Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Two Thumbs Up for German series "Barbarian"

Finished watching the new German Netflix original series "Barbarian" last night and I give it a big two thumbs up! Excellent acting, stayed pretty close to historical events, and I was awestruck by scenes of how large a Roman encampment of three legions was (especially in comparison to the small local villages which I think was the point) and how fearsome the legions marching in formation must have appeared to the local tribesmen who referred to them as columns of steel.

I'm currently listening to book 4 of S.J.A. Turney's Marius' Mules series of novels about Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul and at this point in the war (55 BCE) Caesar had eight legions with him not just the three Varus commanded, which still looked quite formidable in the German film. Caesar's encampment must have truly appeared as a metropolitan city in the middle of a near wilderness.

I also enjoyed watching the legions on the march realistically packing all of their kit on their backs with their centurions striding along in the front line and the tribunes and legates riding along beside each legion. It really made the images of Legate Fronto and his tenth legion described in Turney's novels come alive for me!

I'm also grateful supernatural elements, did not dominate the film as they did in "Britannia."  

Just one historical note - Arminius was a hostage raised in Rome, but not by Publius Quinctilius Varus as depicted in the film.  I can understand how this fictional relationship served a dramatic purpose, though, to emphasize Arminius' conflicted nature about betraying the people who had raised him from a child. He was drafted into the Roman military at an early age, during which he was granted Roman citizenship and became a Roman knight as accurately depicted in the film. After serving with distinction in the Great Illyrian Revolt, he was sent to Germania to aid the local governor, Varus, in completing the Roman conquest of the Germanic tribes.  In the aftermath of the battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Arminius fought retaliatory invasions by the Roman general Germanicus in the battles of Pontes Longi, Idistaviso, and the Angrivarian Wall, and deposed a rival, the Marcomanni king Maroboduus before eventually being assassinated by his own people in 21 BCE.  I assume these battles will be the focus of future seasons of the series.

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