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Robert E. Howard And The Romans (and Greeks)


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#1 deuce

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 12:44 AM

REH held a very dim view of Rome and the Romans from childhood on. He wasn't big on the Greeks of the "Classical" period either, although he admired the barbaric "Homeric" Greeks of Mykenaean times. Here 's an excerpt from a Howard letter to HP Lovecraft, ca. February, 1931...

"My antipathy for Rome is one of those things I can't explain myself. Certainly it isn't based on any early reading, because some of that consisted of MacCauley's Lays of Ancient Rome from which flag-waving lines I should have drawn some Roman patriotism, it seems. At an early age I memorized most of those verses, but in reciting, changed them to suit myself and substituted Celtic names for the Roman ones, and changed the settings from Italy to the British Isles! Always, when I've dreamed of Rome, or subconsciously thought of the empire, it has seemed to me like a symbol of slavery -- an iron spider, spreading webs of steel all over the world to choke the rivers with dams, fell the forests, strangle the plains with white roads and drive the free people into cage-like houses and towns."

~ Robert E. Howard ~

So, go ahead and cite instances from REH's yarns, poems or letters.

Credit for the creation of this thread should be given to Mr Rowe, who badgered me into it. ;) :P

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#2 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 02:00 AM

Greetings!

How's this for a question? REH seems to have disliked the Romans, and someone said that he admitted that his dislike was not entirely rational; could you explain it a bit more in-depth?


Kings of the Night

III

"And the two people of the north
Stood fronting in the gloam,
And heard and knew each in his mind
A third great sound upon the wind,
The living wall that hedge mankind,
The walking walls of Rome."


Chesterton~

The scouts topped the ridges,gazed about;then most of them turned and trotted back down the slope.Cormac wondered at their desultory manner of scouting.He had never fought the Romans before,knew nothing of their arrogant self-cofidence,of their incredible shrewdness in some ways,their incredible stupidity in others.


Tu

Edited by Tu for Kull, 23 March 2008 - 02:01 AM.


#3 deuce

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 02:19 AM

Hey Tu! An excellent example of Howard's "antipathy for Rome". Just the kinda stuff we need on this thread. :D

BTW, I moved this post to where it could do the most good. :)

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#4 Strom

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Posted 24 March 2008 - 02:34 AM

Bob probably lost a fight to an Italian at school or something. :)

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#5 deuce

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Posted 24 March 2008 - 02:52 AM

Bob probably lost a fight to an Italian at school or something. :)


Hey Strom! Actually, there were several Italian-American boxers that Howard respected. THAT stuff will probably go on the projected "Howard and Sports" thread. REH's Argosseans in "Queen" and "Dragon" are tough, salty sea-dogs like the Italian Genovese/Pisans/Venetians of the Middle Ages that Howard modeled them on. Howard had no problem with medieval Italians, just those of the Republican/Imperial era. He really didn't like the Roman empire. Basically, REH didn't give much of a rat's a$$ for any ethnic group from the "Classical" period (except the Celts). He consistently said that his interests lay in the pre-Classical Middle East and the medieval period (from Erin to Mongolia). If you look at the cultures of the Hyborian Age, there is that exact same split, everything north (and east) of Shem being "medieval"-type cultures, everything south basically pre-Classical Semitic, Egyptian etc...

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#6 jak

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 11:10 PM

Howard had no problem with medieval Italians, just those of the Republican/Imperial era.


Maybe it's because the Romans may have dominated Celtic lands? If they didn't invade Ireland outright, they were at least the bully on the block for centuries. Now that I think about it, I don't recall a single dominant empire like that of the Romans in REH's Hyborian world.

Why REH didn't like Greek society is more of a mystery ... perhaps because it was the cradle of democracy / civilization that was at odds with his written preference for barbarism.

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#7 Kortoso

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 05:13 PM

I wonder what he would have made of the linguistic relationship between the Latins and the Celts. The early Latin tribes were surrounded by Celts in the early days, and may have been Celts as well. Before they went bad. ;)
http://en.wikipedia....ki/Italo-Celtic



#8 deuce

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 04:25 AM

Howard had no problem with medieval Italians, just those of the Republican/Imperial era.


Maybe it's because the Romans may have dominated Celtic lands? If they didn't invade Ireland outright, they were at least the bully on the block for centuries. Now that I think about it, I don't recall a single dominant empire like that of the Romans in REH's Hyborian world.

Why REH didn't like Greek society is more of a mystery ... perhaps because it was the cradle of democracy / civilization that was at odds with his written preference for barbarism.


Hey Jak! John Morris, in his magisterial The Age of Arthur, predicted the Leinster finds decades ago. Also, if you check out the "REH and the Irish" thread, you'll see that Howard seems to have predicted a Roman incursion into Erin.

We'll get to the Greeks, by and by. :)

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#9 deuce

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 04:31 AM

I wonder what he would have made of the linguistic relationship between the Latins and the Celts. The early Latin tribes were surrounded by Celts in the early days, and may have been Celts as well. Before they went bad. ;)
http://en.wikipedia....ki/Italo-Celtic


Hey Kortoso! In a letter to HPL (which I'll get around to) REH seems to say that he considers "Celtic" to be the "root language" of all European languages. Also, in another letter, he reveals that he would side with the Romans against the "East". Plus, he wrote a couple of fairly "pro-Roman" poems (concerned with marching in the legions, etc...).

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#10 deuce

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 04:44 AM

Here's a couple of quotes from a long letter REH wrote to Lovecraft ca. June of 1931... (151.)

"Another thing difficult to understand is my aversion toward things Roman. As you say, Rome made no attempt to destroy the folk-traditions of her subjects; life in the Roman republic and early empire must have been far more desirable than life in the later feudal age. Rome built system and order out of chaos and laid down the lines of a solid civilization -- and yet the old unreasoning instinct rises in me and I cannot think of Rome as anything but an enemy! Maybe it's because Rome always won her wars until the very last days, and my instincts have always been on the side of the loser -- Celtic instincts again, I suppose."

"I can appreciate your feelings toward New York, as a Nordic city engulfed by alien hordes -- much the same process must have taken place in Rome, in the days of the later empire. I can imagine a Roman patrician of the old pure stock feeling much the same toward later Rome, as you feel toward modern New York."

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#11 jak

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Posted 21 July 2008 - 08:34 PM

Here's a couple of quotes from a long letter REH wrote to Lovecraft ca. June of 1931... (151.)

" Rome built system and order out of chaos and laid down the lines of a solid civilization -- and yet the old unreasoning instinct rises in me and I cannot think of Rome as anything but an enemy!"


Hey Deuce,

Given REH's stance on the superiority of the barbarian vs. the civilized man, I find his prejudice against Rome a natural occurrence. Many times he cites Conan's reflexes and instincts as superior, and no doubt they would have been in many ways, except perhaps higher forms of tactical thinking. Conan was quick to learn and command at the higher ranks. In our world, Huns almost cut civilization out of the picture. Civilized = soft to REH, though that's not always true, particularly since we've lost most of our wild side as a species.

Guess Burroughs did his share of the same, with the wild instincts, strength, and quickness of Tarzan far superior to any civilized man.

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#12 deuce

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 05:20 AM

From a letter to HPL (August 9, 1932).

REH is describing a "Slovene Communist organizer" that he met in San Antonio to Lovecraft...

"We eyed each other as I imagine a native Roman of the old stock and an alien Greek might have eyed each other in Rome, in the later empire -- with mutual distrust and lack of understanding; tinged with resentment on my part and a hint of contempt on his..."

~ Robert E. Howard ~
(CLV2, p.401)

This is one of the interesting few instances where Howard places himself in the perspective of a Roman (at least, for the benefit of HPL).

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#13 jjelmquist

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 03:36 PM

REH held a very dim view of Rome and the Romans from childhood on. He wasn't big on the Greeks of the "Classical" period either, though he admired the barbaric "Homeric" Greeks of Mykenaean times. Here 's an excerpt from a Howard letter to HP Lovecraft, ca. February, 1931...


REH included this anti-Roman view in his fiction too. Worms of the Earth is probably one of Howard's best non-Conan tales, in which the hero Bran mak Morn exhibits vile hatred for the Romans, and goes to great lengths (or depths) to defeat them. Great story - and oh so creepy. Beware the worms of the earth!

Edited by jjelmquist, 25 September 2008 - 03:39 PM.


#14 timeless

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 05:06 PM

"There are no weapons I would not use against Rome!"
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream. - Edgar Allen Poe

It's the olden lure, it's the golden lure, it's the lure of the timeless things. - Robert Service

For the myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. - Thomas Mann

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. - Norman Maclean

#15 deuce

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 12:07 AM

REH held a very dim view of Rome and the Romans from childhood on. He wasn't big on the Greeks of the "Classical" period either, though he admired the barbaric "Homeric" Greeks of Mykenaean times. Here 's an excerpt from a Howard letter to HP Lovecraft, ca. February, 1931...


REH included this anti-Roman view in his fiction too. Worms of the Earth is probably one of Howard's best non-Conan tales, in which the hero Bran mak Morn exhibits vile hatred for the Romans, and goes to great lengths (or depths) to defeat them. Great story - and oh so creepy. Beware the worms of the earth!


Hey JJ! Yeah, I love "WotE". B) Without a doubt, REH included his view of the Roman Empire in several yarns. Basically, Howard's views on MOST topics are there to see in any given story. As HPL noted, REH "put himself into" each and every yarn. Most every "POV" in any given yarn he wrote is "his". Howard doesn't seem to have donned a "literary mask" or "alternative POV" very often.

Ever read Delenda Est? Great little tale about the events leading to the sack of Rome, and you also get a good look at how REH viewed Genseric the Vandal in comparison to Attila (and some stuff about Hannibal). :)

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#16 deuce

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 12:39 AM

From a letter to Lovecraft, ca. January 1931...

"When I dream of Rome, I am always pitted against her, hating her with a ferocity that in my younger days persisted in my waking hours, so that I still remember, with some wonder, the savage pleasure with which I read, at the age of nine, the destruction of Rome by the Germanic barbarians. At the same time, reading of the conquest of Britain by those same races filled me with resentment. Somehow, I have never been able to conceive fully of a Latinized civilization in Britain; to me that struggle has always seemed mainly a war of British barbarians against Germanic barbarians, with my sympathies wholly with the Britons."

~ Robert E. Howard ~

from The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, Volume 2: 1930-1932

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#17 Fernando

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 08:45 PM

Ever read Delenda Est? Great little tale about the events leading to the sack of Rome, and you also get a good look at how REH viewed Genseric the Vandal in comparison to Attila (and some stuff about Hannibal). :)


I've translated it some weeks ago. Wonderful little tale! :D And the fragment Genseric's Fifth-Born Son also shows a little more of REH's anti-Roman view.

#18 deuce

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 06:43 AM

From a letter to HP Lovecraft, August 9, 1932...

"I have tried to study Greek and Roman history, but have found it dull and to some extent inexplicable. I can not understand their viewpoints. The Achaeans of the Heroic Age interest me, and to a lesser extent, the Romans of the early republic, when they were a struggling tribal-state, if they could be called that. But soon that interest dwindles."

~ Robert E. Howard ~

From The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, Volume Two

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#19 deuce

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 07:48 PM

And another, a rare pro-Roman piece from Bob (Bran Mak Morn is turning in his grave...)





A Song Of The Legions

The crystal gong of the silence
Shivers in shattered shards;
And the marble hall re-echoes
To the tread of the crested guards.

Fingers pluck at the hangings,
White in the purple gloam;
Midnight lies with the sleepers
In the pulsing heart of Rome.

Rosy lips smile in slumber,
Arms nestle bodies white --
Rome in her silks and marbles
Sleeps through the soft-lipped night.

Echoing down the heather
The restless trumpets call,
Questioning each of the other
Down the line of the winding Wall.

Eyes strain hard in the darkness,
To the pulse of an echo blown --
Rome is of gold and iron
But a soldier is flesh and bone.

Fires in the hills are burning,
To the far off throb of a drum;
Through the ghostly waving heather
What phantom figures come?

Shadows or painted warriors?
The death drums never cease.
Stand to your watches, legion,
That Rome may sleep in peace.

Beacons burn in the towers,
Eyes straining hard beside,
Ears a-tune to the murmur,
The sigh of each changing tide.

Was that the shrill of a night bird
Where the waves are grey as steel,
Or the grind of a muffled oar-lock,
The wash of a prowling keel?

Drift wood or sword-fanged sea-wolves,
Not yours is rest or ease;
Stand to your watches, legion,
That Rome may sleep in peace.


As Timeless notes, this is one of Howard's rare "pro-Roman" pieces. I get the same feel from this that I get from Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King when the topic of "detriments" is brought up. ;)

*This poem was originally posted on the "Poems and Verse of Robert E. Howard" thread.

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#20 Axerules

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 06:27 AM

Letter to H. P. Lovecraft, circa July 1934

"(...) I have read with interest your rhapsodies over the Romans, and am puzzled, as I have been in the past, as to how you can idealize one people of a former age to such a degree and at the same time so bitterly attack me for my interest in another.
(...) I was deeply interested in your remarks concerning the Roman occupation of Britain. That gives me another reason to be thankful that there is so little English blood in my veins, and that what is there is more Danish than Britton or Saxon. If I thought I had a drop of Roman blood in my veins, I'd be glad to take a knife and let it out. My pride in my distant ancestors is not based on the fact that they were conquered by the Romans, but on the fact that they whipped the socks off those big-shot racketeers of antiquity."
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