Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  Autumn in the Arboretum

I finally got the CD with pics from our visit to the Arboretum near Bad Grund, Harz.

Here's the Japanese fan maple, momiji.

And these are some American boys from the Rockies.

  Ohh, shiny - The Silver Treasure of Kaiseraugst

The Silver Treasure of Kaiseraugst is part of the exhibition in Karlsruhe. And it IS an impressing view, a room full of shiny silver, the effects hightened by the special lights.

Kaiseraugst (Augusta Raurica, founded 44 BC) is a town at the upper Rhine in Switzerland. The florishing Roman town, trade centre because of a bridge across the Rhine, was since 260 AD under several attacks from the Germanic tribe of the Alamanni. The Emperor Diocletian ordered the building of a fortress, Castrum Rauracense, to protect town and bridge. Around 300 AD, it was the largest military fort at the Upper Rhine, with buildings not only for the soldiers but also for the administrative staff, and places where the population of the nearby town could flee in case of attacks. Parts of the enclosing stone walls can still be seen, they go by the name of Heidenmauer (Heathen Wall). On the most exposed southern side, the - partly restored - wall is 4 meters wide and in places stands to a height of 4.5 meters. But the fortress was destroyed shortly after 350 AD, probably by the Alamanni.

Around this time, the silver hoard was buried inside the fortress wall, there to be forgotten (the people who knew about it probably died in the war). It had been accumulated by Roman officers over a period of many years. Composed of Imperial gifts and inherited items, the treasure represented a very sizeable fortune - I bet the Alamanni would have liked to find it.

The so-Called Achilles Plate
Odysseus finds Achilles disguised as a woman

In 1961, a mechanical digger roused it from its long sleep, not knowing what it had brought forth mingled in heaps of earth. Two months later, the landlady of a nearby inn contacted archaeologists about several silver plates she found on the building site, and "if they had any use for the things." It turned out several other items had found their way into private collections til then and not everything has been returned (there are traces, imprints and such, of items still missing). But over the following years, the archaeologists accumulated a good part of the hoard: 58 kilogramms of pure silver wrought into magnificent platters and bowls, elaborate cutlery as well as coins and medallions. The treasure is of great significance not only because of its material value but also because it provides us with important information regarding late antique society and the remarkable craftsmanship of that period.

The first part of the treasure was renovated the way it was done in the 1960ies, attempting to reconstruct it in its former splendour. Thus, the pieces were cleaned, brought back into shape and traces of time and mishandling by the digger were removed as best as possible. But attitude has changed, and the part of the treasure returned by a private owner in 1995, was treated differently: the traces - imprints - of the hay in which the Romans had wrapped the pieces, have been left, as well as some destruction done by time and the mechanical digger. Thus part of the hoard is polished to a shine and demonstrates the grandeur of Late Antiquity craftmanship, the other part shows its history.

(*I borrowed the picture from this site. It's maintained by a 10th Latin Class of a Swiss high school. The actual section tells about the kids visiting Kaiseraugst. The copyright to the picture remains theirs.)

  I'm Back

It was fun and interesting. No catalogue photo can make up for seing the beautiful Silver Treasure of Kaiseraugst (a collection of engraved plates and cups, plus a number of spoons and other tools for serving food) in the original, or to closely inspect a Roman helmet of which there were several, some with gilded ornaments. In Stuttgart, I had even more luck because Ars Replica, a society for living archaeology, demonstrated several crafts, among them shield-making, naalbinding* and bone carving. You could dress in a tunica and Roman sandals, or point a handmade spear at some unsuspecting visitors.

There were several gravestones accompanied by maps and items that stood for the biographies of some officers and soldiers serving at the Limes and Rhine border. They came from all over the Empire. Several life-size models showed Roman infantry and cavalry officers, some with original pieces of equipment; and you could visit a Mithras shrine.

The special feature in Karlsruhe was Roman food. Interesting, but the combination of herbs and spices is a bit unusual for our tastebuds. And garum is so not going to become my favourite, I'll stick to ketchup. :-)

Stuttgart is a business town (Mercedes, Porsche and several other big companies), so I got a weekend rate at the hotel and could afford a good one. The weather played nice, too, it only rained during the night, and the days were sunny with just a few clouds chasing over the sky. Still way too warm for November as well. I managed to see the place where I lived as a child; the entire quarter has changed very little, even the old playing ground is still there. The trees are larger; the chestnuts in the schoolyard a delight for the kids who see their first years there today. The family in the flat below ours still lives there - that is, the parents, the girl with whom I played has two kids of her own by now. They invited me for coffee.

La Traviata was great, with good singers and the production while modern, not overly experimental. At least, the singers didn't roll around on the floor a lot, which else seems to be the fashion nowadays.

* Alex Bordessa has a pic of a sock she made herself. Not my thing, I don't have that sort of skills.

  Tracking some Romans

I'll be away tomorrow for three days to visit exhibitions about the Romans in Germany in Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. They are entitled Rome's Provinces at Neckar, Rhine and Danube, and Romans, Christians, Alamans - Late Antiquity at the Upper Rhine.

I alrady got the catalogues, two really big volumes with lots of pics and essays by specialists. Saves me carrying around the babies.

In Stuttgart, I'm also going to visit the place where I've spent some years of my childhood (it's one of the suburbs), and see La Traviata in the opera house.

I'm afraid there won't be any pics because photographing isn't allowed in the exhibitons. There's also no English website, which really makes me angry. I doesn't cost the world to pay someone - me, for example, lol - to create one, but that money never seems to be avaliable.

Oh, and I better carry some plotbunny traps with me. :-)

  Stories of Strength

The anthology for the benefit of hurricane victims, Stories of Strength, is now avaliable via Lulu.

If you have a good contact to your local bookstore, it would be nice if you ask them to buy a few exemplars and display them. I know it's not common to shelve POD books, but this one is charity, and a suitable Christmas present besides.

The poems, stories and essays in this anthology have undergone proper submission and edition process; POD works just faster in such a case, and Lulu has been very cooperative and will donate its profits.

The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places (like Flanders and the Baltic States), with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

My Photo
Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)