit and
for praising Ambrosius for standing up to the Anglo-Saxon onslaught. But his historical grasp
only extends back to his gandad's generation. He dates Hadrian's Wall to the wrong century.
He also (and this makes me think he was reading Zosimus) makes the same mistake most
modern people do about 410. I'm damned sure he read Zosimus (or at least, was told what
Zosimus wrote). And that's quite likely, considering Zosimus wrote c.500, and Gildas about
40 years later. Plus the Byzantine contacts with Western Britain could have brought Gildas
any of Zosimus's work. For all he can tell us about Ambrosius & the Battle of Badon and
the stemming of the Saxon tide, Gildas is responsible for an equal amount of disinformation.
Since we know from archaeology that only the cities in the East were abandoned (either
derelict or captured by Saxons) then Gildas is also wrong to imply they all were. But then
maybe that's what he meant (but it's not the way he's always read). I'd argue that there was
no such distinction between Brits & Romans in the 5th c. and that Gildas has done us a dis-
service here. How could there be such a distinction, when the Saxons called us 'Rumweals'
or even just 'Weals'?

>But I would place its origins at an earlier date, and suggest that, whilst many Roman symbols
>of status and power remained meaningful in the 5th century, they were restructured within
>new community (and to some extent, perhaps regional, and possibly even ethnic) discourses, >operating
outside (or even in opposition to) notions of 'being Roman'. Though just to
>complicate matters further, the notion of 'Britishness' derived much of its meaning by
>internalising Classical ethnographic constructs...

Hmmm. Well you 'suggest' the notions above, but have you provided any evidence...
It's true, though, that it was the 1st c. Romans (from Italy) who gave us our notion of
being a 'British' nation. That's what happens when teacher stops everyone fighting in the
playground. 'Come on, now, we've got a rugby match to play against the Grammar school
at the weekend. If you all want to fight, then save it for them'. Something like that.

>I've probably caused even further confusion now, so I'll pull out my oar.

So long as it's not a 'Saxon' oar, on a pirate longboat, I don't care.

>P.S. I'll be away from Britarch as from Monday...

You can run, but you can't hide... :o)

Cheers,
Mike

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