Monday, September 07, 2009

The History Lesson

We are eating dinner – leftover stew, potatoes and green beans from our garden, as well as organic tomatoes purchased at the Truro Agfair – when Sven suddenly declares, “2000 years ago, three Roman legions marched into Germany and didn’t return. It was the worst catastrophe the Roman army had experienced for hundreds of years. No one came home, and the emperor, who was Augustus at the time, realizing the catastrophe, said, 'Varus, give me back my legions!'"

This is all very interesting, but my mind is still at the Agfair, regretting I had not brought home one of the two-inch-high, homemade berry pies. I make the transition like a kid turning a corner on a tricycle, one wheel in the air. The Roman empire superimposes itself on the Outer Cape. The Truro green becomes a battlefield. I see soldiers instead of farmers; helmets, not straw hats; breastplates, rather than pie plates.

“Why do you mention it?” I ask, having fully regained my balance.

“It happened 2000 years ago, yesterday.”

Ah! 2009 – 2000 = 9 AD.

“How many men in a legion?” I say, warming to the history lesson.

“Almost 10,000.”

Wow, 30,000 dead! But Sven has already moved on to the statue of Arminius, the German leader, and excavation of the battlefield.

“An amateur archeologist, a British officer, by the way, located the battlefield. He found lead bullets with a machine like the one that man on the beach had the other day. They used slingshots. You could hit a man in the head at 200 meters. The Germans had recycled the metal, all the swords, and the metal part of the shields. The most famous find was a mask, used by cavalry officers, one that covers the face. They also found Roman coins ….”

Life with a historian is never dull!