Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  Saltus Teutoburgiensis

The German woods were proverbial in Latin literature, dark, impenetrable, hostile. It became a topos, a metaphor for a country that would not become a Roman province. Sure, Germany was more densely forested than today, but even in 9 AD there were populated areas, clearings, fields, pasture, and settlements, some along the Main and Neckar rivers and in the Wetterau plain already oppidum-sized. The Romans had built fortified camps as far east as Hedemünden at the Werra (Weser and Werra, the Roman Visurgis, are the same river*), the kernel of a Roman system of settlements and roads, left unfinished after Tiberius called the army back in 16 AD. The disaster in 9 AD reinforced the Scary German Woods-topos, and the German woods were present in Latin literature about Germania ever since until the Vandals, Burgundians, Suevi and Alemanni crossed the frozen Rhine in 406 AD and in the years to follow founded their Germanic kingdoms in Gallia and Hispania, exchanging their woods for olive groves and fertile fields.

The wood (Kalkriese again) looks rather pleasant here, a fresh green in the morning sun, much different from the day long rain the Romans experienced two thousand years back in the same spot.

But if you walk some 50 metres into the wood, it becomes a lot more like what the Romans saw. Boggy ground, dense foliage, trees hindering the way. And German altars, places where they spoke to their gods, that contrary to the Celtic ones, never made it into the Romano-Greek-Mithraic pantheon.

I would have liked to also see the skeleton of a Roman on an altar, and his skull on a pole, but since the park is visited by children, I assume it was considered too scary. I bet for some horse-loving teenage girls that hide is scary enough.

But you can bet I'll use that image somewhere in my books. :)

* The old Germanic forms of both names are something like Visera / Wesera, and in some German dialects a so called rhotazism took place, that is, a -s- between two vowels became a -r-. Since Germanic languages stress the first syllable of a word, the following syllables are prone to get contracted or weakened. Werera soon became Werra, while Wesera weakened the final -a- into -e- and finally lost it altogether and became Weser. The border between the two names is given by the fact that a rather large river, the Fulda, confluences into the Weser, and that looks as if Fulda and Werra join and become a new river. The name goes back to an Indoeuropean root *uis- that means 'water' and is also in the word Whisky.
That forest is familiar - except for ther curse marker.
Hey Gab I just read about your Visigoth/adoption book. Don't let the agent get you down. Not that they are wrong...
Evil Ed, bless his soul, told me that my own piece was too short. I started panicking and had a lot of people read my stuff and they all said not to add anything - they loved it. And its true, the story speaks for itself. Good luck and I love that type of Moses twist to your story!
Interesting essay, Gabriele...the horse skin is definitely creepy. d:))
isn't if funny how the Germans got blamed for woods the French and English (Gaul and Britons) had as well? :)

thanks for stopping by. I don't consider Kristin's post a let down - it just made me give that plot element a critical look. What she means to be overdone, imho, is the ones where the search for biological parents is the only plot of the book. That is not the case here. :)

I love horses, and I admit, I had to swallow when I first saw it. But taking the pics I got used to the sight.
How old is that horse hide? (Which would have sent me running in the opposite direction?)
not Roman, I think. :) I assume they replace it before it hangs in tatters.
I just love when you put up pictures and give the visual edge to your posts, reminding us of what it would have been like when. It's like traveling back in time.
Thanks, Sandra.
It'll get even better because I'm going to get my own digital camera for my birthday. No more sharing with my father - can you give me the camera, please, I want to take a pic of that; can you take a pic, I need it for my blog .... Or doing without when traveling alone and my father needs the camera himself (that's the reason I have but few pics of my Baltic Sea journey because I had to take the analog camera and scan them).
What always surprises me, though it should not,I suppose, in spite of the several thousand miles separating this forest and forests I have walked, how familar the landscape is.
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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