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deuce

Lovecraft's Roman-Era Characters (Letters and Stories)

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deuce

Lovecraft loved the Roman Empire. He mentioned quite a few actual Romans of his own invention in his tales and letters. Yet, I really haven't seen much (if any) mention of them in Cthulhu Invictus or elsewhere. I thought it would be good to search those out and get them in one thread. Such a database can be nothing but useful.  :)

 

The most obvious place to start would be "The Very Old Folk":

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/vof.aspx

 

----------------------------------------------

 

L. Caelius Rufus: provincial quaestor of Hispana Citerior in Roman Iberia (probably sometime close to 27BC), residing in Calagurris.

 

Publius Scribonius Libo: proconsul of HC, residing in Tarraco.

 

Sextus Asellius: military tribune of the fifth cohort of the XIIth Legion.

 

Cornelius Balbutius: legatus for the entire region, residing in Calagurris. A close friend of Caelius.

 

Tiberius Annaeus Stilpo: half-native aedile of Pompelo.

 

Helvia: pure Roman daughter of M. Helvius Cinna and mother of Stilpo.

 

Antipater: a Greek slave.

 

Vercellius: a local guide.

 

D. Vibulanus: a subcenturio and a native of the region.

 

--------------------------

 

I know enough Roman history/culture to puzzle out some of HPL's abbreviations, but not all.

 

Of course, there are many more mentions in other Lovecraft tales. If I hadn't lost The Lovecraft Lexicon in the Flood, my task would be a bit easier. There are numerous fictitious Romans mentioned by Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard as well.

 

Frank%20Frazetta-Seven%20Romans.jpg

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deuce

From "The Descendant" (also known as "The Book"):

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/de.aspx

 

Cnaeus Gabinius Capito: military tribune in the Third Augustan Legion then stationed at Lindum in Roman Britain. He was summarily expelled from his command for participation in certain rites unconnected with any known religion.

 

 

In historical fact, the Third Augustan Legion (also mentioned in "The Rats in the Walls") never got near Britain. HPL scholar, David Haden, has an interesting explanation:

 

[scroll down to p.109]

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/de.aspx

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wombat1

From "The Descendant" (also known as "The Book"):

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/de.aspx

 

Cnaeus Gabinius Capito: military tribune in the Third Augustan Legion then stationed at Lindum in Roman Britain. He was summarily expelled from his command for participation in certain rites unconnected with any known religion.

 

 

In historical fact, the Third Augustan Legion (also mentioned in "The Rats in the Walls") never got near Britain. HPL scholar, David Haden, has an interesting explanation:

 

[scroll down to p.109]

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/de.aspx

I think it could be as simple as "Lovecraft really should have said legio II Augusta."  But with that amendment, really makes for a useful tidbit, at a very opportune moment.

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deuce

I think it could be as simple as "Lovecraft really should have said legio II Augusta."  But with that amendment, really makes for a useful tidbit, at a very opportune moment.

 

Well, as Haden's essay points out, HPL should have said "the Second Augustan Legion" but didn't. I think his reasoning as to why Lovecraft did not is pretty sound. As a result, I'll be moving Exham Priory/Anchester up north (not far south of Hexham) but with the Second (not the Third) stationed there.

 

However, it is tempting to have a cohort or two of the Third up there just to give Maximinus the excuse to disband the entire legion (which he actually didbecause of Capito's antics (on top of the Gordianus affair).

 

BTW, Capito seems to have been serving on the Wall/in northern Britannia precisely at the time when Bran Mak Morn was making things difficult in Caledonia.

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TMS

Isn't "The Book" a separate fragment? By the way, the link to Haden's theory just leads to the story again.

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wombat1

 By the way, the link to Haden's theory just leads to the story again.

I was wondering about that too.

 

If for fiction writing purposes or for scenario writing purposes, one needs a detachment of a legion or auxilliary unit somewhere where it is not historically attested to be, of course, one puts it in there without worrying too much about attestation and gives it whatever back story one wants.  Otherwise one is down to chasing through the list of Roman legions and their stations, which, pre-wikipedia, is a chore.  I know that Lovecraft was a very well read individual, but I suspect he had other concerns than getting his Roman numeral exactly right.

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yronimoswhateley

I inclined to agree:  Lovecraft was just doing his fiction writer thing, and making stuff up.

 

 

 

That does leave a few options for us, though, for pursuing it further in RPGs and other fiction:

  • It's fiction:  it's fiction, and nobody but the occasional history student will notice.  '...If you're wondering how he eats and breathes / And other science facts, / Just repeat to yourself "It's just a show, / I should really just relax...."'
  • It's history, but from sort of alternate universe, where the Third Augustan legion was in Britain, the Necronomicon exists, Arkham and Innsmouth and Dunwich are real places, the U.S. military participated in a clandestine action in Innsmouth, and the Miskatonic University is a real institution that lauched a real expedition beyond the Mountains of Madness....
  • A Wizard Did It:  The Third Augustan legion really was in Britain, but, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" style, some powerful being (Merlin?) altered reality for our own good, or for strange reasons of its own.  "Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, / Life is but a dream...."
  • A Roman cover-up:  the Third Augustan legion was in Britain, but the Roman government covered the truth up, for our protection.  (How did Lovecraft stumble on the truth?  What else did he know?  What other lost secrets of the ancient world could could he have revealed to the public, if it weren't for his very suspicious early death?)
  • Lovecraft as well-meaning but unreliable narrator:  Lovecraft is recording real events, filling in the blanks with his best guesses, but the reality is much stranger:  there was an entirely different legion present, one whose very existence was thoroughly stricken from the history books; perhaps Lovecraft's sources mentioned a legion that doesn't seem to exist, and Lovecraft, assuming those sources were mistaken, "corrected" them as best as he could, unfortunately muddying the waters even more....   (What other unimaginable and unbelievable facts did his sources reveal, and how many of them did Lovecraft leave unprinted because they were too fantastic for even his fiction?)
  • Lovecraft as incompetent unreliable narrator:  he's telling us things that really happened, but, being human, he got a couple facts wrong, it was actually the Second Augustan legion, and perhapse some of his other facts and conclusions can also be called in question.... (Lovecraft's view of reality could definitely be argued to be affected by his prejudices and biases, and he was just as capable of making mistakes as the best dedicated researcher... what alternative stories could be read between the lines of Lovecraft's conclusions, assuming he's got things all wrong?)
  • Lovecraft as deliberately covering up the truth by being an unreliable narrator:  he's disguising the facts about things that really happened, for our protection against the sanity-blasting reality of the research he followed at great personal cost to himself... or because he's one of Them!

 

I'm sure there are other options available that I didn't think of, and any of them could have fun possibilities for a creative writer....

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JeffErwin

I placed Exham at Alchester (site of a Roman fort) in Oxfordshire in my Elizabethan project, but that's in part because of where it is relative to the Severn Valley in Campbell's work (i.e., between Brichester and London). This was also influenced by the residence of the Poer or Pour family nearby, as well as the Norreys/Norris/Norrys family there. However, while I am keeping this for my purposes (the Norris and Poer connections to Elizabethan history) I wasn't aware of the fact that Lovecraft's paternal grandmother's family was from Hexham (or he thought so), and there is the little matter of the Gaelic at the end of the story. Which is anachronistic, but vaguely suggests Northern Britain. There may have been P-Celtic tribes in Britain proper but the idea is both a bit outdated and controversial.

 

Hexham Abbey, however, was converted into the town church after the Dissolution and is the middle of the community, not an isolated ruin.

 

I'd go with option #2 personally.

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rylehNC
Of course, there are many more mentions in other Lovecraft tales. If I hadn't lost The Lovecraft Lexicon in the Flood, my task would be a bit easier. There are numerous fictitious Romans mentioned by Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard as well.

 

It's been a while since I read David Drake's Vettius and His Friends; I recall those stories made for a Lovecraftesque read.

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cjearkham

I inclined to agree:  Lovecraft was just doing his fiction writer thing, and making stuff up.

 

Yes, but so much of Lovecraft's work's uses factual information as support for the fantastic elements, so that I'm disinclined to accept "he was just making stuff up".

 

David Haden's essay is well argued.  The proper link to download the book it's in is here.  As Deuce said, jump to p. 109. 

 

However, Jeff's finding of Poers and Norryses in the Severn Valley is also significant, given how Lovecraft also used local family names in stories set in an area. I'd like to know if Poers and Norryses (or variations thereon) were also found in the Hexham area.

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JeffErwin

Yes, but so much of Lovecraft's work's uses factual information as support for the fantastic elements, so that I'm disinclined to accept "he was just making stuff up".

 

David Haden's essay is well argued.  The proper link to download the book it's in is here.  As Deuce said, jump to p. 109. 

 

However, Jeff's finding of Poers and Norryses in the Severn Valley is also significant, given how Lovecraft also used local family names in stories set in an area. I'd like to know if Poers and Norryses (or variations thereon) were also found in the Hexham area.

 

No, they weren't. There are Poers, Poors, and Delapoers in Ireland (the Poer or Pour family of Oxfordshire being an outlier). The Norreys/Norris/Norrys family is (was) chiefly found in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire.

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deuce

From "The Descendant" (also known as "The Book"):

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/de.aspx

 

Cnaeus Gabinius Capito: military tribune in the Third Augustan Legion then stationed at Lindum in Roman Britain. He was summarily expelled from his command for participation in certain rites unconnected with any known religion.

 

 

In historical fact, the Third Augustan Legion (also mentioned in "The Rats in the Walls") never got near Britain. HPL scholar, David Haden, has an interesting explanation:

 

[scroll down to p.109]

 

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/de.aspx

 

A valid link to Haden's research (p.109):\

 

http://www.jurn.org/lovecraft_historical_context_four_2013.pdf

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amandoti

I know enough Roman history/culture to puzzle out some of HPL's abbreviations, but not all.

 

You may have worked this out already, but L. corresponds to Lucius, M. to Marcus and D. to Decimus. Cn. = Cnaeus is correct but can also be spelled (and should be pronounced) "Gnaeus"; same with C. = Caius pronounced (and often spelled) "Gaius".

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deuce

You may have worked this out already, but L. corresponds to Lucius, M. to Marcus and D. to Decimus. Cn. = Cnaeus is correct but can also be spelled (and should be pronounced) "Gnaeus"; same with C. = Caius pronounced (and often spelled) "Gaius".

 

Thanks, Amandoti! I'd puzzled out "D. for Decimus" since I'd first posted. Is there an online resource for such things?

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wombat1

Thanks, Amandoti! I'd puzzled out "D. for Decimus" since I'd first posted. Is there an online resource for such things?

This can get you started:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praenomen

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TMS

We've forgotten the Romans from Lovecraft's "family tree." Nyarlathotep took human form as "the ancient patrician gens Viburnia of Haec," whose descendants were L. Viburnius Marco, P. Viburnius Marco (legate of the 11th Legion, stationed at Isca Silurum in 103 AD), and Viburnia (whose union with Ghoth the Burrower of the Little People was a "hellish and nameless tragedy").

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cjearkham

From "Shadow out of Time": "a Roman named Titus Sempronius Blaesus, who had been a quaestor in Sulla's time".

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JeffErwin

No, they weren't. There are Poers, Poors, and Delapoers in Ireland (the Poer or Pour family of Oxfordshire being an outlier). The Norreys/Norris/Norrys family is (was) chiefly found in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire.

 

 I'd like to add that there were also historically Le Poers in Gloucestershire and Devonshire but neither branch survived the 13th or 15th centuries, respectively. I have ended up using the Gloucestershire Poers for my version of Exham after painstakenly reconstructing references in Ramsey Campbell.

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deuce

This can get you started:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praenomen

 

Ah. Brilliant! Should've been able to find it for myself. Thanks, Wombat.  :D

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deuce

We've forgotten the Romans from Lovecraft's "family tree." Nyarlathotep took human form as "the ancient patrician gens Viburnia of Haec," whose descendants were L. Viburnius Marco, P. Viburnius Marco (legate of the 11th Legion, stationed at Isca Silurum in 103 AD), and Viburnia (whose union with Ghoth the Burrower of the Little People was a "hellish and nameless tragedy").

 

I hadn't forgotten that, just hadn't gotten round to it. Thanks muchly, TMS. :D

 

That diagram also shows that HPL figured the Little People/Worms of the Earth into his own universe.

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deuce

A letter from HPL to Fritz Leiber:

 

https://www.noosfere.org/heberg/nehwon/htm/hpl/hpl3.htm

 

The Romano-British names he lists are from real burial stelae, but he does count them as his own fanciful ancestors.

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