I posted about a year and a half ago that I thought the supposed image of Christ on the Hinton St. Mary mosaic looked more like the emperor Constantine, and last month got left a comment by Ciorst saying that archaeologists had been saying this for ages – Martin Henig said “this probably shows Christ, but a member of the family of Constantine, perhaps even Constantine himself who adopted the chi-rho as his emblem, remains an alternative possibility” in The Art of Roman Britain in 1995.  It seems that sometimes when I get an idea in my head, I’m on the right track, so, despite the redoubtable Jona Lendering’s warning that “‘amateur historian’ is just another word for ‘unqualified’“, I’m going to have another go at it.

In AD 43, the Romans launched their conquest of Britain. The most common interpretation has been that they sailed from Boulogne and landed at Richborough in Kent (for example: Sheppard Frere, Britannia p. 48), but in recent years there has been some dispute about this. The only surviving account of the invasion is in Cassius Dio’s Roman History (book 60, Chs 19-23), and Dio says they sailed west. As you’ll see from the map below, Boulogne to Richborough is more-or-less north.  So some (for example, John Manley in AD 43: a Reassessment) have suggested that perhaps they sailed from Boulogne to the Solent (the strait between the Isle of Wight and Southampton Water), which would be sailing west as Dio says. This theory has two added advantages as a theory: Dio says the invasion was launched in support of Verica, a deposed king who, based on his coin distribution, ruled in that part of the country, and Suetonius (Vespasian ch. 4) says the future emperor Vespasian conquered the Isle of Wight as part of the invasion campaign.

From Boulogne to Richborough and the Solent

From Boulogne to Richborough and the Solent

However, there are good reasons for thinking that Richborough was the landing point. Frere says “Excavations at Richborough have revealed an early Claudian defensive beach-head perimeter which is clearly the scene of the main and possibly the only landing” (Britannia p. 48), and Dio’s account describes the Romans as fairly quickly advancing to a fording-point of the Thames “near where it empties into the ocean”, establishing camp there and sending word to Claudius. If, as it seems, the objective of the first phase of the campaign was to secure a strategic crossing-point of the Thames near its estuary, it doesn’t make much sense to sail west to the Solent, and then have to march so far back east.

So what’s the solution? Dio says the invasion fleet sailed in three divisions, so perhaps one landed at Richborough, another at the Solent, and the third somewhere else. But Dio also seems to describe a unified campaign from the landing to the Thames.

The key is to realise that the point of departure for the invasion fleet is not specified. Dio doesn’t mention it. Suetonius (Claudius 17) says that Claudius sailed to Britain from Gesoriacum (Boulogne), but Claudius and his reinforcements came later, in a separate sailing. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the main invasion force sailed from the same place.

Strabo (Geography 4.5.2), writing about 7 BC, says that in his time there were only four commonly used points of departure for Britain: the mouths of the rivers Rhine, Seine, Loire and Garonne. He also mentions Itium, another name for Boulogne,1 from which  Julius Caesar sailed in 55 and 54 BC, although the implication is that it was no longer in common use. From the Loire and Garonne you would have to sail all the way around Britanny, probably to destinations in Cornwall.  From the Seine, the most obvious destination is the Solent. From the Rhine, Strabo says it was usual to sail along the coast before crossing from somewhere between the territories of the Menapii and the Morini, two Belgic population groups. Richborough seems a likely destination, sailing west.

Routes to Britain according to Strabo

Routes to Britain according to Strabo

We know from Suetonius (Vespasian ch. 4 again) that the legion Vespasian commanded was transferred from a posting in Germania to take part in the invasion.  According to L. J. F. Keppie’s Legions and Veterans: Roman Amy Papers 1971-2000 (p. 140) this legion, the II Augusta, was in Strasbourg, which is on the Rhine, and of the three other legions believed to have taken part, the XIV Gemina was in Mainz and the XX was in Xanten, both also on the Rhine.  The fourth, the IX Hispana, was further south-east in Pannonia.  It would seem sensible, if you wanted to gather these four legions in one place in preparation for a voyage to Britain, to do it via the Rhine.

I believe this theory is consistent with all the known facts and sources, but I haven’t seen it considered in print. Any and all more informed (and better qualified) comments welcome.

1 6 April 2010: Bill Thayer points out that Itium, aka Itius Portus, may not be Boulogne – see this page on his Lacus Curtius site and the linked articles. It may rather be Wissant, a little further north towards Calais.


From The Daily Mash:

“Meanwhile social workers in Dewsbury were last night under pressure to explain why they did not know Karen Matthews would team up with the halfwit uncle of her sleazy boyfriend to kidnap her own daughter and keep her on a nine foot leash until she could con £50,000 out of the News of the World.”

Elswhere on the same site, this photo:

is captioned “Keane says his nuclear programme will be used for peaceful purposes”.


God bless the Daily Mash

5 November 2008

In the midst of all the euphoria, Britain’s premier satire site sums it up as “America Buys All That Change Bullshit“.

I salute the creators of The Daily Mash for their commitment to cynicism in the face of overwhelming public optimism.


1 November 2008

A while back I set up another blog called The Disillusioned Liberal as a venue to express my political thoughts.  It hasn’t really turned out to be as productive as I hoped, so I’ve decided to consolidate my blog presence and merge the articles from there to here.  My comics and Irish mythological related stuff are still at paddybrown.co.uk.

Music meme

13 October 2008

I’ve decided to revive this blog as a receptacle for stuff that doesn’t fit at paddybrown.co.uk (comics, Irish mythology, and comics based on Irish mythology) or The Disillusioned Liberal (political thoughts).  Which means I’ve now got three blogs.  What of it?

So here’s a meme I got from Rol Hirst:

1. Put your music player on shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must put down the song name no matter what.

What would best describe your personality?

“Tragically Optimistic Freedom Fighters”, Kula Shaker

What do you like in a guy/girl?

“Missed the Boat”, Modest Mouse

And how tragically true that is.

How do you feel today?

“On Yer Own”, Dan Donelly and Sonovagun

Now this is taking the piss.

What is your life’s purpose?

“Ya Ya Ya”, The Detroit Cobras


What is your motto?

“Turkish Revelry”, Loudon Wainwright III

What do your friends think of you?

“2000 Light Years From Home”, Rachel Yamagata

Now that’s not true. My friends moved away, I stayed here.

What do you think of your parents?

“Let It All Go”, Mark Knopfler

What do you think about very often?

“Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck)”, David Ford

I think most people who know me will recognise that one.

What do you think of your best friend?

“A Great Grey Grasshopper”, Ivor Cutler


What do you think of your crush?

“Higher Ground”, Stevie Wonder

What is your life story?

“Honey Don’t”, Carl Perkins

Yeah, that really is the story of my life…

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“Some Surprise”, Gary Lightbody, Lisa Hannigan and the Cake Sale

Yeah, I like that.

What do you think when you see your crush?

“We’re an Army”, Francois and the Atlas Mountains

What do your parents think of you?

“She’s Not There”, Santana

Yeah, probably true…

What do strangers think of you?

“Ancient Drums”, Iain Archer

How’s your love life?

“Virginia”, The Jeevas

Apt. No, not like you think. “Oh sweet Virginia, yeah she is a witch…”

What will they play at your funeral?

“Bright Side of the Road”, Van Morrison

That’s a funeral song all right…

What will you dance to at your wedding?

“Whoopin’ the Blues”, Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee

What is your hobby/interest?

“Seven Swans”, Sufjan Stevens

Oh yeah, I love me some swans…

What’s your biggest secret?

“The Pink Panther Theme”, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

What do you think of your friends?

“Beachcombing”, Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler

Well, we do like to get together and go to the seaside once in a while.

What song do you listen to when you are sad?

“First of May”, Jonathan Coulton

(Outdoor fucking starts today…”)

In love?

“(Straight to Your Heart) Like a Cannonball”, Van Morrison

(What is all that with) bits of song titles in brackets anyway?

What song do you air guitar to?

The Beatles, “Ticket to Ride”

What should be your signature karaoke song?

“It Must Be Love”, Madness

Actually, I do a mean “Try a Little Tenderness”.  Or I did once, in a student bar in Brussells full of Belgians doing Evanescence and Metallica.

What is your greatest desire?

“Disconnect the Dots”, Of Montreal

What does next year have in store for you?

“The Things That I Used To Do”, Guitar Slim

Now that’s depressing.

What’s your outlook on life?

“Parklife”, Blur

How will you die?

“I Feel it All”, Feist

Sounds like one of those “becoming one with the universe” ends.  Cool.

Do people secretly lust after you?

“Where Do You Think You’re Going”, Dire Straits

(If they do, they’re keeping it bloody secret)

The best advice you will ever get?

“Hard Headed Woman”, Wanda Jackson

“A hard headed woman is a thorn in the side of a man”.  That’s pretty good advice.

Off saving the world…

13 October 2008

You might not be aware of it, but there’s an Irish-based international development charity called GOAL who do lots of good work. My brother Simon worked for them in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a while and has nothing but good to say about them, unlike certain of the other NGOs he’s spent time with.

Turns out fellow Irish cartoonist Cliodhna Lyons’ dad Conor also worked for them, in Sri Lanka. He died last year, and Cliodhna’s tribute to him is the handsome anthology “Sorry I can’t take your call right now but I’m off saving the world”.  It’s got contributions from loads of names, many of whom I don’t know, but the ones I do include Sarah McIntyre, creator of “Vern and Lettuce” in The DFC, Liam Geraghty and Philip Barrett of Gazebo fame, top animator Tomm Moore of the Cartoon Saloon, Patrick Lynch, creator of Last Bus.  In this blog post Cliodhna explains how she created the beautiful screen-printed cover.

You can buy it online using Paypal – check out the Goal Anthology website for details.  All proceeds, of course, go to GOAL.  I’ve ordered my copy. Do yourself a favour and do likewise.

Watercress on iTunes!

5 October 2008

Back in the early aughts there was a fantastic band in Belfast called Watercress. They were an accoustic four-piece that included mandolin, string bass and disgeridoo as well as the traditional guitars and drums, they sang in their own Belfast accents, their lyrics and melodies were imaginative, odd and funny, and they played with a jazzman’s sense of comic timing.

They recorded a bunch of EPs, and an album, Bummer. They were really, really good. And of course they never made any money and broke up.

Last I heard Dan Donnelly, the mandolin/didgeridooist, was performing and recording in a more conventional singer-songwriterly idiom in America with his band Sonovagun. What became of Brian Acton, the guitarist, or the drummer and bass player whose names I can’t immediately remember I have no idea.

When my copy of Bummer wore out I had to source a second hand copy over the internet. But good news! You can now get Bummer on iTunes!

I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I can hardly give you a sample of the music, but for those of you who like lyrics, here’s my favourite song on the album, “Skyrocket”:

I’m hopelessly chasing a skyrocket
I’m hoping to put it in my pocket
But I know if ever I got it
It would burn me and hurt me with ease

I once thought that maybe I could get it
But in order to keep it I would wet it
So maybe it’s better I should let it
Burn brightly and leave me behind

I can’t help but try and catch it
There’s no other beauty can match it
I know that I’ll burn, but I’ll never learn
To just sit back quietly and watch it.

With a bit of luck they’ll put the EPs on next, and the glory that was Watercress will be reborn!

Have we learned nothing?

3 October 2008

Listening to the radio this evening about the banking crisis and the big government bailouts. The presenter asks the expert guest if this means that house prices will start to “recover”. After all that’s happened, the universal assumption that hyperinflation in the housing market is good for the economy remains unchallenged.

I’m no economist, but it seems to be that all economists do, in the media at least, is mislead people about the nature of money.  The fact is, economic growth that isn’t fuelled by increased production is a mirage and will always be wiped out by inflation.  That’s what a recession is – the economy borrowed from the future, and now it’s left with the debt.  And if you raise the price of a commodity so high that nobody can afford to buy it, nobody will buy it until you drop the price.  Basic supply and demand.  House prices need to fall, or everybody but a handful of very rich people will be priced out of the market.

A house’s increase in value is nothing more than the increased willingness of buyers to spend money on it – a house that’s gone up in value by 50% is not a 50% better house – it’s exactly the same house it was before.  It’s imaginary value.  A mirage.  House price hyperinflation will always lead to economic recession.  The only people to benefit from house price hyperinflation are people who own multiple houses, and the rest of us suffer the consequences.  It needs to stop.

Me meme

19 September 2008

Meme: Take a picture of yourself right now. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair… just take a picture. Post that picture with NO editing. Post these instructions with your picture.

After Garen Ewing

Like everyone else on the interweb I get a lot of unsolicited emails. A lot of them promise female celebrities in various states of undress, and would no doubt do something nefarious to my computer if I opened them. Got one today entitled “Britney Spears to Study Theoretical Quantum Mechanics at MIT”.

Spammers. You may be a bunch of parasitical scum, but at least one of you has a sense of humour. Cheers.