Monday, July 11, 2011

Butter is for Barbarians?

 Yes I know that is a strange title for well... anything, but I am reading Harry Turtledove's "Give Me Back My Legions!" or at least trying to read, my cats usually have other ideas. Anyway the book is a slight fictional telling of the lead up to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in present day Germany, and the actual battle. The two main characters are Arminius, prince and eventual leader of the Cherusci tribe and Publis Quinctilius Varus, a Roman politician who's great-uncle in-law just happens to be Emperor Augustus Caesar. So far Augustus has sent Varus, who was stationed in Syria which was a real feather in his cap, if you will, to Germany to make it more Roman and civilized, less backwards more like Gaul. People seem to have the "better you than me" mentality and Varus wishes it was anybody else but him being sent to Germany. But what was he to do? It was not like he could say "No" to the Emperor. Varus makes it to Massilia,which it turns out is present day Marseille, where he is eventually met by the two town officials, one was a wine seller and the other one was an olive oil seller. The three have a discussion about Germany, at least in the book they do in real life...who knows. Anyway, this discussion  has them talking about "The Germans do buy wine, Not much of a market for oil, I'm afraid They use butter instead." Then a thought from Varus arises "If butter didn't mark a true barbarian, what did?" The answer "And they drink beer". So that is where the title of this post comes from to which I say "Excuse me just who the Hell do you think you are and I don't give a flying fig WHO you're related to, your butt is MINE!" The book implicates that the phrase "son of a whore" seems to a favorite.

  Now for a bit about Arminius. He was a German prince, who joined the Roman auxiliary to learn the methods of Roman warfare and bring them back to Germany. Because Arminius rose through the ranks to the equestrian rank, which was just below patrician , and achieved roman citizenship. So far in the book he has won  a battle, with some help from Roman legionaries, against Pannonian forces outside the town of P
oetovio and a friend of his has come to the Roman encampment to tell him that Arminius betrothed's father has just broken his promise of marriage between his daughter and Arminius, and promised her to someone else. Arminius was able to get permission from the senior officer Titus Minucius ( isn't that what A-Rod is having surgery for?) Basilus to go home and get things straighten out.

  So that folks is where I am in the book.  I must say I don't have a good feeling about Titus Minucsius Basilus. I know a Titus succeeded Augustus so I wonder if this is the one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pannonia    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equestrian_order  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/35390/Arminius

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