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‘The Painted People’
Scotland - Rome's Final Frontier
“Foul hordes coming out of their rocks like worms.”
-Gildas on The Picts
Rome’s Final Frontier covers the three major invasion of Scotland by Roman Forces. The Romans attempted to hold the lowlands on the rivers, which could support dense populations. However, there seems to have never been a penetration of the Highlands, meaning that highland clans would always be able to menace Roman colonies from a short distance. Forts enabled the holding of land by troops subsidized from interior sources, but—as on the American frontier—were inadequate to prevent or even deter raiding.
The case of the Painted People or Picts is fascinating, in that they seem to represent a reactionary tribal network, emerging after the second Roman invasion, such as American tribes like the Westos, Doegs, Delaware, Cherokee, Mingo and Seminoles who were hybrid cultural groups made up of survivors from displaced or defeated tribes from an earlier period of colonization. It also seems that the Picts represented a new type of political organization, in some cases adopting Roman motifs, which would not be unlike the Iroquois Confederation, which seems to have risen in response to French pressure in the first wave of European invasion.
When viewing this episode the reader should be sure to imagine the lands as far more forested than what remains today. Tacitus reminds the reader that Roman honor could not be satisfied against a foe that would break and scatter into the forests and marshes.
After Roman failure to hold Caledonia the Painted barbarians were depicted in a much less human light than their predecessors. Was this just Roman propaganda, or did generations of war with Rome work a real change in the psyche of Iron Age Scotland?
Whatever the answer, the quote above by Gildas must have been read by Howard before he penned his best horror story, Worms of the Earth, in which the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn calls up “the Worms of the Earth” to wreak vengeance on his Roman enemies.
Of Lions and Men
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broken dance
the greatest lie ever sold
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Add Comment
Lynn LockhartJanuary 15, 2018 7:46 PM UTC

I crossed Hadrian's Wall off my bucket list in 2012. I stopped at the western end of the wall at Bowness on Solnay. The wall isn't there anymore but we visited a church that was built with stones taken from it.
PRJanuary 10, 2018 11:11 PM UTC

The Romans were killed in the Teutoberg Forest in Germany by Germanic tribes united under Arminius who refused to fight the Romans the way the Romans wanted to be fought.

The modern-day equivalent of these forests might be urban terrain where forces can blend in with the locals. Of course, we've never gotten the Pashtuns out of the mountains. Same for the Swiss. Survivalists seem to prefer mountain redoubts. The exception to this rule is the Mongols versus the Assasins who lived in the mountains of Syria and Lebanon - the Mongols came in and wiped them out after they'd made themselves a stench.
responds:January 11, 2018 9:58 AM UTC

These ancient people of forest and mountain do cast a shadow of hope into the future.