Tag Archive | Ancient Romans

From Treveri to Trier, From Celts to Vikings!

In my previous family history post, I took you on a very brief tour of Trier’s history. I originally planned to leave it at that but I was so intrigued with it’s long history that I decided to find out more. I am going to share it here in a more in depth post because the story of Trier is so interesting and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves when people think about great cities of history! I also think that Vikings fans may be interested in one of the visits that a group of Northmen paid to the city in 881. We will look at that visit and it’s result later.  Before you begin reading, I will warn and advise you that this has become a lengthy post! It is a more detailed and extensive history than some of you might like but it is also is not nearly as long and in depth as it could have been! I have tried to edit as much as possible but given the massive history surrounding Trier, I find myself thinking it unfair to leave out certain parts or deem some portion unimportant. If you simply can not bring yourself to read through all of it, I have broken it up into sections with subtitles which you can scroll down through in search of what might interest you the most.  I really do hope you will take the time to read the entire article though.

Index of Subsections:

Pre-history and Celtic origins

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

The Constantine Connection

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Saint Helena’s connection

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

 

 

Pre-history and Celtic origins

First let’s look at the rich history of this city that was at one time thought of as one of the most important cities of the Roman and then the Frankish Empire. The following Roman era map shows Trier by it’s Roman name of Augusta Treverorum and lists it as a Roman city. In red, you will find the Celtic tribe of Treveri in that area.

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The Celtic Treveri tribe inhabited the lower valley of the Moselle from around 150 BCE, if not earlier,  until their eventual absorption into the Franks. Their domain lay within the southern fringes of the Silva Arduenna (Ardennes Forest), a part of the vast Silva Carbonaria, in what are now Luxembourg, southeastern Belgium and western Germany;  its centre was the city of Trier (Augusta Treverorum), to which the Treveri give their name. Celtic in language, according to Tacitus they claimed Germanic descent. 

Although they quickly adapted to  Roman material culture,  the Treveri had a tenuous  relationship with Roman power. Their leader Indutiomarus led them in revolt against Julius Caesar during the Gallic Wars;  much later, they played a key role in the Gaulish revolt during the Year of the Four Emperors.  On the other hand, the Treveri supplied the Roman army with some of its most famous cavalry,  and the city of Augusta Treverorum was home for a time to the family of Germanicus, including the future emperor Gaius (Caligula).  During the Crisis of the Third Century, the territory of the Treveri was overrun by Germanic Alamanni and Franks and later formed part of the Gallic Empire.

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altbburg

Modern reconstruction of Treveran dwellings near Altburg

The name Treveri   has been interpreted as referring to a “flowing river” or to “crossing the river”. Rudolf Thurneysen proposes to interpret it as a Celtic trē-uer-o, followed by Xavier Delamarre with the element trē < *trei ‘through’, ‘across’ (cf. Latin trans) and uer-o ‘to cross a river’, so the name Treveri could mean ‘the ferrymen’, because these people helped to cross the Mosel river. They had a special goddess of the ford called Ritona and a temple dedicated to Uorioni Deo. treuer- can be compared with the Old Irish treóir ‘guiding, passage through a ford’, ‘place to cross a river’. The word uer- / uar- can be related to an indo-European word meaning ‘stream’, ‘river’ (Sanskrit vār, Old Norse vari ‘water’), that can be found in many river-names, especially in France : Var, Vire, Vière or in place-names like Louviers or Verviers. The city of Trier (French: Trèves) derives its name from the later Latin locative in Trēverīs for earlier Augusta Treverorum.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treveri

The Treveri tribe was described by early Romans as the most renowned of the Belgae tribes who were referred to as being part of the Gauls.

Map_Gallia_Tribes_Towns

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgae

According to the Roman consul Aulus Hirtius in the 1st century BCE, the Treveri differed little from Germanic peoples in their manner of life and savage behaviour.  The Treveri boasted of their Germanic origin, according to Tacitus, in order to distance themselves from “Gallic laziness” (inertia Gallorum). But Tacitus does not include them with the Vangiones, Triboci or Nemetes as “tribes unquestionably German”.  The presence of hall villas of the same type as found in indisputably Germanic territory in northern Germany, alongside Celtic types of villas, corroborates the idea that they had both Celtic and Germanic affinities.  The Germanic element among the Treveri probably arrived there in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.   Strabo says that their Nervian and Tribocan neighbours were Germanic peoples who by that point had settled on the left bank of the Rhine, while the Treveri are implied to be Gaulish.

Jerome states that as of the 4th century their language was similar to that of the Celts of Asia Minor (the Galatians). Jerome probably had first-hand knowledge of these Celtic languages, as he had visited both Augusta Treverorum and Galatia.  Very few personal names among the Treveri are of Germanic origin; instead, they are generally Celtic or Latin. Certain distinctively Treveran names are apparently none of the three and may represent a pre-Celtic stratum, according to Wightman (she gives Ibliomarus, Cletussto and Argaippo as examples).

Before Ceasar’s invasion, the central city of the Treveri was at a place named  Titelberg.  Titelberg  is the site of a large Celtic settlement or oppidum in the extreme south west of Luxembourg. In the 1st century BC, this thriving community was probably the capital of the Treveri people. The site thus provides telling evidence of urban civilization in what is now Luxembourg long before the Roman conquest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titelberg

800px-Titelberg_01 800px-Titelberg003 800px-Titelberg018

 

Early Roman Connections: From  Treveri  tribes to Roman citizens

 The Treveri had a strong cavalry and infantry, and during the Gallic Wars would provide Julius Caesar with his best cavalry. Under their leader Cingetorix, the Treveri served as Roman auxiliaries. However, their loyalties began to change in 54 BCE under the influence of Cingetorix’ rival Indutiomarus. According to Caesar, Indutiomarus instigated the revolt of the Eburones under Ambiorix that year and led the Treveri in joining the revolt and enticing Germanic tribes to attack the Romans. The Romans under Titus Labienus killed Indutiomarus and then put down the Treveran revolt; afterwards, Indutiomarus’ relatives crossed the Rhine to settle among the Germanic tribes.  The Treveri remained neutral during the revolt of Vercingetorix, and were attacked again by Labienus after it. On the whole, the Treveri were more successful than most Gallic tribes in cooperating with the Romans. They probably emerged from the Gallic Wars with the status of a free civitas exempt from tribute.

In 30 BCE, a revolt of the Treveri was suppressed by Marcus Nonius Gallus, and the Titelberg was occupied by a garrison of the Roman army. Agrippa and Augustus undertook the organization of Roman administration in Gaul, laying out an extensive series of roads beginning with Agrippa’s governorship of Gaul in 39 BCE, and imposing a census in 27 BCE for purposes of taxation. The Romans built a new road from Trier to Reims via Mamer, to the north, and Arlon, thus by-passing by 25 kilometres the Titelberg and the older Celtic route, and the capital was displaced to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) with no signs of conflict. The vicinity of Trier had been inhabited by isolated farms and hamlets before the Romans, but there had been no urban settlement here.

Following the reorganisation of the Roman provinces in Germany in 16 BCE, Augustus decided that the Treveri should become part of the province of Belgica. At an unknown date, the capital of Belgica was moved from Reims to Augusta Treverorum. A significant layer of the Treveran élite seems to have been granted Roman citizenship under Caesar and/or Augustus, by whom they were given the nomenJulius.

During the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius, and particularly when Drusus and Germanicus were active in Gaul, Augusta Treverorum rose to considerable importance as a base and supply centre for campaigns in Germany. The city was endowed with an amphitheatre, baths, and other amenities,  and for a while Germanicus’ family lived in the city.  Pliny the Elder reports that Germanicus’ son, the future emperor Gaius (Caligula), was born “among the Treveri, at the village of Ambiatinus, above Koblenz“, but Suetonius notes that this birthplace was disputed by other sources.

Towards the end of the first century ad, the Treveran elite noblemen made the mistake of joining in a revolt against Rome. The revolt was quickly put down  and more than a hundred rebel Treveran noblemen fled across the Rhine to join their Germanic allies; in the assessment of Jeannot Metzler, this event marks the end of aristocratic Treveran cavalry service in the Roman army, the rise of the local bourgeoisie, and the beginnings of “a second thrust of Romanization”.  Camille Jullian attributes to this rebellion the promotion of Reims, capital of the perennially loyal Remi, at the expense of the Treveri.  By the 2nd and 3rd centuries, representatives of the old élite bearing the nomen Julius had practically disappeared, and a new élite arose to take their place; these would have originated mainly from the indigenous middle class, according to Wightman. This would have been a Roman way of eliminating feelings of loyalty or heritage to the ancient Treveri tribe and replacing it with loyalty to Rome.   The Treveri tribes also suffered from their proximity to  the Rhine frontier during the Crisis of the Third Century. Frankish and Alamannic invasions during the 250s led to significant destruction, particularly in rural areas; given the failure of the Roman military to defend effectively against Germanic invasion, country dwellers improvised their own fortifications, often using the stones from tombs and mausoleums.  While these smaller rural concentrations of Treveri were being decimated by that Germanic invasion, the city of Augusta Treverorum was becoming an urban centre of the first importance, overtaking even Lugdunum (Lyon). During the Crisis of the Third Century, the city served as the capital of the Gallic Empire under the emperors Tetricus I and II from 271 to 274. The Treveri suffered further devastation from the Alamanni in 275, following which, according to Jeannot Metzler, “The great majority of agricultural domains lay waste and would never be rebuilt”. It is unclear whether Augusta Treverorum itself fell victim to the Alamannic invasion.  Other  historical sources state that the city was destroyed during that time and that Emperor Diocletian recognized the urgency of maintaining an imperial presence in the Gauls, and established first Maximian, then Constantius Chlorus as caesars at Trier; from 293 to 395, Trier was one of the residences of the Western Roman Emperor in Late Antiquity. It’s position required the monumental settings that betokened imperial government.

 Romans take over and Imperialism sets in

My personal thought on these events is to wonder if Rome’s failure to protect those outlying Treveri was actually part of some plan to better eliminate those more distant and possibly less loyal groups. In a way, these events led to a more complete demise of the original Treveri tribes and people who would look at themselves as Treveri first and Roman citizen second.  As for the city of Augusta Treverorum falling victim to the invasions,  it seems to have recovered quickly. Those residents that survived the attack would from that point on  be Roman and Christian in their loyalties and beliefs.  From 285 to 395, Augusta Treverorum was one of the residences of the western Roman Emperor, including Maximian, Constantine the Great, Constantius II, Valentinian I, Magnus Maximus, and Theodosius I;  from 318 to 407, it served as the seat of the praetorian prefecture of Gaul. By the mid-4th century, the city was counted in a Roman manuscript as one of the four capitals of the world, alongside Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople.   New defensive structures, including fortresses at Neumagen, Bitburg and Arlon, were constructed to defend against Germanic invasion. After a Vandal invasion in 406, however, the imperial residence was moved to Mediolanum (Milan) while the praetorian guard was withdrawn to Arelate (Arles).

 

A mint was immediately established by Constantius, which came to be the principal mint of the Roman West.  A new stadium was added to the amphitheater, to stage chariot races. Under the rule of Constantine the Great (306–337), the city was rebuilt and buildings such as the Palastaula (known today as the Constantine Basilica) and the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen), the largest surviving Roman baths outside Rome, were begun under Constantius and completed c 314 constructed.  by his son Constantine, who left Trier in the hands of his son Crispus. In 326, sections of the imperial family’s private residential palaces were extended and converted to a large double basilica, the remains of which are still partly recognisable in the area of the Trier Cathedral (Trierer Dom) and the church “Liebfrauenkirche“.  A demolished imperial palace has left shattered sections of painted ceiling, which scholars believe once belonged to Constantine’s young wife, Fausta, whom he later put to death.

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Basilica of Constantine

Basilica of Constantine

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

Trier Rekonstruktion_der_Palastaula

trier basilica

trier basilica

03-23 Trier Cathedral Ceiling

Trier Cathedral ceiling

03-23 Trier Cathedral Interior

Trier Cathedral Interior

The Constantine Connection

From Constantine’s time in Trier onward, the city was the seat of the Gallic prefecture (the Praefectus Praetorio Galliarium), one of the two highest authorities in the Western Roman Empire, which governed the western Roman provinces from Morocco to Britain. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397. It became a city of great importance and occasionally, great scandal- as in the events surrounding it’s Royal household.  I am not going to go into Constantine’s early life or his climb to the level of Emperor… this is long enough as it is!

Constantine’s share of the Empire consisted of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. He therefore commanded one of the largest Roman armies, stationed along the important Rhine frontier. After his promotion to emperor, Constantine remained in Britain, driving back the tribes of the Picts and secured his control in the northwestern dioceses. He completed the reconstruction of military bases begun under his father’s rule, and ordered the repair of the region’s roadways.  He soon left for Augusta Treverorum (Trier) in Gaul, the Tetrarchic capital of the northwestern Roman Empire.  The Franks, after learning of Constantine’s acclamation, invaded Gaul across the lower Rhine over the winter of 306–307 AD.  Constantine drove them back beyond the Rhine and captured two of their kings, Ascaric and Merogaisus. The kings and their soldiers were fed to the beasts of Trier’s amphitheater in the adventus (arrival) celebrations that followed.

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old roman baths in trier

Public baths (thermae) were built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long, and capable of serving several thousands at a time, the baths were built to rival those of Rome.   Constantine began a major expansion of Trier. He strengthened the circuit wall around the city with military towers and fortified gates, and began building a palace complex in the northeastern part of the city. To the south of his palace, he ordered the construction of a large formal audience hall, and a massive imperial bathhouse. Constantine sponsored many building projects across Gaul during his tenure as emperor of the West, especially in Augustodunum (Autun) and Arelate (Arles).  According to Lactantius, Constantine followed his father in following a tolerant policy towards Christianity. Although not yet a Christian, he probably judged it a more sensible policy than open persecution,  and a way to distinguish himself from the “great persecutor”, Galerius. Constantine decreed a formal end to persecution, and returned to Christians all they had lost during the persecutions.

Because Constantine was still largely untried and had a hint of illegitimacy about him, he relied on his father’s reputation in his early propaganda: the earliest panegyrics to Constantine give as much coverage to his father’s deeds as to those of Constantine himself.  Constantine’s military skill and building projects soon gave the panegyrist the opportunity to comment favorably on the similarities between father and son, and Eusebius remarked that Constantine was a “renewal, as it were, in his own person, of his father’s life and reign”. Constantinian coinage, sculpture and oratory also shows a new tendency for disdain towards the “barbarians” beyond the frontiers. After Constantine’s victory over the Alemanni, he minted a coin issue depicting weeping and begging Alemannic tribesmen—”The Alemanni conquered”—beneath the phrase “Romans’ rejoicing”. There was little sympathy for these enemies. As his panegyrist declared: “It is a stupid clemency that spares the conquered foe!”

Constantine’s little personal problem…his wife Fausta

Let’s set aside the rest of Constantine’s achievements and accomplishments and look at his personal life a bit. His personal residence became the city of Augusta Treverorum so naturally much of his personal life took place there. In the year 303 he married his first wife, Minervina and had one son, Crispus by her. In 307, he set her aside as part of a treaty or alliance with  Roman Emperor Maximianus and agreed to marry Maximianus’s daughter, Fausta.   In 310 Maximian died as a consequence of an assassination plot against Constantine. Maximian decided to involve his daughter Fausta, but she revealed the plot to her husband, and the assassination was disrupted. Maximian died, by suicide or by assassination, in July of that same year.

sculpture/bust of Fausta

sculpture/bust of Fausta

Empress Fausta was held in high esteem by Constantine, and proof of his favour was that in 323 she was proclaimed Augusta; previously she held the title of Nobilissima Femina. However three years later Fausta was put to death by Constantine, following the execution of Crispus, his eldest son by Minervina, in 326. The two deaths have been inter-related in various ways; in one, Fausta is set jealously against Crispus, as in the anonymous Epitome de Caesaribus, or conversely her adultery, perhaps with the stepson who was close to her in age, is suggested. Fausta was executed by suffocation in an over-heated bath, a mode of assassination not otherwise attested in the Roman world. David Woods offers the connection of overheated bathing with contemporaneous techniques of abortion,  a suggestion that implies an unwanted, adulterous pregnancy according to Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson.

The Emperor ordered the damnatio memoriae of his wife with the result that no contemporary source records details of her fate: “Eusebius, ever the sycophant, mentions neither Crispus nor Fausta in his Life of Constantine, and even wrote Crispus out of the final version of his Ecclesiastical History (HE X.9.4)”, Constantine’s biographer Paul Stephenson observes.   Significantly, her sons, once in power, never revoked this order.  Her sons became Roman Emperors: Constantine II, reigned 337 – 340, Constantius II reigned 337 – 361, and Constans reigned 337 – 350. She also bore three daughters Constantina, Helena and Fausta. Of these, Constantina married her cousins, firstly Hannibalianus and secondly Constantius Gallus, and Helena married Emperor Julian.

 

The reason for this act remains unclear and historians have long debated Constantine’s motivation. Zosimus in the 5th century and Joannes Zonaras in the 12th century both reported that Fausta, stepmother of Crispus, was extremely jealous of him. She was reportedly afraid that Constantine would put aside the sons she bore him. So, in order to get rid of Crispus, Fausta set him up. She reportedly told the young Caesar that she was in love with him and suggested an illegitimate love affair. Crispus denied the immoral wishes of Fausta and left the palace in a state of a shock. Then Fausta said to Constantine that Crispus had no respect for his father, since the Caesar was in love with his father’s own wife. She reported to Constantine that she dismissed him after his attempt to rape her. Constantine believed her and, true to his strong personality and short temper, executed his beloved son. A few months later, Constantine reportedly found out the whole truth and then killed Fausta.

This version of events has become the most widely accepted, since all other reports are even less satisfactory. That Fausta and Crispus would have together  plotted treason against Constantine is rejected by most historians, as they would have nothing to gain considering their positions as favourites of Constantine. In any case, such a case would not have been tried by a local court as Crispus’ case clearly was. Another view suggests that Constantine killed Crispus because as a supposedly illegitimate son, he would cause a crisis in the order of succession to the throne. However, Constantine had kept him at his side for twenty years without any such decision. Constantine also had the authority to appoint his younger, legitimate sons as his heirs. Some reports claimed that Constantine was envious of the success of his son and afraid of him. This seems improbable, given that Constantine had twenty years of experience as emperor while Crispus was still a young Caesar. Similarly, there seems to be no evidence that Crispus had any ambitions to harm or displace his father. So while the story of Zosimus and Zonaras seems the most believable one, there are also problems relating to their version of events. Constantine’s reaction suggests that he suspected Crispus of a crime so terrible that death was not enough. Crispus, his wife Helena and their son, also suffered damnatio memoriae, meaning their names were never mentioned again and deleted from all official documents and monuments. The eventual fate of Helena and her son is a mystery. Constantine did not restore his son’s innocence and name, as he probably would have on learning of his son’s innocence. Perhaps Constantine’s pride, or shame at having executed his son, prevented him from publicly admitting having made a mistake.

It is beyond doubt that there was a connection between the deaths of Crispus and Fausta. Such agreement among different sources connecting two deaths is extremely rare in itself. A number of modern historians have suggested that Crispus and Fausta really did have an affair. When Constantine found out, his reaction was to have both of them killed. What delayed the death of Fausta may have been a pregnancy. Since the years of birth for the two known daughters of Constantine and Fausta remain unknown, one of their births may have delayed their mother’s execution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fausta

 Constantine eventually removed himself from the city of  Augusta Treverorum  in later years and spent his later years in Constantinople, which he considered his capital and permanent residence. He died there in 337.  Constantine had known death would soon come. Within the Church of the Holy Apostles, Constantine had secretly prepared a final resting-place for himself.  It came sooner than he had expected. Soon after the Feast of Easter 337, Constantine fell seriously ill.   He left Constantinople for the hot baths near his mother’s city of Helenopolis (Altinova), on the southern shores of the Gulf of İzmit. There, in a church his mother built in honor of Lucian the Apostle, he prayed, and there he realized that he was dying. Seeking purification, he became a catechumen, and attempted a return to Constantinople, making it only as far as a suburb of Nicomedia.  He summoned the bishops, and told them of his hope to be baptized in the River Jordan, where Christ was written to have been baptized. He requested the baptism right away, promising to live a more Christian life should he live through his illness. The bishops, Eusebius records, “performed the sacred ceremonies according to custom”.  He chose the Arianizing bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of the city where he lay dying, as his baptizer.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. Constantine died soon after at a suburban villa called Achyron, on the last day of the fifty-day festival of Pentecost directly following Pascha (or Easter), on 22 May 337.

Saint Helena’s connection

After Constanine’s death, the city of  Augusta Treverorum  once more became a royal or imperial residence. Constantine’s son Constantius II resided here from 328 to 340. Roman Trier was the birthplace of Saint Ambrose ca. 340, who later became the Bishop of Milan and was eventually named a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church long after his death in 397.  From 367, under Valentinian I, Trier once more became an imperial residence (lasting until the death of Theodosius I in 395) and remained the largest city north of the Alps. It was for a few years (383 – 388) the capital of Magnus Maximus, who ruled most of the western Empire.   Besides Constantine’s heirs and successors retaining close ties to the city of Trier, one other person of his family did as well. That would be his Mother, Helena! No discussion of Rome’s connection and tie to Trier would be complete without a mention of Helena and her gifts to the city.  Apparently, she was  so fond of the city that in later years, her head would return to reside there?

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Helena’s head relic in the crypt of Trier cathedral

Saint Helena ( c. 250 – c. 330) was the consort of the Roman emperorConstantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great. She is an important figure in the history of Christianity and the world due to her major influence on her son and her own contributions in placing Christianity at the heart of Western Civilization. She is traditionally credited with a pilgrimage to Syria Palaestina, during which she is claimed to have discovered the True Cross

Lucas_Cranach_the_Elder_-_Saint_Helena_with_the_Cross_-_Google_Art_Project

Helena’s birthplace is not known with certainty. The 6th-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city “Helenopolis” after her death around 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace.  The Byzantinist Cyril Mango has argued that Helenopolis was refounded to strengthen the communication network around his new capital in Constantinople, and was renamed simply to honor Helena, not to mark her birthplace.  There was also a Helenopolis in Palestine  and a Helenopolis in Lydia.  These cities, and the province of Helenopontus in the Diocese of Pontus, were probably both named after Constantine’s mother.  G. K. Chesterton in his book ‘A Short History of England’ writes that she was considered a Briton by the British, a tradition noted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose 12th century Historia Regum Britanniae reports that Helena was a daughter of the British King Coel.

The bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea states that she was about 80 on her return from Palestine.  Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life.  Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius‘ “Breviarium,” record that she came from a low background. Saint Ambrose was the first to call her a stabularia, a term translated as “stable-maid” or “inn-keeper”. He makes this fact a virtue, calling Helena a bona stabularia, a “good stable-maid”.   Other sources, especially those written after Constantine’s proclamation as emperor, gloss over or ignore her background.   There is great debate over her actual marital status with Constantine’s father, Constantius.  Some would assert that she was his legitimate wife, others assume that she was most likely his concubine or common law wife. What ever the case, she gave birth to the future emperor Constantine I on 27 February around 272.  At the time, she was in Naissus (Niš, Serbia).   In order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, Constantius divorced Helena some time before 289, when he married Theodora, Maximian’s daughter under his command. (The narrative sources date the marriage to 293, but the Latin panegyric of 289 refers to the couple as already married).  Helena and her son were dispatched to the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia, where Constantine grew to be a member of the inner circle. Helena never remarried and lived for a time in obscurity, though close to her only son, who had a deep regard and affection for her.

Constantine was proclaimed Augustus of the Roman Empire in 306 by Constantius’ troops after the latter had died, and following his elevation his mother was brought back to the public life in 312, returning to the imperial court. She appears in the Eagle Cameo portraying Constantine’s family, probably commemorating the birth of Constantine’s son Constantine II in the summer of 316.  She received the title of Augusta in 325 and died around 330 with her son at her side. She was buried in the Mausoleum of Helena, outside Rome on the Via Labicana. Her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned, next to her is the sarcophagus of her granddaughter Saint Constantina (Saint Constance). Her skull is displayed in the Cathedral of Trier, in Germany.

Helena's sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Helena’s sarcophagus in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museum, Rome

Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.   Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces in 327 to return to Rome, bringing with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace’s private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This has been maintained by Cistercian monks in the monastery which has been attached to the church for centuries.   According to one tradition, Helena acquired the Holy Tunic on her trip to Jerusalem and sent it to Trier.

Early British and Anglo-Saxon history claimed that Helena was Briton.  In Great Britain, later legend, mentioned by Henry of Huntingdon but made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth, claimed that Helena was a daughter of the King of Britain, Cole of Colchester, who allied with Constantius to avoid more war between the Britons and Rome.  Geoffrey further states that she was brought up in the manner of a queen, as she had no brothers to inherit the throne of Britain. The source for this may have been Sozomen’s Historia Ecclesiastica, which however does not claim Helena was British but only that her son Constantine picked up his Christianity there.  Constantine was with his father when he died in York, but neither had spent much time in Britain.

The statement made by English chroniclers of the Middle Ages, according to which Helena was supposed to have been the daughter of a British prince, is entirely without historical foundation. It may arise from the similarly-named Welsh princess Saint Elen (alleged to have married Magnus Maximus and to have borne a son named Constantine) or from the misinterpretation of a term used in the fourth chapter of the panegyric on Constantine’s marriage with Fausta. The description of Constantine honoring Britain oriendo (lit. “from the outset”, “from the beginning”) may have been taken as an allusion to his birth (“from his beginning”) although it was actually discussing the beginning of his reign.

 

Before we leave the “blessed” St. Helena and her contributions to Trier, I have some last blasphemous thoughts on the woman… First of all, there are a few theories and speculations that she may have been involved or partially responsible for the death of daughter in law, Fausta.  It has been said by some that it Helena who suggested the means of death for Fausta. From all accounts, Constantine was quite close, possibly overly attached to his Mother and would have listened to her advice. Add to Fausta’s immoral actions, the fact that she may have lied about Crispus and thereby been responsible for his fate. Prior to this event, there had never been any hint of ill feelings, disloyalty or mistrust between Constantine and Crispus. From all accounts, he seemed to be a much beloved and trusted son, and most likely- grandson. All I am suggesting is that the most saintly Helena may not have been so saintly in some of her own actions and feelings! That supposed Saintliness of this woman brings me to my last thought on her and Constantine. Interestingly and conveniently, it is also around this time that Helena is sent off on her tour of Christian lands.

Constantine and his Mother were, for much of their lives, pagans who did not discover or convert to Christianity until their later years.  Constantine was one who, for the most part used the religion to his benefit or advantage. In his earlier years he promoted tolerance towards them mainly in order to keep the peace in his lands. That persecution business was a bloody, messy and expensive affair- best to avoid it if at possible. When it came to the point where Christianity was becoming quite popular and hard to control, he decided to take matters into his own hands… he chose to embrace it and thereby gain some control over it.  One evidence of his using it to his own advantage and not necessarily being quite so firm in his inner beliefs was his refusal to be baptized until the end of his life.   In postponing his baptism, he followed one custom at the time which postponed baptism until after infancy.  It has been thought that Constantine put off baptism as long as he did so as to be absolved from as much of his sin as possible. In this way, what ever he had done prior to his baptism and acceptance of the one true God could not be used or held against him- either by God or by the earthly Christian Church!  He spent many of his years as ruler trying to convince the Christians that he was on their side in order to gain control of the situation and the church. Constantine was an ultimate power broker and would have used any means within his personal arsenal, including his family… which his previous actions in dealing with wife and son proved.

 

Imagine if you will, this scenario… Constantine as Augustus of Rome is dealing with this whole Christianity situation and has to come up with some plan to really seal the deal in convincing the world of his sincerity. His Mother, Helena is residing at the family home with not a whole lot to do… She’s a highly devoted Mother- possibly overly devoted as Constantine is her only child. Besides all of his headaches of running the empire, he has a much younger wife and family to contend with as well. Helena is most likely not one to just sit idle, content or peaceful in her retirement years. She may be bored, and possibly a bit of an interfering Mother in law? Helena meddles in the family affairs one too many times and the result is disaster for the entire family- especially daughter in law Fausta and grandson Crispus. Shortly after all of this mess, Helena sent off on an extended vacation of sorts. Now, this whole sordid affair would have not put the family in such a good light with the Christians whom Constantine was trying to impress. He needs to make some serious amends and do something of such a great and grand level that the Christians are going to forget all about his messy little family scandal.

What he does is actually quite genius in terms of Public Relations repair.  Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively. Local founding legend attributes to Helena’s orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.  His act of sending his Mother off on this extended vacation/shopping trip was beyond successful in a variety of ways.  First, it got Helena out of his hair for awhile so he could focus on immediate damage control. It showed and promoted the idea that Helena was a pious Christian woman and that if  there was any doubt about her involvement in the scandal, she was willing to do pilgrimage to atone for her possible sins. Everyone completely forgot about that mess with Fausta and Crispus when Helena returned home a few years later laden with truly spectacular gifts for the Church.  Those gifts included everything from parts of the “True Cross”, pieces of Jesus’ tunic, to nails of crucifixion, earth from the holy land and rope that held Jesus to the cross.  Helena’s public relations tour proved even more successful than Constantine could ever have imagined or hoped for. Her gifts are viewed by some scholars as the introduction of idol worship and the beginnings of the mass marketing scheme of Relics! All of Constantine’s and Helena’s past indiscretions were quickly swept under the rug as the Church began to realize just how much wealth these gifts could bring if promoted in the right way.

Trier after Rome’s demise: From Augusta Treverorum to Treves

Unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end and Trier’s end could easily have come with the demise of the Roman Empire at the end of the fifth century. Roman Trier had been subjected to attacks by Germanic tribes from 350 onwards, but these had been repulsed by Emperor Julian. After the invasions of 407 the Romans were able to reestablish the Rhine frontier and hold northern Gaul tenuously until the end of the 450s, when control was finally lost to the Franks and local military commanders who claimed to represent central Roman authority. During this period Trier was captured by the Franks (possibly in 413 and 421), as well as by the Huns under Attila in 451. The city became definitively part of Frankish territory  in 475. It is important to note here too that upon the city becoming a Frankish one, the name would have changed from Augusta Treverorum to Treves- the French or Frankish name for the city.  As a result of the conflicts of this period, Trier’s population decreased from an estimated 80,000 in the 4th century to 5,000 at the beginning of the 6th century. This change of rulers and decrease in population did not reduce Trier’s importance or value and it did not bring about the end of Trier.

map with Treves marked

By the end of the 5th century, Trier was under Frankish rule, first controlled by the Merovingian dynasty, then by the Carolingians  As a result of the Treaty of Verdun in 843, by which the grandsons of Charlemagne divided his empire into three parts, Trier was incorporated into the Kingdom of Lorraine (Lotharingia). After the death of Lothair II, ruler of Lorraine, Trier in 870 became part of the East Frankish Empire, later called Germany, under Henry .  Because of it’s connection to Helena and the early church, Trier was a valued and important Christian city for the devoutly Christian empires over the next centuries.  When Constantine promoted tolerance and allowed for Christianity’s acceptance, he in some ways laid the foundation for Trier’s survival and revival in the later Frankish empire years.  The Frankish empires would eventually found a great many more  abbeys and monasteries within the city. And, the Frankish would add to the relics kept there as well.  Benedictine abbey St. Matthias in the south of Trier. Here, the first three bishops of Trier, Eucharius, Valerius and Maternus are buried alongside the apostle Saint Matthias.  This is the only tomb of an apostle to be located in Europe north of the Alps, thus making Trier together with Rome in Italy (burial place of St. Peter the apostle) and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (tomb of St. James) one of three major places of pilgrimage in Europe.   By early in the 10th century, Trier would become somewhat of a Papal city in that it was under the direct control and guardianship of  the Archbishops. In 902,  The Archbishop of Trier was, as chancellor of Burgundy, one of the seven Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, a right which originated before the 12th century, and continued until the French Revolution. From the 10th century and throughout the Middle Ages, Trier made several attempts to achieve autonomy from the Archbishopric of Trier, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1212, the city received a charter from Emperor Otto IV, which was confirmed by Conrad IV. In 1309, however, it was forced to once again recognise the authority of the Archbishop, who was at that time the imposing Baldwin of Luxembourg, son of the Count of Luxemburg.   The Church deemed Trier as a highly valued commodity and would go to great lengths to keep it under their jurisdiction and control.

The Vikings pay their visit to Trier!

881 vikings set sights on Treves

Of course, we now already know of Trier’s importance and value to the church due to it’s connections to Constantine and Helena, but what might cause the Church to take such steps as to putting the city under it’s direct control, authority and protection? Ahhhh for that, you would have to know the events taking place during the years leading up to that control, those years that spelled disaster for so many cities. Those years would of course be the years of Viking raids, which so many of you are most interested in. I do want to take a moment here to note my appreciation for those of you have stuck through all of this extensive ancient history just to get to the part about the Vikings!

During the mid 800s, the Danes and Northmen offered Frankish residents some reprieve from raids as they were busy in their attempts to conquer England.  Around 880, Alfred the Great was successful in brokering a treaty with Guthrum and peace was temporarily achieved in England. This event sent many of the Danes back across the sea to areas of Frankish domain. Where previously, they were content with quick grab and go ship raids, this time they returned as landsoldiers and were equipped with horses.   Flanders took heavy blows  (Gent, Terwaan, Atrecht, Kamerijk).  Louis III  defeated the Vikings in 881  near Saucourt at the river Somme. This battle was described in the Song of Ludwig (Ludwigslied). According to the Fulda Annals Louis’ army killed 9.000 Danes. Consequence of this was that the Vikings returned to Flanders and Dutch Limburg. From Asselt (north of Roermond) they raided towns in Germany (Cologne, Bonn) and Limburg (Liége, Tongeren). In their attack on  Trier they were resisted by the bishops Wala and Bertulf of Trier and by count Adelhard of Metz.  Following the Trier example other cities began to defend themselves effectively. While Trier did survive  the attack in 881, much of the city (including most of the churches and abbeys) was destroyed. Because Trier’s Bishops were so instrumental in the city’s resistance and defense, they were probably looked on with much favor by the Pope and by one  Carolingian Emperor who may be familiar to us as Vikings fans and followers. That would be Charles the Fat, not be confused with Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple… all of whom in combination probably make up the character of Charles in Hirst’s version of Viking history!

Charles the Fat (13 June 839 – 13 January 888), also known as Charles III, was the Carolingian Emperor from 881 to 888. The youngest son of Louis the German and Hemma, Charles was a great-grandson of Charlemagne and was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire.  Over his lifetime, Charles became ruler of the various kingdoms of Charlemagne’s former Empire. Granted lordship over Alamannia in 876 following the division of East Francia, he succeeded to the Italian throne upon the abdication of his older brother Carloman of Bavaria who had been incapacitated by a stroke. Crowned Emperor in 881 by Pope John VIII, his succession to the territories of his brother Louis the Younger (Saxony and Bavaria) the following year reunited East Francia. Upon the death of his cousin Carloman II in 884, he inherited all of West Francia, reuniting the entire Carolingian Empire.  Usually considered lethargic and inept – he is known to have had repeated illnesses and is believed to have suffered from epilepsy – he twice purchased peace with Viking raiders, including at the famous siege of Paris in 885. Nevertheless, contemporary opinion of him was not nearly so negative as modern historiographical opinion. Purchasing peace back then was a fairly common and acceptable means of dealing with the Vikings and avoiding all out war with them.

The 885 siege of Paris referred to here would have been the siege that involved Rollo in history along with the leader of the attack, a man named Sigfred. According to historical accounts, In 885, a huge fleet led by Sigfred sailed up the Seine, for the first time in years, and besieged Paris. Sigfred demanded a bribe again, but this time Charles refused. He was in Italy at the time and Odo, Count of Paris, sneaked some men through enemy lines to seek his aid. Charles sent Henry of Saxony to Paris. In 886, as disease began to spread through Paris, Odo himself went to Charles to seek support. Charles brought a large army and encircled the army of Rollo and set up a camp at Montmartre. However, Charles had no intention of fighting. He sent the attackers up the Seine to ravage Burgundy, which was in revolt. When the Vikings withdrew from France next spring, he gave them 700 pounds of promised silver. Charles’ prestige in France was greatly diminished.  What is important in this above account is the mention that Sigfred demands a bribe again. This would suggest or imply that Charles was already familiar with Sigfred and had dealt with him previously.  It is that previous involvement that leads us  back to the lowlands and Trier.

We need to go to back to the Viking attacks of 881 which included the attack on Trier in order to find that previous connection to Sigfred and perhaps even Rollo as well if Rollo was traveling with Sigfred’s raiding parties for any length of time. Reminder here- this is the Rollo of history, not Hirst’s version of Rollo!

In the early 880s, the remnants of the Great Heathen Army, defeated by Alfred the Great at the Battle of Ethandun in 878, began to settle in the Low Countries.  Charles held an assembly at Worms with the purpose of dealing with the Vikings. The army of the whole of East Francia was assembled in the summer under Arnulf, Duke of Carinthia, and Henry, Count of Saxony. The chief Viking camp was besieged at Asselt. Not long after Charles opened negotiations with the Viking chiefs, Godfrey and Sigfred. Godfrey accepted Christian baptism and agreed to become Charles’s vassal. He was married to Gisela, daughter of Lothair II. Sigfred was bribed off. Despite the insinuations of some modern chroniclers, no contemporary account criticises Charle’s actions during this campaign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Fat

Godfried choose to stay. He became a vassal of the emperor and, after being baptized, married Gisela, daughter of Lothar II, the first king of Lorraine. Siegfried was paid off with 2.000 punds silver and gold and took off to the north with 200 ships. The emperor Charles felt threatened by Godfried and his (Godfried’s) brother in law Hugo (who was Gisela’s brother). In June 885 Godfried was invited for talks in Spijk, near Lobith. This turned out to be a conspiracy and Godfried was murdered. Hugo was made blind and transferred for the rest of his life to the monastery of Prüm. Here the monk Regino wrote the story of his downfall.

http://www.viking.no/e/netherland/index.html

In looking at these two events, we can now see the connection between Sigfred and Charles. We can also see a reason why Sigfred may have chosen to attack Paris in 885… possibly partially for revenge on what had happened to his partner, Godfried, and perhaps with the assumption that Charles would again pay him off to leave. In that assumption, Sigfred was partially correct- it just took longer than expected.  The attack began in November of 885 and dragged on until around May of 886. Both sides suffered great losses- more from illness than actual fighting. Morale was low on both sides.   Sigfred decided to cut his losses. He asked for 60 lbs of silver and left the siege in April. Rollo and his men remained and continued the battle through the summer when Charles finally returned, not to fight but to encourage Rollo and his army to move on to Burgundy which was in revolt at the time and would provide much easier conquest. When Rollo finally decided to leave France the next spring, Charles paid him 700 lbs of silver which he had promised the earlier summer. I would assume or guess that Charles just needed additional time to come up with the payment so he sent Rollo off to greener pastures while he set about collecting the money to get rid of him.  It was shortly after these events that Charles and the Carolingian dynasty began to fall apart! Odo would eventually get his chance at ruling (it would not last long!) Another Charles would take the throne, and Rollo would return for another more successful campaign… as far as we know, Sigfred retired somewhere to enjoy his shares of plunder and riches.

Trier survives and prospers under protection of the Church whether they want to or not!

 

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Braun&Hogenberg_Trier_1572

Trier cathedral

Trier Cathedral

 

 

Trier survived the Viking attacks and the fall of the Carolingian Dynasty as well by remaining attached to the church and the Holy Roman Empire though it made numerous attempts to disentangle itself and gain independent autonomy. In retrospect looking back at all of the turmoil of the medieval years, they were probably better off being under that protection of the Church and Papal authorities. It allowed the city to prosper well into the middle ages and beyond.  In 1309, Archbishop Baldwin of Luxemburg was given control of the city and although he was extremely young at the time, only 22, he was the most important Archbishop and Prince-Elector of Trier in the Middle Ages. He was the brother of the German King and Emperor Henry VII and his grandnephew Charles would later become German King and Emperor as Charles IV. He used his family connections to add considerable territories to the Electorate of Trier and is also known to have built many castles in the region. When he died in 1354, Trier was a prospering city.

The city would remain prosperous and under  control of the church and Holy Roman Empire until the 1600s when the  Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648),set in motion more than two centuries of warfare for Trier as well as other parts of what is now Germany. From that point on, Trier would find itself besieged and battled over. During the thirty years war it was occupied several times by French troops. They besieged and occupied Trier in 1632, 1645, 1673 (the French Army stayed until 1675 and destroyed all churches, abbeys and settlements in front of the city walls for military reasons; the city itself was heavily fortified).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Trier

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the visit to ancient Trier and learned something more about it’s many connections to history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections, wishes and suggestions for the new year!

I just want to take a quick bit of time today to catch up and catch my breath from the busiest weeks of the Holiday season! I hope everyone is enjoying what ever winter holiday you observe or celebrate. My wish is that it is filled with joy, with love, with faith and blessings for the new year! May the coming year be filled with light and goodness for all of you!

After celebrating Yul with all of you here, Christmas with my family, and working, I am going to take a few days to relax and recover from all of it! As I do this, I am reminded of how holidays used to be as compared to what they are now? At one time, really not so many years ago… well, okay a lot of years ago if you are one of the young ones for whom time is still flashing by so quickly that you don’t realize it’s leaving you.  I’m showing my age here, so please be patient and understanding!  When I was growing up all of those years ago, certain days were considered and observed as National Holidays for almost everyone. Businesses were closed, entertainment venues, restaurants- all but essential services were closed so that people could take those few days to celebrate and enjoy the occasion with their families. Little of that remains anymore. Now these Holidays have become much like any other day, with people attempting to carve out some precious time to make it feel like a holiday and capture some thread of what was once so special about the event.  Families were much closer back then, in distance as well as heart. It was easier to come together, share the special time, reconnect with loved ones and build memories that would carry on to the future generations.

Now days, many of us struggle with trying to keep those traditions, those memories and yet adjust them to fit into a world that so quickly changing and evolving around us. With such change always comes compromise. We must give up some beliefs, traditions and sense of our past in order to adapt to a new world, new beginning. What we do not need to give though, are the memories, the stories and the lessons that we learned from the past! We are not the only society that has undergone great change so quickly and profoundly that it wiped out some traces of previous cultures and beliefs. As we look at history, we can find many examples of societies and civilizations that either survived, adapted or faded away as their worlds changed around them. The expression of “If we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it” holds as much truth and value today as it did when George Santayana first commented on it.

George_Santayana

Santayana is known for famous sayings, such as “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”,  or “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Santayana, like many philosophers since the late nineteenth century, was a naturalist (that is, he denied the existence of supernatural beings, like gods and ghosts), but he found profound meaning in literary writings and in religious ideas and texts (which he regarded as fundamentally akin to literature). Santayana was a broad ranging cultural critic whose observations spanned many disciplines. He said that he stood in philosophy “exactly where [he stood] in daily life.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Santayana

 

It is my personal belief that we assume too often that history is not important, that it has no bearing or affect on what we are experiencing in such a new and different time. We assume that our current life struggles and issues are so vastly different from those of the past, that we are so much more intelligent, more evolved, and somehow better than those long dead ancient beings. Of what use or importance could any of their experiences be to us? In reality, they struggled with the same universal life issues that we do today. Some of them survived and flourished, some of them did not. It was all about choices that they made with their hearts, their consciences, and their desire to create a better world for the future. We all make those exact same choices each and every day.

My hope and wish for this coming year is simply that by coming here, reading through my thoughts and my impressions of the past, some of you might find that history speaks as much to you in some way as it does to me? I am reminded of what I have learned through years of teaching and helping others… If you make a difference in one person’s life, then you have succeeded in a purpose of your life. You may not be able to change the world, but if you change one person’s life, then you have made a start on that greater change.

 

Okay, enough my reflections and philosophy… As you take your own time to wind down from Holiday stress and prepare for the coming year, I just want to leave you with a few suggestions for reading and viewing!

 

Movies and Television Viewing Suggestions

For the many Outlander fans here, I have a viewing suggestion that may or may not interest you, but might help some of you get through the later books that involve so much detailed history of the American Revolution? The AHC- American Heroes Channel- has a three part mini series on the American Revolution. I have not watched it yet, but have it recorded and plan to watch it all later this evening!

http://www.ahctv.com/tv-shows/the-american-revolution

American revolution2 american-revolution-ahc-2

 

If you prefer some much earlier history, along with some blood letting and a look at the earliest beginnings of Britain, I have two suggestions for you.  I am not normally a fan of blood and heavy handed action movies that don’t necessarily portray history all that realistically but I did watch these two movies and stayed interested all the way through them!

First is The Eagle (2011 film)

The_Eagle_Poster

The Eagle is a 2011 historical adventure film set in Roman Britain directed by Kevin Macdonald, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland. Adapted by Jeremy Brock from Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), the film tells the story of a young Roman officer searching to recover the lost Roman eagle standard of his father’s legion in the northern part of Great Britain. The story is based on the Ninth Spanish Legion‘s supposed disappearance in Britain.

The film, an AngloAmerican co-production, was released in the U.S. and Canada on 11 February 2011, and was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 25 March 2011.

In the year AD 140, twenty years after the Ninth Legion disappeared in the north of Britain, Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman centurion, arrives in Britain to serve at his first post as a garrison commander. Marcus’s father disappeared with the eagle standard of the ill-fated legion, and Marcus hopes to redeem his family’s honour by bravely serving in Britain. Shortly afterwards, only Marcus’s alertness and decisiveness save the garrison from being overrun by Celtic tribesmen. He is decorated for his bravery but honourably discharged due to a severe leg injury.

Living at his uncle’s estate near Calleva (modern Silchester) in southern Britain, Marcus has to cope with his military career having been cut short and his father’s name still being held in disrepute. Hearing rumours that the eagle standard has been seen in the north of Britain, Aquila decides to recover it. Despite the warnings of his uncle and his fellow Romans, who believe that no Roman can survive north of Hadrian’s Wall, he travels north into the territory of the Picts, accompanied only by his slave, Esca. The son of a deceased chieftain of the Brigantes, Esca detests Rome and what it stands for, but considers himself bound to Marcus, who saved his life during an amphitheatre show.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_(2011_film)

I enjoyed the movie for it’s look at the pre-history, and the history of the Roman involvement in Britain. It deals with the real mystery of the Ninth Legion, and you can find more information on that here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legio_IX_Hispana

the-eagle-movie the-eagle-movie2 the-eagle-movie-tatum-3

One other excellent film dealing with early Britain and legends is, King Arthur.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

Movie_poster_king_arthur

This is not your typical King Arthur legend type of film! This movie presents the legend in a much more realistic portrayal. As many of my long time followers know, I have a deep fascination and interest in all things King Arthur related so this movie was perfect in every way for me! for more information on the history and legends about King Arthur, you can search through my archives on the subject!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/from-the-creator-ancient-history-connects-the-norse-with-romans-and-king-arthur/

King Arthur is a 2004 film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It stars Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley as Guinevere.

The film is unusual in reinterpreting Arthur as a Roman officer rather than a medieval knight. Despite these departures from the source material, the Welsh Mabinogion, the producers of the film attempted to market it as a more historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends, supposedly inspired by new archaeological findings. The film was shot in England, Ireland, and Wales.

Arthur, also known as Artorius Castus (Clive Owen), is portrayed as a Roman cavalry officer, the son of a Roman father and a Celtic mother, who commands a unit of Sarmatian auxiliary cavalry in Britain at the close of the Roman occupation in 467 A.D. He and his men guard Hadrian’s Wall against the Woads, a group of native Britons who are rebels against Roman rule, led by the mysterious Merlin (Stephen Dillane).

As the film begins, Arthur and his remaining knights Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Bors (Ray Winstone), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy) and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson) expect to be discharged from their service to the Empire after faithfully fulfilling a fifteen-year commitment.

However, on the night they are to receive their freedom, Bishop Germanus (Ivano Marescotti) sends them on a final and possibly suicidal mission to rescue an important Roman family. Marius Honorius (Ken Stott) faces impending capture by the invading Saxons, led by their chief Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård) and his son Cynric (Til Schweiger). According to Germanus, Marius’ son, Alecto, is the Pope‘s favorite godson and may be “destined to be Pope one day”.

At the remote estate, Arthur discovers Marius has immured pagans: a Woad named Guinevere (Keira Knightley), and a small boy, Lucan. Arthur frees them and decides to take everyone, along with Marius’ family, back to Hadrian’s Wall.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur_(film)

Saxons

king-arthur-sagaci-sassoni saxons

Arthur and his Knights

King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875459_1000_674

A truly original and unique version of Guinivere!

king arthur movie2 king arthur movie

 

Of course, there are a number of television series that will entertain you and possibly, hopefully provide you some historical lessons as well. If you have Starz, or any number of online services, you might want to catch up on Outlander- if you have seen it already, or not enough times in the case of many fans out there! We’ve already discussed all of it in great depth through out the blog.  Just start searching through the archives for it and that could keep you busy until the show starts again in April!

http://www.starz.com/originals/outlander

OUT-101_20131011_EM-0630.jpg Outlanderday

 

Another show that we’ve made extensive reference to here is Vikings on the History Channel!

http://www.history.com/shows/Vikings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings_(TV_series)

ragnar viking long boat Lindisfarne-ep2

The Vikings will return for season three on February 19! We will be exploring more of their history and the show in upcoming posts!

Vikings is an Emmy Award nominated  historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on 3 March 2013 in the United States and Canada.  Filmed in Ireland, it is an official Ireland/Canada co-production.

Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.

On 5 April 2013, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode second season, which premiered on 27 February 2014.  On 25 March 2014, History renewed Vikings for a ten-episode third season, which is scheduled to air on February 19, 2015.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings_(TV_series)

 

Book suggestions!

If the viewing suggestions are not enough, and you prefer reading about history, I do have a few suggestions for that as well.  Contrary to recent posts and public opinion, I do read a great deal besides Outlander! In fact, I spend much of my free time reading… I have a long commute to and from work each day, which provides me with plenty of time to indulge in one of my favorite pass times- reading. While I do occasionally venture into the time travel realm for reading enjoyment… I know, I know, it would seem and appear that time travel would be my main priority/focus, but actually it is not. Most of my reading focus is on early medieval history from the early Viking Ages through William the Conqueror and on through to about the 1500s.

I have been quite lax and remiss about updating my book reviews page since Outlander appeared but, please rest assured that I have indeed kept up with my other reading! I am providing a quick guide here for those of you who are interested in reading material aside from Outlander! You can also always check out my reviews and books on my Goodreads page.  I have better luck keeping those reviews updated than the ones here!  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22404301-judywork

For now, I will just update you with a few that I’ve read lately and may have referenced in earlier posts!

 

 Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.  This was a one of the time travel exceptions I’ve made and it well worth the read as it is so much more than just time travel or a romance novel!

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

 

Circle of Ceridwen Series by Octavia Randolph

If you are interested in early Saxon and Viking history in Britain, I highly recommend this series!

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

Young women with courage. Swords with names. Vikings with tattoos. Danger. Passion. Survival. Warfare. Sheep. And Other Good Things…

The year 871, when England was Angle-Land. Of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, five have fallen to the invading Vikings. Across this war-torn landscape travels fifteen year old Ceridwen, now thrust into the lives of the conquerors. But living with the enemy affords Ceridwen unusual freedoms – and unlooked-for conflicts. Amongst them she explores again her own heathen past, and learns to judge each man on his own merits. Her divided loyalties spur her to summon all her courage – a courage which will be sorely tested as she defies both Saxon and Dane and undertakes an extraordinary adventure to save a man she has never met.

The first book of The Circle of Ceridwen Trilogy, the historical adventure saga enjoyed by thousands of readers in over 125 nations.

 

There are four books in the series… and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will eventually be more. The series covers the life and journey of Ceridwen from her early years as a somewhat naïve teen through her years living with the Viking conquerors of  Britain, to her journey to the Viking homelands of Gotland. It is an excellent well documented and detailed look at the changes in lives and cultures during that time period, with a focus on how one young woman deals with all of those sudden changes in her life.  I would definitely recommend you read all of them and check out Octavia Randolph!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1365292.Octavia_Randolph

Ceridwen of Kilton the claiming Hall of Tyr

After reading the last one, Hall of Tyr, there was also a nice bonus of a medieval cookery booklet included. She includes early medieval Britain fare as well as medieval Scandinavian dishes!

For a sample of her cookery details, you should read this article!

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/venison-pie-and-honey-cakes.html

3harts

 

For slightly later medieval history, try The Handfasted wife  and the Swan daughter by Carol McGrath.

the handfasted wife by Carol McGrath The Swan daughter by Carol McGrath

These two books are about history during the time of William the Conqueror. They are well written historical biography types more than romances.

The first one, Handfasted wife tells the story  of the Norman Conquest from the perspective of Edith (Elditha) Swanneck, Harold’s common-law wife. She is set aside for a political marriage when Harold becomes king in 1066. Determined to protect her children’s destinies and control her economic future, she is taken to William’s camp when her estate is sacked on the eve of the Battle of Hastings. She later identifies Harold’s body on the battlefield and her youngest son becomes a Norman hostage. Elditha avoids an arranged marriage with a Breton knight by which her son might or might not be given into his care. She makes her own choice and sets out through strife-torn England to seek help from her sons in Dublin. However, events again overtake her. Harold’s mother, Gytha, holds up in her city of Exeter with other aristocratic women, including Elditha’s eldest daughter. The girl is at risk, drawing Elditha back to Exeter and resistance. Initially supported by Exeter’s burghers the women withstand William’s siege. However, after three horrific weeks they negotiate exile and the removal of their treasure. Elditha takes sanctuary in a convent where eventually she is reunited with her hostage son. This is an adventure story of love, loss, survival and reconciliation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson

1024px-Bayeux_Tapestry_scene23_Harold_sacramentum_fecit_Willelmo_duci

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_the_Fair

Edith_discovering_the_body_of_Harold

 

The second book is about Edith and Harold’s daughter, Gunnhild.  The Swan Daughter is a true 11th C tale of elopement and a love triangle by best-selling author of The Handfasted Wife, Carol McGrath. A marriage made in Heaven or Hell.  It is 1075 and Dowager Queen Edith has died. Gunnhild longs to leave Wilton Abbey but is her suitor Breton knight Count Alan of Richmond interested in her inheritance as the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swan-Neck or does he love her for herself? And is her own love for Count Alain an enduring love or has she made a mistake? 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Rufus

Alan_Rufus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunhild_of_Wessex

 

For a better and even more detailed perspective the events of this time period, I would suggest and encourage you to read  two other books about this era by Helen Hollick!

I have already previously mentioned her work, The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series #1)  on my book reviews page but am going repeat here for easier reference. This book is a great depiction and detail of  Emma of Normandy, whom little is known about but who is so important in history. It is the first of two books on Emma and her offspring, with the second book being, I am the Chosen King.

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

The Forever Queen (The Saxon Series, #1)The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
My rating:
5 of 5 stars

Fantastic! I was quite impressed with all of this book. I appreciate that it was not so much a gushy over done, made up romance novel but more of a historical docu-drama of her life. Helen Hollick took the limited details surrounding this somewhat forgotten queen that we hear so little about and wove those details into an excellent story!

I wrote the above short review a while ago but wanted to add to it because I am still so impressed with the storytelling of Helen Hollick. I have not read the second book of the series yet, but will get to it soon! After spending an immense amount of time reading quite serious histories, I needed to take a break and read some less intense ones!

This was most definitely one of the more serious and intense ones! It is not a feel good, happily ever after love story by any means. If you are looking for that, you will be quite disappointed. What you will find is a story about the grim and gritty realities of a woman’s life in those early medieval times. Just because a woman was of noble blood and ended up with a crown- more than one, it did not mean her life was any easier. In fact, in so many ways it was even more difficult.

Emma was married first to Æthelred who failed as both a King and a husband, but Emma did do her duty in providing him with not one, but two legitimate heirs. That should have given her some security in those times but unfortunately luck was not with her… or maybe it was? The kingdom is overtaken by Cnut who claims her along with the kingdom. She finally finds love with him only to have him die leaving the kingdom in another battle of who should rule.

The story of her life was well documented in this book with more than enough factual information woven into the story to give what I felt it was an excellent representation of the constant hurdles she endured throughout her life that colored and shaped how she viewed her role and her destiny as well as that of her sons.

 

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king

I am in the process of reading I am the Chosen King right now and am just as impressed with it as I was with the first book! What is interesting for me now is the comparison between this work and the information I previously read in Carol McGrath’s books about the same people. Where as Carol’s books deal more with Edith’s and her daughter’s lives and their possible perspectives of the time and events, this work goes into more depth concerning all of the key figures of the time. By reading all of them, I think you could gain a better insight and picture of  what was happening and how those involved might have come to the choices they made.

 

 

Now for one last thought of interest.  You might be wondering just how all of this extensive and in depth history ties into  my interest in the Vikings Saga on the history channel and it’s related actual history? Well, I will leave you with a few clues…

Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known mythological Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. It portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.

As the above paragraph states, the show and it’s various main characters are based on what is known about actual history. Ragnar Lothbrok is based on

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, “Ragnar Hairy Breeches“) was a legendary Norse ruler and hero from the Viking Age described in Old Norse poetry and several sagas. In this tradition, Ragnar was the scourge of France and England and the father of many renowned sons, including Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. While these men are historical figures, it is uncertain whether Ragnar himself existed or really fathered them. Many of the tales about him appear to originate with the deeds of several historical Viking heroes and rulers.

According to legend, Ragnar was thrice married: to the shieldmaiden Lagertha, to the noblewoman Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr, and to Aslaug. Said to have been a relative of the Danish king Gudfred and son of the Swedish king Sigurd Hring, he became king himself and distinguished himself by many raids and conquests until he was eventually seized by his foe, King Ælla of Northumbria, and killed by being thrown into a pit of snakes. His sons bloodily avenged him by invading England with the Great Heathen Army.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok

vikings_ragnar_3-P

In reality, Ragnar ultimately comes to a bad end and probably was not such a likeable fellow as he is portrayed in the show.

His brother, Rollo is inspired and based on another historical Viking.

A character based on the historical Rollo, played by Clive Standen, is Ragnar Lodbrok‘s brother in the 2013 television series Vikings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

vikings_gallery7_2-P rollo

 

In actual history, Rollo comes out far better than Ragnar ever could have hoped for!

600px-Cronological_tree_william_I_svg

If you look at his family tree, you will see how he ties in to medieval history. He was the ancestor of William the Conqueror- and if you look into William’s activities, you might see that his Viking heritage of conquering came out quite boldly in his genes!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

 

Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the present-day British royal family, as well as an ancestor of all current European monarchs and a great many pretenders to abolished European thrones. A genetic investigation into the remains of Rollo’s grandson Richard I and great-grandson Richard II has been announced, with the intention of discerning the origins of the famous Viking warrior.

The “Clameur de Haro” in the Channel Islands is, supposedly, an appeal to Rollo.

Rollo’s grave at the cathedral of Rouen

1024px-Grave_of_Rollo_of_Normandy

So, as my last thought and conclusion for the day…. Which brother would you prefer to take your chances with? Personally, I am going with team Rollo!

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34189423-500-300 vikings_episode6_gallery_1-P

Follow our Viking journey in coming new year!

Ragnar and Rollo legacy

Time Traveler’s guide to Christmas: Pre-Christian roots

Music to accompany your holiday time travel journey: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

 

 History of Christmas in early England

Previous post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/time-travelers-guide-to-christmas-part-one/

yule3

As I mentioned in the previous post, this next discussion will focus on earlier forms of celebrating Christmas. As we work through the history, you will find that many of the customs and traditions you follow now as Christmas celebrations are passed on from much earlier pre-Christian winter Solstice celebrations.  Some of them are remnants of Roman traditions but the majority of them that we are most familiar with stem from ancient Germanic and Nordic beliefs and customs. As we saw in the previous post, the earliest Norse migration into northern Scotland and the later Saxon and Viking migrations into the southern portions of the British Isles infused the cultures there with those Germanic and Norse traditions.  The earliest Romans also left their mark in some ways, but towards the end of their occupation of the land, they had become Christians and would eventually bring Christianity to the land.

 

 Roman traditions and beliefs

The druids, the Celtic priestly caste who were believed to originate in Britain,  were outlawed by Claudius,  and in 61 they vainly defended their sacred groves from destruction by the Romans on the island of Mona (Anglesey).  However, under Roman rule the Britons continued to worship native Celtic deities, such as Ancasta, but often conflated with their Roman equivalents, like Mars Rigonemetos at Nettleham.

The degree to which earlier native beliefs survived is difficult to gauge precisely. Certain European ritual traits such as the significance of the number 3, the importance of the head and of water sources such as springs remain in the archaeological record, but the differences in the votive offerings made at the baths at Bath, Somerset, before and after the Roman conquest suggest that continuity was only partial. Worship of the Roman emperor is widely recorded, especially at military sites. The founding of a Roman temple to Claudius at Camulodunum was one of the impositions that led to the revolt of Boudica. By the 3rd century, Pagans Hill Roman Temple in Somerset was able to exist peaceably and it did so into the 5th century.

Eastern cults such as Mithraism also grew in popularity towards the end of the occupation. The Temple of Mithras is one example of the popularity of mystery religions amongst the rich urban classes and temples to Mithras also exist in military contexts at Vindobala on Hadrian’s Wall (the Rudchester Mithraeum) and at Segontium in Roman Wales (the Caernarfon Mithraeum).

 

Fourth century Chi-Rho fresco from Lullingstone Roman Villa, Kent, which contains the only known Christian paintings from the Roman era in Britain.

It is not clear when or how Christianity came to Britain. A 2nd-century “word square” has been discovered in Mamucium, the Roman settlement of Manchester.  It consists of an anagram of PATER NOSTER carved on a piece of amphora. There has been discussion by academics whether the “word square” is actually a Christian artefact, but if it is, it is one of the earliest examples of early Christianity in Britain.  The earliest confirmed written evidence for Christianity in Britain is a statement by Tertullian, c. 200 AD, in which he described “all the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons, inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ”.  Archaeological evidence for Christian communities begins to appear in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Small timber churches are suggested at Lincoln and Silchester and baptismal fonts have been found at Icklingham and the Saxon Shore Fort at Richborough. The Icklingham font is made of lead, and visible in the British Museum. A Roman Christian graveyard exists at the same site in Icklingham. A possible Roman 4th century church and associated burial ground was also discovered at Butt Road on the south-west outskirts of Colchester during the construction of the new police station there, overlying an earlier pagan cemetery. The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of Christian silver church plate from the early 4th century and the Roman villas at Lullingstone and Hinton St Mary contained Christian wall paintings and mosaics respectively. A large 4th century cemetery at Poundbury with its east-west oriented burials and lack of grave goods has been interpreted as an early Christian burial ground, although such burial rites were also becoming increasingly common in pagan contexts during the period.

The Church in Britain seems to have developed the customary diocesan system, as evidenced from the records of the Council of Arles in Gaul in 314: represented at the Council were bishops from thirty-five sees from Europe and North Africa, including three bishops from Britain, Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius, possibly a bishop of Lincoln. No other early sees are documented, and the material remains of early church structures are far to seek.  The existence of a church in the forum courtyard of Lincoln and the martyrium of Saint Alban on the outskirts of Roman Verulamium are exceptional.  Alban, the first British Christian martyr and by far the most prominent, is believed to have died in the early 4th century (although some date him in the middle 3rd century), followed by Saints Julius and Aaron of Isca Augusta. Christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire by Constantine I in 313. Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion of the empire in 391, and by the 5th century it was well established. One belief labelled a heresy by the church authorities — Pelagianism — was originated by a British monk teaching in Rome: Pelagius lived c. 354 to c. 420/440.

A letter found on a lead tablet in Bath, Somerset, datable to c. 363, had been widely publicised as documentary evidence regarding the state of Christianity in Britain during Roman times. According to its first translator, it was written in Wroxeter by a Christian man called Vinisius to a Christian woman called Nigra, and was claimed as the first epigraphic record of Christianity in Britain. However, this translation of the letter was apparently based on grave paleographical errors, and the text, in fact, has nothing to do with Christianity, and in fact relates to pagan rituals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Britain#Religion_2

While this may not seem related to our discussion of early Christmas traditions, it is important to know some of the early history of the land in order to better understand how the various beliefs and traditions came to merge together and become what we observe and practice today. It is of course, extremely important to any time traveler who might find themselves in such an earlier time period either by choice… or as the result of any miscalculation or error in the time travel mechanism! While Crag na dun Time Travel has perfected it’s travel, there is always the slight chance of malfunction resulting in a misplacement in time. In these rare cases, Crag na dun Travel will offer full refund and reimbursement upon your return. Please keep some receipt of travel to the time period as your proof of error on their part! Now, back to our discussion…

During the Roman occupation of the British Isles, they most likely left traces of their own midwinter celebrations. Their occupation of the area lasted for some time, from about 45Ad to the late 5th century.  Over those centuries, they made the transition from paganism to Christianity but many still practices and observed their Pagan festivals even after turning to Christianity. One such festival was that of Saturnalia.

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn, held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to the 23rd of December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”

In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who was said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age, when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of social egalitarianism. The revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost mythical age, not all of them desirable. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia.

Although probably the best-known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Modern understanding of the festival is pieced together from several accounts dealing with various aspects.  The Saturnalia was the dramatic setting of the multivolume work of that name by Macrobius, a Latin writer from late antiquity who is the major source for information about the holiday. In one of the interpretations in Macrobius’s work, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth.  The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the third and fourth centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, some of its customs have influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.

The poet Catullus describes Saturnalia as the best of days. It was a time of celebration, visits to friends, and gift-giving, particularly of wax candles (cerei), and earthenware figurines (sigillaria). The best part of the Saturnalia (for slaves) was the temporary reversal of roles. Masters served meals to their slaves who were permitted the unaccustomed luxuries of leisure and gambling. Clothing was relaxed and included the peaked woollen cap that symbolized the freed slave, which looks an awful lot like Santa Claus’s peaked red hat . A member of the familia (family plus slaves) was appointed Saturnalicius princeps, roughly, Lord of Misrule.

So, the tradition of Saturnalia left us with gift giving, candles, Santa’s red hat… and the Lord of Misrule!

 

Lord of Misrule

In England, the Lord of Misrule — known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots — was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying, in the pagan tradition of Saturnalia.

The Church held a similar festival involving a Boy Bishop. This custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by the Catholic Queen Mary I and again abolished by Protestant Elizabeth I, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer.[1] On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basle in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century.

 

In the spirit of misrule, identified by the grinning masks in the corners, medieval floor tiles from the Derby Black Friary show a triumphant hunting hare mounted on a dog.

While mostly known as a British holiday custom, the appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the good god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. This holiday seems to be the precursor to the more modern holiday, and it carried over into the Christian era.

In the Tudor period the Lord of Misrule is mentioned a number of times by contemporary documents referring to both revels at court and among the ordinary people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Misrule

 

Boxing Day

In addition to the already listed contributions, the Romans were also responsible for the eventual tradition and holiday of Boxing Day, which is celebrated throughout the British Isles.

The exact etymology of the term “boxing day” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.  The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys‘ diary entry for 19 December 1663.  This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and maybe sometimes leftover food.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Anglo-saxon  period, traditions and beliefs

The Romans left the British Isles around the end of the 5th century and were replaced by the Angles/ Saxon invasion and migration into the area. They arrived during the 5th century and remained a dominant force until 1066 and William the Conqueror took over the land.

The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They included people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, and their descendants; as well as indigenous British groups who adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language. The Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period of British history between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement, and up until the Norman conquest.

The Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today including regional government of shires and hundreds; the re-establishment of Christianity; a flowering in literature and language; and the establishment of charters and law. The term Anglo-Saxon is also popularly used for the language, in scholarly use more usually called Old English, that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century.

The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a cultural identity, and how this developed from divergent groups, grew with the adoption of Christianity, was used in the establishment of various kingdoms, and, in the face of a threat from Danish settlers, re-established itself as one identity until after the Norman Conquest.  The outward appearance of Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties, and an elite that became kings who developed burhs, and saw themselves and their people in Biblical terms. Above all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, “local and extended kin groups remained…the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period”.

Use of the term Anglo-Saxon assumes that the words Angles, Saxons or Anglo-Saxon have the same meaning in all the sources. Assigning ethnic labels such as “Anglo-Saxon” is fraught with difficulties, and the term itself only began to be used in the 8th century to distinguish “Germanic” groups in Britain from those on the continent.  Catherine Hills summarised the views of many modern scholars that attitudes towards Anglo-Saxon and hence the interpretation of their culture and history has been “more contingent on contemporary political and religious theology as on any kind of evidence.”

The history of the Saxons is far too in depth and extensive to delve into here and does not pertain all that much to our discussion of early Christmas traditions and beliefs. The most important thing to keep in mind and consider is that they were made of a variety of northern Germanic tribes. While some of these tribes were early converts to Christianity, many of them were not and brought with them their more Norse beliefs.

800px-Anglo_Saxon_migration_5th_cen

Many of the early Saxons had similar beliefs to the later Viking invaders, though as time passed they became the minority and were eventually over taken by those who had converted to Christianity.

For a more detailed and in depth look at these early Saxons, their struggle to hold on to their old ways and their eventual demise under the Christian influence, I would highly suggest you read this series of books by Octavia Randolph. I suggest here mainly because she deals with the early Saxon beliefs and how closely they were connected to the Norse/Vikings beliefs of the time. She also has excellent descriptions of some of their traditions and celebrations! It is a series of four books that tell a young woman’s journey through the Viking conquests of early England and then her life in the northern lands of  Danemark, and Gotland.

circle of ceridwen1

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23123223-the-circle-of-ceridwen

In Circle of Ceridwen, Octavia Randolph discusses in great detail, the Saxon belief in Woden and  it’s close connection to the Viking belief in Odin.

 

 

Woden in Anglo-Saxon England

“If a West Saxon farmer in pagan times had walked out of his bury or ton above the Vale of Pewsey some autumn day, and looking up to the hills had caught sight of a bearded stranger seeming in long cloak larger than life as he stalked the skyline through the low cloud; and if they had met at the gallows by the cross-roads where a body still dangled; and if the farmer had noticed the old wanderer glancing up from under a shadowy hood or floppy brimmed hat with a gleam of recognition out of his one piercing eye as though acclaimed a more than ordinary interest, a positive interest, in the corpse;… and if all this had induced in the beholder a feeling of awe; then he would have been justified in believing that he was in the presence of Woden tramping the world of men over his own Wansdyke.”

Anglo-Saxon polytheism reached Great Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries with the Anglo-Saxon migration, and persisted until the completion of the Christianization of England by the 8th or 9th century.

For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the psychopomp or carrier of the dead,  but not necessarily with the same attributes as the Norse Odin. There has been some doubt as to whether the early English shared the Norse concepts of Valkyries and Valhalla. The Sermo Lupi ad Anglos refers to the wælcyrian “valkyries”, but the term appears to have been a loan from Old Norse; in the text, it is used to mean “(human) sorceress”.

The Christian writer of the Maxims found in the Exeter Book (341, 28) records the verse Wôden worhte weos, wuldor alwealda rûme roderas (“Woden wrought the (heathen) altars / the almighty Lord the wide heavens”). The name of such Wôdenes weohas (Saxon Wôdanes with, Norse Oðins ve) or sanctuaries to Woden survives in toponymy as Odinsvi, Wodeneswegs.

Royal genealogy

Woden listed as an ancestor of Ælfwald of East Anglia in the Textus Roffensis (12th century).

As the Christianisation of England took place, Woden was euhemerised as an important historical king  and was believed to be the progenitor of numerous Anglo-Saxon royal houses.

Discussing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed in or before 731) writes that:

The two first commanders are said to have been Hengist and Horsa … They were the sons of Victgilsus, whose father was Vecta, son of Woden; from whose stock the royal race of many provinces deduce their original.

The Historia Brittonum, composed around 830,  presents a similar genealogy and additionally lists Woden as a descendent of Godwulf,  who likewise in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda is said to be an ancestor of “Vóden, whom we call Odin“.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, composed during the reign of Alfred the Great,  Woden was the father of Wecta, Beldeg, Wihtgils and Wihtlaeg  and was therefore an ancestor of the Kings of Wessex, Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia. As in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, a history of early Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain incorporating Woden as an ancestor of Hengist and Horsa is given:

These men came from three tribes of Germany: from the Old Saxons, from the Angles, and from the Jutes … their commanders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa, that were the sons of Wihtgils. Wihtgils was Witta’s offspring, Witta Wecta’s offspring, Wecta Woden’s offspring. From that Woden originated all our royal family …

Descent from Woden appears to have been an important concept in Early Medieval England. According to N. J. Higham, claiming Woden as an ancestor had by the 8th century become an essential way to establish royal authority. Richard North (1997) similarly believes that “no king by the late seventh century could do without the status that descent from Woden entailed.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%8Dden

Pre-cursor to Santa Claus

The reason that Woden and Odin become important in our discussion of Christmas is that they are both considered pre-cursors to Father Christmas and Santa Claus!

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern period, Woden persisted as a figure in folklore and folk religion, notably as the leader of the Wild Hunt found in English, German, Swiss, and Scandinavian traditions.

Woden is thought to be the precursor of the English Father Christmas, or Father Winter, and the American Santa Claus.

A celebrated late attestation of invocation of Wodan in Germany dates to 1593, in Mecklenburg, where the formula Wode, Hale dynem Rosse nun Voder “Wodan, fetch now food for your horse” was spoken over the last sheaf of the harvest.  David Franck adds, that at the squires’ mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden’s horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelfth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse.

A custom in Schaumburg is reported by Jacob Grimm: the people go out to mow in parties of twelve, sixteen, or twenty scythes, but it is managed in such a manner that, on the last day of harvest, they are all finished at the same time, or some leave a strip that they can cut down at a stroke, or they merely pass their scythes over the stubble, pretending that there is still some left to mow. At the last strokes of their scythes, they raise their implements aloft, plant them upright, and beat the blades three times with their strops. Each spills on the field a little of his drink—whether beer, brandy, or milk—then drinks it himself, while they wave their hats, beat their scythes three times, and cry aloud Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!. The women knock all of the crumbs out of their baskets onto the stubble. They march home shouting and singing. If the ceremony was omitted, the hay and corn crops would be bad in the following year. The first verse of the song is quoted by Grimm,

„Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!
Hävens wei wat schüt,
jümm hei dal van Häven süt.
Vulle Kruken un Sangen hät hei,
upen Holte wässt manigerlei:
hei is nig barn un wert nig old.
Wôld, Wôld, Wôld! “

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
Heaven’s giant knows what happens,
He, looking down from heaven,
Providing full jugs and sheaves.
Many a plant grows in the woods.
He is not born and grows not old.

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!

 

Wodan_heilt_Balders_Pferd_by_Emil_Doepler wodin saxon god wodin

 

As the Saxons became Christians, their beliefs in the old Gods and old ways were considered Pagan by the Church. It was a constant struggle  for the Church to eliminate the Pagan beliefs and traditions so they began to incorporate the Pagan beliefs into their preaching as a way to draw the people in. This took place from the beginnings of the Church as an organized powerful and political force. No matter how they tried though, they were unable to get people to give up many of their long held traditions and celebrations of the mid-winter Solstice.  Their earliest means of  incorporating the mid-winter Solstice was to set the birth of Jesus at the same time, referring to him and the event as the “Sun of Righteousness”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

The Saxons became Christians and the lower portions of the British Isles were  settled into small separate  kingdoms and territories ruled by newly Christian overlords who fought amongst themselves for power and control but  generally followed the laws of the Church, which held most of the power at the time. If they still practiced or observed Pagan traditions, they did it privately.

The arrival of the Norse Vikings brought back old ways, beliefs and traditions.

It is important to note here that the Saxon migration, as well as the later Viking migration only applies to the lower portion of the British Isles. Scotland was not really involved in this restructuring of the land and was dealing with it’s own changing dynamics. As I have previously mentioned, there was already a Norse migration and influence on the Northern portions of Scotland, the Church was also making it’s way into converting the Scottish lands, and there was what might be considered as a form of genocide of the remaining Druids and Picts of the areas. Little remains of either culture to determine what their traditions or beliefs might have entailed.  what we can note here is that the inhabitants of the Highland areas had a clan or tribal system that might be similar to those of Germanic or Norse tribal or clan systems.

For a better feel and sense of what was taking place in the northern areas of Scotland during these early times, I would suggest reading

 

For our purposes, we are focusing on the beliefs and traditions that we can more easily trace back to their original roots.

 Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

The book gives a very good description and visualization of  Mid-winter solstice celebrations as they might have taken place during that time! It also references the Druidic influences and Pict representation in that area and time.

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=veil+of+time

 

In our next segment, we will explore what happens when the Saxons of England face their past and their future with the arrival of the Norse Vikings who bring with them the old beliefs and traditions once more.

 

Settled Christian Saxons face their past and their future with arrival of Vikings

King Ecgbert of Wessex

King Ecgbert of Wessex

 

Beyond Crag na Dun: Crag na dun Time Tour options!

 

 

Achhhhh, alright, Mrs. Graham has requested that we post this advertisement here along with additional information on her business?

 

 

 

craigh_na_dun_time tours

Mrs. Graham is of course the housekeeper for Reverend Wakefield of Inverness, but she has a number of other small business interests as well. She is the leader of the local chapter of Druidic Dancers and Callers, runs a part time business of fortune telling- for more information on personalized tea leaf readings contact her at her private residence in Inverness, and it seems that she is the owner of a small but thriving tour business that specializes in very specialized and unique travel packages. She was quite upset with our initial insistence that Crag na dun does not exist. She has went so far as to threaten us with a libel suit and states that our information could damage her business as well as her professional reputation.

Because of this pending litigation, we feel obligated to give Mrs. Graham equal space in which to defend her claims and thereby promote her business…

Mrs Graham tries to tell Frank

Mrs. Graham insists that Yes, indeed Crag na dun does exist but that it’s secret location is a crucial key to the success of her business. She compares the secrecy of location to that of secret recipes and formulas used by Chefs, food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers. For some time, Mrs. Graham has run a small tour agency that specializes in a very unique type of travel package. Recently, her business has become so popular that she had to take on a number of affiliates and partners to keep up with the enormous demand for these tours.  She is happy to announce that the business has become a huge success, so much so in fact, that even with the addition of these affiliates, they are unable to fulfill some of the requests.

Crag na dun Time Tours would like to apologize for the delays and backlogs in meeting some of their customers’ inquiries and requests. If you are having difficulty contacting them, please be patient and understand that they are making every attempt to expand their business to meet your needs. They would also like to advise that at this time, due to an extremely high volume of travel requests to 1700’s Scotland, they are unable to accept any more reservations for that time period. The waiting list is already quite lengthy and the company has temporarily put a hold on any further travel to that time frame. An added advisement concerning this time frame, and the trips in general: Please read your pre-travel package and contract thoroughly before traveling. Crag na dun Time Tours does not promise or guarantee in any way that you will meet or encounter specific individuals… namely one James Malcom Mackenzie Fraser or any of his various relatives. It seems that a few customers have returned from their trips rather disgruntled and demanding their money back… Crag na dun time Tours has a no refund policy which is spelled out very clearly in the contract!

The company would like to take a moment here to inform travelers that they have refined their travel techniques over the years and successfully managed to break the 200 year time constraint that has plagued travelers for years. They are now able to send you as far back as any stone’s original building. They would like to advise however, that there is a great deal of risk the further back one goes, and they can not make any safety guarantees should you choose to go all the way back to the very beginnings.

The company does regret that it can not provide more 1700’s trips right now but is offering discounts on some other packages that might be of  just as much interest to travelers. While they can not send you to the mid or later 1700s, they do have some limited packages available for late 1600s-early 1700s…this time frame would put you in the era of the first Jacobite Risings and one other somewhat famous rebel… Rob Roy MacGregor?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Roy_MacGregor

rob-roy rob roy 2 Rob roy2 rob_roy_13

They are running a special on early 1300’s packages right now which include the time period of  some other famous Scots, Robert the Bruce and of course, William Wallace.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_the_Bruce

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wallace

Robert_The_Bruce_Crowned_King_of_Scots Robert_I_and_Isabella_of_Mar Robert the Bruce

braveheart

In addition to these packages, the company is running some special promotions in honor of their newest affiliate, Castlerigg Stone Circles near Keswick, England! The Castlerigg circle and nearby town of Keswick have a long and rich history dating back to 3000 BC. Their varied history includes pre-history Druidic times, Roman occupations, Picts, Angles and Saxon invasions, Viking conquests and early Christian monks and monasteries as well as William the Conquerer’s son, William II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keswick,_Cumbria

lakes castlerigg cumbria

king arthur movie king arthur movie2 King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875459_1000_674 king-arthur-sagaci-sassoni saxons

Moragsoorm long boat Lindisfarne-ep2 vikings-linus-roache-history vikings_gallery7_4-P vikings_gallery7_2-P

Now hopefully this blatant plug for Crag na dun Time Tours will satisy Mrs. Graham and she will drop her pending litigation against us… Please take note, Mrs. Graham that we have even changed the title of the article to include a plug for your company!

 

 

 

First of all before we embark on this journey, we all need to be very clear on one important point. Crag na dun is a fictional Stone Circle created by Diana Gabaldon specifically for the Outlander series! It does not exist anywhere other than in her very creative imagination and the pages of the book. If you are planning to book a tour which includes a visit to “crag na dun”, please be advised in advance that the “crag na dun” you will be visiting will only be a representation of that place.

excerpt from Outlandish Companion regarding whether craigh na dun is a real location.

excerpt from Outlandish Companion regarding whether craigh na dun is a real location.

 

The Stones depicted in the show are Styrofoam and built as part of set design for location shooting.

craigh na dun in show3 Outlander 2014 OUT-101_20131011_EM-0630.jpg

What we are going to explore is some of the many real Stone Circles and ancient sites throughout Scotland and Britain. We will also delve into some other options for time travel… yes, there a great many of them out there! It is speculated an rumored that one could make the trip using various different methods? We’ll touch on a few of them later.  Lastly, we will look at some other time periods that one might end up in when traveling… since that is a truly massive endeavor, we will limit the travel to time frames within the vicinity of Standing Stones or circles in more ancient Britain.

 

Let’s start our journey with the places that Diana mentioned in her references to Craigh na dun.  She mentions Castlerigg, the Clava Cairns near Inverness, and Tomanhurich hill. Now, we are all aware that the mythical craigh na dun is located in the highlands of Scotland somewhere near Inverness? The first circle mentioned is not in this area, but well worth looking into.

 

Castlerigg Stone Circle

 

Castlerigg stone circle is located  in Keswick in  Cumbria  North west England. One of  around 1,300  stone  circles  in  the  British  Isles  and  Brittany, it  was constructed as a part of a  megalithic  tradition that  lasted from 300  to 900 BCE, during  the Late Neolithic and  Early Bronze Ages.

Aside from the more famous Stonehenge, Castlerigg is a site that most of us would immediately identify with when we think of Stone Circles.

You can find more information on it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlerigg_stone_circle

 

CastleriggStoneCircle(SimonLedingham)Jul2005 Castlerigg_A_Outlier Castlerigg The_Wonders_of_the_World_in_Nature,_Art_and_Mind_Robert_Sears_1843

It is located near Keswick, Cumbria northwest England, so it would not be a plausible location for Craigh na dun. You can see it’s location on the map below, with the Keswick area starred.

Cumbria on map kenswick marked with star

castlerigg-stone-circle2 Druidical_Circle_near_Keswick_in_Cumberland

As I mentioned, while it is not a location for Craigh na dun, it is an excellent representation of a Stone Circle. You might want to keep this site in mind if you prefer to travel back in time to England rather than the highlands of Scotland! It is still well formed with many of the Stones remaining, if that has any bearing on accuracy in determining one’s destination to the past? In fact, it is said that the number of stones is constantly changing. There is a tradition that it is impossible to count the number of stones within Castlerigg; every attempt will result in a different answer. This tradition, however, may not be far from the truth. Due to erosion of the soil around the stones, caused by the large number of visitors to the monument, several smaller stones have ‘appeared’ next to some of the larger stones. Because these stones are so small, they are likely to have been packing stones used to support the larger stones when the circle was constructed and would originally have been buried. Differences in opinion as to the exact number of stones within Castlerigg are usually down to whether the observer counts these small packing stones, or not; some count 38 and others, 42. The ‘official’ number of stones, as represented on the National Trust  information board at the monument, is 40. 

If you could put this site in some context to places and events within the Outlander series, it would be of interest in that is lies in the Lakes district where Jamie Fraser resided as a groom after his release from Ardsmuir Prison. Helwater Estate is located within the Lakes district. It’s location is also in a reasonable vicinity to Northumbria and Hadrian’s Wall, where Roger Wakefield’s Father, Jerry MacKenzie disappeared during World War II while testing a plane for Frank Randall and MI5, the British Intelligence force. 

If one wanted to think about it’s other possible time travel connections to the more ancient past, it is considered much like Stonehenge, a most ancient Druidic worship site. If we look at the nearby village of Keswick and it’s history we can piece together the area’s history from those ancient and unknown druids to it’s strategic importance during Roman occupation with Hadrian’s Wall being in the western part of the county. There are Roman road passing by the present day town.  Several Christian saints preached the Gospel in the north of England in the late 6th and early 7th centuries AD; in Keswick and the surrounding area the most important figures were  St Herbert of Derwentwater and his contemporary St Kentigern.  The former, the pupil and friend of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, lived as a hermit on an island in Derwentwater, now named after him.  Kentigern, who lived and preached in the area before moving to Wales, is traditionally held to have founded Crosthwaite Church,  which was the parish church of Keswick until the 19th century. 

Keswick’s recorded history starts in the Middle Ages. The area was conquered by the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria in the seventh century, but Northumbria was destroyed by the Vikings in the late ninth. In the early tenth century the British Kingdom of Strathclyde seized the area, and it remained part of Strathclyde until about 1050, when Siward, Earl of  Northumbria, conquered Cumbria. In 1092 William II, son of William the Conqueror, marched north and established the great baronies of Allerdale-below-Derwent, Allerdale-above-Derwent, and Greystoke, the borders of which met at Keswick.   In 1181 Jocelyn of Furness wrote of a new church at Crosthwaite, Keswick, founded by Alice de Romilly, the Lady of Allerdale, a direct descendant of William II’s original barons. In 1189, Richard I granted the rectory of Crosthwaite to the Cistercian order of Fountains Abbey.

During the 13th century, agricultural land around the town was acquired by Fountains and Furness Abbeys. The latter, already prosperous from the wool trade, wished to expand its sheep farming, and in 1208 bought large tracts of land from Alice de Romilly. She also negotiated with Fountains Abbey, to which she sold Derwent Island in Derwentwater, land at Watendlath, the mill at Crosthwaite and other land in Borrowdale. Keswick was at the hub of the monastic farms in the area, and Fountains based a steward in the town, where tenants paid their rents.  Furness also enjoyed profitable rights to the extraction of iron ore.

Now, knowing some of it’s history, you will be a bit better prepared should you decide to use Castlerigg as your time travel portal. If it is extremely powerful, and you are well versed and equipped in the navigation of travel, this portal could land you in the time of Druids, put you close to a Roman Outpost along Hadrian’s Wall, deliver you into the hands of Viking conquerors, or place you in close proximity to early Normans or Christian Monks… take your pick but choose wisely because all of those times could be quite dangerous for an unknown traveler.

 

The second place mentioned by Diana Gabaldon is Clava Cairns near Inverness. This the one more familiar to Outlander fans and followers. 

Clava Cairns near Inverness

The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of 3 cairns at Balnuaran of Clava, to the east of Inverness in Scotland. There are about 50 cairns of this type in an area round about Inverness. They fall into two sub-types, one typically consisting of a corbelled passage grave  with a single burial chamber linked to the entrance by a short passage and covered with a cairn of stones, with the entrances oriented south west towards midwinter sunset. In the other sub-type an annular ring cairn encloses an apparently unroofed area with no formal means of access from the outside. In both sub-types a stone circle surrounds the whole tomb and a kerb often runs around the cairn. The heights of the standing stones vary in height so that the tallest fringe the entrance (oriented south west) and the shortest are directly opposite it.

Where Clava-type tombs have still contained burial remains, only one or two bodies appear to have been buried in each, and the lack of access to the second sub-type suggests that there was no intention of re-visiting the dead or communally adding future burials as had been the case with Neolithic cairn tombs.

These Stone sites around Inverness would be the most plausible locations for Craigh na dun as they are also located close to Culloden.

Culloden battlefield, a few miles to the east of Inverness attracts a huge number of visitors every each year. But only a few of those visitors realise that only a mile to the south east lies a very different link with the past, every bit as evocative as Culloden and in many ways more tangible, despite dating back to around 2000BC.

The Clava Cairns lie not much more than a cannon shot away from Culloden, and Jacobites fleeing the carnage of the battle may well have passed this way. Yet it is worth remembering that the seemingly huge distance in time back to the very different world of Culloden, some 250 years, is just one sixteenth of the distance we’d have to travel back in time to meet the builders of these cairns.

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/inverness/clavacairns/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clava_cairn

2_clava-mc-03_III_05_stone-III_nickb_surrounding-middle-cairn_tma_37429 Balnuaran of clava Clava Cairns clava cairns2 clava cairns3 clava cairns4 Clava20East20Cairn20nr20Inverness-Archaeology- cupandring splitx

 

The third site mentioned by Diana is Tomnahurich Hill.

Tomnahurich   Hill


Tomnahurich Hill – which  means hill  of the  yews -is a rounded tree covered hillock on the outskirts of Inverness, the hill has a wealth of traditions associated  with it, and it is famed as an abode of  the fairies. A modern cemetery now  covers the  hill.

The most enduring tradition connected with the hill is that fiddlers (or a fiddler) were lured into playing at fairy revelry, and emerged after one night beneath the hill to find that hundreds of years had passed in their own world. The story has two basic forms, in one a solitary fiddler falls asleep on the hill and wakes up in an underworld palace. He is made to play all night for the entertainment of the fairy queen, and finally awakes on the shores of the River Ness, later to discover that a hundred years have passed. The other story features two fiddlers and is outlined below:

The Fiddlers of Tomnahurich
Two travelling fiddlers were visiting Inverness looking for places where they could play, while searching for a suitable venue they met an old man in strange clothes, who asked them if they would perform for him. They agreed and followed the old man to the wooden hill of Tomnahurich, just as the sun slipped out of view over the Western horizon. There was an opening in the side of the hill through which they followed the old man into a brightly lit cavern hall, where a great feast was underway. The feast was attended by a host of people, all dressed in colourful finery, and each seeming to have an air of enchantment and beauty about them. They sat down at one of the many tables and preceded to enjoy the fine wine and the rich food served before them.

Tomnahurich HillTomnahurich Hill When it came the time for dancing they played their fiddles and the party got into full swing, each fiddler playing better than they had ever played before. Finally, in what seemed like no time at all, the feast was over and it was time for the fiddlers to leave. Their noble company thanked them, and the old man who had led them into the hillside paid them with a bag of silver and gold coins. The fiddlers left the hill in a fine mood, and walked back towards the centre of Inverness. As they neared the town they saw that everything had changed, where there was once dense woodland buildings now stood, as if they had appeared overnight. All the people they met along the way were dressed in strange looking clothes, and poked fun at the fiddlers ‘old fashioned’ clothing.

The fiddlers decided that they had been enchanted in some strange way and made the return journey to their town. When they arrived they were dismayed to find that everything they knew here had also changed; their homes were no longer occupied and they recognised no one. In despair they ran into the local church where the local priest was in the midst of delivering a sermon. As soon as the priest spoke the word of God both fiddlers crumbled to dust in front of the eyes of the horrified congregation.

The difference in time between this world and the world of the fairy races is an important folklore motif found in many tales about the otherworld. The way the unfortunate fiddlers crumbled to dust after returning to their own world is also often found in folk tales such as that of King Herla.

There are many more traditions associated with the hill, Thomas the Rhymer is said to be buried beneath it, or to live within it, ready to lead an army of men and white steeds to rally Scotland in its hour of need. In Celtic myth Fion trained his dog to lead two of every species of animal around the hill in pairs to unravel enchantment by an Irish enemy.

Directions: The hill is just off the A82, to the West of the River Ness.

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/invernesshire/featured-sites/tomnahurich-hill.html

https://graveyardsofscotland.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/fairy-hill/

Besides Thomas the Rhymer’s supposed connection, the Brahan Seer is also connected to this Fairy hill, now cemetery. So, while there are no Stone Circles to be found here, you may still be able to travel through time at this site due it’s Fairy connections… I would be hesitant about using this one however, as the Fairy connection might even more risky than just time travel? I do suppose though if one was brave enough to try it, it might be an enlightening experience. 

305BrahanSeer

tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-83 tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-11 tomnahurich-graveyard-inverness-19 Tomnahurich Hill

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Rhymer

Of course we can not bring up Thomas the rhymer without mention of the fairy realm!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy

Thomas the rhymer be Katherine Cameron

Thomas the rhymer be Katherine Cameron

The Eildon Hills where Thomas the rhymer supposedly met the past

The Eildon Hills where Thomas the rhymer supposedly met the past

In some legends, Guinivere is referred to as a fairy

In some legends, Guinivere is referred to as a fairy

faerie_forest__the_radient_pool__by_makinmagic-d4q70ka 640px-SophieAndersonTakethefairfaceofWoman 800px-Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_058 11107 Sir_Joseph_Noel_Paton_-_The_Quarrel_of_Oberon_and_Titania_-_Google_Art_Project_2

 

The next site on our journey keeps coming up in any search for Craigh na dun or Standing Stones so I am going to include here as well. If you search the internet for Craigh na dun, one of the first sites listed is a link to Megalithic Portal and Callinish4.  The link is a bit of a let down as it is just one quick picture and an answer to the query of what Craigh na dun looks like?

Callinish  Standing Stones

 

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1146411369

callanishiv1a

The photo posted on Megalithic Portal was impressive and led us to visit the Callinish Stones directly!

The Callinish Standing Stones are located on the Isle of Lewis and are one of several stone sites on that island. The Isle of Lewis is located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

The Outer Hebrides (Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan Siar, IPA: [nə ˈhelanən ˈʃiəɾ]) also known as the Western Isles and the Long Island, and as Innse Gall in Gaelic is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland.   The islands are geographically coextensive with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland. They form part of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. Scottish Gaelic is the predominant spoken language, although in a few areas English speakers form a majority.

Most of the islands have a bedrock formed from ancient metamorphic rocks and the climate is mild and oceanic. The 15 inhabited islands have a total population of 27,400  and there are more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands. From Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis is roughly 210 kilometres (130 mi).

There are various important prehistoric structures, many of which pre-date the first written references to the islands by Roman and Greek authors. The Western Isles became part of the Norse kingdom of the Suðreyjar, which lasted for over 400 years until sovereignty was transferred to Scotland by the Treaty of Perth in 1266. Control of the islands was then held by clan chiefs, principal of whom were the MacLeods, MacDonalds, Mackenzies and MacNeils. The Highland Clearances of the 19th century had a devastating effect on many communities and it is only in recent years that population levels have ceased to decline. Much of the land is now under local control and commercial activity is based on tourism, crofting, fishing, and weaving.

Sea transport is crucial and a variety of ferry services operate between the islands and to mainland Scotland. Modern navigation systems now minimise the dangers but in the past the stormy seas have claimed many ships. Religion, music and sport are important aspects of local culture, and there are numerous designated conservation areas to protect the natural environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Hebrides

hebrides-map callinish stones

map isle of lewis2 map isle of lewis lewis mapka callinish stones

The Callinish Stones are one of the most famous Stone sites in Scotland and closely comparable to Stonehenge in England.  They date back as far as 3000 BC. 

There were limited excavations in 1980-1 which provided some information on the development of the site. The first traces of human activity are indicated by a broad ditch (no longer visible above ground) which appears to have belonged to some structure or enclosure.  This may have been ritual, but could instead have been domestic.  In the centuries around 3000 BC, however, the site was turned over to agriculture which obliterated most of the earlier traces.   After this, the site was allowed to grass over for a time.

The stone circle was set up between 2900 and 2600 BC.   It is not clear whether the stone alignments were constructed at the same time as the circle, or later.  Some time after the erection of the stones, a small chambered tomb was inserted into the eastern part of the stone circle.   The many pottery fragments found indicate that the tomb was used for several centuries.  These pottery fragments included not only the local Hebridean pots, but numerous sherds of beaker vessels (dating to around 2000-1700 BC) and sherds of grooved ware.

Around 1500-1000 BC the complex fell out of use and was despoiled by the later Bronze Age farmers.  Fragments of pots appear to have been cast out of the chamber.  This may have been just ordinary agriculture, but it may conceivably have been ritual cleansing.  There appears to have been a later rebuilding of the tomb, but this may have been for domestic use as there is no evidence for any later ritual use of the monument.  Between 1000 BC and 500 BC the stones were covered by a thick layer of turf. It is estimated that the place was abandoned around 800 BC.  Only in 1857 was the overlying 1.5 metres of peat removed.

callinish stones2 callinish stones3 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA callinish stones6 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA stones-of-callanish-lewis1

The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.

Centre stone

The central monolith stands 0.8 metres west of the true centre of the stone circle. The stone is 4.8 metres high, 1.5 metres wide and 0.3 metres thick.  The largest sides of the stone are almost perfectly oriented to the north and south. The monolith has the shape of a ship’s rudder and probably weighs about seven tonnes.

Stone circle

The stone circle consists of thirteen stones and has a diameter of 11.4 metres. The stone circle is not a perfect circle, but is a ring with a flattened east side (13.4 metres north-south by 12 metres east-west). The stones have an average height of three metres. The ring covers an area of 124 square metres. This is quite small compared to similar circles, including the nearby Callanish II which is 2.5 times as large.

Northern avenue

The avenue connects to the stone circle from the north-northeast. The avenue is 83.2 metres long.  The avenue has 19 stones remaining: nine stones are on the eastern side, ten on the western side.  The largest stone is 3.5 metres high and stands on the western end of the row. The two rows are not exactly parallel to each other but fan out: at the north end the rows are 6.7 metres apart, while the distance between the rows is 6 metres at the south end.  From the circle the height of the stones decreases towards the middle of the avenue; from there the height increases again. The stones of the eastern side of the avenue have only three-quarters of the height of the stones on the western side.

Stone rows

As well as the two stone rows of the avenue, there are three stone rows connecting to the circle. One comes from the east-northeast, one from the south, and one from the west-southwest. The east-northeast row today consists of five stones and is 23.2 metres long.  The southern row consists of five stones and is 27.2 metres long.  The west-southwest row consists of four stones and is 13 metres long.

None of the stone rows is aimed at the centre of the stone circle. The east-northeast row is aligned to a point 2 metres south of the centre; the south row points to 1 metre west of the centre and the west-southwest row points to 1 metre south of the centre.

Chambered tomb

 Chambered tomb

Between the central and the eastern monolith of the stone circle is a chambered tomb 6.4 metres long.  This was built later than the stone circle and is squashed in between the eastern stones and the central monolith.

There is another stone cairn just on the northeast side of the stone circle.  It has been reduced to ground-level and the outline can barely be traced.  It is not necessarily an original part of the site.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callanish_Stones

Callanish I is just one of over twenty megalithic sites on Lewis.

The stones are intricately connected to the landscape, as with many megalithic ceremonial complexes.  in the case of Callanish I, the stones share  an intimate relationship with both the range of hills known as the ‘sleeping beauty’ or the ‘old woman of the moors’. When the moon reaches it’s southern extreme each 18.6 years it is seen to rise from behind the sacred hill range and skim the horizon for four hours till it gently sets again behind the Harris hills. This range of hills are as much a part of the monuments as the stones themselves.

http://ancient-wisdom.co.uk/scotlandcallanish.htm

The Callenish Stones, their history and their location make them an excellent candidate for any type of  ancient time travel. A few things to consider about traveling through at this site… They are probably quite powerful and would most likely take you very back in history.  There is most likely a Druidic connection to them, as with many of the circles? If you are choosing this site, you should prepare for the travel by brushing up on your most ancient Gaelic languages along with your Gaelic and Celtic history. A study of ancient Norse traditions and their migration to this area would be highly advised as well. When I talk about ancient Norse, I am not referring to the Viking migration… I am referring to the Norse migrations that took place even earlier than that!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/?s=Norse+migration+to+Scotland

 

Now, obviously with over 1300 ancient Stone site throughout the British Isles and Brittany, there is no possible way that we can touch on all of them here! I am going to present two more sites that I feel are important and worth considering as possible transport points for any time travel destinations that you might have. I am not going to touch on Stonehenge here because it is so obvious and famous that it really needs no further detailed exploration by us!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

As you can see on the maps, Stonehenge is located in southern England and if you are a well experienced and trained time traveler, you could probably use this portal to get to any time period in England that you are interested in traveling to!

stonehenge Stonehenge-Map-United-Kingdom-2la3ar5 StonehengeMap

 

If you are looking for another spot that might be connected to Outlander, I would highly suggest that you head to the isle of Orkney. There is much mystery surrounding this isle in the books. It is speculated that Geillis Duncan was involved in archaeology research there along with Rob Cameron.

Rob Cameron and the Orkneys Echo in the bone

Excerpt from Echo in the bone regarding Rob Cameron’s connection to the Orkneys

 

There are rumors that Master Raymond may have some connection to the isle as well! Diana Gabaldon has given clues to Master Raymond’s past in sharing some of her writings on her facebook page. She also commented on her interest in Orkney Isles in an interview with National Geographic.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140808-outlander-scotland-orkney-islands-stonehenge-neolithic/

 

Orkney Islands

 The Orkney Islands have a long and colourful history. It is no exaggeration to say that the isles are a place where this history remains a part of everyday life.

Every corner of the islands has its ancient monuments, most of them in a remarkable state of repair.

For thousands of years, people have lived and worked in Orkney.

From the stone age Orcadians, who left a legacy of monuments that continue to inspire today, through to the Vikings, who took the islands in the ninth century and made them the centre of a powerful Earldom and part of the kingdom of Norway, and beyond.

The Orkney islands are covered with monuments that stand as constant reminders of the events and people that have gone before.

Houses and tombs dating back 5,000 years share the landscape with Bronze Age cemeteries, standing stones, 2,000 year old brochs, viking ruins, medieval churches and Renaissance palaces.

Our history is therefore not something that exists only in schoolbooks, or in the thoughts of academics.

Orkney’s history and heritage is everywhere – an intricate tapestry of events stitched into the very fabric of the islands themselves. Orcadians have a connection with this history – events that were witnessed by their ancestors many generations ago.  The past is alive and remains part of everyday life, albeit unconsciously.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/

Skara bra orkney Orkney island skara brae map Skara bra orkney orkney_1 Orkney standing stones

The entirety of Orkney is filled with ancient sites which deserve much mention but for right now, we will concern ourselves with Standing Stones and Stone Circles. On the main island you will find the Ring of Brodgar.

Ring_of_Brodgar,_Orkney

The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar, or Ring o’ Brodgar) is a Neolithic henge and stone circle in Orkney, Scotland. Most henges do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception, ranking with Avebury (and to a lesser extent Stonehenge) among the greatest of such sites.  The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray. These are the northernmost examples of circle henges in Britain.  Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle,  but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that wooden structures, for example, may be present. The site has resisted attempts at scientific dating and the monument’s age remains uncertain. It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.  A project called The Ring of Brodgar Excavation 2008 was undertaken in the summer of that year in an attempt to settle the age issue and help answer other questions about a site that remains relatively poorly understood.  The results of the excavation are still preliminary.

The stone circle is 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter, and the third largest in the British Isles.  The ring originally comprised up to 60 stones, of which only 27 remained standing at the end of the 20th century. The tallest stones stand at the south and west of the ring, including the so-called “Comet Stone” to the south-east.  The stones are set within a circular ditch up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) deep, 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 380 metres (1,250 ft) in circumference that was carved out of the solid sandstone bedrock by the ancient residents.[7] Technically, this ditch does not constitute a true henge as there is no sign of an encircling bank of earth and rock. Many archaeologists continue to refer to this structure as a henge; for example, Aubrey Burl classifies the ditch as a Class II henge; one that has two opposing entrances, in this case on the north-west and south-east.

The ditch appears to have been created in sections, possibly by workforces from different parts of Orkney. The stones may have been a later addition, maybe erected over a long period of time.

Examination of the immediate environs reveals a concentration of ancient sites, making a significant ritual landscape. Within 2 square miles (5.2 km2) there are the two circle-henges, four chambered tombs, groups of standing stones, single stones, barrows, cairns, and mounds.[9] The immediate area has also yielded a number of flint arrowheads and broken stone mace-heads that seem to date from the Bronze Age.  Although its exact purpose is not known, the proximity of the Standing Stones of Stenness and its Maeshowe tomb make the Ring of Brodgar a site of major importance. The site is a scheduled ancient monument and has been recognized as part of the “Heart of Neolithic OrkneyWorld Heritage Site in 1999.

The Orkney Isles are connected to the Norse migration and are mentioned in more ancient texts by the Romans as well.

Nordic rites

 Invaders from Scandinavia reached Orkney by the 9th century, bringing a complex theology that they imposed on the preexisting Orcadian monuments; at least according to local legend. For example, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness were allegedly known as the Temple of the Sun and Moon respectively.  Young people supposedly made their vows and prayed to Wōden at these “temples” and at the so-called “Odin Stone” that lay between the stone circles until it was destroyed by a farmer in 1814.  Others view these fanciful names with scepticism; Sigurd Towrie suggests that “they were simply erroneous terms applied by the antiquarians of the 18th or 19th centuries – romantic additions, in the same vein as the infamous “Druid’s Circle” and “Sacrificial Altar”.”  At the very least, several of the stones at Brodgar contain runic carvings that were left by Nordic peoples.  These include the name “Bjorn” and a small cross as well as an anvil.
One other important site to mention in regards to the Orkney Isles is Skara Brae. While it is not a Stone circle, it is one of the most ancient sites on the isle and probably one of the most intriguing and fascinating sites for any historian!
Orkney island skara brae mapSkara bra orkney
skara brae5 skara brae4 skara brae3 Skara bra orkney
The history and research of Skara Brae are so interesting and there are so many unknown facts surrounding that even I would love to travel through time to see it’s past!
Further excavations followed and, between 1928 and 1930, the dwellings we see today were released from their protective cocoons. At the time, the village was thought to be an Iron Age settlement, dating from around 500BC — but this was no Pictish village.

Radiocarbon dating in the early 1970s confirmed that the settlement dated from the late Neolithic — inhabited for around 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC.

There is no way that I can cover all of the history and research going on at Skara Brae here but it is so important that you really should check it out!

You may have noticed that all of these sites have connections to a far more distant past than Claire or other travelers in Outlander were able to go to… other than possibly, Master Raymond or Comte St. Germain. References were made in the Novella, The Space Between, of both of them having traveled further into the past- though just how far, we are not sure of as yet? Or, it could be a case of them traveling back and forth between more ancient pasts and futures. The standard ability within Outlander was cited as about 200 years, though it was thought that perhaps the use of stones, fire or other such tools might take one further? There was also a thought that one could travel easier if they had a particular person set in mind when making the trip. That could be confusing and not so reliable though either. Roger Wakefield had the thought of his son, Jemmy- Jeremiah MacKenzie when he set out on one of his travels… he inadvertently ended up in the far long past where his Father, Jeremiah MacKenzie was!

I believe that we need to consider the thought that it would be possible to travel all the way back to any time that the specific Stone site was already there. Most of the sites are truly ancient so that includes a vast amount of time to choose from. In planning one’s trip back to the past, it is important to be well versed in the various stones and or other tools that might refine one’s destination time. I would not advise a casual trip yet at this time as most of us do not know enough about those tools so it would be difficult at best to precisely determine when we would land?  The majority of us also do not have the time travel genetic trait that those in Outlander are endowed with, so travel through the Stones might not be our best option at this point.

In the beginning of this journey, I did mention that we would touch on a few other options that might be available as far as time travel. Let’s discuss one of those theories now, since it does involve ancient sites in Scotland and it also makes reference to some of the Standing Stones and circles.  for this exploration, you will need to set aside your Outlander frame of reference and belief system because we are going to look at from a completely different focus. While this exploration of time travel approaches it from a different perspective, the results are still the same in that you land back into a long ago past.

This journey involves another of ancient sites in Scotland- one that perhaps does not get quite so much famed attention as others- but should! We are going to visit Dunadd Castle and Earthworks. Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, ‘fort on the [River] Add’), is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.

Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata’s coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late 8th century or after.

Dunadd is mentioned twice in early sources. In 683 the Annals of Ulster record: ‘The siege of Dún At and the siege of Dún Duirn‘ without further comment on the outcome or participants. In the same chronicle the entry for 736 states:  ‘Aengus son of Fergus, king of the  Picts,  laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At and burned Creic and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, i.e. Donngal and Feradach.

The site was occupied after 736, at least into the 9th century. It is mentioned twice in later sources, suggesting that it retained some importance. In 1436, it is recorded that “Alan son of John Riabhach MacLachlan of Dunadd” was made seneschal of the lands of Glassary; the chief place of residence of the MacLachlans of Dunadd lay below the fort. In June 1506, commissioners appointed by James IV, including the earl and bishop of Argyll, met at Dunadd to collect rents and resolve feuds.

The site is an Ancient Monument, under the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunadd

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kilmartin/dunadd/index.html

argyl 1024px-Dunadd-Hillfort-DescriptiveAndMap 1024px-Dunadd-Hillfort-CarvedPathway 800px-Scotland_Dunadd

The area of Kilmartin and Dunnad are rich in Celtic history and have connections with the Norse migration, the Picts early residence in the area, the migration from Ireland/Erin to Scotland, as well as Druidic history. If one wanted to learn more about how all of those events interconnected and shaped the future of Scotland, one would certainly want to explore the history of this area!

We are able to do this with the assistance of another time traveler who made the trip back to Dunnad’s highpoint shortly before it’s destruction and takeover by the Picts.  Maggie Griggs makes the trip back in time in Veil of Time  by Claire R. McDougall.

Veil of Time

A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.

The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18144050-veil-of-time

Now, while the area of Dunnad and Kilmartin are filled with ancient Stone circles and Standing Stones, Maggie did not make use of them for her trip through time. They were an integral part or mechanism for her travel though as she had not experienced the time travel previously to her visit to Dunadd as an adult.  Also, the Druidess priestess and others she met in the past seemed to feel that the Stones were responsible for her travel as well as for any number of other events. Maggie was suffering from a number of traumatic events in life and decided to spend some time by herself in an isolated cottage at the base of the Dunnad hill fort.  She is working on her doctoral thesis- on the history of Witchcraft in Scotland and trying to finish it before facing a life altering and possible mind altering major operation to cure her of her epileptic seizures. It seems that the combination of the seizures and what ever mystical properties might be at this area are initially the trigger to send her back through time to the year 735 when Dunnad was at the height of it’s importance in history.

Maggie’s account of her travel through time- whether in her mind, or in actual travel- is an excellent in depth account of  early history that includes Druids, Picts, Norse, Scots, Irish and also the early Christian Monks as they all fought to maintain their long histories and gain control of this area. It provides a well thought out and highly detailed description of  the epileptic seizures and their affects on one’s brain. The book also brings up the controversial thoughts on the idea of time itself and whether it would even be possible to travel through time. It leaves one with thoughts of whether she had actually traveled or whether she was experiencing it all in her mind and fabricating it. She came back from each trip though knowing far too many little known facts about the history of the area to have simply imagined it all as she first thought.  One possible explanation- in my mind- is that in some ways it felt as though she was experiencing a form of past life regression or dreams. While many would argue that the past life regression theory would not constitute time travel, my personal thought is that it is indeed a form of time travel, in the most personal of ways.  Many people scoff at the notion of reincarnation or past lives, but as far as this discussion goes… it is no more impossible, improbable or implausible than the entire notion of time travel!  As far as this form of travel goes, it would be limited to those times and places which we have already experienced at some point and there would be no opportunities to truly change the outcome of that history? Unless of course, we went as Maggie did, and retained some of our present time consciousness.

What ever your personal thoughts on all of it are, I would still recommend that you make the journey with Maggie back to the pre-history days of Dunnad. The historical information within the book is well documented and researched, and it provides us with a highly detailed picture of the place. As to her work on her thesis in the present day, I was just as fascinated with that research as with the history of Dunnad!

site record for dunadd fort

standing stone sites near Dunnad

standing stone sites near Dunnad

Kilmartin pre-history tour

Kilmartin pre-history tour

Kilmartin ancient grave slabs

Kilmartin ancient grave slabs

ancient footprint at Dunnad

ancient footprint at Dunnad

Standing Stone at Dunnad

Standing Stone at Dunnad

carved rocks at Dunnad hill fort

carved rocks at Dunnad hill fort

dunadd-fort4 Dunadd_Seat_of_Dalriatic_Kings_by_younghappy

dunadd fort water well dunadd boar carving

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

Dunnad artifacts

artifacts from dunadd excavations 1024px-Dunadd_Fort_Pictish_type_boar_carving

 

stone with cup and ring marks near by Dunnad

stone with cup and ring marks near by Dunnad

 

Now you have some idea of  places  that you could feasibly travel through the Stones on the British Isles, if using the Stones is your preferred method of travel. Maggie Oliver provided us with another possibility for travel options… I am of the opinion that you would not necessarily need to be afflicted with Epilepsy to experience this method? Possibly, you just need to go deep into your mind dig through what’s there hiding and then place yourself in some area that calls to you for the subconscious reason that you should answer that call? It would be a matter of placing yourself at the right place and then letting your mind focus on where and when it wants to go.  There are so many numerous other options mentioned out there that it would be impossible to list them all! Some options require being involved in a traumatic event that places your current life in danger, thereby reeling you into some past, “safer” life… though from everything I have read, that “safer” past is always debatable and highly questionable! Other methods of travel depend on natural phenomenon or disasters as a trigger mechanism, once again rather dangerous and with little means of control over when you leave, and no control over where and when your destination is! There are theoretical methods which involve the use of machines for transport… if you happen to find one of these, please let the rest of us know! And, of course, some methods involve spells, magic and the help of fairies… again, if you find those, please let us know so we can sign up!  So, it would seem that as far as plausibility goes, the Stones or the mind travel connections might actually be your safest chance!

 

Once you have made your decision to go, you need to think about your destination… both the when and the where would be highly advisable! As I’ve mentioned before, Various time periods around any given site could land you in vastly different circumstances. You should do as much research as possible  into the history of what ever site you choose.  This way, if your timing is not quite as accurate as you expected, you will at least have some idea what you are facing in the area.  This guide is specific to the British Isles, so you should prepare yourself by knowing as much as possible about the history of the British Isles- from the earliest pre-history of when the Stones were presumably created, through the various time periods significant to a Stone site’s general area. You could theoretically encounter anything from early stone age, to Druids, Picts, early Norse inhabitants, Roman conquerors,  Angles and Saxons in conquest, later Viking conquests, on to  Norman invasions, any number of upheavals and unrest as later rules sought control over the Isle… It is a vast array of historical events that you could mistakenly arrive in and you should be somewhat prepared!

My observations have led me to the thought that it always the unprepared ones who have the most difficulty and at times cause the most calamity or chaos… One other thought to remember? Do not go with assumptions or ideas that you are going to change the course of history! That idea seldom works has the most potential for harm to yourself or your future… you do plan to eventually return to the future, don’t you? Well, then again, maybe not… maybe this is going to a permanent move for you. If it is going to be permanent though, that does not mean that you should have no regard for the future of everyone else!

 

This concludes our guide to Stone Sites and travel options. For those of you still debating on an era to travel to, I will be providing an additional information session on some early time periods that you might be interested in viewing. In our next upcoming guide to the early history, we will be exploring the Norse migration into England…. No, not the earliest Norse migration into outlying Scottish Islands, but the later migration of the Vkings. There is a difference, and we will focus on the Viking experience! The best way to experience it is to immerse yourself in it from their point of view!

http://www.history.com/shows/vikings

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From the Creator: A bit of Scottish history

In tribute and honor of all things Scottish… including Outlander, Eric North, Brennie, Svein, and Rod Stewsim! Just wanted to share this video with everyone.

 

Celebration of the Centuries, From ancient Romans to present day. It looks awesome!

http://headfirstintohistory.com/event-feature/celebration-of-the-centuries-at-fort-george/#.U-OPAn7n9Yc

 

 

Eleanor’s Journal 79: Visions in the fire

previous post, Reina’s Reason:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/eleanors-journal-78-reinas-reason-a-cry-from-beyond/

dark thoughts

                Eric was jolted out of his dark memories into the light of the present. He was still shaking from that moment of Reina’s good bye to him. It was one of those deepest of memories that he had buried and locked away in the furthest corner of his mind and his soul, never going back to once he set there. It had been far too painful to think of again. But, now he realized with some shock that he should have retrieved it and dealt with it and it’s meanings long ago. He stared into the fire, saw Reina’s face, and another one so familiar to him, and he heard the words again from both of them. Reina’s words of promise… a thousand deaths… so similar to the ones that Judith had once spoken of to him. When Judith had shared her thoughts on reincarnation and her sould coming back, she had looked at him so thoughtfully, had touched his cheek so softly and whispered, “You, Eric live one life eternally searching and waiting for that one final passing, but I could live a thousand lives, a thousand deaths and still return each time on the same search.” She had laid her hands gently on his heart and went on, “I would come back again and again to search until I found the piece of my heart, my soul that was missing…while you go on through time in an endless search for that same thing”

vision in the fire

                Eric wept as he finally understood what Judith had meant, what her soul had tried so hard to tell him. He had refused, resisted for so long to admit how much he loved her, needed her with him in every way. There had been some unknown fear constantly holding him back from accepting it. Now, he knew what that fear was. It was that strongest, inner most fear of having finally found that other part of one’s soul and then losing it once again. It was what had kept that one part of his heart closed off for all of these centuries. That fear, that pain had been with him from the moment that Reina went into the mist with their daughter. In a way, it was also a fear of the unknown. The fear of that unknown other side, other place that they and so many others went to upon their deaths, but that he might never go to… That fear combined itself with a hurtful resentment, that they could go and he could not, and if he could not go with them to that place then he did not want to see them again here in this place only to watch them go again. Over the centuries of life, he had often encountered ones who felt so familiar to him… as though he had known them in some other time. He did not want to admit that this was true, though in his soul, he knew it was. It was that self denial that ever resided with him. So, when he met those souls, he took the utmost caution to avoid them, to not let himself become attached to them in any way. Most of the time he had been successful, but in a few instances, he had been unable to fight the overwhelming need to be connected to them once more in some way.

                Judith was one of those souls… Brennie was the other one, one who he had felt such an odd connection to all of those centuries ago when she had come into his life. At first he had tried to shake it off, dismiss the feeling as just one some sort of attraction on both their parts. Although his heart was closed off in certain aspects, he did ever have a soft spot for women and children in distress. His friends always warned him that it was his one weakness and would be his downfall one day. He never saw it that way. He looked at it as part of his honor as a warrior, as a man to care for those who needed it… was not a weakness at all, he thought, but often took more strength and courage than to walk away from one who needed help.

              He could easily have walked away from Brennie during those darkest times of her life, but something inside of him said No, this girl was part of his destiny and something in her soul reached out to him, kept reaching out to him, even now. There was a gnawing thought in his mind that crept closer and closer to the surface as he took another drink of the whiskey, then paused to splash the last drops of it onto the fire. Sparks danced through the flames and he saw it, saw it so clearly now, what he had hidden away in the secret depths of his mind for so long. The images wove themselves in and out of the flames to his heart. Reina, Judith, an infant with a cloud of red hair…much the color that Brennie’s had been before he turned her, then Brennie herself. They flickered, floated and surrounded him, he knew it now. He knew why the bond was so strong between the three of them together. They belonged together, they were as one, bound to each other throughout time, for eternity. When Brennie had entered his life so long ago, his soul found her and brought her back to him, the daughter his heart greived and searched for. He had turned her and felt her as family ever after that. They had spent centuries searching, together and separately for that one other part of themselves that was missing and found it in Judith.

surrounded with love

              The realization hit Eric full force and he felt his breath leave him momentarily. When his breath returned, he was calm, at peace with the knowledge and knew that whatever happened in the future, the three of them would go on together, either to stay in this life or to go on with Judith to that other place one day. He knew that he could give up this eternity of living, and he felt that Brennie was at that point as well. It would be Judith’s choice to make. What ever she should choose, they would follow her. First, though, they must find her!   The images dimmed and settled into his mind. He could now face the rest of the memories that came, knew well that they could be no worse than than the ones of Reina’s death.

Eric's final farewell to loved ones

               After Reina’s death, Eric had little time to mourn or grieve for her. The only time he allowed himself that pain was at her burial. He thought that he should not survive that, had not wanted to at that one point. He had willed himself to go with her and their lost daughter at that point… refused to eat or drink, would not sleep, laid himself upon that grave in the brilliant daylight sun, wanting it to destroy him, to take him to her and their child.

                 The others had been unable to reach through his grief and all thought maybe it was best to let him go. Scoithin said that perhaps it was what his destiny was, and they should leave it to the Gods… not intervene this time. Artorius had been filled with as much grief and pain, watching his friend suffer and he felt much guilt as well. Maybe this was his own punishment for having intervened where he should not have previously. He prayed to his own Gods for some answer, for some sign and eventually agreed with Scoithin that the Gods would make their own decision this time. The family carried out the burial rituals with heavy heart, saying silent goodbyes to Eric as well as Reina and the child.

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             Scoithin knelt near Eric and kept a solomn vigil over his life hanging in the balance. She was joined by Eric’s sister, Freya. Though Freya’s heart was breaking, her warrior spirit was strong and she used to will her brother to live. She knelt there with her prayers and her thoughts focused on him bidding him to fight this wretched battle, to not give in, to be that warrior that Reina expected him to be.

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                Artorius stood with Scotia and the youngest one, Helga at the edge of the river where Scotia called upon the Gods and the Godesses to carry the souls in safety to the other place. She lit the fires on the boat to carry them up down the river and send their spirits to the heavens above. Artorius lifted his sword, offered his own prayers for the guardians to protect all of the souls bring them to the peace of the after life. Young Helga cried out to the spirits in despair. Her heart was torn into shreds, her keening was heard throughout the forest and the sounds echoed around them carrying down the river. Even the animals lowered themselves in some sort of mourning for this passage of souls. The burial ritual continued until the sun set on the mourners and the stars filled the sky. The small group stood watch over Eric, waiting for the Gods to make their choice on his life.

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He did not die, as hard as he tried, his soul would not give in and leave his body. As he clung to Reina’s grave and knew that she was no longer there, he still heard the faintest of heartbeats. He still felt a hand brushing his hair away from his face, and he heard her comforting voice still in his ear soothing him, lulling him into some sleep. In that dream state, he stood at the edge of that place, holding out his hand to reach hers.

Eric reaches for Reina

She touched fingertips to his and spoke. “You can not come now, there are many battles yet to fight for this land, these people. You must go on.” He stood there violently refusing to leave, trying to step over.

The energy of Reina

Reina had used her new found strength of spirit and pushed him away, yelling him this time. “Aye You stubborn man! Turn you around and look at those who need you now. Tis not me…” She cradled the infant and pointed. “We are safe now, but those who are left, they be needing you!” With that she used the force of her body and her spirit to push him back to the living.

Reina fades away with baby

Behind the Scenes: Update on Dunvegan Castle progess!

The current story line involving Eric and Reina required both indoor and outdoor scenes for filming. Rather than attempt to build a whole set for those scenes, I chose to incorporate them into the Dunvegan Castle build! The indoor set of Reina’s death was done in the lower level of the Castle. It was designed to portray the ancient cottage room in the Fairie village where Eric’s family sought sanctuary. It worked fine for that, and now that those scenes are complete, it will be a part of the old Castle rooms. It will represent what the oldest parts of the Castle would have looked like as a sleeping and private chamber for the first Clan leaders who lived there. In addition to this room, there will eventually be an old kitchen and work room as well as an old entry room.

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These areas are based on information and one picture from the real Castle that I used for inspiration!

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In my adaption of the Castle for story purposes, I am trying to incorporate some real aspects of the Castle into it. During the present day,  Eric, Brennie and Svein are working on renovating the Castle and grounds, and having it open to the public for historical tours. Those tours would include these older sections and some background on what the Castle would have looked like before it became a Castle!

 

The outdoor scenes were filmed along the river bank below the Castle. That area now includes a memorial to Reina, which we will see in an upcoming episode!

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A preview of the upcoming episode where Eric says his final farewell to loved ones.

Eric's final farewell to loved ones

previous episode: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/eleanors-journal-78-reinas-reason-a-cry-from-beyond/

next episode of Dunvegan Castle progress;  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/behind-the-scenes-finally-some-progress-on-dunvegan-castle/