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Bloodline: The Celtic Kings of Roman Britain
Bloodline: The Celtic Kings of Roman Britain
by Miles Russell
Edition: Paperback

41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire, 18 Sep 2010
Miles Russell pitches himself as the enfant terrible challenging Established Facts among British Romanists. He rightly stresses how few facts we actually have about Roman Britain. Any good history lecturer teaches his or her students to distinguish between primary sources (scrappy for Roman Britain) and secondary sources (the great body of interpretation). However Russell overdoes it. He refers to any interpretation other than his own as "fiction". This clears the way for him to weave a far more unlikely fiction, which he presents as fact - exactly the tendency that he condemns in others.

Russell has convinced himself that the Pro-Roman King Togidubnus famously linked to Fishbourne Palace is the same man as Togodumnus, son of Cunobelin, whom the Roman sources say was overcome by the Roman invasion of AD 43 and died in the course of it. In order to make sense of this, Russell invents a struggle for succession to Cunobelin between Togodumnus and his brother Caratacos. There is not a shred of evidence for this, but he talks as though it were Established Fact. This mythical struggle can then be presented as the real reason for Roman intervention, with Caratacos the target and Togodumnus the friend of Rome. The greatest weakness of this argument is that Rome had received a stream of British kings fleeing the expansionism of Cunobelin and his family. The last of these - Verica - persuaded Emperor Claudius to take action. And Fishbourne Palace was then built right in the area from which Verica fled, and was based on Roman models. Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus was obviously Romanised and is likely to be descended from Verica or another of his line who had spent years in Rome. Recognising this weakness in his case, Russell boldly suggests that Cunobelin himself was Romanised and probably sent his sons to Rome to be educated - this on no more evidence than a Roman style of coin. Copying Greek and Roman coin types was standard practice among Celtic moneyers.

Other irritations abound. Russell ignores evidence that does not fit his wish to present a new twist to tribal names. He wants to call the Dobunni the Bodunni, on the basis of a slip in one Roman source which was copied by later authors, disregarding the several inscriptions referring to members of the Dobunni. He wants the Catuvellauni to mean the "followers of (Cassi)vellaunos" - a new creation by their chief in Caesar's day. This ignores the existence of the Continental Catuvellauni, of whom the British tribe was evidently an offshoot.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2010 9:48 AM BST

Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe
Empires and Barbarians: Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe
by Peter Heather
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.39

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 2 Sep 2010
This book was so much needed. It is the fruit of decades of research. More importantly it takes a fresh look at the material, unhampered by the post-war, post-imperial, nationalist zeitgeist. For decades prehistorians and protohistorians have fought the idea that our modern nation states were created out of mixtures of people, who arrived at different times. There has been a yearning for simplicity, and ethnicities that can be traced back to the year dot. In the 21st century migration is back on the menu. This is just one of several seminal books to be published in the last few years that face up to complex reality.

Yet the book is no polemic. It is wonderfully well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

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