Posted by: ken98 | February 11, 2010

Breast and Buttock Eaters, and Valentinian’s Forays into Germany and Britain

Day 153 – Ken here (Th)(2-11-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.25, pp.990-1000)

A sunny day – and I’m late (as usual) for an appointment – better get going as soon as I’m done here.

We broach the 1000 page mark today!!! 1/3 done!!!

We continue chapter 25 with Valentinian’s campaigns in Germany and now, Britain – against the Alemanni, Burgundians, and the Saxons in Britain. We also examine a very hotly-debated case of cannibalism reported by a Church Father (Jerome) and quoted by Gibbon which concerns the Scots. Its veracity is highly suspect – but it makes for good reading I guess – and an interesting historical search-through-the-source-material for yours truly.

Maybe it only seems interesting to me – you’ll see – but it certainly brings up some interesting questions like – Why do historians report what they do?, What are the motives of historians in writing a history (or a letter, or a sermon – in the case of Jerome), and How seriously do they expect themselves to be taken? All good questions with no single answer.

The Story
 
Valentinian’s Campaigns – Arena 1 – Germany (cont)

  • ALEMMANNI – Rando (Alemanni Chieftain) crosses the Rhine and devastates Upper Germany (Mainz)(368)
  • ALEMANNI – Count Sebastian and Valentinian go north, bottle up Germans (after battles going back and forth) on mountaintop (Solicinium) and defeat the Germans
  • BURGUNDIANS – Burgundians and Alemanni battling over salt mines in Germany. Val. marches north, but foments disunion among the Germans instead of outright battle, takes Macrianus of the Burgundians as an ally, causes more battles and consternation among the Burgundians and Alemanni (371)
  • SAXONS – the viking pirates of the 4th century
  • SAXONS – Gibbon gives a long 2 page intro to a race very dear to the hearts of all true Englishmen (the Anglo-Saxons) – although they are pirates and thieves at this time, he goes easy on them
  • SAXONS – originating near Denmark and in middle Germany, the Saxons develop into a sea-faring people, have boats with very light drafts which allow them to go much farther up-river than most boats – they learn to navigate out of the Baltic and ravage the coasts of Gaul, Brittany, and Britain
  •  
    Valentinian’s Campaigns – Arena 2 – Britain

  • BRITAIN – invasions (343-366)
  • BRITAIN – (Caledonia: ie – SCOTLAND, IRELAND) Gibbon gives a briefer overview of the history of the Scots and the Picts
  • BRITAIN – Picts are highlanders, live on cattle and hunting, paint their bodies colorfully for battle, Scots are lowlanders, live by agriculture and some cattle
  • BRITAIN – Scots colonize Ireland
  • BRITAIN – Constans invades Britain to settle Scots, Saxons invasion problems – does nothing more than cross the channel and turn back (343)
  • BRITAIN – problems of Britain – utterly corrupt, money falls into embezzlers (military commanders) hands, overrun by Saxons and by native thieves – the province is a constant source of trouble
  • BRITAIN – Julian cleans it up for a few years
  • BRITAIN – memorable Gibbon quote (see below) on the Scots, a strange reported habit, and the future cultured and educated philosophers to arise out of the Maori and the English settlers in New Zealand
  • Cannibalism - scuplture by Leanhard Kern - Jerome (and Gibbon) accuse ancient Scots of eating shepherds and shepherdesses caught during cattle raids - preferring their meat to that of cattle and pigs - a tale that just wont die after 1700 years and Gibbon doesn't help things by perpetuating it in the late 1700's

    Cannibalism - scuplture by Leanhard Kern - Jerome (and Gibbon) accuse ancient Scots of eating shepherds and shepherdesses caught during cattle raids - preferring their meat to that of cattle and pigs - a tale that just wont die after 1700 years and Gibbon doesn't help things by perpetuating it in the late 1700's

     
    Quotable Gibbon – Buttock-Eaters and Breast-Eaters, and Backhanded Compliments to New Zealanders
     
    Insulting the Scots
     
    Where to begin? Gibbon quotes Jerome in a letter/sermon Against Jovinus – in a long rambling section of the strange and weird dietary practices known to the Empire – about a famous (to the English and the Scots) reference to early Scottish hunting practices involving cannibalism. The Attacotti Tribe/Nation of Scotland is mentioned casually by Jerome as eating the breasts and buttocks of herdsmen and herdswomen when they capture them in cattle raids (cattle raids being the national sport of the Picts/Scots at this point in their history).

    How Jerome ever found out about this custom is an interesting question – whether he is showing off his astounding literary memorization skills or indulging in rhetorical fireworks for a grateful Christian audience is much more likely than his intention being a sober, balanced review of the socio-anthropological uses/sources of foodstuffs in the various people making up the current (4th century) Roman Empire. I’m not quite sure what all the fuss is about – unless Jerome, being a saint – is considered infallible.

    It sounds more like fodder for rabid anglophiles (like Gibbon) and the eternal jibes against the Scots which have been going on for millenia now. And it just rings false – where else are Scots or Picts accused of casual gourmet cannibalism? Or cannibalism of any kind? I thinks Gibbon is being a little ingenuous – he usually remonstrates the “history” of Jerome repeatedly for his inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and exaggerations – whether conscious or not. Why, in this case, he says he sees no reason to doubt the word of Jerome seems to me to be typically Gibbonian (prejudiced against the Scots as an upper-class Englishman) and a low blow that renders him (Gibbon) not Jerome or the Scots less reputable in the long run. Enmity usually recoils on the hater rather than the hated.
     

    Picture of Maori men in traditional dress (native nation of New Zealand)

    Picture of Maori men in traditional dress (native nation of New Zealand)

     
    Insulting the New Zealanders
     
    Gibbon goes on to ask if the New Zealanders (presumed cannibals) (the Maori) will be creating a hotbed of philosophical achievement and creativity in a future age as the Scot Hume has done for his own native (former) cannibals. Again – if Gibbon is not bashful about tweaking Voltaire’s nose often and furiously, he will hardly shy away from making broad generalizations about cultures half the globe away, in another hemisphere. But this is the late 1700’s, Australia is but recently settled, and the birth of the science of Comparative Anthropology is 150 years in the future.

    Waitangi - Maori wood carving - intricate and subtle - in my opinion

    Waitangi - Maori wood carving - intricate and subtle - in my opinion

    so, to begin…

    This from Gibbon’s main text, and his more revealing, less-shy footnote:
     

    Their southern neighbours have felt, and perhaps exaggerated, the cruel depredations of the Scots and Picts; and a valiant tribe of Caledonia, the Attacotti, the enemies, and afterwards the soldiers, of Valentinian, are accused by an eyewitness of delighting in the taste of human flesh. When they hunted the woods for prey, it is said that they attacked the shepherd rather than his flock; and that they curiously selected the most delicate and brawny parts both of males and females, which they prepared for their horrid repasts. (117)

    If in the neighbourhood of the commercial and literary town of Glasgow a race of cannibals has really existed, we may contemplate in the period of the Scottish history the opposite extremes of savage and civilised life. Such reflections tend to enlarge the circle of our ideas, and to encourage the pleasing hope that New Zealand may produce in some future age the Hume of the Southern Hemisphere.

    the footnote:

    Note 117
    Cum ipse adolescentulus in Gallia viderim Attacottos (or Scotos) gentem Brittannicam humanis vesci carnibus; et cum per silvas porcorum greges, et armentorum pecudumque reperiant, pastorum nates et feminarum papillas solere ab scindere; et has solas ciborum delicias arbitrari. Such is the evidence of Jerom (tom. ii. p. 75 [adv. Jovinianum, 1. ii. tom. ii. p. 335, ed. Vallars.]), whose veracity I find no reason to question.

    (DEF v.2, ch.25, p.1001 and fn.117

    The passage is hightly contested, freighted with very heavy national issues (Scots versus English, cannibalism, national pride, etc), and continues to this day to be controversial. Here is a translation into English of the offending passage:

    The English Translation of the passage from Jerome from New Advent (a Catholic Organization) (here)
     

    The Sarmatians, the Chuadi, the Vandals, and countless other races, delight in the flesh of horses and wolves. Why should I speak of other nations when I myself, a youth on a visit to Gaul, heard that the Atticoti, a British tribe, eat human flesh, and that although they find herds of swine, and droves of large or small cattle in the woods, it is their custom to cut off the buttocks of the shepherds and the breasts of their women, and to regard them as the greatest delicacies? The Scots have no wives of their own; as though they read Plato’s Republic and took Cato for their leader, no man among them has his own wife, but like beasts they indulge their lust to their hearts’ content.

    (Jerome, Against Jovinus, Book II, part 7 – midway through the part)

    If you turn to Wiki, buried in the article on Attacotti, you will find a modern apology for Jerome’s passage, explaining how with a few extra vowels and consonants, Jerome can be seen to be talking about pigs and cows and not shepherds and shepherdesses. All very reasonable – but if you read around the passage in Jerome (and knowing Jerome’s famous literary LACK OF RATIONALITY, and frequent PASSION and obvious OVERSTATEMENT) the passage seems credible when left alone. After all , in the very next sentence he maintains Scots do not have wives but couple like beasts.

    The unspoken (and much more valid) discussion point is – Does Jerome have the slightest clue what he is talking about? – the answer – probably not – well, most probably not.

    At any rate, here’s another treatment of the cannibals of the North – this about the Attacotti – from Wiki (here):

    St. Jerome was a Christian apologist whose writings contain two incidental references to the Attacotti. His account is particularly noteworthy because he was in Roman Gaul c.365-369/70, while the Attacotti were known to be in Britain until 368 and may have entered Roman military service soon after. Thus it is credible that Jerome had seen Attacotti soldiers, and he would certainly have heard Roman accounts of the recent fighting in Britain.

    In his Letter to Oceanus, he is urging a responsible attitude towards marriage, at one point saying that one should not be like the promiscuous Atacotti, Scotti, and the people of Plato’s Republic.[4][5]

    The Attacotti are also mentioned in his Treatise Against Jovinianus,[6] in a passage which has been the topic of much debate, scholarly and otherwise. In a passage where he notes that the peoples of different regions have different dietary preferences because the food available varies from region to region, he is quoted as saying:

    Quid loquor de ceteris nationibus, cum ipse adolescentulus in Gallia viderim Atticotos, gentem Brittanicam humanis vesci carnibus et cum per silvas porcorum greges et armentorum pecudumque reperiant, pastorum nates et feminarum papillas solere abscindere et has solas ciborum delicias arbitrari?[7]

    Why should I speak of other nations when I, a youth, in Gaul beheld the Attacotti, a British tribe, eat human flesh, and when they find herds of swine, cattle, and sheep in the woods, they are accustomed to cut off the buttocks of the shepherds, and the paps of the shepherdesses, and to consider them as the only delicacies of food.[8]
    Disagreements continue over nuances (such as where to place punctuation marks), but disagreements over the major point of cannibalism divide up as:
    This passage is an assertion by Jerome that he witnessed cannibalism.
    “vidirem” should be read in the sense of “understood” rather than “saw”, so it is an implication rather than an assertion.
    This passage is out of context with the rest of the text and makes no sense, so perhaps there is a transcription corruption; likely the single word “humanis” should be “inhumanis” (meaning animal flesh, not human flesh), in which case “pastorum nates” means “haunches of fatted animals” (not “buttocks of shepherds”) and “fœminarum papillas” means “sow belly” or “cow udder” {not “paps of shepherdesses”); and then the passage makes sense and becomes as innocuous as the other dietary habits that Jerome mentions.[9][10] The passage then also becomes an accurate description of the preferences of pastoral peoples, such as those who lived in northern Roman Britain at that time.

    Photo of Glasgow University, Scotland, Lanarkshire from the early 1900's.  This is supposedly (per Gibbon) the former country/nation of cannibals that eventually (in Medieval, and Gibbon's time) had become one of the cutting-edge educational institutions of the world

    Photo of Glasgow University, Scotland, Lanarkshire from the early 1900's. This is supposedly (per Gibbon) the former country/nation of cannibals that eventually (in Medieval, and Gibbon's time) had become one of the cutting-edge educational institutions of the world

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