Thursday, February 11, 2016

Brennus: Warlord of the Cisalpine Gauls - Part III

Brennus: Hero or plunderer?

Brennus was covered here once before briefly ('Brennus of the 4th century BC'), and the question remains; should Brennus be thought of as our own noble ancestor who stood up against Roman oppressors, or as a foreign invader who only destroyed and plundered? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

I recall years ago of reading a Padanian website in English, where Brenno was mentioned as a northern hero. I distinctly remember reading at the end of that particular writing, something like "now Brenno is coming back!" A reference of his Gaulish spirit coming back.

To find the truth, we must recognize two items to begin with. First, Gaul and Cisalpine Gaul were the same culture; and second, the Romans had not invaded the heart of Cisalpine Gaul as of yet. While Brennus was from northern Gaul, there were strong cultural links, For example, part of the northern Gaulish tribe called the Cenomani, apparently migrated to what is now the area of lower Brescia and Verona. These migrations were common, and had occurred over centuries. Therefore, on one hand Brennus was legitimately a powerful figure to the Cisalpine Gauls; while on the other hand the Romans had not invaded the Gauls as of yet. You cannot "strike back" against someone for something they had not done yet; therefore Brennus was more of a plunderer than a resistance fighter.

The simple truth is that the Romans and the Gauls are both part of our heritage. Most the the north were eventually to be culturally "Romanized Gauls." I've always tried to reason that prior to the rise of Rome, there was Gaulish influence in Tuscany and the south ("southern Cisalpina") and Etruscan influence in Lombardy and the north. Had Rome not risen to power, I think that the two cultures (Etruscan-Umbrian and Gaulish-Alpine) would have merged peacefully together. In fact, they already were. In conclusion, in my opinion--as far as this Etrusco-Gaulish ethnic identity concept is concerned--the invading Romans and the later invasion of Germanic tribes were ethno-cultural admixtures.... "secondary influences" as far as ethnicity. Also of interest is that both the Etruscans and the larger Celtic societies, expanded in relative peace. There existed only marginal "pushing" between Etruscans and Gauls; and while local Celtic tribes battled from time to time, it was hardly a clash of civilizations.

In the movie 'Brennus: Enemy of Rome', the Romans were the protagonists. Legitimately defending against an invading barbarian horde. Generally, the Romans are thought of as a civilizing influence amid their ever expanding empire. A cruel system expanding and civilizing an even crueler dark world. The documentary in part one is very interesting with an intentionally ironic title. It showed that the Celtic world (Gaul, British Isles, Spain, south Germany) had a system of roads linking trading centers which traded with other tribes, as well as with Etruscans, Greeks, Phoenicians, etc. They had advanced architecture, including buildings with deep cellars and multiple stories. Their clothing included material, designs, and colors which were very similar to the Scottish clans of much later times. Also, the style of music was similar across this "Celtic world."

It probably wouldn't be entirely truthful to say that Brennus was to the Cisalpine Gauls, what Vercingetorix was to the northern Gauls. There were Cisalpine Gauls among Brennus' army, but Brennus himself was not from Cisalpine Gaul.


Random fact: I believe that in the movie 'Brennus: Enemy of Rome', Brennus twice made mention of the god "Thor." At one point saying "In the name of Thor!" Thor was a god in the Teutonic pantheon, and not present in Gaulish polytheism. Apparently the filmmakers perceived "the Gauls" as a particular Germanic tribe, instead of an entire culture made up of their own separate tribal groups.


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