Book Title: Hammer
Series: The Iron Between
Author: Micheál Cladáin
Publication Date: 31 January 2023
Page Length: 375
Genre: Historical Fiction
Twitter Handle: @cladain_m @cathiedunn
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Tour Schedule Page: https://thecoffeepotbookclub.blogspot.com/2022/12/blog-tour-hammer-by-micheal-cladain.html
Book Title and Author Name:
by Micheál Cladáin
Genonn’s tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.
However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.
When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?
Hammer is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
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Cornelius Tacitus versus Cassius Dio
The Boudiccan rebellion of 60/61 CE provides a backdrop to Hammer. Genonn, the druid, is sent by the Elder Council to provide Boudica with the Hammer of the Gods, Lorg Mór.
What do we know about the rebellion other than that given to us by romantic writers hundreds of years later?
There are two sources of information about the rebellion, Cornelius Tacitus and Cassius Dio. Tacitus wrote his history of Rome soon after the uprising. As the son-in-law of Agricola, he had a first-hand source of information. Agricola was present at the Battle of Watling Street (the modern name because we do not know what the road was called at the time) and was an authority on events. On the other hand, Cassius Dio wrote his history of Rome well over a hundred years later and would have relied on the writing of earlier historians like Tacitus for his information.
When researching the uprising, I was struck by the contradictory nature of the two accounts. Which one is more accurate?
Tacitus tells us that Boudica’s army sacked three cities, whereas Dio claims it was two. Tacitus tells us of the massacre of the Ninth legion, and Dio does not mention the Ninth in any capacity.
They didn’t even agree on the brutality of the warriors in how they treated the conquered.
“All else was plundered or fired in the onslaught; the temple where the soldiers had assembled, was stormed after two days’ siege.”
Whereas Dio wrote:
“This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I said, she wrought indescribable slaughter.”
Tacitus then went on to describe the massacre of the Ninth Legion. Dio described the brutality of the treatment of Camulodunum’s people, using explicit detail in his gory descriptions.
The historians agreed that Suetonius was in Anglesey, but they disagreed on what he did on hearing of the uprising. Tacitus wrote that Suetonius gathered his army and rode to Londinium to investigate the viability of defending it against the horde. In contrast, Dio tells us he wanted to delay any battle:
“…therefore he was for postponing the battle to a more convenient season.”
Other than disagreeing on the fate of Boudica (Tacitus claimed she killed herself, and Dio claimed she died of an illness), the most significant difference is how they reported the battle. Tacitus tells us about the narrow defile and Boudica’s army being trapped by wagons and chariots blocking the only escape route. On the other hand, Dio had the Roman army in the open and divided into three main battle groups.
Dio’s account also contradicts Tacitus in other aspects. He describes Decianus Catus as the governor of Britannia, whereas the governor was Suetonius. He says that Boudica retook Britannia, but we know the Second Legion was in Exeter and Suetonius’s Fourteenth were in the west. He says that Boudica “…was of the royal family…” but she was the queen of the Iceni. Not queen of Britannia.
On balance, I find Tacitus more credible. Dio spends a lot of words on pre-battle speeches by both Suetonius and Boudica. Pre-battle addresses probably did occur, but in Dio’s version, Suetonius gives three different speeches, one to each of his battle groups, which I find unlikely. He might have given the same speech three times but not three different. Dio also ignores the defeat of the Ninth. He uses the sack of Camulodunum as a medium to express the barbarity of the Britons rather than reporting facts.
As a writer of historical fiction, research is an essential element of my work. When confronted with two accounts that offer wildly varying versions, how am I to proceed? From an artistic perspective, the gore of Dio might be better received by readers, at least of a certain age. However, Dio’s battle description does not stand up to scrutiny. If Suetonius had divided his force into three battle groups, they would have been massacred, regardless of how uplifting the commander’s speech might have been. Defending a narrow gorge with a shield wall is much more plausible.
Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.
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Thanks very much for hosting Micheál Cladáin today. xx
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