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


20.1.07
  And it was no Exaggeration

One finds frequent statments about the Roman sources elaborating on the severity of the weather, because it was for one a good excuse, and also a topic in Roman literature; Germania was supposed to be a land of woods and rainstorms. Especially Cassius Dio took the blame for writing fiction.

Meanwhile a violent rain and wind came up that separated them still further, while the ground, that had become slippery around the roots and logs, made walking very treacherous for them, and the tops of the trees kept breaking off and falling down, causing much confusion. (Roman History, book 56,20; translation found here)

After the storm on Thursday, it's clear that it was no overstatement. There are a lot of fallen and broken trees in the woods of Germania right now. Tree tops can indeed come crashing down.

Of course, dark and dangerous Germania remains a topos in Roman literature, but there is a foundation in reality, I think. A severe storm makes for better stories than sunshine, and those who survived weather like that, will have remembered it. A storm may well have raged during the Varus battle, in addition to the rain that was - and is - not unusual for autumn, and memories traded down for generations (Dio wrote about 190 AD) met with the topos to form an account that is not mere fiction. One proof in favour of this assumption is that Tacitus' account of the battle of the Long Bridges in 14 AD has the rain plus the dense woods and bogs, a ghost appearance of Varus, but no storm. So storms were more unusual than rain.

BTW, I found some branches from neighbour's maple tree in my garden.
 
Comments:
Absolutely. Unusual events do happen now and then; writers don't necessarily make them up just for dramatic effect.
Tree roots and rotten wood underfoot make for very slow and difficult progress in wet weather even if there isn't a storm going on. Especially, in my experience, if the underlying rock is limestone - what's the geology in the area of the Varus battle? I can completely sympathise with the impossibility of keeping a large group even approximately together while tramping through a forest in the rain, even without the forest gods throwing tree tops at you :-)
 
Weather can also add a lot of foreshadowing to our stories.
As for the storms: We had it here first and it demolished hundreds of trees in our beloved Stanley Park as well as elsewhere and generally created havoc. I suppose, like us, the mopping up and clearing away broken trees is going to take awhile.
 
Oh yes - it's the famous "It was a dark and stormy night" saying! LOL
Lightning and thunderstoms are a fitting start to any book! (Like Macbeth) and of course the storm that case Ulysses off his boat and into the arms of his sea nymph!
Sam
 
True, I don't recall any stories where the historians got a terrible case of a suntan. :)

I don't pay enough attention to weather in my stories, I think. SOmething to work on
 
We got caught in one of the storms while training. About 5 minutes notice to pull every one in and get under some sort of cover, it was to far return to our bivouac. The storm probably passed in a half hour but it did not seemed like forever. When it passed the first thing we did was hold a head count, fortunately every one was accounted for. It was scary.

The legionaries did not have radios to give them that much warning.. From the point of view of the legionnaires, they would be so cold and miserable it would take super human amounts of discipline to maintain basic security. They would be easy prey to ambushers high on adrenalin.


Be glad you a nice safe house.
 
Carla,
I don't know about the geological details, but the ground must have been rather wet with the moors close by. The Romans slogged through the woods and bogs for three days, the storm probably lasted not as long (Kyrill was about 12 hours peak because it stayed put more or less over Göttingen, lol). A combination of bad weather aspects.

Wynn,
in A Land Unconquered and Caledonia Defiant, the weather and the land are more or less characters in their own right. :)

Sam,
tell that the agents, lol. But I think you can still get away with a weather beginning if it's tied to a character.

Constance,
if weather plays a role, it might add to the book, but if it's just a part of the setting like a canvas on stage, you don't need much of it, imho.

Hi Hank,
thanks for visiting. The amazing thing with the legionnaires is that they still managed to build camp the first night, despite the weather and the Germans throwing pointy things a them. Who knows, maybe a larger amount might have escaped if they had been generaled better. Varus was an administration type, and while we don't know any details about his decisions, he might have made some wrong ones. He sure does in my book.
 
You knowledge of history is commendable. You surely love your period.
 
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Gabriele, I have had a link to the lost scrolls on my blog. I couldn't figure out why you didn't update often. I realize now that the Lost Fort is the main blog. I have changed it. Sorry.
 
Thank you, Steve.

The Lost Scrolls is a snippet blog which I update only when I have something to share. :)
 
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK and other places, with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

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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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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