Thursday, 28 February 2013

What's in a Word? "Ethnology," "Anthropology" and the Politics of Race in Victorian Britain.

This morning's "In Our Time" broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (, focussing on the work of Augustus Pitt-Rivers (a Victorian pioneer of both archaeology and museums) introduced a word that was new to the lexicon of many listeners. That word is "ethnology." There are, as far as I am aware, no degree courses in ethnology on offer at any UK or North American University. The Adam Michiewicz University of Poznan, in Poland, offers an MA programme in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, whilst the University of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius at Trnava, in the Slovak Republic, offers a BSc in Ethnology. Almost everywhere else, "ethnology" has been supplanted by "anthropology" (in which, as it happens, I hold a Cambridge MA and a London PhD). This change to the English lexicon is an accident of history.

                                             Augustus Pitt-Rivers.

Between 1850 and 1870, the Ethnological Society of London was one of the capital's most dynamic scientific institutions. Initially established by a group of Quakers, whose interests were as much philanthropic as scientific, it fell into decline in the late 1850's, and was effectively taken over, in 1858, by John Crawfurd, elected as President on the same day that he became a Fellow. Following the example set by the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Institution he took the radical step of admitting ladies to meetings. It revived the fortunes of the society.

In 1863, however, a small group of men (no ladies need apply) broke away from the Ethnological Society to found the rival Anthropological Society. These men included James Hunt, a pioneer of speech therapy; and the explorer, Sir Richard Francis Burton. The "anthropologists'" agenda soon became clear. At the 1863 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Newcastle, James Hunt gave a paper on "The Negro's Place in Nature." He argued that there was " good reason for classifying the Negro as a distinct species from the European as there is for making the ass a species distinct from the zebra."

Astonishingly, for 1863, a black man stood up to challenge Hunt. He was William Craft, born a slave in Georgia. He and his wife, Ellen, had escaped from their master (she, being of mixed race, disguised as a white man; he posing as her slave - their story is documented in their book, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom - and made their way to England. Hunt dismissed Craft with sneering contempt: Negroes were "certainly far superior to Europeans" in one crucial respect, he insisted. They made better slaves.

                                Ellen Craft, in the disguise in which she escaped.

London's scientific establishment responded swiftly and decisively. Sir John Lubbock, a neighbour and confidante of Charles Darwin, manoeuvred himself into the presidency of the Ethnological Society, taking three of his closest associates onto the committee with him; Thomas Henry Huxley; George Busk and William Spottiswoode.

                                      Sir John Lubbock.

Huxley brandished Hunt's paper in his lecture theatre at the Royal School of Mines in Jermyn Street.

"I hold in my hand an address to a scientific body in this country, which has recently been published...," he declared, "and you shall judge for yourselves whether it does or does not merit the stigma of public condemnation which I think it my public duty to take this opportunity of affixing to it."

                                                 Thomas Henry Huxley.

Huxley explicitly accused Hunt of acting for the "slave-holding interest." He didn't know the half of it. The forensic researches of my colleague, James Moore, have succeeded in unmasking Hunt's paymaster - Henry Hotze, the de facto Ambassador of the American Confederacy in Britain. With the defeat of the South in the American Civil War, the funds dried up and the Anthropological Society went bust. It fell to Lubbock and Busk to wind the society up, and to manage the reintegration of the two rival societies.

It seems clear that most members of the Anthropological Society were in ignorance of its true raison d'etre, and Lubbock & Busk brushed the details under the carpet. They made one concession to their former rivals, and that a lexical one. The new society, with Lubbock as its President, would be called the Royal Anthropological Institute, as it remains today. The word "ethnology" receded into the historical thesaurus.

Recent discussions in the science of anthropology (as almost everyone now calls it) give me a frightening sense of deja vu. First, there was the stand-off ( between the American geographer, Jared Diamond, and the campaigning organisation, Survival International, over his recent book, The World Until Yesterday. Then there was the resignation of the American anthropologist, Marshall Sahlins (whose work inspired me as a student) from the National Academy of Science prompted, in part, by the election of Napoleon Chagnon (whose approach came close to putting me off anthropology for life) as a member of the Academy ( It all leaves me wondering whether I ought to petition the Senate Houses of Cambridge and London, to see if I might trade in my degrees in Anthropology for qualifications in Ethnology.

Mark Patton's biography, Science, Politics and Business in the Work of Sir John Lubbock: A Man of Universal Mind, was published by Ashgate in 2007, and is available from and

The exhibition, "The General, the Scientist and the Banker: The Birth of Archaeology and the Battle for the Past" (focussing on Pitt-Rivers, Darwin and Lubbock) is at the Quadriga Gallery, Wellington Arch, London, until 21st April.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The British Triumph of Claudius Caesar

One of the things I knew I wanted to do, when I started writing An Accidental King, was to give readers a front-row position at the British Triumph of Claudius Caesar, held in Rome at the end of 43 or the beginning of 44 AD, to mark the "conquest" of the British Isles. When I visited Rome in 2007/2008 to research the book, I walked the route of the triumph, noting the sights along the way to the extent that it is possible to imagine them as they might have been 2000 years ago.

The route begins on the Campus Martius (then an area outside the city set aside for military training and parades) and runs past the Theatre of Marcellus, crossing the River Tiber twice before passing alongside the Circus Maximus, entering the forum and passing by the Temples of Vesta, Julius Caesar and Saturn and ascending the Capitoline Hill, where sacrifices were made at the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

Mary Beard's book, The Roman Triumph, is an invaluable guide, based on a close study of all the available ancient sources. This has enabled her to reconstruct the way in which the procession was put together. The images of the gods, carried out from the various temples along the route, headed the procession, and behind them were carried the spoils of war: captured armour and regalia, paintings and models of key battles. Captives in chains marched behind them.

Relief from the Arch of Titus in Rome. Soldiers are carrying the most sacred Jewish artefacts from the Temple in Jerusalem, but none of them are wearing armour or carrying weapons.

Next came the Triumphator  (in this case Claudius himself) in a chariot pulled by four horses. His face was painted red, effectively making him an incarnation of Jupiter, and he wore an elaborately decorated purple toga. His most senior officers walked or rode behind him.

                                       The Triumph of Marcus Aurelius.

Finally, the soldiers marched. Modern depictions, from Renaissance paintings to Hollywood movies, generally have them in full armour and bristling with weapons, but there is a problem with this. Much of the Triumphal Route lies within the limits of the Pomerium, the sacred heart of Rome, within which the bearing of arms was absolutely forbidden. To what extent this was relaxed, in the specific context of a Triumph, is open to debate (and we need not necessarily assume that all Triumphs were the same), but the contemporary depictions we have of (for example), the Triumph of Vespasian & Titus, and the Triumph of Marcus Aurelius, show soldiers in tunics and/or togas, not in armour. Even if weapons were not carried, however, it is likely, in the spirit of bread and circuses, that the cavalry wore elaborate parade helmets, turning them, in effect, into living statues.

                                A Roman cavalryman's ceremonial helmet.

The footsoldiers at the back of the parade were allowed to sing their barrack-room ditties, often mocking their commanders. None have survived from the time of Claudius, but those from the Triumph of Julius Caesar give us a flavour:

"Home we bring our bald whore-monger,
Romans lock your wives away.
All the gold that you have lent him,
Went his Gaulish whores to pay."

"Gaul was buggered by our Caesar,
By King Nicomedus he.
Here comes Caesar wreathed in laurels,
For his Gaulish Victory.
Nicomedus wears no laurels,
Though the greatest of the three."

There is a further question about the Triumph of Claudius. In theory, the men marching in the Triumph were the men of the victorious legions, returning after the fighting had ended. Of the four legions that invaded Britain in 43 AD, however, the 14th remained in Britain for more than 20 years; the 9th for more than 50; and the 2nd and the 20th for more than a century. There can hardly have been a triumph without soldiers, but it is unlikely that many of them had seen service in Britain.

Mark Patton's novel, An Accidental King, will be published by Crooked Cat Publications later this year.

Further images of the Triumphal Route can be seen at

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A Very British Blog Tour

My fellow author, Nancy Jardine ( has invited me, together with a number of British authors, to take part in "A Very British Blog Tour," linking the websites of authors who are dedicated to turning out some of the finest books available in Britain today. Each author named at the end of this page has been asked the same questions.

Here, then, are my responses to the questions posed by Nancy.

Where were you born, and where do you live at the moment?

I was born on the island of Jersey, but have lived and worked in London for most of my adult life. I currently live in the Borough of Lewisham.

Have you always lived and worked in Britain, or are you based elsewhere at the moment?

I studied at Cambridge and London, lived and worked in Leiden and Paris, then went back to Jersey for a few years, after which I came permanently to Britain to take up an academic career. I was based in Carmarthen for a few years, which is a beautiful part of the country, but somehow London has always felt like home - from the moment (aged 12, I think) my parents first left me alone here for a few hours (in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum).

Which is your favourite part of Britain?

Family holidays were generally spent in Dorset, Hampshire and Sussex, so I have very happy memories of the chalk downs and the New Forest. West Wales and Dartmoor have wilder landscapes, which I enjoyed exploring with my Carmarthen students. I spent several weeks in Orkney as a student - an irresistable landscape for an archaeologist.

Have you "highlighted" or "showcased" any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town, or city, a county or a monument, or some well-known place or event.

A sense of place is very important in my writing. The only book I have ever abandoned was based in a place that I was never likely to be able to visit (the mid-Atlantic island of Trindade - now a Brazilian naval outpost with no civilian population), and I just couldn't write about a place I didn't know.

My first novel, Undreamed Shores,  is largely set in Dorset and Wiltshire, although there is also a visit to the Channel Islands. I wanted to take the reader inside the minds of the people who built Stonehenge. I spent a lot of time in the landscape, walking (as my characters do) from Abbotsbury to Stonehenge, and recording the things I saw, heard, smelled, felt and tasted quite precisely.

                                         Stonehenge, as depicted by Constable.

My second novel, An Accidental King (which will be published by Crooked Cat later this year) is mainly set in Sussex (around Chichester Harbour) and in Norfolk (around Thetford), and I spent time in both places when I was carrying out the research for the books.

Thetford Castle in Norfolk, where two moments of high drama are set in An Accidental King.

There is an illusion - or myth, if you wish - about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the British as "stiff upper-lip." Is that correct? Do any of the characters in your books display the "stiff upper lip" or are they all "British Bulldog" and unique in their own way?

As a historical writer I associate that idea very much with a specific moment in time - the late 19th and early 20th Century - and especially with the work of writers such as Thomas Carlyle and Rudyard Kipling. My characters belong in a much earlier period (2400 BC in Undreamed Shores, the 1st Century AD in An Accidental King), so I have had to be very careful not to give them the mindsets of later times. Gillian Slovo deals with the myth beautifully in her novel, An Honourable Man, focussing on the events surrounding the death of General Gordon in Khartoum. The irony about those events is that Gordon himself took the "stiff upper lip" to ridiculous (and ultimately suicidal) lengths, but we only still remember him because of the hysterical reaction of people back in Britain. An Accidental King is fundamentally a book about what it means to be both British and European, but I have tried to explore these themes through the mindset of the time, to the extent that we can know it from the history and the archaeology.

Tell us about your recent books.

Undreamed Shores is  a coming of age story and an epic journey narrative set at the dawn of the Bronze Age. A boy, just at the cusp of manhood, is swept off course by the tide at the end of his first trading journey, and washed up in a land which he didn't even know existed. He has to make sense of this new land and learn its rules just at the same time as he is making sense of the adult world.

An Accidental King, on the other hand, is narrated from the point of view of an elderly man looking back on his life. A British prince, seduced as a young man by the literature, art and architecture of Rome, discovers the true nature of power later in life, and struggles to keep the peace in a land where people are no longer the masters of their own destiny.

What are you currently working on?

Omphalos (a provisional title, which may well change), is much more a novel about Jersey, even if much of the action takes place elsewhere. There are five intertwined stories (set in the 1940s, the 1790s, the 1520s, the 1160s and the 5th Millennium BC) linked together by a physical place, by artefacts from one period which turn up in another, and by broad themes of transgression and reconciliation, a book fundamentally about the relationships between the present and the past. Although it's a book about Jersey, I doubt I could have written it anywhere except London. I've finished the research this week, so have had some truly fascinating Medieval manuscripts on my desk at the British Library, from the Codex Calixtinus (a 12th Century manuscript documenting the traditions surrounding the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela) to Wace's Roman de Brut (a 13th Century copy of a 12th Century history of Britain, written by a Jerseyman who will feature as a character in the book).

How do you spend your leisure time?

That's another reason I love living in London. There is no city on Earth that has so many exhibitions, and of such quality, as we have in our great museums and galleries. I tried to go to the Ice Age Art exhibition at the British Museum yesterday, but it was fully booked. Hopefully I will get to see it before it closes, and the Pompeii & Herculaneum exhibition will be opening soon. I also have a great love of film and the theatre (highlights last year included Mark Rylance's stunning performances in Richard III and Twelfth Night), and am a very active member of the Royal Literary Society.

Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?

Both, hopefully, but I suspect that readers will understand the book in different ways. A Channel Islander will, I suspect, read Undreamed Shores or Omphalos and spot things that others won't - places, for example, that are not referred to by their modern name but should, nonetheless, be recognisable to the local readership - and even birds which are in the story because they  are very much present in those places. It's the same with Hayling Island in An Accidental King - the "sacred pool" is there if you know where to look for it (whether it was ever sacred is another matter, but there was a temple very close to it), and I challenge anyone to sit beside it for an hour during the day without hearing a woodpecker!

Can you provide links to your work?

See below, and also

The following authors are also participating in this blog tour:

Nancy Jardine (
Jeff Gardiner (
Ailsa Abraham (
Zanna MacKenzie (
Jane Bwye (
David Robinson (

Mark Patton's novel, Undreamed Shores, is available from, and An Accidental King will be published by Crooked Cat publications later this year.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Road to Rome in the 1st Century AD

When I began the research for An Accidental King towards the end of 2007, I knew that I wanted to have my protagonist make the journey from Britain to Rome in 43/44 AD. There is no direct evidence that the historical Cogidubnus ever did so, but it seemed to me that a man such as the Emperor Claudius would hardly miss the opportunity of impressing his new ally by showing him the glories of the capital, and entertaining him there as only an emperor could entertain. He would almost certainly have travelled over land in at least one direction, since Roman fleets were effectively confined to port during the winter, even in the Mediterranean. This suited my purpose, in any case, since it would give him the chance to reflect on the scale of the empire and the nature of Roman power, even before he sees the glories of Rome itself.

                                   The Roman road network in Europe.

How would he have travelled? Probably by carpentum, a wooden vehicle with two or four wheels and pulled by two horses or asses. Almost certainly he would have been accompanied by a high-ranking civil or military official and, without doubt, he would have had a cavalry escort.

                                   A contemporary illustration of a carpentum.

A reconstructed carpentum in the Romano-German Museum, Cologne.

How long would the journey have taken? Horace suggests that a carriage could travel around 24 miles per day. The official courier service, the Cursus Publicus, could convey messages faster than this (upto fifty miles per day), but this was based on a relay system with the fastest riders using the fastest horses and changing them regularly (Ramsey 1925, Eliot 1925). Horace's estimate seems nearer the mark. Archbishop Sigeric, making the journey in 990 AD, lists eighty stops. Both Suetonius and Cassius Dio tell us that, when Claudius came to Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, he was away from Rome for six months and spent sixteen days in Britain. Two journeys, each of 80 days, plus 16 days in Britain, adds up to 176 days, which just about falls within the six months envelope, but Claudius might well have travelled back by sea, which would have been faster.

Where would they have stayed along the way? Along most of the major roads, mansiones were located  at regular intervals. These were part of the Cursus Publicus, and were used by the highest officials, including the emperor and his retinue, so they were well-appointed, typically with bath-houses, central heating and the obligatory stables so that horses could be changed.

There may, however, have been stages where there was no mansio, or days on which they might not make the distance from one mansio to the next, and then they might have to fall back on privately run cauponae, far less salubrious than mansiones, the walls often adorned with obscene grafitti that leave little doubt as to the range of services they offered.

The Caupona of Alexander and Felix at Ostia (the structure in the foreground is believed to have been a bar.

Painting from the Caupona of Salvius at Pompeii, probably intended to make it clear to clients that the serving girls offered other services on the side.

I made the journey myself in the week following Christmas 2007. I could not obtain a carpentum for the purpose, of course, and nor could I afford to take six months (or even three) out from the day-job, so I travelled by train, frantically scribbling my notes on the landscape, translating them from English to Latin and back to English again, trying to see the landscape as a Briton of the 1st Century AD might have seen it.

I arrived in Rome to learn of Benazir Bhutto's assassination and, beside the ruins of the Temple of Julius Caesar, found a woman weeping, seated on a stone. She asked me if I thought this was where Antony would have stood to give his funeral oration. I showed her where he would have stood (on the Rostra). She was, it turned out, an attache from the Pakistani Embassy. It was the only time in my life when I have ever sat upon the ground to tell sad stories of the death of kings.

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon.


A.M. Ramsey 1925 "The Speed of the Roman Imperial Post." Journal of Roman Studies 15, 60-70.
C.W.J. Eliot 1955 "New Evidence for the Speed of the Roman Imperial Post." Phoenix 9, 2, 76.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Ancient Outlooks on a Prehistoric Past

It is always difficult for an archaeologist to know what to make of a "hoard," a group of ancient or prehistoric objects buried together without any obvious context. Were they buried for safekeeping, or as an offering to the gods? If they are broken, were they intended to be melted down? Are they spoils of war, collected at the end of a battle? All too often, we can only guess. It is all the more difficult if the objects are of very different dates.

The discovery of more than a hundred bronze weapons and tools at Tisbury, in Wiltshire, poses just such questions ( They were probably buried in around 680 BC, at the very end of the Bronze Age, or just at the beginning of the Iron Age. Some of the objects, however, are almost a thousand years older than this. What did it mean, to a man or woman of 680 BC, to hold in his or her hands a sword-blade of 1500 BC? Archaeologist Dot Boughton, of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, wonders whether we might not be looking at an early "community museum."

The Tisbury Hoard (Portable Antiquities Scheme). The socketed axes at bottom left date to around 700 BC but the horizontally-placed rapier-blade, second from top, is almost 1000 years earlier.

If she is right, then perhaps the same might be said of the extraordinary collection of objects found beneath the Iron Age and Romano-British temple on Hayling Island. Hayling Island sits in the mouth of Chichester Harbour, a few miles to the west of Fishbourne Roman Palace. The temple was at the northern end of the island. It was first built in the early to mid-1st Century AD, probably before the Roman invasion of Britain, but it was extended and rebuilt in c.70 AD, very possibly (given its proximity to Fishbourne) by Cogidubnus.

Chichester Harbour (John Armagh). Hayling Island is in the centre, and Fishbourne is at the end of the top-most rivulet.

The two phases of the Hayling Island temple.

Beneath the temple was found a hoard of objects, including British coins of the early 1st Century AD; a bronze spearhead of c.1200 BC; and a flint axe-head of 2500-3500 BC. These objects have more of a context than the Tisbury finds - they were buried beneath a temple - but perhaps temples served as a sort of museum as well as a place for the worship of the gods? Objects believed to be the sword of Julius Caesar and the breast-plate of Alexander the Great were displayed in temples in Rome in the 1st Century AD.

As a novelist, the Hayling Island finds have given me the opportunity to create a thread of continuity between the 1st Century world of Cogidubnus and the 2400-year earlier world of Amzai and Undreamed Shores. That such a thread (however much mythologised) might have existed should not, perhaps, surprise us. We still talk, after all, of Antony and Cleopatra; of Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate; of Socrates and Plato. Objects found at sites such as Tisbury and Hayling Island may, perhaps, make it easier to imagine the form such threads might have taken:

The three of us sat down within the enclosure, our backs to the temple wall.
"What do you know of your genealogy?" Tutinatia asked me.
I recited my family tree...The story worked backwards from the men whose waxen images peered down, ghost-like, from the poles at the back of the temple. I was the son of Verica, the son of Commios of Silchester, the son of Commios the Gaul...and so on back through almost a hundred generations to Solomael, the son of Edrocal, the son of Nodens.
Tutinatia nodded throughout my recitation. When I finished, she reached for my hand and leaned towards me. "What I am about to say may shock you." She paused for a moment. "Verica was not your father."
She gestured to Gesulla, who stood and went into the temple, returning with a tiny bundle, which she handed to Tutinatia...She handed me a silver coin, which bore the image of a centaur. "This is your father's coin."

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King, and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus: a lost British king

In the decades following the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, the most powerful native Briton on these islands seems to have been a man named Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus (or possibly Cogidumnus, or possibly Togidumnus - different versions of the name appear in different sources). We don't know the date of his birth, or of his death; who his parents were; or whether he had any children. His name, however, suggests that he was a Roman citizen (a privilege almost certainly conferred on him by the Emperor Claudius), and an inscription names him as "Great King of the Britons," a title not recorded as having existed either previously or subsequently.

Tacitus, in his biography of the Roman governor, Agricola, tells us that "certain territories were given to Cogidumnus, who lived down to our day, a most faithful ally. So was maintained the ancient and long-recognised practice of the Roman people, which seeks to secure, among the instruments of domination, even kings themselves."

This inscription from Chichester records him as having established a temple there.

To Neptune and Minerva, for the welfare of the Divine House, by the authority of Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus, Great King of the Britons. The Craftsmens' Guild, and those in it, gave this temple at their own expense. ...ens, son of Pudentinos, presented the precinct.

This is the sum total of what we actually know about the man, although the association with Chichester opens up the possibility (I would say the likelihood) that he was the man for whom the Fishbourne palace was built. If so, he might well have been the heir to a local king named Verica (or Bericus), who fled to Rome shortly before 43 AD, under threat from a more powerful tribe, the Catuvellauni, who had begun invading the territory of the Regnenses tribe (or Regni) from the north. Verica's defection may, indeed, have provided the pretext for Claudius's invasion.

Coin of Verica, son of Commius - was this Cogidubnus's father?

According to this theory, Cogidubnus's grandfather may have been a man named Commius, who minted coins at Silchester in the late 1st Century BC, and his great-grandfather may have been the earlier Commius who was, at least for a time, an ally of Julius Caesar.

There is an alternative theory that "Cogidubnus" may be the same man as "Togodumnus," a Catuvellaunian prince (brother of Caratacos and son of Cunobelinus) who is recorded as having fought against the Romans in the early days of the invasion. The names are sufficiently close to make this credible, but at least one source (Cassius Dio's Roman History) tells us that Togodumnus fell in battle. It does not, in any case, seem entirely likely that the notoriously paranoid Claudius would have appointed as his vassal a man who had raised arms against him. It is a thought worth bearing in mind, however, that a man who somehow had one foot in the pro-Roman Regnensian camp and another in the defeated Catuvellaunian dynasty, might have been particularly attractive to Claudius as someone potentially able to unite the newly acquired province under Roman control.

One of the few certainties is that Cogidubnus, whoever he was, was thoroughly pro-Roman. From the point of view of a novelist, it would be easy to portray him as a traitor motivated largely by personal ambition and greed. This is, essentially, how he is portrayed (as a minor character) both by Douglas Jackson in Claudius, and by Manda Scott in her short story, "The Last Roman in Britain" ( The real Cogidubnus might, for all we know, have been just such a man, but this would not make for a very interesting protagonist. I will therefore portray him in a very different way: as a man seduced in his youth by everything Rome has to offer - the architecture, the food, perhaps above all the beauty of the written word; as a man who choses peace over war; but also as a man who, as he matures, and comes to understand the true nature of power, becomes increasingly troubled by the compromises he will have to make.

Mark Patton's novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon USA.