The German Question In Literature:
You may have hit upon a very central conflict in European history. Germany was not largely occupied by the Romans and from the time of the Romans you have the “German question”. The Romans wrote about it themselves. There is a lost work by Pliny the Elder, the author of the Natural History, probably called the Germania, and I make much of this in one of my novels. His nephew, Pliny the Younger, wrote about the subject, too. And Pliny the Younger’s friend, Tacitus, wrote the only surviving work on the subject entitled the Germania for sure. Tacitus’s work was the subject of the fascinating audio book I listened to on the subject at the beginning of last year.
Tacitus’s Germania has been a subject of discussion for the past two thousand years. It is the earliest work we have on the habits and customs of the early pagan Germans which emphasizes their warlike qualities and the “German question”. The Romans themselves were scared of them. No wonder! During the ugly Battle of the Teutoburg Forest Roman legionaries were captured in wooden cages and burned alive in the forest, sacrificed to pagan gods.
Richard Wagner during the 19th century made much of this ancient and medieval heritage in his operas. Heinrich Himmler was later to try to seize upon this material as the “origin” of what he called the Nazi identity.
I have looked up various works on Roman Britain on Amazon and curiously enough the British archaeologists have all noted that the British attitude about Rome differs from the attitude of France and Germany, and this influences their attitude about the “German question”. In France they celebrate Vercingetorix from Caesar’s Gallic Wars. He is supposed to be a national hero in France. In Germany they celebrate Herman the German, or Arminius. In Britain they celebrate the Romans. As many have noted, Britain seems to take on the identity of Rome itself. It all comes from the days of the British Empire and Imperial Britain. Nobody else on the Continent has anything like this and so recently, too! They look dubiously upon rebels against Rome such as Vercingetorix and Arminius.
It has also been said that the British have a better attitude about preserving ruins than they do in Italy. So the Roman ruins in Britain are better preserved than their Italian counterparts. You can get a better feel for the Roman world there including all those villas and mosaic floors that are much talked about.
Cheops Books LLC has two upcoming works about the “German question”. The concern Roman Britain and the ancient Germans battling the Romans: Pliny: A Novel and Caesar’s Legions, both works in the Edward Ware Thrillers at War Series.
Leave a reply