6 January 2008

A meme

Gabriele tagged me. I'm supposed to list seven things about a historical character, so say hello to (don't tell me you're surprised!) Julius Civilis, leader of the Batavian revolt in 69-70 AD, and shown here wearing a silly hat.
Painting by Rembrandt, 1662. It's now in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

There has been a nice deal of confusion about Civilis' nomen - whether it was Julius or Claudius. As far as I can tell, historians nowadays agree that he was in fact called Julius, though you can still come across Claudius Civilis here and there.
I have two copies of Tacitus' works. In one (English, first published in 1964) he's called Julius Civilis and has a brother called Claudius Paulus. In the other (Latin, published in 1911) they're called Iulius Paulus and Iulius Civilis. I'm thinking of just calling 'em Bob Civilis and Bob Paulus in my novel. Much easier.
Ahem. There is a nice theory that Julius Civilis revolted partly because he felt that Batavians who had only recently gotten the citizenship (along with the nomen Claudius) were becoming a bit too powerful. Julius vs. Claudius, nice little family feud.

1. Three nephews of Civilis are mentioned by Tacitus; Verax, Julius Briganticus and Claudius Victor. Funnily enough, Briganticus (the only Julius of the lot) was the only one who stayed loyal to Rome during the revolt. He didn't get along very well with his uncle.

2. As well as nephews, Civilis had at least one son. After defeating two legions at Vetera (Xanten), Civilis supposedly gave Junior a couple of Roman prisoners to serve as targets for spears and arrows.

3. Civilis had a nasty habit of getting himself accused of treason. He first got accused, along with his brother, during Nero's reign. According to Tacitus the charges were false, but Paulus was nevertheless executed. Civilis had more luck. He was sent to Rome, where the new emperor (Galba) pardoned him. So Civilis went back home, started plotting, got himself accused of treason again and was pardoned again. And then he revolted.

4. Like Hannibal, Civilis only had one eye. How and where he lost the other is not known, but he did spend 25 years in the Roman army. Plenty of time to lose an eye.

5. Just like every other barbarian who managed to put up some resistance against Rome, Civilis was unusually intelligent for a native. He also used evil cunning, bribery and well-composed speeches. All according to Tacitus, of course.

6. Unusually intelligent or not, Civilis at least had enough sense to bring in siege engines when attacking Vetera. Not that it helped. In the end they had to starve the legions out.

7. What happened to Civilis is not known, since the last part of Tacitus' Histories is missing. When it became clear that the Batavians would be defeated, Civilis decided to negotiate with the Roman general Cerialis. Civilis was offered a pardon, but it is of course possible that nobody cared and they killed him anyway.

And I tag Linwe. Muahaha.


Linwe said...

And of course you had to tag me... lol I'm currently working on it. :P

Gabriele C. said...

Thanks for playing.

Didn't know about Civilis' son and the Roman targets. See, one can always learn something new, even if one has read your other posts about JC. :)

Celedë Anthaas said...

It was a bit difficult to find seven obscure facts about JC since not much is known about him (it would have been so much easier if they'd written detailed autobiographies).
I did have fun writing that scene for NaNo - the targets didn't; the kid couldn't shoot to save his life.

Gabriele C. said...

I didn't pick Arminius for the same reason. I could come up with seven obscure 'facts' based on my novel, but not based on the sources. :)

Hehe, that sounds like a scene from Life of Brian or that Holy Grail movie.