From the Creator: Ancient history connects the Norse with Romans and King Arthur!

If you are following… or attempting to follow the story, with all of it’s branches, twists and turns, you already realize that there is a great deal of research that goes into all of it! Before I ever add to it, I try to research my history and ensure that my paths are at least somewhat plausible!  Sometimes it’s easier than others. And, sometimes, I get the occasional gift from above in finding those links where I need them to be?  Such is the case with Eric’s long history- aside from the Vampyre turn anyway! That turn will be dealt with in upcoming episodes, along with the rest of his varied past!

 

We have already learned of his early voyage across the sea with his family, but it was a rather vague memory with few details other than the difficult crossing for him as a young boy. Right now, I am doing some additional research into the Norse migrations to portions of the Scottish Isles. When we think of those migrations, we of course think only of the Viking travels and conquests. In reality, there were Norse settlements in the upper Isles long before those Viking raids. Some of the outer isles, such as the Shetland Islands were inhabited by Norse/Scandinavian peoples as far back as 43AD when the Romans mentioned them.

In AD 43 and 77 the Roman authors Pomponius Mela and Pliny the Elder referred to the seven islands they call Haemodae and Acmodae respectively, both of which are assumed to be Shetland. Another possible early written reference to the islands is Tacitus‘ report in AD 98, after describing the discovery and conquest of Orkney, that the Roman fleet had seen “Thule, too”. In early Irish literature, Shetland is referred to as Inse Catt—”the Isles of Cats”, which may have been the pre-Norse inhabitants’ name for the islands. The Cat tribe also occupied parts of the northern Scottish mainland and their name can be found in Caithness, and in the Gaelic name for Sutherland (Cataibh, meaning “among the Cats”).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland

 

There is an interesting video of pre-historical buildings on the island, which you can view here:

 

These two maps of the Shetland Islands and Isle of Skye show that it would have been a probable or plausible migration in those earliest ancient times from the Shetlands down to the Isle of Skye where Eric and his family settled.

1000miles shetland islands map of Scotland with Shetland islands and Isle of Skye

 

During those very early years, the Romans were in control of much of the lower areas of Britain and the lowlands of Scotland. Some of their ancient documents mention the tribes of the highlands and outer isles and there is documentation and evidence that they were in familiar with inhabitants of some of those outer isles, such as Orkney. One document mentioned that the King of Orcus/most likely Orkney was among a group of 11 that were involved in peace treaties with the Romans.

 

The following maps are of the areas in Roman times. The Romans initially built the Antonine wall, but later gave up on that border and focused their defenses more on the borders of Hadrian’s wall. They were unable to successfully maintain control of the Northern reaches including the highland areas and eventually gave up trying!

Roman era map of Britain

16_distance_slab

Roman Distance marker stone from along Antonine’s wall.

Probable Roman defense Old Celtic tribes of southern scotland and north east England Antonine_wall_map

 

 

The reason that the Roman control of the area is important for our story purposes is due to some of the historical theories on the legend of King Arthur.  In our story, During Eric’s earlier years he and  Adrian DeWare were knights/ warriors in the service of Arthur. There has been a massive amount of research on the origins of the legend of Arthur from a real historical stand point.  Depending on which theories you choose to go by, Arthur was a conglomeration of more than one real warrior or ruler in those early Roman times.

I recently watched an interesting documentary on one of those theories. It was a short summary of the theory and the history and if nothing else gives one a basic starting point for further research! I found it on Netflix.

Mystery Files: King Arthur

http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/70299221?trkid=439131

 

You can also find more information on one of the possible pre-cursors to Arthur here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riothamus

 

An alternative candidate for Arthur is described as follows:

Alternative candidates for the historical King Arthur[edit]

Some theories suggest that “Arthur” was a byname of attested historical individuals.

Lucius Artorius Castus

In 1924 Kemp Malone suggested that the character of King Arthur was ultimately based on one Lucius Artorius Castus, a career Roman soldier of the late 2nd century or early 3rd century. This suggestion was revived in 1994 by C. Scott Littleton and Linda A. Malcor and linked to a hypothesis (below) that the Arthurian legends were influenced by the nomadic Alans and Sarmatians settled in Western Europe in Late Antiquity.   Littleton had earlier written about this hypothesis in 1978 together with Ann C. Thomas.

All that is known about Artorius’ life comes from two Latin inscriptions discovered in the 19th century in Podstrana on the Dalmatian coast. After a long, distinguished career as a centurion and then primus pilus in the Roman army Artorius was promoted to praefectus legionis of the VI Victrix, a unit that had been headquartered at Eboracum (York) since c. 122 AD. The praefectus legionis (or praefectus castrorum) served as third-in-command of the legion and was responsible for the general upkeep of the legionary headquarters, a position normally held by older career soldiers who did not command soldiers in battle.

When Artorius’s term as praefectus legionis ended he was assigned the temporary title of dux legionum and was put in charge of transferring some units of unknown size with British associations to the Continent for an expedition against either the Armorici or the Armenians.  Later he became civilian governor (procurator centenarius)of the province of Liburnia, where he seems to have ended his days.

Malcor, in a hypothetical reconstruction of Artorius’ life based in part on Malone and Helmut Nickel,proposes that he fought against Sarmatians in eastern Europe early in his military career and this led in 181 AD to his being assigned in the command of a numerus of Sarmatians based at Ribchester (Bremetennacum) that campaigned around Hadrian’s Wall. 5,500 Sarmatians had been sent to Britain by the emperor Marcus Aurelius in 175 AD. Artorius led these Sarmatians against invading Caledonians, who overran Hadrian’s Wall during the period 183–185. Then, after the collapse of his legion, he returns to Eboracum, then is sent by the governor of Britannia to lead cavalry cohorts against an uprising in Armorica. Medieval sources often place Arthur’s headquarters in Wales at Caerleon upon Usk, the “Fortress of Legions” (borrowed from Latin Castra Legionum). Eboracum, in the Vale of York, was sometimes referred to as Urbe Legionum or the “City of the Legion”, and was the headquarters of the legio VI Victrix.

Malcor also suggests that Artorius’ standard was a large red dragon pennant (auxiliary forces did not use eagle standards), which is proposed as the origin of the Welsh epithet Pendragon “Dragon Chief/Head” (alternately, “Leader of Warriors”) in Arthurian literature. According to both Malone and Littleton/Malcor,Artorius’ alleged military exploits in Britain and Armorica could have been remembered for centuries afterward, thus generating the figure of Arthur among the Welsh, Cornish and Bretons. This is linked to the original theory of Littleton, Thomas and Malcor which suggests that folk narratives of the Alano-Sarmatians settled in Western Europe formed the core of the Arthurian tradition.

The Sarmatians had a near-religious fondness for their swords: tribal worship was directed at a sword sticking up from the ground, similar to the sword in the stone. They carried standards in the form of dragons. Ossetian Nart sagas contain a number of interesting parallels to the Arthurian legends. First, the life of the Nart warrior (batraz) is tied to his sword, which must be thrown into the sea at his death. When one wounded Batraz asks his last surviving comrade to do the task for him, his companion tries to fool him twice before finally hurling the weapon into the sea; rather like Arthur’s wondrous sword Excalibur which had to be returned to the Lady of the Lake at his death by his last surviving knight, Bedivere. The Nart heroes Soslan and Sosryko, collect the beards of vanquished enemies to trim their cloaks like Arthur’s enemy Rience: both have one last beard to obtain before the cloak is complete. Two other similar motifs are the Cup of the Narts (“Nartyamonga”), which appeared at feasts, delivered to each person what he liked best to eat, and which was kept by the bravest of the Narts (“Knights”) – somewhat similar to the Grail – and the magical woman, dressed in white, associated with water, who helps the hero acquire his sword, similar to the Arthurian Lady of the Lake.

There seems to be little reason for Artorius to have become a major legendary figure: no Roman historical source mentions him or his alleged exploits in Britain, nor is there any clear evidence that he ever commanded Sarmatians. Neither of Artorius’ inscriptions from Podstrana mention command of any full legions (as proposed by Malcor, et al.), or establish his command of the VI Victrix (nor any numeri), nor do the inscriptions provide any evidence of command of, or association with, Sarmatians, or indicate anything about his standard.

Unlike dux legionum, dux bellorum or dux belli were not titles or ranks in the Roman Army but generic Latin phrases. Joshua was called dux belli of the Israelites in the Latin Vulgate Bible, Hanno the Great was dux belli of Carthage in Justin’s Historiarum Philippicarum. Closer to the time and place, Saint Germanus of Auxerre was twice styled dux belli by Bede). Artorius is not recorded as having fought in any known battles to match against those in the Historia Brittonum. However Geoffrey adds that Arthur twice took troops across the sea to Armorica, once to support the Roman emperor and once to deal with his own rebels.

The theory of a connection between the Alan and Sarmatian peoples and the legend of King Arthur depends upon the fact that the Alano-Sarmatians were steppe nomads known in the 2nd century for their skill as heavy cavalry. In 175, Marcus Aurelius, after defeating the Sarmatian Iazyges tribe during the Marcomannic Wars, took 8,000 Sarmatians into Roman service, of whom 5,500 were sent to the northern borders of Britain. The 5th century Notitia Dignitatum mentions a “Formation of Sarmatians” (Cuneus Sarmatarum; cunei were small auxiliary units in the late Empire) being present at Bremetennacum (Ribchester), where we find inscriptions dating to the 3rd century AD of a “Wing of Sarmatians” (ala Sarmatarum) and a “Company of Sarmatian Horsemen” (numeri equitum Sarmatarum).

Many of the parallels or similarities between Arthurian and Sarmatian tales only occur in writings dating from and after Geoffrey of Monmouth and do not affect the core issue of historicity. Some of the strongest similarities of Arthurian and Sarmatian tales occur in Thomas Malory‘s Le Morte D’Arthur, when Arthur and his warriors had already evolved into “knights in shining armor”. Critics conclude that Sarmatian influence was limited to the post-Galfridian development of the tales instead of historical basis, if at all.

 

What all of these interesting ideas and theories do for us is give us a plausible link and connection to how Eric came to be in Scotland in the first place, how he might have traveled throughout the area in those earliest years and how he might have come into contact with others such as Romans during that time. It lays a groundwork and foundation that I was searching for with  Adrian DeWare in being far more ancient even than Eric and having come from some other distant place originally!  In the future we will see how they met and learn a little more of Adrian’s more ancient past!

9 thoughts on “From the Creator: Ancient history connects the Norse with Romans and King Arthur!

  1. Pingback: From the Creator: Ancient history connects the Norse with Romans and King Arthur! | Time Slips

  2. Pingback: Eleanor’s Journal: The depths of Eric’s past… from Norseland, to Vampyres and Romans | Time Slips

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