Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Romes Heart of Darkness: The Dacian Campaign

I attended Dr. Christina Calhoon's lecture on the Dacian Campaign on Friday and enjoyed it very much. The presenter compared the images of the conquest of Dacia on Trajan's column with the literary images of Belgium's brutal colonization of the Congo as described in Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness".

Christina pointed out that the forest has always symbolized a foreboding uncivilized part of the world to the Romans so you frequently see images of the Romans cutting down trees as a symbol of their bringing civilization to the wild lands of the barbarians.

She displayed an image of a Dacian fortress with its row of heads on pikes as a symbol of their uncivilized status although she also pointed out an image of a Roman auxiliary fighting while holding a severed head by the hair in his teeth. She mentioned that "civilized" Romans would have recognized that the soldier was an auxiliary by his dress so such behavior from an auxiliary, that were frequently "barbarians", would not have been a reflection on normal Roman society.

She also mentioned something very interesting. She said the Dacians topped and delimbed trees then dressed them in armor in an attempt to deceive the Romans.