Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Battle of Teutoburg Wald

Roman Military mask found at Kalkriese

This year is the 2000th anniversary of the destruction of three legions of the army of the Emperor Augustus, lead by Quintus Varus, occurring in September of that year apparently; in the area called by the Historian Tacitus the Teutoburg Wald.1 This battle marked the end of the Roman attempt to conquer Germania and incorporate it into the Roman Empire. It is also of interest as one of the few ancient battle fields of which field archaeology has told us a great deal about.2

For years the battlefield was only guessed at, with much dispute over the location of the battlefield.3 In the late 19th century some historians like the great Classicalist Mommsen identified the area of the battle as in the Kalkriese. It was not confirmed as the battlefield until the late 1980s.4 Previous writers have located the battlefield all over the place in north western Germany, although the most common opinion was to locate the battle in the area of Detmold which is about 70 miles south east of Kalkriese. With the idea that much of the fighting occurred near or in the Doren pass.5 The archaeological discoveries at Kalkriese have effectively removed that option.


Location of Kalkriese

Before I get into the Archaeology of the site and what this tells us of the battle let us go through the various historical sources for the battle.

The main sources of the battle are Velleius Paterculus’, Roman History, written during the reign of Augustus’ successor Tiberius, (c. 20’s C.E.), and the earliest surviving source. The next is Lucius Annaeus Florus in his Epitome of Roman History, written during the reign of Antonius Pius, (c. 150’s C.E.). Neither of these sources provides much detail; however, the last source Cassius Dio, provides in his Roman History, a fairly detailed account of the battle. It was written in the reign of the Emperor Alexander Severus. (c. 220’s C.E.). It seems to have been based largely on much earlier source material that is now lost.6

Florus’ book is basically a summary of parts of the work of the Roman historian Livy, however he does describe events that occurred after the end of Livy’s history, further he gives information from the lost books of Livy. His history seems to be basically reliable but not terribly impressive as history. Florus seems to have been basically a summarizer, and a not an historian.7

Paterculus is quite different he knew Varus and was a friend of the Emperor Tiberius. His Roman History which like Florus’ is a summary history of Rome has some of the most revolting suck up flattery of the Emperor Tiberius, for example:
What public buildings did he construct in his own name or that of his family! With what pious munificence, exceeding human belief, does he now rear the temple to his father! With what a magnificent control of personal feeling did he restore the works of Gnaeus Pompey when destroyed by fire! For a feeling of kinship leads him to protect every famous monument. With what generosity at the time of the recent fire on the Caelian Hill, as well as on other occasions, did he use his private fortune to make good the losses of people of all ranks in life!8
Head of Tiberius

This rather stomach turning claptrap detracts from the value of his book although it appears that his book, when not sucking up to the imperial family, is basically reliable.9

Cassius Dio is another matter, he was a Greek who wrote his Roman History in Greek and although not a great writer was overall a more competent and reliable historian than Livy or Tacitus. He wrote during the early stages of Rome’s decline in which even then the reign of Marcus Aurelius, (161-180 C.E.) and the period of the 5 “good Emperors”, (96-180 C.E. were considered a golden age).10 Dio was a friend of the Emperor Alexander Severus and an Roman Senator. His Roman History is unlike the two previous works, which are quite brief, a massive work divided into 80 books. Although it is an invaluable source much of it is fragmentary and some of it only survives in the form of summaries written up in the Middle Ages. Dio provides the only detailed account of the battle of Teutoburg Wald and for that event is indispensable. He also provides the only detailed complete account of the reign of the Emperor Augustus.11

The above three are the chief primary historical sources on the battle itself; however there is one other source that while it provides little data about the battle itself provides much additional information, including a description of the battlefield that is the account by the historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome. The section which describes a visit by a Roman army lead by the Emperor Tiberius’ nephew Germanicus to the battlefield, where they buried the strewn remains of the dead (c. 15 C.E.), also is the only account which gives the name of where the battlefield occurred, the Teutoburg Wald. Tacitus is considered among the very greatest of Roman historians, although his reliability and fairness are in many respects questionable, his literary style is among the very best of classical Latin literature. Examples of Tacitus’ lack of reliability is his rather off putting boosting of Germanicus’ questionable military achievements and his studied character assassination of the Emperor Tiberius. Unfortunately Tacitus’ book is in fragmentary pieces and is missing large sections, notably the end of the work and the section describing the reign of Caligula and the first half of the reign of Claudius. Tacitus who was a Roman Senator and who wrote during the reign of the Emperor Trajan was nostalgic for the days of the Republic although he realized that they were gone for good. Despite his biases he is considered basically reliable in matters in which he doesn’t have a political or social bias to advance.12

The accounts themselves describe the conflict as arising from the effects of Roman efforts to formalize their conquest of Germania and turn Germania into a formal Roman province.

Beginning c. 15 B.C.E., the Romans began a long series of campaigns to pacify and occupy Germania; it was part of a general and massive extension of the empire that occurred during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Although Augustus drastically reduced the number of legions, (to 28) he did not reduce the number of men nearly as much. Further this was not much of a reduction of capacity or desire of the Roman elite to expand the empire as might be thought given that the great expansion of the size of the Roman army before Augustus was the result largely of the fact that Roman armies fought each other in bloody civil wars that were only ended by Augustus’ defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 B.C.E. Not just Germania was invaded by Augustus’ troops but north western Spain, Dalmatia, Illyricum, the Cottian Alps etc. Augustus’ reign was an age of massive imperial expansion.13
Head of Augustus
The description of these various wars would be interminable, aside from the fact except for the attempted conquest of Germania we lack much detail, and even in this case the account is pretty sparse.

The conquest of Germania was a long drawn out affair apparently related to the fact that unlike the peoples of Gaul the Germans lacked fortified settlements or towns in which they could be pinned down and crushed, further the terrain seems to have been rougher and less open and cultivated, with fewer good roads or trails for Roman armies to march over. Although it appears that the Germans were a settled agricultural population they were at a less complex stage of culture than their Gaulish neighbours.14
Roman bases in Eastern Germany
The division of Germania into many different tribal groups who were fiercely independent of each other also didn’t help Roman efforts to conquer the Germans. So the conquest was long drawn out. In 9 B.C.E., Tiberius’ brother Drusus died while on campaign of an infected wound while near the Rhine river.15 Other Roman generals including Tiberius continued with the war and by 4 C.E., it appears that Germania was conquered and all that was left to do was to round off the conquest by taking neighbouring areas. However in 6 C.E., due to mal-administration and oppression the recently subjugated provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia rose in rebellion and these efforts had to be called off. The rebellion turned out to be difficult to suppress and was very costly too. The main Roman general involved in suppressing the revolt was the Tiberius, who succeeded in crushing the rebellion in 9 C.E.16

Shortly after this rebellion was crushed came the disaster of the battle of Teutoburg Wald. What happened was as follows. It appears that Romans jumped the gun in terms of guessing how fast they could begin the process of romanizing the areas of Germania that they had conquered.

As a side issue there used to be a debate about whether or not the Romans were actually trying to conquer Germany or merely trying to prevent the formation of any threats to Roman possessions west of the Rhine, (i.e., Gaul), and that they therefore had no intention of conquering Germania and adding new provinces to the Roman Empire, thus despite the disaster of Teutoburg Wald the Roman policy was successful after Tiberius resumed it after the disaster and it was carried out by his nephew Germanicus.17

Aside from the fact that this idea relies on sheer speculation to a large extent, ignores clear statements from the ancient sources regarding what the Romans were doing which indicates conquest was intended, it ignores the Archaeological evidence which clearly indicates the founding of Roman cities in Germania. It appears that yes indeed the Romans were intending to establish a Roman province of Germania. For example the Romans had established large bases at Haltern and Oberaden, which were military fortresses that were intended to be the basis for Roman cities. Further a full fledged civic centre, probably a future provincial capital had been established at Waldgirmes. Those three along with many other incipient fortresses and possible towns were abandoned / destroyed after the disaster at Teutoburg Wald.18

To illustrate the point that conquest was intended Dio says:
The Romans had a hold on parts of it,--not the whole region, but just places that happened to have been subdued, so that the fact has not received historical notice,--and soldiers of theirs were used to wintering there and cities were being founded. The barbarians were adapting themselves to Roman ways, were taking up the custom of markets, and were holding peaceful meetings.19
Paterculus says:
But, after accomplishing to a great extent the subjection of Germany, in which much blood of that people was shed on various battle-fields, an unkind fate carried him [Drusus] off during his consulship, in his thirtieth year. The burden of responsibility for this war was then transferred to Nero. He carried it on with his customary valour and good fortune, and after traversing every part of Germany in a victorious campaign, without any loss of the army entrusted to him — for he made this one of his chief concerns — he so subdued the country as to reduce it almost to the status of a tributary province. He then received a second triumph, and a second consulship.20

Nothing remained to be conquered in Germany except the people of the Marcomanni, which, leaving its settlements at the summons of its leader Marobodus, had retired into the interior and now dwelt in the plains surrounded by the Hercynian forest.21
Florus states as follows concerning Roman aims in the war with Germania:
It could be wished that Caesar had not set such store on conquering Germany also. Its loss was a disgrace which far outweighed the glory of its acquisition. But since he was well aware that his father, Gaius Caesar, had twice crossed the Rhine by bridging it and sought hostilities against Germania, he had conceived the desire of making it into a province to do him honour. His object would have been achieved if the barbarians could have tolerated our vices as well as they tolerated our rule.22
It appears that the weight of evidence indicates that the Roman plan was indeed to conquer Germania not merely to render it an impotent threat by military action.

The main German leader was a nobleman of the Cherusci tribe who was called by the Romans Arminius, whose German name is unknown. It is known that he had served in the Roman Army as an auxiliary soldier in the early years of Dalmatian revolt, before returning to Germania. It is also known that in exchange for his services to Rome he had been made a Roman Citizen and given Equestrian status. Before he turned against Rome Arminius had a very antagonistic relationship with a relative of his named Segestes, which became very bad when sometime after the battle of Teutoburg Wald he eloped with Segestes daughter Thusnelda. Arminius’ brother, called by the Roman’s Flavus, stayed loyal to the Romans to the end.23

About the Roman leader Quintilius Varus what we know is strongly coloured by a very negative historical tradition concerning him that blames him for the disaster. Varus was basically a civilian appointee and his appointment indicates that the Roman government led by Augustus was thinking that the process of turning Germania into a Roman province governed by civilians could now begin. Varus was related by marriage to the Imperial family and he had a fairly distinguished record as a public official including a stint as Governor of Syria. While Governor of Syria Varus was involved in handling military disturbances which he dealt with effectively.24 Unfortunately for Varus Augustus and his advisors were very wrong in their appraisal of the readiness of Germania to become a full fledged Roman province.
Coin of Varus
It appears that what brought on the revolt was the attempt to impose the apparatus of Roman fiscal and administrative domination over the various subdued tribes of Germania.
Dio says:
Finally, Quintilius Varus received the command of Germany and in the discharge of his office strove, in administering the affairs of the people, to introduce more widespread changes among them. He treated them in general as if they were already slaves, levying money upon them as he had upon subject nations. This they were not inclined to endure, for the prominent men longed for their former ascendancy and the masses preferred their accustomed constitution to foreign domination.25
Paterculus states:
The cause of this defeat and the personality of the general require of me a brief digression. Varus Quintilius, descended from a famous rather than a high-born family, was a man of mild character and of a quiet disposition, somewhat slow in mind as he was in body, and more accustomed to the leisure of the camp than to actual service in war. That he was no despiser of money is demonstrated by his governorship of Syria: he entered the rich province a poor man, but left it a rich man and the province poor. When placed in charge of the army in Germany, he entertained the notion that the Germans were a people who were men only in limbs and voice, and that they, who could not be subdued by the sword, could be soothed by the law. With this purpose in mind he entered the heart of Germany as though he were going among a people enjoying the blessings of peace, and sitting on his tribunal he wasted the time of a summer campaign in holding court and observing the proper details of legal procedure.26
Florus says:

But it is more difficult to retain provinces than to acquire them. They are obtained by force, but secured by justice. Our exultation was accordingly but short. The Germans been defeated rather than subdued. Under the rule of Drusus they respected our manners rather than our arms. But when Drusus was dead, they began to detest the licentiousness and pride, no less than the cruelty, of Quintilius Varus. He ventured to call an assembly, and administered justice in his camp as if he could restrain the violence of barbarians by the rods of a lictor and voice of a crier. But the Germans who had long regretted that their swords were covered with rust, and their horses idle, proceeded, as soon as they saw the toga and felt laws more cruel than arms, to go to war under the conduct, of Arminius,…27
If read carefully, despite the rather obvious scapegoating of Varus; the above indicates that the imposition of Roman rule, with its officials and taxes and probably the activities of various Romans seeking to take advantage of the conquest for gain that inflamed the situation creating a situation ripe for revolt. It seems to be that Varus was doing nothing more than carrying out a policy agreed to in Rome and as such is less to blame for the coming disaster than his political masters in Rome, i.e., Augustus and the Imperial family.

The role of Imperial officials especially those in the legal field in cheating the Germans is brought out in Florus’ account of what happened during and after the battle to Romans involved in such practices:
Never was slaughter more bloody than, that which was made of the Romans among: the marshes and woods; never were insults more intolerable than those of the barbarians, especially such as they inflicted on the pleaders of causes. Of some they tore out the eyes, of others they cut off the hands. Of one the mouth was sewed up, after his tongue had been cut out which one of the savages holding in his hand cried, "At last, viper, cease to hiss."28
What seems to have happened is that Arminius, probably disillusioned with the Romans due to their crass behaviour and exploitation of his fellow tribesmen, engaged in a widespread conspiracy to revolt. According to various roman historians word leaked out about the conspiracy but that Varus disregarded the warnings. The Historian Tacitus says:
There had, in fact, sprung up a hope of the enemy being divided between Arminius and Segestes, famous, respectively, for treachery and loyalty towards us. Arminius was the disturber of Germany. Segestes often revealed the fact that a rebellion was being organized, more especially at that last banquet after which they rushed to arms, and he urged Varus to arrest himself and Arminius and all the other chiefs, assuring him that the people would attempt nothing if the leading men were removed, and that he would then have an opportunity of sifting accusations and distinguishing the innocent.29
It appears that since Varus was well aware of the antipathy between Arminius and Segestes so that he dismissed these warnings, as personally motivated slanders.

The Roman accounts go into much detail about the treachery of the Germans and Arminius.
For example Dio says:
They did not openly revolt, since they saw there were many Roman soldiers near the Rhine and many in their own territory; but they received Varus, pretending they would execute all his commands, and took him far away from the Rhine into heruscis near the Visurgis. There by behaving in a most peaceful and friendly manner they led him to believe that they could be trusted to live submissively without soldiers.30
Paterculus says:
This young man [Arminius] made use of the negligence of the general as an opportunity for treachery, sagaciously seeing that no one could be more quickly overpowered than the man who feared nothing, and that the most common beginning of disaster was a sense of security.31
A lot of this reads like sour grapes.

What seems to have happened is that Varus who was near the Weser river was preparing to march back to Haltern, the main Roman Army base east of the Rhine to establish his army in a secure camp for the winter, when Arminus put his plan into action. First his various associates put out calls to have Roman troops scattered among them to deal with, bandits, disorder and possible rebels, purely for the purpose of being destroyed when the rebellion started in earnest. Next a revolt was stated near the line of march of the Roman army to its winter quarters and not surprisingly Varus was encouraged to, if he did not decide on his own, to crush the revolt on his way back to winter quarters.32

Arminius and the other leaders excused themselves on the grounds that they were going to raise other auxiliary forces for the Romans and instead they and the troops under their command joined the rebels. Dio then describes the initial engagement:
The mountains had an uneven surface broken by ravines, and the trees, standing close together, were extremely tall. Hence the Romans even before the enemy assaulted them were having hard work in felling, road making, and bridging places that required it. They had with them many wagons and many beasts of burden as in a time of peace. Not a few children and women and a large body of servants were following them,--another reason for their advancing in scattered groups. Meanwhile a great rain and wind came up that separated them still farther, while the ground, being slippery where there were roots and logs, made walking very difficult for them, and the top branches of trees, which kept breaking off and falling down, caused confusion. While the Romans were in such perplexity as this the barbarians suddenly encompassed them from all sides at once, coming through the thickest part of the underbrush, since they were acquainted with the paths. At first they hurled from a distance; then as no one defended himself but many were wounded, they approached closer to them. The Romans were in no order but going along helter-skelter among the wagons and the unarmed, and so, not being able to form readily in a body, and being fewer at every point than their assailants, they suffered greatly and offered no resistance at all.33
What is interesting is that this seems to describe an ambush in thick forested terrain. This is very much like the terrain of the Kalkriese area with a steep hill on one side and a fairly narrow passage / trail at the base of the hill, with only a few hundred feet to the north an extensive bog. What is not mentioned in the account is the wall that existed along a part of the hill. It would appear that this is were Arminius sprung his ambush and certainly it appears the Romans were surprised and sustained very heavy casualties.34
Kalkriese Battlefield
The wall is a bit of a mystery. It has been theorized that the wall was erected before the battle as part of the plan to lure the Roman Army into an ambush in that area. Given that the wall seems to be quite substantial, and would have taken quite sometime, perhaps months to build, and that rarely does such long term planning pay off in war. It is hard to believe that Varus’ intelligence services would have been unaware of such a recent construction along a road he was using so I rather doubt the idea of the wall being part of a long range plan to ambush a Roman army there. It is frankly hard to believe that the Romans would not have heard of such a construction.35
Remains of the wall at Kalkriese
The Romans left on the battlefield many remains and much debris that was still there too be found 2000 years later. Such things as weights, bits of armour, coins, spear points, buckles, boot nails, hooks, and arrows etc. The debris is scattered over quite a large area and from the direction of the debris it appears that the army may in fact have divided in two, perhaps temporaily.36
Map of artefacts found a Kalkriese



Artefacts found at Kalkriese
After this serious reverse Dio writes:
Accordingly, they encamped on the spot, after securing a suitable place so far as that was possible on a wooded mountain, and afterward they either burned or abandoned the majority of their wagons and everything else that was not absolutely necessary for them. The next day they advanced in better order, with the aim of reaching open country; but they did not gain it without loss. From there they went forward and plunged into the woods again, defending themselves against the attacks, but endured no inconsiderable reverses in this very operation. For whereas they were marshalled in a narrow place in order that cavalry and heavy-armed men in a mass might run down their foes, they had many collisions with one another and with the trees.37
It appears that the Romans were badly cut up by the ambush at Kalkriese and left much booty and apparently considerable number of dead and prisoners there. It appears that they camped near by and continued marching the next day. An indication of the extent of the losses is Tacitus’ description of the battlefield:
Varus's first camp with its wide circumference and the measurements of its central space clearly indicated the handiwork of three legions. Further on, the partially fallen rampart and the shallow fosse suggested the inference that it was a shattered remnant of the army which had there taken up a position.38
Possible locations of First and Second camps
( The X marks the site of Kalkriese)
It appears that Arminius continued the guerrilla style attacks against them and using the terrain to inhibit the Roman’s ability to engage in full open battle for which the Romans were vastly superior to the Germans.

The following day was the dénouement. News of Arminius’ success was attracting many reinforcements to his ranks and the Roman forces were being steadily depleted. The end came as follows:
Dawn of the fourth day broke as they were advancing and again a violent downpour and mighty wind attacked them, which would not allow them to go forward or even to stand securely, and actually deprived them of the use of their weapons. They could not manage successfully their arrows or their javelins or, indeed, their shields (which were soaked through). The enemy, however, being for the most part lightly equipped and with power to approach and retire freely, suffered less from the effects of the storm. Their numbers, moreover, increased, as numbers of those who had at first wavered joined them particularly for the sake of plunder, and so they could more easily encircle and strike down the Romans, who were already few, many having perished in the previous battles. Varus, therefore, and the most eminent of the other leaders, fearing that they might either be taken alive or be killed by their bitterest foes,--for they had been wounded,--dared do a deed which was frightful but not to be avoided: they killed themselves.
22), When this news was spread, none of the rest, even if he had strength still left, defended himself longer. Some imitated their leader; others, throwing aside their arms, allowed who pleased to slay them. To flee was impossible, however one might wish it. Every man and horse, therefore, was cut down without resistance, and the…[there is a gap in Dio’s account here]39
This probably occurred on the road from Kalkriese to Haltern.40 As it was it was a complete disaster. The Roman army was annihilated. The other accounts do not add much; Paterculus for example says:
An army unexcelled in bravery, the first of Roman armies in discipline, in energy, and in experience in the field, through the negligence of its general, the perfidy of the enemy, and the unkindness of fortune was surrounded, nor was as much opportunity as they had wished given to the soldiers either of fighting or of extricating themselves, except against heavy odds; nay, some were even heavily chastised for using the arms and showing the spirit of Romans. Hemmed in by forests and marshes and ambuscades, it was exterminated almost to a man by the very enemy whom it had always slaughtered like cattle, whose life or death had depended solely upon the wrath or the pity of the Romans. The general had more courage to die than to fight, for, following the example of his father and grandfather, he ran himself through with his sword. Of the two prefects of the camp, Lucius Eggius furnished a precedent as noble as that of Ceionius was base, who, after the greater part of the army had perished, proposed its surrender, preferring to die by torture at the hands of the enemy than in battle. Vala Numonius, lieutenant of Varus, who, in the rest of his life, had been an inoffensive and an honourable man, also set a fearful example in that he left the infantry unprotected by the cavalry and in flight tried to reach the Rhine with his squadrons of horse. But fortune avenged his act, for he did not survive those whom he had abandoned, but died in the act of deserting them.41
Aside from indicating that towards the end the Roman army seems to have disintegrated and collapsed, including details that Dio omits about Romans fleeing and surrendering, this account provides little information to the account of Dio. Although it does give a pretty good indication of the sense of shock that the disaster engendered among the Romans.

Florus writes that:
Having therefore, risen upon Him [Varus] unawares, and fearing nothing of the kind, while he with a strange want of precaution, was actually summoning, them to his tribunal, they assailed him on every side, seized his camp, and, cut off three legions. Varus met his overthrow with the same fortune, and spirit with which Paulus met. the day of Cannae. Never was slaughter more bloody.42
Roman losses were apparently very large, as the army consisted of 3 legions, (the 17th, 18th and 19th) with 3 cavalry squadrons and 6 additional cohorts. In all it was probably at least 20,000 men and probably more like 22-24 thousand along with a large number of non-combatants.43

This large Roman army was almost completely annihilated with very few escaping death or capture, which was also likely the fate of virtually all the non-combatants. It appears that most of the captured military men, with exception of those worth ransoms were killed. Along with the dead and captured, and the vast booty captured by the Germans, also lost was an enormous amount of prestige, symbolized in the case of this battle by the loss of the Eagles, or standards, of the three legions. These were an especially important symbol in they symbolized in a concrete symbolic form the military power of Rome. Supposedly of the three Eagles lost one was kept out of the hands of the Germans by a Legionnaire drowning himself along with the Eagle in a Marsh.44

Tacitus describes the scene of the battlefield:
In the centre of the field were the whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near, lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the barbarous altars, on which they had immolated tribunes and first-rank centurions. Some survivors of the disaster who had escaped from the battle or from captivity, described how this was the spot where the officers fell, how yonder the eagles were captured, where Varus was pierced by his first wound, where too by the stroke of his own ill-starred hand he found for himself death. They pointed out too the raised ground from which Arminius had harangued his army, the number of gibbets for the captives, the pits for the living, and how in his exultation he insulted the standards and eagles.45
Arminus can be forgiven his exaltation he had done something few enemies of Rome had done before. He had destroyed a Roman army utterly.

Also lost was the Roman bases and posts east of the Rhine that one by one were sacked and burned or abandoned shortly after the disaster. The devastation was widespread as Haltern, Oberaden and Waldgirmes among many others were destroyed.46

Augustus was so upset that according to Suetonius among others he:
… was so greatly affected that for several months in succession he cut neither his beard nor his hair, and sometimes he would dash his head against a door, crying: "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!" And he observed the day of the disaster each year as one of sorrow and mourning.47
The disaster quite unintentionally marked the end of Roman attempts to conquer Germany and it the non-conquest of Germany by Rome became over time permanent.

The Romans were quite taken aback over the disaster, what with their continued complaining of “Barbarian treachery” and their attempts to avenge the disaster. The Roman poet Ovid, then in exile in a city on the Black sea wrote concerning Arminius:
He was the leader in battle, that one next in command.
This one who fixes his eyes now on the earth in his miserable sorrow.
Did not look at all like this when he carried his weapons of war.
That fierce one whose eyes even now are blazing with hostile emotions.
Was once the man who planned battles and urged on his men to the fight.
This treacherous fellow designed an ambush that trapped our battalions.
The one who conceals his distorted features behind his long Hair.
That one who conceals his distorted features behind his long hair.
That one who follows, they tell us, as a priest often sacrificed humansWho were captured in war to a god who often refused to accept.
This lake, these mountains, these many forts, these many forts, these rivers that pass by.
As floats were full of fierce slaughter, were filled with the blood of men.48
A 19th century portrait of Arminius
Thus did Ovid predict that the Romans would avenge their defeat and Germany would be conquered. This provided not to be the case at all.

Augustus sent Tiberius to the Rhine to secure the border from German attack and apart from raiding areas close to the Rhine Tiberius and other Roman generals did not invade Germania deeply. In 14 C.E., Augustus died and was replaced by Tiberius. Shortly afterwards it was decided to avenge the disaster at Teutoberg Wald and probably to try to, again, conquer Germany. Tiberius sent his nephew Germanicus to command the invasion ( in 14-16 C.E.).49

The interminable campaign that resulted got the Romans two of their Eagles back, although another was not found until the reign of Claudius.50 Other than that there was a good deal of skirmishing, lots of devastation and a few pitched battles, all apparently getting the Romans nowhere despite the repeated statements by the Roman historians especially Tacitus of great victories. It appears that Arminius, who was commander of the united German forces, engaged in a largely successful resistance. Germanicus was able to capture Arminius’ wife Thusnelda, who was pregnant at the time. Due to the fact that her father Segestes, who hated Arminus went over to the Romans and took her with him. Thusnelda spent the rest of her life in captivity along with the son she bore soon after being captured. Despite the triumph that Germanicus celebrated in Rome for his, so-called, great victories it appears that his campaigns were basically costly and futile and were for good reason called off. Tacitus despite his glorification of Germanicus does not conceal that Germanicus failed, even has he blames Tiberius for failing to support Germanicus in another campaign and retiring permanently to the Rhine border.51

After Germanicus’ withdrawal Arminius, despite his enormous prestige, did not live long; a few years later he was killed by neighbouring tribesmen and his own relatives who feared his ambitions.52

The historian Tacitus gives this eulogy for Arminius:
Assuredly he was the deliverer of Germany, one too who had defied Rome, not in her early rise, as other kings and generals, but in the height of her empire's glory, had fought, indeed, indecisive battles, yet in war remained unconquered. He completed thirty-seven years of life, twelve years of power, and he is still a theme of song among barbarous nations, though to Greek historians, who admire only their own achievements, he is unknown, and to Romans not as famous as he should be, while we extol the past and are indifferent to our own times.53
Aside from being a rather favourable tribute from a true-blue Roman it is also a definite indication that Germanicus’ “victories” were anything but crushing.

As for the long term effects of this battle if the Romans had won it is likely that Germania would have been Romanized, that England would very likely never have become England, that the Franco-German conflict would never have arisen and that I would not be speaking and writing English, in fact English as a language would not exist and probably not German. All of history after 9 C.E., would be different, very different!!54 Without this battle:
There would have been no Charlemagne, no Louis XIV, no Napoleon, no Kaiser William II, and no Hitler.55
The Cenotaph of Marcus Caelius, killed in the Battle of Teutoberg Wald
(The Inscription is as follows:
To Marcus Caelius, son of Titus, of the Lemonian district, from Bologna, first centurion of the eighteenth legion. 53½ years old. He fell in the Varian War. His bones may be interred here. Publius Caelius, son of Titus, of the Lemonian district, erected (this monument).)56
1. Wells, Peter S., The Battle That Stopped Rome, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 2003, p. 227.

2. Wells, Peter, pp. 49-55, Schulter, Wolfgang, The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in Creighton, J. D., & Wilson, R. J. A., Roman Germany Studies in Cultural Integration, Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supp. Series, No. 32, 1999, pp. 125-159, and the Varusschlacht / Kalkriese Museum, website Here. See also The Battle in the Teutoburg Forest, at Livius Here.

3. See Wells, Peter, p. 45-49,

4. IBID, Schluter, p. 125, and Dornberg, John, Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in Archaeology, vol. 45, No. 5, September / October, 1992, pp. 26-32.

5. Fuller, J. F. C., A Military History of the Western World, vol. 1, Da Capo Press, New York, 1954, pp. 248-249, Delbruck, Hans, History of the Art of War, Vol. II: The Germans, Greenwood Press, New York, 1980, p. 70-71, 76-78.

6. Wells, Peter, pp. 38-42.

7. Notes on Florus and his Epitome of Roman History, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, see also Note 6.

8. Paterculus, Roman History, Book 2, s. 130, at LacusCurtius, Here. See also Note 6.

9. Notes on Paterculus and his Roman History, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, see also Note 6.

10. The 5 “good Emperors” are Nerva, 96-98 C.E., Trajan, 98-117 C.E., Hadrian, 117-138 C.E., Antoninus Pius, 138-161 C.E., Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 C.E.

11. Notes on Dio and his Roman History, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, see also Note 6. For more information on Dio and for Dio’s writings in his Roman History concerning the reign of Augustus see Dio, Cassius, The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus, Penguin Books, London, 1987, see the Introduction, by Carter, John, pp. 1-29.

12. Notes on Tacitus and his The Annals of Imperial Rome, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, See Wells, Peter, pp. 42-43, and Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, Penguin Books, Revd Ed., 1971, see Introduction, by Grant, Michael, pp. 7-28.

13. See Florus, Book 2, s. 22-29, 31-33, and Fuller, pp. 234-238.

14. Wells, Peter, pp. 111-124, Jones, Terry, Ereira, Alan, Barbarians, BBC Books, London, 2006, pp. 87--95.

15. Dio, Book 55, s. 1-2.

16, Dio, Book, 55, s. 29-34, Book, 56, s. 11-17.

17, See Oldfather, W. A., & Canter, Howard Vernon, The Defeat of Varus and the German Frontier Policy of Augustus, University of Illinois Studies in the Social Science, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1915, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, ILL., 1915.

18, Wells, Peter, pp. 208-209, Wells, Colin Michael, The German Policy of Augustus: an Examination of the Archaeological Evidence, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972, pp. 239-250, Jones, pp. 97, 102.

19. Dio, Book 56, s. 18.

20. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 97.

21. IBID, Book 2, s. 108.

22. Florus, Book 2, s. 30.

23. See Wells, Peter, pp. 105-111, Jones, pp. 95-96, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 57, Book 2, s. 9-10, Strabo, Geographia, Loeb classical Library, William Heinemann Pub. London, 1924, Book 7, Ch. 1, s. 4. Tacitus records in Book 2, s. 9-10, the following exchange between Arminius and Flavus which occurred during the campaigns of Germanicus (14-16 C.E.):
The waters of the Visurgis flowed between the Romans and the Cherusci. On its banks stood Arminius with the other chiefs. He asked whether Caesar had arrived, and on the reply that he was present, he begged leave to have an interview with his brother. That brother, surnamed Flavus, was with our army, a man famous for his loyalty, and for having lost an eye by a wound, a few years ago, when Tiberius was in command. The permission was then given, and he stepped forth and was saluted by Arminius, who had removed his guards to a distance and required that the bowmen ranged on our bank should retire. When they had gone away, Arminius asked his brother whence came the scar which disfigured his face, and on being told the particular place and battle, he inquired what reward he had received. Flavus spoke of increased pay, of a neck chain, a crown, and other military gifts, while Arminius jeered at such a paltry recompense for slavery.
10), Then began a controversy. The one spoke of the greatness of Rome, the resources of Caesar, the dreadful punishment in store for the vanquished, the ready mercy for him who surrenders, and the fact that neither Arminius's wife nor his son were treated as enemies; the other, of the claims of fatherland, of ancestral freedom, of the gods of the homes of Germany, of the mother who shared his prayers, that Flavus might not choose to be the deserter and betrayer rather than the ruler of his kinsfolk and relatives, and indeed of his own people. By degrees they fell to bitter words, and even the river between them would not have hindered them from joining combat, had not Stertinius hurried up and put his hand on Flavus, who in the full tide of his fury was demanding his weapons and his charger. Arminius was seen facing him, full of menaces and challenging him to conflict. Much of what he said was in Roman speech, for he had served in our camp as leader of his fellow-countrymen.
Frankly I think Flavus deserved this treatment.

24. Fuller, pp. 246-247, Jones, pp. 99-110, Dio, Book 56, 18-19, Paterculus, Book 2, s. 117, Florus, Book 2, s. 30, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 58, Wells, Peter, pp. 80-83.

25. Dio, Book 56, s. 18.

26. Paterculus, Book 2, 117.

27. Florus Book 2, s. 30. Roman methods of waging war were also likely to create resentment / resistance. Here is a quote from Tacitus, (Book 1, s. 51), describing war making by Tacitus’ hero and all round glorious Roman Germanicus:
Caesar, to spread devastation widely, divided his eager legions into four columns, and ravaged a space of fifty miles with fire and sword. Neither sex nor age moved his compassion. Everything, sacred or profane, the temple too of Tamfana, as they called it, the special resort of all those tribes, was levelled to the ground. There was not a wound among our soldiers, who cut down a half-asleep, an unarmed, or a straggling foe.
Although like far too many “civilized” peoples they complained when “barbarians” engaged in similar atrocities. But then the Roman attitude seems to have been it is alright when we do it because we’re civilized and so are allowed to do these things. “Barbarians” do not have the same freedom.

28, IBID.

29. Tacitus, Book 1, s. 55. See also Florus, Book 2, s. 30, Dio, Book 56, s.118, s. 19, Paterculus, Book 2, s. 118.

30. Dio, Book 56, s. 18.

31. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 118.

32, Dio, Book 56, s. 18-19, Wells, Peter, pp. 161-163, Fuller, pp. 246-248, Jones, 100-102.

33, Dio Book 56, s. 20.

34. Walls, Peter, pp. 45-55, Schluter, pp. 127-130, Benario, Hebert W., Teutoberg, in Classical World, Vol. 96, No. 3, Spring 2003, pp. 397-406, at pp. 403-405, Dornberg, pp. 28-29. See also Livius, Note 2.

35. See Wells, Peter, pp. 161-166, Schuler, pp. 130-131.

36. See Wells, Peter, pp. 49-55, 161-176, Schuler, pp. 136-149, also Livius, & Dornberg.

37. Dio, Book 56, s. 21.

38. Tacitus, Book 1, s. 61.

39. Dio, Book 56, s. 21-22.

40. See Livius.

41. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 119.
42. Florus, Book 2, s. 30.

43. Wells, Peter, p. 15, Dornberg, p. 26, Gruen, Erich S., The Expansion of the Empire under Augustus, The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 10, The Augustan Empire, Ed. Bownan, Alan K., Champlin, Edward, Lintott, Andrew, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 527, Schluter, p. 125, Mommsen, Theodor, The Provinces of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, MacMillian and Co. Ltd., 1909, p. 45-46.

44. Florus, Book 2, s. 30.

45, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 61.

46. Wells, Colin, 165, 179, 201, 213, 237-245, Jones, 102.

47. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Penguin Books, Revd. Edition, 1979, London, Augustus, s. 23, see also LacusCurtius, Here. See also Dio, Book 56, s. 23.

48. Ovid, Tristia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 1975, Book 4, No. 2.

49. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 120-121, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 3, 50-51, 55-56.

50. Tacitus, Book 1, s. 60, Book 2, s. 25, Dio Book 60, s. 8.

51. Tacitus’ descriptions of Germanicus campaigns can be found in Book 1, s. 50-51, 55-72, Book 2, s. 5-26. for modern assessments of Germanicus’ campaigns see Delbruck, pp. 111-121, Wells, 204-207, Grant, Michael, pp. 18-19, Wells, Colin, pp. 241-243, Mommsen, pp. 51-62, Guen, pp. 185-187, Jones, 103-109.

52. Tacitus, Book 2, s. 88. See also Jones, pp. 107-108.

53. Tacitus Book 2, s. 88.

54. Fuller, p. 252-253.

55, Fuller, p. 253.

56. Livius, Here.

Pierre Cloutier






Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ur-Nammu and his Laws

Seal of Ur-Nammu receiving official while enthroned

C. 2100 B.C.E., Ur-Nammu, the King of Ur in modern day southern Iraq published a code of laws to help regulate the lives of his subjects.

Ur-Nammu was the founder of the third Dynasty of Ur and of the empire of the third dynasty that dominated most of modern day Iraq and western Iran. Sumeria, (Southern Iraq) had been controlled for almost a century by the Gutians, a nomadic tribe, that was able to invade Sumeria and Akkad, (central Iraq) after the collapse of the Akkadian dynasty.1

A king of Uruk by the name of Utu-hegal defeated and drove out the Gutians c. 2120 B.C. One of the men who aided him was Ur-Nammu, governor of Ur. It is unclear if Ur-Nammu overthrew Utu-hegal or seized power in the chaos that followed Utu-hegal accidentally drowning while inspecting an irrigation project.2

Apparently Ur-Nammu spent his reign conquering and consolidating his empire, and part of this effort of consolidation was the issuing of a code of laws. Now Ur-Nammu was not the first to establish a code of laws, it appears that various rulers in ancient Mesopotamia had set up codes of law before Ur-Nammu, although the only one surviving in any tangible form is the law code of Urukagina king of Lagash, in Sumeria, c. 2350 B.C.E. Although what we have in the case of the law code of Urukagina are references to its provisions in poems and other sources not the actual law code itself.3

The Empire of the Third Dynasty of Ur.

It appears that the law code of Ur-Nammu is the first surviving actual law code.

The laws that we have survive in several copies in only a very fragmentary state and as such are very incomplete. The surviving versions consist of a prologue and the laws proper. The ending, which if a comparison with later law codes, is anything to go by, had after the laws an epilogue is lost.4

In the prologue Ur-Nammu boasts of his achievements:

At that time, by the might of Nanna, [The moon god] my lord, I liberated Akshak, Marad, Girkal, Kazallu, and their settlements, and Usarum, whatever (territories) were under the subjugation of Anshan.5

In the prologue Ur-Nammu talks about how he established order, regulated / encouraged trade and agriculture, standardized measures and so forth. At the end of the prologue Ur-Nammu states:

I did not deliver the orphan to the rich. I did not deliver the widow to the mighty. I did not deliver the man with but one shekel to the man with one mina (i.e., 60 shekels). I did not deliver the man with but one sheep to the man with one ox.

I settled (in independent settlements?) my generals, my mothers, my brothers, and their families; I did not accept their instructions (?), I did not impose orders. I eliminated enmity, violence, and cries for justice. I established justice in the land.

At that time:6

There are some obscurities in the above text but it appears that the phrase regarding the settlement of his Generals etc., refers to the fact that he did not impose his followers of his subjects to exploit them but settled them in their own independent settlements. Also further to that he did not let himself be swayed by nepotism and favouritism while carrying out his duties has King and along with this Ur-Nammu claims to have established order with little coercion.

The laws themselves are not complete since we are missing the end of the document. The surviving laws are 34 in number.7 Even among the laws listed some are incomplete and others are just mystifying in terms of what they mean.

Examples of incompleteness are laws 27 and 33:

27 [If…]

33 If a man …another man…8


An example of obscurity is law 2:

2 If a man acts lawlessly (?). They shall kill him.9

Exactly what this refers to is any one's guess. It is possible that this is a general rule that officials who acted outside the law and where oppressive and brutal where liable to be put to death.

The surviving laws deal with interpersonal violence, family relations, certain legal matters and commerce among other things.

Concerning violence some of the laws are as follows:

1 If a man commits a homicide they shall kill him.

6 If a man violates the rights of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.10

Those are similar to other latter law codes of Mesopotamia like the Code of Hammurabi. However unlike later codes, like Hammurabi’s or the middle Assyrian Law codes which have a long and gruesome list of mutilations and death as punishments for various violent offences in many instances Ur-Nammu’s code has instead fines. For example:

18 If [a man] cuts off the foot of [another man with…], he shall weigh and deliver 10 shekels of silver.

19 If a man shatters the …bone of another man with a club, he shall weigh and deliver 60 shekels of silver.

22. If [a man knocks out another man’s] tooth with […], he shall weigh and deliver 2 shekels of silver.11

Regarding what can be called family relations the following laws are of interest:

9 If a man divorces his first-ranking wife, he shall weigh and deliver 60 shekels of silver.

10 If he divorces a widow, he shall weigh and deliver 30 shekels of silver.

15 If a son-in-law [enters] the household of his father-in-law but subsequently the father-in-law [gives his wife to his (the son-in-law’s) comrade], he (the father-in-law) shall [weigh and deliver to him (the jilted son-in-law)] twofold (the value of) the prestations[which he (the son-in-law) brought (when he entered the house)]12

The third of the above laws seem to be concerning the case of a man who is betrothed to someone’s daughter and in preparation for the formalization of the marriage moves into the home of the father of the bride, bringing gifts and other items. The case seems to involve what happens if subsequent to such events the bride marries someone else. This law then covers the compensation the would-be groom gets.

Some of the laws relating to commerce are as follows:

31 If a man floods(?) another man’s field, he shall measure and deliver 900 silas of grain per 100 sars of field.

32 If a man gives a field to another man to cultivate but he does not cultivate it and allows it to become wasteland, he shall measure out 900 silas of grain per 100 sars.13

The above laws seem to be related to encouraging the cultivation of farmland and discouraging actions that might decrease agricultural productivity and therefore commerce and not incidentally decrease tax revenue.

There are also laws related to the administration of justice.

28 If a man presents himself as a witness but is demonstrated to be a perjurer, he shall weigh and deliver 15 shekels of silver.

29 If a man presents himself as a witness but refuses to take the oath, he shall make compensation of whatever was the object of the case.14

Law 28 is of interest especially when compared with later Mesopotamian codes of law, like Hammurabi’s which prescribed savage penalties, involving death and mutilation for perjury.

Law 29 seems to refer to cases in which someone is suing or being sued and refuses to take the oath as a witness. The law says that such a person as forfeited his case automatically.

In a society like that of ancient Mesopotamia where slavery was very common, there were many laws related to slavery.

4 If a male slave marries a female slave, his beloved, and the male slave (later) is given his freedom, she/he will not leave (or: be evicted from?) the house.

5 If a male slave marries a native [free] woman, she/he shall place one male child in the service of his master; the child who is placed in the service of his master, his paternal estate,…the wall, the house, […]; a child of the native woman will not be owned by the master, he will be pressed into slavery.

17 If [a slave or(?)] a slave woman […] ventures beyond the borders of (his or) her city and a man returns (him or) her, the slave’s master shall weigh and deliver [x] shekels of silver to the man who returned (the slave).

25 If a slave woman curses someone acting with the a mistress, they shall scour her mouth with one sila of salt.15

Compared to the savage penalties enacted against slaves in later codes of law these are comparatively benign. It is of interest that the law sought to with law 4 to protect the marriages of slaves at least to the extent of forbidding the breaking up of the marriages, by forced separation, of newly freed slaves with those who were still slaves. It is also of interest that freeborn woman could legally marry male slaves, which is quite unlike the rules in the vast majority of later slave owning societies, without it affecting at all their status as free persons. The text is confusing regarding the status of the one male child placed in the service of the master. It appears that the child was not actually a slave and had some rights to inherit from the master. It appears that all the other children where completely free, which is again very unlike the great majority of slave societies where all the children of a male slave were slaves regardless of who the mother was.16

Finally malicious gossip is dealt with although not in manner we today would approve of:

14 If a man accuses the wife of a young man of promiscuity but the river Ordeal clears her, the man who accused her shall weigh and deliver 20 shekels of silver.17

Exactly what the “River Ordeal” was is not known although in comparison with later penalties for slander, mutilation etc., a fine is certainly far more humane.

Over all the this early Mesopotamian law code is far more humane than the later law codes which substituted the fines with a rather mourn full list of beatings, mutilations and torture along with fines. Further it appears that the relatively “liberal” laws relating to slavery and the status of women were also made more severe, unfair and brutal. Exactly why this occurred is not clearly understood.

In c. 2095 B.C.E., Ur-Nammu died on the battlefield; his death described as follows: “abandoned on the battlefield like a crushed vessel”18 Ur-Nammu was succeeded by his son Shulgi, who reigned 47 years, and became one of the greatest of Mesopotamian rulers. The glory did not long survive Shulgi’s death a little more than 40 years after Shulgi’s death (2047 B.C.E.), Ur was sacked by the Elamites, (2004 B.C.E.) and the third dynasty of Ur and its empire came to an end.19

Shulgi making an offering to a seated god.

Despite this indication that power and glory are ephemeral it appears, from these laws, that the human desire for justice is an ever present reality.

1. Roux Georges, Ancient Iraq, Penguin Books, London, 1992, p. 158-162. Ur-Nammu reigned c. 2112-1995 B.C.E., see Roux p. 162.

2. IBID. pp. 161-162, which quotes an inscription which says “His body was carried off by the river”, Bertman, Stephen, Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, University of Oxford Press, Oxford, 2003, p. 110, Kuhrt, Amelie, The Ancient Near East c. 3000-330 B.C., vol. 1, Routledge, New York, 1995, pp. 58-59.

3. Bertman, pp. 68, 110, Roux, p. 138.

4. Pritchard, James, Editor, The Ancient Near East: Supplementary Texts and Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ., 1969, p. 87, Roth, Martha T., Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd Edition, Scholars Press, Athens GA., 1997, pp. 13-14. The Code of Hammurabi can be found at Holy Ebooks, Here. Excerpts from the code of Assyria, (or Assura) can be found at The Ancient History Source Book, Here.

5. Roth, p. 16. Other copies of the Laws of Ur-Nammu can be found at Pritchard, 1969, pp. 87-89, and Pritchard, James B., The Ancient Near East, vol. 2, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ., 1975, pp. 31-34.

6. IBID, Roth, pp. 16-17.

7. IBID, pp. 17-21. Although the laws listed are numbered 1-37, laws 34-36 are wholly missing.

8. IBID. pp. 20-21.

9. IBID. p. 17.

10. IBID, p. 17.

11. IBID, p. 19.

12. IBID, p. 18-19.

13. IBID, pp. 20-21.

14. IBID, p. 20.

15. IBID, pp. 17, 19-20.

16. IBID, p. 21, See also Patterson, Orlando, Slavery and Social Death, Harvard University Press, London, 1982, pp. 132-147.

17. Roth, p. 18.

18. Roux, p. 168.

19. Roux, pp. 168-178, Bertman, pp. 56-57,104-105.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, September 21, 2009

Truth and Lies

Glyph of Pacal’s name

One of the most pernicious ideas that still has some influence on the study of Mayan Hieroglyphs is the notion that the History recorded in the Glyphs are lies and propaganda. This notion seems to be especially popular among the archeologists and not very popular among the epigraphers, (interpreters of the glyphs).1 This debate is based on the idea that not just were the inscriptions of the Mayan Kings one sided propaganda but that they were deliberate lies and rewriting of history for political purposes. In the twentieth century we have become familiar with lies and propaganda by the state so at first this does not seem like such an outrageous notion. But it is an outrageous notion in the manner in which it is put forward, and it usually has been framed so that those who propose it have thrown the onus of "proof" upon the epigraphers. This is an outrageous notion.

The onus is on those who propose that the inscriptions are lies to show that the inscriptions are false. Before I go into the alleged "evidence", I would like explain why I consider this to be an outrageous notion. The lies that I’m referring to are the birth, accession and death dates also the lists and names of various rulers mentioned in inscriptions. What the "doubters" are proposing is that none of this information can be trusted and that it is often a complete propaganda lie. What is interesting is that the Mayan monumental inscriptions are the only one’s I know of that are subject to such a level of distrust. Egyptian Hieroglyphic texts of the Pharaohs are not subject to this level of distrust, neither are Shang Oracle bones, Hittite texts, Roman, inscriptions, etc. Generally birth dates, reign lengths, accession dates, etc., are considered reliable. Even Rameses (II), the Great whose inscriptions including the monumental ones about the Battle of Kadesh, in which Rameses’ claims he won the battle, when he lost, is considered reliable in terms of his reign dates, birth etc.. The Mayan Royals are being accused of a level of falsehood and mendacity unparalleled in any other ancient society we know of. The deliberate creation of outrageous thoroughly false data about age, birth and accession to the throne. Not even modern Totalitarian states have lied to that extent. As will be shown below the arguments used to distrust the Mayan monumental inscriptions could be applied to virtually any ancient society. For example how safe are the various Babylonian, Assyrian, Sumerian King lists from such "distrust"?

Another effect is that if this distrust is warranted then all the historical information in all Mayan inscriptions would have to be thrown out as fatally unreliable. Nothing could be trusted in the inscriptions; the "history" in the inscriptions would have to be regarded as "useful fictions" created for political purposes. This may appear to be a straw man I’m creating to knock down but that is in effect what the "doubters" are suggesting.

The "doubters" argument is based on the following points. These points will be discussed in relation to the Palenque Royal inscriptions.

1, The inscriptions at Palenque contain obviously made up and fanciful figures. For example the figure of U-Kix-Chan is recorded in a Royal inscription at Palenque as being born on March, 11 933 B.C.E. and ascending the throne on Mar. 28, 967 B.C.E.

2, The dates of accession contain large gaps of time between them. For example the gap of over 4 years between the death of Chaacal I and the accession of Kan-Xul I. Gaps also occur at other Mayan sites. The implication is one of possible or probable usurpation.

3, The great ages recorded for many Mayan Kings upon death and/or accession. For example Chan-Bahlum of Palenque was 66 when he died, 48 upon accession to the throne. Pacal himself was 80 when he died. Pacal’s son Kan-Xul II was 57 years old at accession. These figures are considered unbelievable given what we know about Mayan life expectancy during this period. We cannot be expected to believe the Mayan’s were ruled by a "Gerontocracy".2

4, Mayan Rulers put on their monuments what they wanted their future nobles to believe. No evidence provided, deduced from the public nature of the monuments.

5, Mayan Rulers had ample chance to fake dates to justify usurpation, also in many cases there is a lack of contemporaneous documents. For example the birth and accession of Pacal.

6, Studies of the bones found in the tomb of Pacal reveal that they are the bones of a man who died in his at most in his mid fifties. Thus Pacal could not have been 80 when he died and therefore his birth and accession dates are political lies. Alberto Ruz has stated he believes the man in the temple was about 40 years old when he died.3

7, Given the hard "Scientific" facts about the age of the body in the Temple of the Inscriptions the Glyphic evidence must be in error and give way.

Evaluating this 'evidence" and argument is problematic in that it is so hard to take seriously. The good points are drowned in a sea of bad argument. To start with points 6 and 7. The dates for both Pacal’s accession and birth and death are exact right down to the day. The principles of calculating Mayan dates and converting them to modern dates have been massively tested and are endlessly checked. The same is true of the interpretation and analysis of the Glyphs. That cannot be said for the analysis of bones to determine age. The age at death given for Pacal varies from 40 to 55. Hardly exact. There is in fact much discussion of this in the literature about whether or not old people generally have "young" bones. Further exactly how the anthropologists determined the age of the bones has not been published. 50 years after analysis!4

Tomb of Pacal

In 1984-1986 an analysis was conducted of the bones of those interred in a crypt in a Church at Spitalfields in east London. The dates of birth and death were known of the remains. Different methods of bone analysis, etc. were used to evaluate / determine when the people died and then compared to their actual date of death. The results indicated that:

All the methods applied to the Spitalfields skeletons tended to underestimate the age of the old, and overestimate the age of the young, a result that reflects the bias inherent in cemetery material composed of individuals who died of natural causes. Those who die young have presumably failed to achieve their potential and already have “old bones,” while those who live to a great age are survivors and have “young” bones at death.5

In fact this entire edifice of conjecture is based on the argument that Pacal was far too young at the time of his death to be telling the truth about his birth and accession. So the dates were frauds. From this supposed "fact" was erected, like an inverted pyramid the whole argument about Mayan historical texts being mendacious lies. A rather slender basis for such a sweeping conclusion.

Regarding points 4 & 5. The simple fact that Mayan could have faked evidence is not proof, evidence of fraudulent records. That such lies could benefit Mayan rulers is also no evidence of fraud. The lack of contemporaneous inscriptions for some rulers does not prove that in all such cases later records are fraudulent. In the case of European history certain historical figures would disappear with such an attitude towards the documentary record. For example Alfred the Great, or Hugh Capet, (founder of the Capetian Dynasty of France).

Regarding the puzzling gaps. The "doubter’s" do not seem to notice that the gaps vary in time period from a few months to several years. After making the valid point that these gaps are puzzling and require explanation they are used to impeach the credibility of the whole record. The problem is why did Mayan royalty record those gaps at all. If Mayan royalty was willing to fake birthdays, ages, days of accession to the throne, why not simply erase those puzzling gaps rather than record them? It is very likely that the longer gaps indicate succession problems but the very fact that such gaps were recorded is not an indication that the record is fraudulent. Once again far too broad conclusions are being drawn on limited evidence.

A possibility not mentioned in the literature is that the accession date is the equivalent of enthronement so that frequently it was postponed for reasons involving having it on an astrologically etc., auspicious day and not because of political disputes.

Puzzling features also include the fact that Mayan inscriptions include bad news, such as Kings captured and the sack of cities. In fact inscriptions at Palenque mention the city being sacked. At Tikal a King is described as dying of wounds. These inscriptions would seem to record bad things happening to the cities and their rulers. The doubters can’t have it both ways if the "good" news is lies then so is the bad news.6

Regarding point 1. The fact that U-Kix-Chan is probably legendary is no more proof that the rest of the list is fraudulent anymore than the claim of the House of Tudor that they were related to King Arthur. To say nothing of the claims of other European Noble and Royal families.

Regarding point 3. The "Doubters" are very selective in what reigns they select to make the King’s lists look ridiculous. For example the lists at Palenque do not just include the ages mentioned in point 3 put also the following. Ages. Kuk-Balam acceded age 33, died age 37. Butz-Aj acceded age 27, died age 40. Ahkal Mo-Nahb II acceded age 41 died age 47. Kan Balam I acceded age 47 died age 57. These dates are certainly more "realistic". Given the vagaries of the human life span before modern times such a wide variety of life spans are to be expected. This supports the overall validity of the list.7

Concerning the life span of Pacal and his son it is to be expected that if Pacal reigned for a long time, (67 years) that his successor would be at least middle aged. And since Pacal’s first son, Chan Bahlum II died apparently without surviving children or grandchildren, his younger brother Kan-Hok succeeded him. Since the lists with very few exceptions list only rulers it is not surprising that any children who did not live so long would not be listed. Alberto Ruz’s comment about a Gerontocracy seems only to apply to Pacal and two of his sons, and by what seems to be deliberate perversity in ignoring much of the rest of the King lists.8

Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque

The great ages recorded should not occasion surprise in that it is perfectly reasonable to expect members of the Mayan elite to have on average significantly longer life spans than ordinary Maya so comparison with the apparent fact that the life expectancy of ordinary Maya was significantly less than the life spans recorded for the elite is hardly much in terms of proof that the inscriptions are lies.

This argument has been characterized with some justification in my opinion to result from the fact that few of the "dirt" archeologists can read the inscriptions or in fact have any knowledge of any Mayan language. If the inscriptions can be dismissed as "propaganda" and "lies" then the archeologist doesn’t have to learn the inscriptions or Mayan. Certainly the analogy with Greece or Egyptology etc., is striking. It would be hard to take seriously any "Egyptologist" who could not read the hieroglyphs, or a Classicist who could not read Latin or Greek. But if you dismiss the inscriptions you can avoid learning Mayan Glyphs and language.9

In 1999 at Palenque an inscription called the K'an Tok Tablet was discovered. This inscription records the investiture of a series of officials by the rulers of Palenque over a 300 year period. The list records such things as Lady Incal overseeing the "tying of the headband" on a man named Janahb Sotz. This record of prosaic activities of the rulers of Palenque strongly supports the idea that the King lists are in fact historical and not lies. Overall in the last few years the accumulation of evidence has virtually completely discredited the doubters.10

The above may appear to be a low blow but in my opinion the proper onus is on those who propose that the inscriptions are mendacious lies to prove that that is so.

Finally it is infuriating that the doubters would like to be able to pick and choose what is "true" and is not "true" and the criteria seems to be entirely subjective. It is concluded that the Mayan inscriptions are about as reliable has other similar inscriptions elsewhere in the world and their reliability should be judged in a similar fashion and not rejected by a cynical nihilism.

To conclude:

We can confidently say that K’inich Janab Pakal did die when he was 80, if only because the contemporaneous records of Maya history, anchored so firmly in the mechanisms of the Maya calendar, leave little doubt. His birth and death dates are immovable, and they come from inscriptions that were composed during his lifetime or soon thereafter. Despite what others have argued, we cannot believe that any Maya king could have manipulated the structure of contemporary history to exaggerate his own age. Pakal was notable for being 80 years old, and Maya historians at Palenque seem to have taken some pride in mentioning his advanced age whenever possible, especially using the title “the Five-score Year Lord”.11

Palace, Palenque

1, Marcus, Joyce, Royal Family, Royal Texts, in Mesoamerican Elites, Ed. Z. Chase & Arlen Chase, University of Oklahoma Press, London, 1992 & Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth, and History in Four Ancient Civilizations, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ., 1992.

2, Ruz, Alberto, Gerontocracy at Palenque?, in Social Process in Maya Prehistory, Ed. N. Hammond, Academic Press, London, 1977. see also Footnote 1.

3, IBID.

4, Schele, Linda, & Mathews, Peter, The Code of Kings, Touchstone Books, New York, 1998, pp. 342-344. See also Renfrew, Colin, & Bahn, Paul, Archaeology, Second Edition, Thames and Hudson, London, 1996, p. 408, Stuart, David, & George Stuart, Palenque, Thames and Hudson, London, 2008, pp. 180-182.

5, Renfrew, p. 408.

6, Martin, Simon, & Grube, Nikolai, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, Second Edition, Thames and Hudson, 2008, pp, 30-31, 158-161.

7, Stuart, David, pp. 244-247.

8, Lists are, two in Pacal's tomb in the Temple of the Inscriptions and one in the Temple at the Top. One list is in Kan B'alam's Temple of the Cross. See Schele, Linda, & Freidal, David, A Forest of Kings, William Morrow & Company Inc., New York, 1990, Chapter 9, pp 217-261.

9, See Coe, Michael D., Breaking the Maya Code, Thames and Hudson, London, 1992.

10, Skidmore, Joel, A New Palenque Ruler, at Mesoweb, Here

11, Stuart, David, p. 182.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Garden

I really don’t have anything to discuss right now so here are some pictures of my Garden that I and my partner are helping to create.








The dates are wrong it was actually in July 2009.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Peglar Papers:
An Addition

After a posting I did concerning the disastrous Franklin Expedition and the Victory Point document, which is the only document found that gives much if any detail concerning the actions and fate of the members of the Franklin Expedition after they lost contact with Europeans in 1845, I had the good luck to carry on a brief and informative correspondence with Russell Potter an expert on the Franklin Expedition and whose blog Visions of the North, contains much interesting information concerning said expedition.

In one of his postings Russell Potter discusses a collection of papers found by McClintock on a skeleton he found on the south coast of King William island in 1859.1

Location on King William Island of place where Peglar’s body and papers were found

I have little to add to the posting regarding Harry Peglar and his papers except that to give some more particulars concerning the content of said letters. In an article published in 1954 R. J. Cyriax and A. G. E. Jones published some but not all of what could be made out of the documents found, which not surprisingly were in poor condition.2

One of the documents was a summary of Harry Peglar’s navy service and it goes as follows:

November 1825
This is to Se( ) H Peglar Has served On board of his M S Clio 1825 Joined H M Ship Magnificent at Spit Head Sail For Jamaker Under Command Lev( )tenent Mundel tern Over to H M Hulk Serreapes Commander Ellott Tran( ) H M Ship Rattelsnake Captain J. Leath Searved Under him two years Joined H M tender Pearsis Captain C….t late Chief Press Master tower Hill London joined H M Ship Prince Regent discharged for ( )g apprentice Sail under Command of Tommy larking to China left Gor Tallis and his lady and douthers at ( )aint Helena Struck with lighting on the Passadge …ut tow Men Struck Dead a Seargent and Private Retern to England 182( ) entered for H M Ship Ramelis tern over at Chatham Reentered for The Tallavarer Cap Coalby Supper Seaed by Cap Brown Rit for my discharge and got … China in the Marquis Camden lost our Chief Mate Shot going in to Bombay Mr …en Retern to England 1833 …… H M Ship Gannett C M Maxfeild ( )ntered for H M Spih Temmarare 1838 ( )n over to H M Ship ocean Cp Sir John Hill Shearness Paid of 38 Joined H M S Wander…. C M Denman alas Seamour now in the Terror.3

Another document was a sea song, dated April 21 1847, which was a modified version of an older poem of which Cyriax and Jones only quote the first and then last few lines, unfortunately:
The C The C the open C it grew so fresh the Ever free.
….

When I wos On Old England Shore I like the/young C more and more and ofte times flewe/to a Sheetering Plase like a bird thar Seek it/mother’s Case and a H She wos and Oft to me/for I love I love a young and Hopen C.4
On the above document is written the words “Sentemental or Comic” and the following Address, “In care of Mr. Heaithfield, a Squier, no 10 Pelmell West London”. Also Written is the following which Cyriax and Jones suggests might be some sort of will, “Mr Father all to Miss down fall no 6 Old free street and a Clear Couarse”.5

Remnants of tent foundation erected by members of the Franklin Expedition

Another document is the following address, “Mr. John Cowper, No 47 John St., Commercial Road, London. Paid.”6

Another document simply bears the words “ Sentemental Song”.7

Another document is largely indecipherable; it has a date “September … 1840” or “1846”. According to Cyriax and Jones it appears to be a story about a dog. There is a heading on this document saying “Lines writ on the north” and a drawing of a eye with the words “lid Bay” below it.8

Relics found by McClintock of the Franklin Expedition

Another document which seems to be about sea animals as part of it is as follows:

Late on one summers night/ … the month of june/ … sent a way/… a spoon/ Imaid my bark a thort the tide/ and my crew they went to sleep/ while…keep a lookout/ for fish alli n the deep/ Has my little bark was drifting down/ I wos shot a … and ggit one of O”Connell/ Tertill came swimming sloley by/ my crew got up and grapple him/ and lug him in my boat/ off one pull quite marely/ to that gallnt bark a float/ sir the wait … that little marter/ bird w…67 pounds/ the … made a splened/ hot dinner off … prime little fellow wot …/ a tertill.9

A little below that is written “Lines upon Trinadad laying in Asham Bay”.10

On another piece of paper is written “Lines writ … party wot happened at Trinadad”, and the word “September”, with some other words that could not be made out.11

Another document seems to be a sort of a poem. Cyriax and Jones give only the opening line stating that much is unintelligible. The line is:

O death whare is thy sting, the grave at Comfort Cove for who has any doubt how … the dyer sad and whare traffalger, etc.12

Considering what happened to the crews of the Erebus and Terror just a little to appropriate.

On the other side of this paper, written in a circle, are the following lines. “He I … ave wonder … mony a night gl … a bouat the harmonic”. Within that circle is written “ … rode … tell the w … you peglar bord onn hay the terror camp clear”.13

A further document seems to a description of gathering in Cumana Venezuela. Cyriax and Jones do not give a transcription of the text but it does include the following passage:

Has we have got some very hard ground to heave … we shall want some grog to wet houer … issel … all my art Tom for I do think … time … I cloze should lay and … the 21st night a gread.14

Cyriax and Jones wonder if the 21st mentioned is the 21st of April 1848 the day before the Terror and Erebus where abandoned by the surviving crew members.

On the back of the paper is the following address “IME…P Evarglleb Raauqs, Ocilmip, West”.15

Another paper as the following address, “O. J. Rezzoe, a Squier, R.N. … Sandile Harber … Belvue Couart … eth”16

Finally another piece of paper with another address, “To Mr. Heather, sen … Citty…ation, Abberdeen, Lond…”

There was also a parchment certificate of the seaman service of Harry Peglar. Cyriax and Jones do not provide a transcription and the writing appears to be largely illegible anyway.17

Infuriatingly the documents tell us next to nothing about what happened to the Franklin Expedition and from their fragmentary condition it appears that a good deal was lost of them during the attempted escape. It appears that the papers we have are documents by Peglar and one or more other men. Thus what we seem to have is a collection of what amounts to fragments written for the most part, for unknown reasons, backwards.

Still they are glimpse into the minds of those doomed men and it would seem that in fairness to their memory perhaps a full transcription of what can be gleaned from the papers, using modern methods of analyzing old documents to see if we can find more writing in the papers, should be published. So we can have a glimpse, however, fleeting of those lost lives.

Skull of one of Franklin’s men

1. Visions of the North, Here the posting about the Peglar papers Here

2. Cyriax, R. J., & Jones, A. G. E., The Papers in the Possession of Harry Peglar, Captain of the Foretop, H.M.S. Terror, 1845, The Mariner’s Mirror, v. 40, pp. 186-195, 1954.

3. IBID. p. 189.

4. IBID. p. 190.

5. IBID. p. 191.

6. IBID. p. 191.

7. IBID. p. 192.

8. IBID.

9. IBID.

10. IBID.

11. IBID.

12. IBID.

13. IBID. p. 192-193.

14. IBID. p. 193.

15. IBID. p. 193.

16. IBID. p. 193.

17. IBID. p. 188.

Pierre Cloutier