CLAUDIAN INVASION OF BRITAIN (A.D.43)

The Claudian Invasion of Britain is a central theme in my novel, The Epiphany of Marcus Apronius.

The protagonist, Marcus Apronius, takes an active part in a battle at the River Medway where the first major engagement of the invasion took place. He is unjustly accused of cowardice, prejudicially found guilty, and banished to Nisiros, a small island located off the west coast of Asia Minor.

As I mentioned in the “Author’s Note” section at the front of the novel, the historical accounts of the Claudian Invasion are seriously lacking from the extant record. For such an important event, there most likely were other written accounts of the invasion but unfortunately, until some great document discovery turns up in an archaeological dig somewhere or a sequestered ancient library turns up in a remote monastery, all we have is the Historia Romana by Cassio Dio which was written by him almost two hundred years after the event. In actuality, we are lucky we have that. It’s taken a great deal of work by dedicated historians and linguists to assemble, piece-together, and translate Dio’s work from the original Greek. If you would care to read a translation of Dio’s Historia Romana, I refer you to the Text on Lucus Curtius by Bill Thayer which can be found at:    http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html

After accessing the website, click Book 60 (LX) and read Chapters 19 thru 22 for Dio’s description of the Claudian Invasion of Britain.

A reader of Dio’s account will soon recognize it is indeed sketchy and devoid of any substantial detail. Two hundred years after the event, in all probability, he would have had access to written histories by First Century contemporaries and eyewitnesses; possibly even a book by Claudius himself who was a competent historian in his own right and wrote several well-respected histories before he became emperor. I don’t mean to disparage Dio with my comments, but only point out that his version of the invasion is unverifiable, not contemporaneous to the actual event, and we do not know his source or sources.

There is at least one ancient source that most assuredly could be rife with enlightening facts, but alas, it must remain hidden from the record until the aforementioned ancient library is miraculously discovered. That source is The Annals of Imperial Rome by Cornelius Tacitus, arguably, First Century Rome’s greatest historian. Unfortunately for us, the first six years of Claudius’s reign are missing. Perhaps purged by someone in ancient or medieval times or maybe just lost. Whatever the case, Tacitus’s unique treatment of the invasion of Britain would undoubtedly be included in these six missing years and would have greatly expanded our knowledge of the event.

For a writer of historical fiction such as myself, the scarcity of ancient accounts, the minimal archaeological discoveries relevant to the invasion, and the topographical differences that have occurred over the last 2000 years to the coastline and rivers of Britain, can all be fortunate for the author since this sparse history can be supplemented with the author’s own fictional account.

This post is longer than I had intended so I will publish it now and continue in another post next week about the novel’s fictional battle at Wouldham on the River Medway.

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