Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Britannia AD 43

 So, the fact that the world won't stand still is restricting my ability to indulge in those few things that remain legal in Leeds, sitting all alone at home painting figures for example, but oddly enough I can read books without any problem (computer screens are more difficult) and I have been looking through a recently published book in the Osprey Campaign series: 'Britannia AD 43: The Claudian Invasion' by Nic Fields.

I hope I'm not damning with faint praise when I say it's OK. Two obvious problems that the author has are a lack of sources plus the significant changes in the geography of both the Kent coast and the course of the rivers Medway and Thames during the intervening two millennia. He copes with both as well as could be expected, although he does tend to repeat himself a tad. It's copiously illustrated with both paintings (by Steve Noon) and photographs of subjects ranging across museum exhibits, re-enactors, Roman remains from well after the invasion, much later buildings which happen to be where something may or may not have happened at the time etc. One of the photo credits is given to Neddy Seagoon, so one can't complain that the publishers have not looked in every possible place that they could think of.

Everyone will come to the book with a different level of prior knowledge, and most will be greater than mine. When Fields says that many people's impression of Claudius himself comes from Robert Graves via Derek Jacobi, he might have been describing me. Personally, I found the description of the difference between the alae and the cohortes equitatae to be very helpful, although I can't imagine it will make any difference to how I classify my Roman cavalry in 'To the Stongest!'. Also interesting was the contrast between the tribesman using local knowledge to finding their way through estuary marshes and the Batavian auxiliaries' ability to swim across rivers and move directly into combat. The text further prodded me towards thinking that the way chariot rules work in 'Infamy, Infamy' is more likely to reflect how they were used than those in TtS!; still, the latter shouldn't be hard to change. Lastly, but by no means least, I am very tempted to model (when vestibular stability has been restored) the illustration of Claudius parading towards Colchester on an elephant. And why not?

Still remembered

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