Real History and Fake History

The British press has recently reported two events of interest. One is the result of a fascinating archaeological dig, the other the product of a fantasy and indeed fake history.

Your blogger shall look at the fake history first. On Tuesday 17 August, about twenty individuals entered Edinburgh Castle, a major tourist attraction, without paying, and refused to leave. They claimed to be retaking it for the people under article 61 of Magna Carta. Magna Carta has, of course, and never has had, any authority in Scotland. At the time it was signed, Scotland and England were separate kingdoms, and as component parts of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they retain separate laws and legal systems. Indeed, in any case, article 61 was also quickly removed from Magna Carta, and it most certainly did not entitle “the people” to take back power from the Crown. One could go on; but your blogger gathers from the press that anti-Lockdown protesters have regularly cited article 61 as entitling them to ignore restrictions: see

A variety of other claims about the government and the rule of law were made by the protestors; with these I shall not trouble readers of this Blog. Examination of the websites of a number of newspapers, such as The Times, The Guardian, and The Independent, should give curious readers the gist. Had a policeman not suffered a (fortunately) minor injury, it might have just been an amusing curiosity.

That the Magna Carta never applied in Scotland immediately leads to dismissal of these claims; but interpretation of historical documents by those who do not really understand them can lead to troubling results. Your blogger can here think of some of the discussions of the historical document now known as the Declaration of Arbroath, in reality a letter from the Scottish barons to the then Pope.

Turning to actual history, the British press has recently publicised the discovery of well-preserved human remains in a necropolis by Pompeii. The individual, a man of around 60, almost certainly Marcus Venerio Secundio, a freed slave, who rose to become guardian of the Temple of Venus and member of a college of priests. The remains are unusual as Romans were commonly created in this era, and the tomb also contains, in a glass urn, the ashes of Novia Amabilis, who may well have been his wife. What is also interesting is that an inscription records that Venerio Secundo organised spectacles in Greek and Latin for four days. Of course, educated Romans were bilingual in Greek and Latin, but this gives an indication of the persistence of a more popular knowledge of the language.

The domination of a stereotype of slavery based on chattel slavery in the Americas always makes of great interest such indications of freedom and success in the Roman world.