multa hominum milia caesa, multa sub corona venundata. cumque dirutis omnibus Aventicum gentis caput infesto agmine peteretur, missi qui dederent civitatem, et deditio accepta.
Thousands were put to the sword, thousands more were sold into slavery. Every place having been completely destroyed, the army was marching in regular order on Aventicum, the capital town, when a deputation was sent to surrender the city. This surrender was accepted.
Tacitus, Hist. 1.67-69 (tr. by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb [1864-1877])
Although I remember disguising myself as Julius Caesar for Fête de l’Escalade in school when I was eleven and although I took several seminars (and exams) on archaeological subjects related to the Roman empire when I studied Ancient History as a minor subject at the University of Geneva more than a decade later, Roman civilisation somehow seems to have lost most of the shine it used to exert on me.
Of course, I cannot deny that the Romans have had an enormous impact on us here in the West, but I also feel that the less positive or simply downright negative aspects of this people are not really being acknowledged (for instance, the Roman’s extreme ruthlessness and brutality towards the peoples who tried to resist them – which is why I inserted at the beginning of this entry a quote from the Roman historian Tacitus about an uprising against the Romans that took place in Switzerland in 68-69 AD). In addition, the cultural/‘civilisational’ achievements of the people conquered and ultimately assimilated into the Roman empire tend to be downplayed still to this day, some 2,000 years later.
Based on the programme of Aventicum MMXV, I felt that the commemorations were no exception to this general tendency given that I saw that there would be absolutely nothing devoted to the Helvetii and also very little to their immediate descendants who were quickly assimilated into the Roman empire – they are generally called the Gallo-Romans.
Strangely, I felt the same when I visited Laténium, a museum in Neuchâtel whose name is derived from the important archaeological site after which a period of Celtic history was named, La Tène: it is as if this country has still not managed to rid itself of the Romans’ derogatory view of its Celtic ancestors as barbarians, as inferior to the Romans.
Several historians have been advocating that we adopt a different view of the Celts (i.e. that we judge them based on their achievements, not based on what Roman historians thought of them) for close to thirty years now, but this more favourable attitude towards the Celts seems to have not made it into generally accepted beliefs about our ancestors of 2,000 years ago:
For my part, the people(s) who really interest me are those that built structures like the one below, the Celts’ own far-distant ancestors. 😉
So much so that I would love to go to this place in Scotland this summer: