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Cartismandua by Philippa Wiat

Carla
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Post by Carla » Thu May 24th, 2012, 4:44 pm

Annis - I didn't know that. No wonder Shipway was grumpy. It explains a lot; somehow I never had Suetonius down as a likely member of the Fifty-Mile-An-Hour Club, your description 'cold and arrogant' is closer to the vague image I have of him. When I get to read Imperial Governor properly it will be interesting to see if that scene seems to fit in, or if it seems out of place.

That's rather romantic about Suetonius considering Cartimandua his 'lost love'. Is it known when Suetonius died or what happened to him? Since we don't know what happened to Cartimandua after the Romans rescued her from Venutius' revolt, maybe the romantically inclined reader could imagine that she retired to Rome and met up with Suetonius again....

I hadn't heard of Horse Coin, many thanks.

Erechwydd - by the post-occupation Brigantes, do you mean the Brigantes just after Venutius had rebelled and the Romans had swooped in, rescued Cartimandua and then conquered the Brigantes by force over the next few years? If so, I can imagine that Cartimandua might well have been extremely unpopular if she was seen (rightly or wrongly) as being to blame for the conquest. My feeling is that the Romans would have had a go at annexing Brigantian lands sooner or later in any case, partly because of the mineral resources (there may not be gold in them thar hills, but there was lead and copper and iron) and partly because if they fancied conquering the whole island of Britain (as Agricola tried to do) they probably would have wanted absolute control of the territory at their back, not a client kingdom that might decide to play its own game. But if Cartimandua's marital conflict with Venutius was seen as precipitating the invasion, either by giving the Romans an excuse or by weakening the capacity of the Brigantes to resist because they were fighting among themselves, she might well have ended up with the blame. She sometimes strikes me as having interesting parallels with Guinevere in the Arthurian myths.

I don't see Boudica as a villain either, though I don't think that necessarily conflicts with a direct involvement in the atrocities. I could easily imagine her having views similar to Annis' description of Suetonius in IG (as Terry Pratchett says somewhere, "...entirely against unnecessary cruelty, while of course being bang-on with necessary cruelty", or words to that effect - I think he said it more elegantly), and there may be a religious dimension as well, assuming that the Romans didn't entirely make up the lurid stories about human sacrifices. I don't have a problem with a sympathetic protagonist in a novel doing something that seems to me absolutely appalling, what I look for in a novel is some sort of understanding as to why they did it. Plus the proviso that what seems appalling to me may have looked quite different in the context of another society with different values and expectations.

Have you read Barbara Erskine's take on Cartimandua's story? I think it's called Daughter of Fire or something similar. It sort of appeals to me because Cartimandua seems to be the (or at least, a) main character, but I often don't get on well with time-slip so I've avoided it so far.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Thu May 24th, 2012, 6:32 pm

[The Romans] never forgave the Gauls for almost conquering them back in the 4th century B.C.
It could be argued that this event was the seed from which the Roman Empire grew. It seems to have been a terrifying shock which spurred them to develop a particularly strong military in order to prevent any future such occurrences. Of course, a generation of Roman men were practically wiped out some while later when Hannibal defeated them at Cannae - which would certainly have reinforced the Roman impression that they had better be invincible if they wanted to survive.

Cartimandua was not alone among British rulers in using the strategy of alliance with Rome to protect their interests. Boudica's husband had pursued a similar strategy. For a long time, Rome had been an economic ally that bought masses of British goods (wheat, cattle hides, hunting dogs, slaves...) and thereby boosted the British economy. It probably was not in Rome's interest, generally, to conquer Britain when it could continue to trade with them on friendly terms. But military victories were the quickest route for a new Roman emperor to gain the support of the Roman populace, and Claudius badly needed this when he became emperor. Even then, the Iceni (Boudica's tribe) remained Roman allies. It was not until Rome pushed the Iceni beyond endurance that Boudica rebelled. It must have been a terrible dilemma for the British Celts to weigh which policy was more likely to stave off disaster.
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erechwydd
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Post by erechwydd » Fri May 25th, 2012, 11:24 am

Carla - yes, that was the period I meant. I suspect my portrayal of Cartimandua had a lot to do with my sympathy towards my Brigantian characters who, as you suggested, did blame her for the annexation. But when it came to actually depicting her, I think probably I probably exaggerated her negative aspects more than was necessary. Though in my defence, it was a comical tale, so exageration was rife. :rolleyes:

Cartimandua's parallels with Guinevere are thought-provoking indeed. Someone on The Heroic Age journal has even written an article about it, as I recall. I wonder. Were Cartimandua's actions being remembered several hundreds of years down the line? Or does her husband-swapping constitute an actual occurence of the Winter King/Summer King myth that also appears in the Guinevere tale (and Welsh myth)? Either way, very interesting.

Good old Mr Pratchett, he says it well. I don't have a problem with a sympathetic protagonist like Boudica doing something I vehemently disagree with. However, I did wonder whether some writers might be inhibited - by the violence itself, or more to the point, by the challenge of making the character one readers can identify with in spite of questionable behaviour - which is why some novels put a kind of veneer over the Boudican cruelty, or human sacrifices. From my own experience, I find it a little trickier when I know that my character has to do something questionable, as opposed to if they suddenly turn around and do it off their own bat. (Unless I'm writing in first person, which tends to soften it, I feel.) Does that make sense? I should probably just stop thinking about it so much and let the character guide me. That way, at least one of us will know what we're doing. ;)

I do know of Erskine's novel, but haven't read it yet for much the same reasons you've outlined. I may give it a go at some point.

annis
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Post by annis » Fri May 25th, 2012, 6:22 pm

Posted by Erechwydd
Cartimandua's parallels with Guinevere are thought-provoking indeed. Someone on The Heroic Age journal has even written an article about it, as I recall.
I've read that article- very interesting
Brigantia, Cartimandua and Gwenhwyfar by Michelle Ziegler

Much of our historical opinion of Cartimandua is shaped by Tacitus' prune-faced disapproval, and I'm sure that a male ruler wouldn't have been censured for acting in similar ways. Some, like Nicki Howarth, have postulated that far from being self-seeking, Cartimandua had the welfare and survival of her people at heart. The sticking point is her betrayal of Caractacus, which attracted condemnation from both the British and the Romans, despite the fact that it was to their benefit. She may have felt that to aid him would be to bring destruction upon the Brigantes - who knows?

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Post by erechwydd » Fri May 25th, 2012, 6:38 pm

Handing Caratacos over certainly made good sense since, as you say, his presence is likely to have presented a risk to the Brigantes that Cartimandua wouldn't have wanted. As Howarth points out, there was probably no overall 'British' identity, so in a way Cartimandua wasn't betraying one of her own people - just making sure she was on the side most likely to win. In that, I agree, she may well have been acting as much for her tribe as her own advancement. Still, I didn't get on with Howarth's book in many ways - feminist reinterpretations are one thing, but I felt she was consistently excusing the women and condemning the men; as well as having a habit of gradually mutating a theory into a fact. But, I admit, it's been a number of years since I read it, so maybe a re-read is in order.
Last edited by erechwydd on Fri May 25th, 2012, 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

annis
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Post by annis » Fri May 25th, 2012, 9:30 pm

I've read at least one reviewer complaining that Nicki Howarth's feminist interpretation lets enthusiasm overrule the facts as known -- trying to find it - ah, yes, Duncan Campbell. His review of Howarth's book here:

http://glasgow.academia.edu/DBCampbell/ ... N._Howarth

erechwydd
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Post by erechwydd » Sat May 26th, 2012, 6:55 pm

Thanks so much for that link, Annis. Campbell's review really sums up rather neatly all the problems I had with the book, especially its wildly speculative side. I can appreciate that Howarth felt Cartimandua to be neglected, but I think she's tried to hard to give her the same 'status' in people's eyes as someone like Boudica, which just isn't possible with the evidence we (don't) have.

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Post by Carla » Sun May 27th, 2012, 6:41 pm

There could be any number of reasons why Cartimandua handed Caratacus over to the Romans, from personal spite to a carefully considered policy calculation and all points in between. And (as so often) they aren't mutually exclusive, so there needn't be a single reason; people often do things for a mix of motives and would be hard put to figure out which was the dominant reason, even if they tried.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

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