The Age of Madness

The year zero! The Romans were euphoric, they were now so rich, the streets of Rome ran with gold and they were well on the way to ruling the known world!

For the defeated peoples of Europe, Asia Minor, Judea, Egypt and the North African coast conquered by the Romans, everything they have ever known is gone forever. Probably all their People and family are gone too, and their land, their freedom and independence. It is truly difficult for us in the 21st century to have any idea what this time must have been like. Holocaust seems too pale a word for what these defeated people endured, or are shortly to endure. After all, Masada and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Roman conquest of Britain and Boudicca and the revolt of the Iceni and so much more is just about to happen. Rome was not finished with conquest and destruction. The list of their victims has dimmed with time, but their remains are still being dug up by archaeologists today.

No wonder a Messiah appears at this time. It must have felt like Ground Zero.

We do not know what people at the time truly felt or believed. We must not project modern emotions upon people from the past, but we do know something, from the Jewish people today and their culture which contains so much grief and colour, from the new Celticism and resurgence of paganism worldwide which Tolkein strove to return to us and the world wide appeal of The Lord of the Rings, a book Tolkein supposedly wrote to ‘give back to the British people that which was lost.’ These are all modern emotions.

However, there are some writings from the 6th century in Britain, from The Black Book of Camarthen, written by people themselves, though we only have later versions, when the Din Eidyn, or Dunadin of the last British kingdom fell to the Angles at the Battle of Catraeth in 638 AD. The Stanzas of the Graves, a long epic poem of many verses, each verse commemorating a fallen warrior.

“The graves which the rain wets,
men who had not been used to being provoked;
Cerwyd and Cywryd and Caw

The graves which the thicket covers,
they were not slain unavenged;
Gwrien, Morien and Morial.

The grave of Tydei, father of the muse,
is in the region of Bryn Aren;
where the wave makes a noise,
the grave of Dylan is at Llanfeuno.”

This poem has over 300 verses, and every fallen warrior is named. The poems are simple and ache with pain. In The Gododdin of Aneirin, the Tribal Bard Aneirin does not weep, he does not wail. He just records the names and remembers. There is no self pity.

Life continued under a different form from 0 AD, but the people do continue. The smashed remains of the conquered peoples pick themselves up and continue. They continue to fight. Rome will be gone by 412 AD and the people live on regardless. Their ultimate ‘disappearance’ owes more to the fact that historians call them different names all the time, hippies and punks are different cultural waves within peoples, not different peoples, but the result is the written genocide and eradication all those victims. However, this confusion will underlie everything from now on, contributing racism to the past, another modern emotion, not a feature of this time period. Another disappearing act perpetrated on the Celtic peoples is the myth that they ‘never wrote anything down’! There is ample evidence of Celtic writing, which makes this myth a lie. In fact it seems they wrote all the time and in many languages, for example, the many Tessera Hospitale and inscriptions located all over south west Europe, written in Celtiberian, Latin, Lepontic, Gaulish, Iberian, Lusitanian, Greek, Galatian and Noricum, Brythonic, Goidelic and with possible links to Basque. The Irish Lebor Gabála Érenn provides ample evidence of the survival of Celtic writing dating back to at least 2400 BCE. Funny how so little has survived! I wonder what happened to it all?

People at this time were more interested in religious differences. The Romans believed their gods were stronger. They had already absorbed the conquered gods within their belief system, with some exceptions. Tribal people, who on the whole had the same gods, agreed with them. They simply added Roman god names to local god names and everyone went to the same shrines and temples without conflict. There were some gods which were not acceptable however. Isis, Serapis and Jehovah were difficult to absorb in Rome because their cult followers ran rampant or would not obey edicts or Roman laws. Over time, most were accepted, but not Christianity. The Romans could not accept monotheism which threatened the Imperial cult of the Emperor as a god, their version of one god who ruled over everyone else. This has never worked, as Akhenaten could have told them, but the Roman Emperor needed other gods – read countries – to rule over.

The Romans tried very hard to suppress monotheism because it was dangerous, and they were right. It was also a better idea to have one god who people could never meet or see, compared to Roman Emperors who are obviously mortal, and some of them were also obviously monsters, and all too easy to portray as the devil incarnate. Eventually, Christianity would sweep even Rome before it, though it would have to absorb tritheism, a central concept of Pagan belief before it did so. Christianity had already absorbed Pagan myth, Egyptian myth and Jewish myth, so it was a real contender to Roman myth which had already subsumed Greek and Pagan myth from all around the world.

The Romans and the Christians were both conglomerates of ancient beliefs and soon head to head in the battle for hearts and minds. Really, there is nothing new under the sun! Christianity and Islam would later refine this as the battle for souls which has been a reality in our world since the 7th century. The world takes the battles into human minds and so we become truly mad. The literal interpretation of the written word takes on a whole new meaning, and the destruction of manuscripts that contradict power elites, and the destruction of peoples who do not have written histories and instead have oral traditions which contradict the power elites, is almost complete by the end of this time period. Thank goodness for archaeology and the power of mythology!

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