I have a problem which is nagging at the back of my head and I want to put it to the demos of the EBII forum to gauge people’s view.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that of all the possible EBII factions that may be in the pipeline I am a strong advocate for one group in particular, the Belgae. Recent discussion and popular opinion appear to suggest other people are likewise in favour of a Belgic faction for a variety of reasons (stopping the Sweboz for one) so this thread should hopefully provoke a bit of discussion. Let us assume for a moment that the Belgae are a locked/soon to be confirmed faction. The problem I have is “which Belgae?”. For you see there are three possible groups who could represent the Belgae; the Belgians proper, the Remi and the Tréveri. Each has its own merits which could allow it to be a faction and it is these I wish to discuss with you fine people.
The first issue to raise and dismiss is the idea of “why not just have the Belgae as one faction?”. In my view this would be equivalent of when Creative Assembly gave us the “Gaul”, “Britannia” and “Germania” factions in vanilla, a unified polity where in truth a unified polity did not exist. Although the Belgae did posses the Concillium Commune Belgarum as Caesar describes (Caesar, BG II, 4.4) this was an assembly of the Belgic tribes, like the Concilium Totius Galliae, which Caesar describes in other parts of his narrative for Gallia Celtae, it was not a unified government. Within Belgica different tribes pursued different policies, in some cases policies which were directly at odds with other Belgic tribes. Each of the three groups I would like to discuss with you here were distinct enough in their actions and history that they should not all be classed as “A Belgae faction”.
THE BELGIANS PROPER
The first of these and (I will not lie, my favourite choice) are what I refer to as The Belgians Proper or, to give them their individual tribal names; The Bellovaci, Viromandui, Atrebates and Ambiani. To this group the Suessions can also possibly be added. You see, in addition to describing Belgica, Caesar also names a region called Belgium within Belgica. Whilst wintering his troops in 54BC he states that he billeted some legions in Belgium but also sent some legions outside of Beglium to winter in the territory of the Eburones, Nervii, Morini and Remi despite previously naming these tribes as living in Belgica (Caesar BG V 4, II 4). This idea of “Belgium” as a part distinct within Belgica was first discussed by the British archaeologists Hawkes and Dunning in their landmark paper “The Belgae of Gaul and Britain” (Hawkes and Dunning 1930, 240-244). It has since received further support from other specialists such as Chris Hawkes (1968), Rolf Hachmann (1976), Nico Roymans (1993) Stefan Fichtl (1994) and Colin Haselgrove (2007).
The idea of the tribes listed above, as having a distinct regional identity of coming from “Belgium” has interesting connotations as the Beglic people Caesar describes as having settled in Britain were “ex Belgio” (from Belgium) rather “ex Belgica” (Caesar BG, V 12; Hawkes and Dunning 1930 240-242). And this idea of the Belgae of “Belgium” expanding into Britain is supported by three facts. Firstly is Caesars description of the Suession king Diviciacos having ruled Belgium and parts of Britain (Caesar BG II 5). Secondly, beginning around the mid 2nd Century BC gold coinage began to arrive in south eastern Britain from the continent, this coinage invariably come from the region of “Belgium”, in most cases from the Ambiani and Atrebates but with some from the regions of the Bellovaci and Suessions (Allen 1960; Creighton 2000). Furthermore the only Belgic tribal name we can find in Britain which testifies to the Belgic invasion is that of the Atrebates. It thus appears that the Belgians proper were expansionist, a feature key to any possible EBII faction.
The international relations of the Belgians Proper would also make for an interesting faction as Caesar informs us that the Bellovaci (who he also states as being the most important of the Belgians) were allies of the Aedui, even stating that the Bellovaci decided to oppose the Romans out of feelings that the Aedui had been enslaved by the Romans (Caesar BG II 14). This alliance between the Aedui and Bellovaci (which could be assumed to include the other Belgians) appears to have been a particularly old one, one which was likely already in existence in 272BC (Fichtl 2003).
Other features which would make the Belgians proper an interesting group is their archaeology. Sanctuaries within “Belgium”, due to their location on the borders of different tribes, have been suggested to fulfil the role of communal centres which acted to unify the tribes into the sort of confederation which Caesar describes this regions as having (Fichtl 2003, 68; Caesar BG II)
THE REMI (AND SUESSIONS)
The Remi and the Suessions are likewise strong contenders for a possible Belgic faction. According to Caesar they shared the same government, laws, institutions and were brothers (Caesar BG II 3). Despite this they pursued different policies during the Gallic wars. The Suessions have already been discussed and so this section is dedicated more so to the Remi than both tribes. The strength of the Remi as leaders of a possible Belgic faction lies in the fact that by 52BC they had established a sizeable number of subject clients (Carnutes, Meldes and Suessions) and were second only to the Aedui in terms of importance in Gaul (Fichtl 2004 135; Caesar BG VI 12). However this place of importance within Gallic inter-tribal politics, although it may have been older, appears to have more to do with the recent decline of the Sequani and Rome favouring the Remi rather than the inherent strength of the Remi. Even still Caesar informs us that the Remi successfully protected those tribes under their protection.
In terms of foreign policy the Remi were strongly pro-Roman throughout the Gallic wars even during the great uprising of Vercingetorix.
THE TREVERI AND ALLIES
The final group I would like to discuss is the Treveri and their clients the Eburones and Condruses. According to Caesar and Tacitus these groups were proud to call and be called Germans. In the case of the Ebuornes they also proved to be extremely warlike; the Eburonic King Ambiorix managing to destroy a Roman legion.
The classification of these people as “Germans”, whether you interpret it as being Germanic speakers or recent arrivals from the other side of the Rhine, would mean that the Nervii and Atuatuci could also be included in a Belgic faction led by the Treveri whilst still being historically sound. This would make such as Belgic faction extremely powerful and would allow such a faction to occupy the EB maps upper Belgic province (assuming the province has not been dramatically changed in EBII).
There, in a nutshell is my problem. Each of these tribes could adequately represent/lead a Belgic faction but the problem is which one. I accept I have perhaps given too much emphasis to the Belgians proper but there exists more information on these people. I want to ask people in the EBII forum what their views are. Furthermore if a Belgic faction has been ruled out by the team or if another means of representing the Belgae has been decided I hope this information is of some use to the team.
Bibliography to follow shortly, I need to make my dinner now.