CHARIOT OF THE SOUL
Foreword by Rev Prof Martin Henig FSA
I have long admired Linda Proud’s superb novels about Renaissance Italy, which have allowed me to enter the life of Florence under the Medici, with the excitement of the rebirth of Platonism and the flourishing of an artistic culture unique in human history. Of course there is copious documentation for the Quattrocento and Cinquecento, and the four great novels, a trilogy and its prequel, combine imagination with solid history to a quite remarkable degree.
Chariot of the Soul has set her an even greater challenge, for what we have of the history of early Roman Britain amounts to a few pages by writers who had never been to the island, and whose comments are, in the case of Tacitus especially, certainly mired in prejudice. Archaeology and epigraphy (inscriptions) can add a bit, and the excavations at Bath and especially Fishbourne as well as recently at Alchester, Oxfordshire, have been a revelation. We can at least begin to bring into the light a ruler who is briefly mentioned by Tacitus for his loyalty to Rome and, on an inscription recording the building of a Temple to Neptune and Minerva at Chichester, West Sussex, a mile or so from Fishbourne palace, is described as ‘Great King in Britain’. Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus may have been as important in the history of civilisation and polite culture in Britain as was Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, and it is the great achievement of Linda Proud to rescue him as an individual we can come to know. He deserves no less.
In the past pre-Roman and Roman Britain has been presented far too much in simplistic terms, in which the inevitable battles, baths, amphitheatres and samian pottery take centre stage, but for those who lived in the first century of our era there was much more to lives that were at least as rich and varied as our own. These people lived in a vibrant religious and artistic society, open to new philosophical ideas from as far as Greece, and at last we have an author who does them justice. This book does for early Roman Britain what John Cowper Powys did for the end of Roman Britain in Porius and, like that great novel, it is a masterpiece.