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

  Things you find during research

Roman legion on the march north. A great big hairy kilted Scotsman jumps up on a hillock "Aye so you're Romans eh? - gie me yer ten best men then". Ten legionnaires are dispatched. Bang, crash, wallop! . . None returns. A hundred soldiers are sent up. Five minutes later a lone survivor struggles back, but drops dead before he can say a word. Risking all, the commander sends his whole legion up the hill. Screams, shouts and the commotion of battle follow. Then on the sky line a lone Roman officer approaches. "Sir. Sir. They've cheated. They lied! There were two of them all the time . . ."

(Filched from this site).

Well, maybe the Gask Project will be able to discover the truth behind that one. *grin*

  Bad Karlshafen

My regular readers may remember the name of Helmarshausen, a Benedictine Abbey famous for its goldsmiths and manuscript illustrators, just below Krukenburg Castle. Helmarshausen is now part of the larger town of Karlshafen.

The Landgrave Carl of Hessen wanted to establish an efficient and competitive textile industry and in 1685 invited Huguenot refugees from France to settle in Helmarshausen to help him in the endeavour. They built what later was to become Karlshafen (Carl's Harbour), a well structured town centered around a harbour. You can still see that the town was planned at the drawing board and didn't grow out of older settlements like many other places. The harbour that should give the place access to the Weser river and the North Sea, was one of Landgrave Carl's favouite ideas because it gave him a chance to avoid the tolls of Münden, a town belonging to the House of Brunswick-Hannover (yep, the one that from 1714 to 1901 provided Great Britain with five kings and a queen). The harbour, built in 1713, is no longer in use but still graces the town with a nice water scenery.

Karlshafen, Old Harbour

In 1730 the Huguenot apothecary Jacques Galland discovered the salt water wells, and in 1763 salt works were built; salt trade began. When the salt trade degenerated, Karlshafen became a bath and health ressort since about 1840. It still has that function and thus the town can add the Bad (bath) to its name.

  Maps of Rome

I begin to hate the maps of ancient Rome. They all show the big spots (Forum Romanum, Circus Maximus, Imperial Palace), but try to find one where you can figure out in what places a rich emigrant from Byzantium would buy/built a villa. I've checked online and the usually well assorted university library of Göttingen, but to no avail. The only detailed plans I have are from the Republican times, and that's way too early; I need 400 AD.

While the big spots remained or grew (like the Imperial Palace on the Palatine), the distribution of villas of the rich / insulae of the poor might have changed a lot. In about 50 BC the rich lived on the Palatine and Carina, the insulae gathered in the Subura, on the Esquline and Viminal, and began encroaching the Quirinal. The Martian Fields where still that: fields where the young noblemen trained for the military. In 400 AD, those fields were covered by houses - but what houses, villas or insulae? With the Palatine being taken up by the vast Imperial Palace and the Carina probably more than a bit crowded with oversized estates already, where could someone build a nice large villa? And how did the great incendie under Nero change things - what burned down were mostly the poor quarters, Subura, Esquiline etc, and I suppose they were rebuilt as pauper quarters after Nero's death. But can I assume the father of my MC had his villa on the Martian Fields? Were they an upper class district?

I'm bloody sure there IS a map somewhere and if I'm wrong someone is bound to find out.

The History writers/readers vsiting my blog who haven't done so yet, please join my Writing History forum.

  A Vacuum Filled

1) A blog with no new entries.
2) The absence of matter; a matter free space.

OK, let's skip the first definition (I've had PMS almost the entire week, I hope it counts as excuse) and concentrate on the second. I don't know how popular the Magdeburg hemispheres, the first device to demonstrate the existence of a vacuum, are in other countries, here every school kid has heard about them, though I suppose most would give you some variation of "äh, well, ahem ..." if questioned about the details. I admit, I had to look them up, too.

Otto von Guericke (1602-1686, more about him below) joined two copper hemispheres of 51 cm diameter - the juncture covered by leather soaked in wax and oil - and pumped the air out of the enclosure with a piston air pump he also invented. Then he harnessed a team of eight horses to each hemisphere and showed that they were not able to separate the hemispheres. When air was again let into the enclosure, they were easily separated. Guericke thus proved that substances were not pulled by a vacuum, but were pushed by the pressure of the surrounding fluids.

The experiment was first performed in Magdeburg in 1663, and repeated with a varying amount of horses in several other places in the following years (fe. at the court of Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg).

To the left is a picture of the Otto von Guericke monument in front of the Town Hall in Magdeburg. Guericke's life might be of some interest to Lisa Sergienko who writes about the Thirty Years War.

Guericke was born in 1602 in Magdeburg, and studied in Leipzig, Jean and Leiden between 1617-1624. Upon his return to Magdeburg he was elected member of the Town Council of Magdeburg as inspector of buildings. He married and had some children most of which died during infancy.

Since Magdeburg belonged to the Protestant League, Guericke experienced the sieges by the Imperial Catholic armies under Wallenstein 1629 and Tilly 1631 where he was taken prisoner when the town was stormed and plundered. Soon thereafter he worked as engineer in service of the (protestant) Swedish king Gustav Adolf. Unfortunately, the online biography provided by the Otto von Guericke Society Magdeburg doesn't specify how this change in fortune occured - I assume Guericke was fred after Gustav Adolf defeated Tilly in the battle at Breitenfels. Guericke was after all a man of some standing and might have been treated better than the average prisoner of war.

In 1632 Guericke was busy planning the rebuilding of Magdeburg and worked as fortification engineer. In 1642 he was elected as Treasurer and from that time on he undertook several diplomatic missions on behalf of Magdeburg. He also participated in the negotiations at Münster (Peace of Westphalia). In 1646 he was elected town major, an office he held until 1676 when bad health forced him to retire. He served Magdeburg through difficult times for fifty years as magistrate, major and ambassador.

Guericke started experimenting with the phenomenon of vacuum and began a lively correspondence with other scientists. In 1663 he began to demonstrate his vacuum hemispheres and published Experimenta Nova Magdeburgica de Vacuo Spatio. Those experiments are his most famous, but not the only ones, he also worked with electricity (that alas, is not specified on the website either* - I suppose those experiments were based upon magnetism which was known then). Sometimes he used his demonstations to gain the interest of important persons from whom he wants to obtain favours on behalf of his town.

In 1666 Otto Guericke and his family were promoted to the nobility by the Emperor Leopold II. retirement (at which point the von was added to his name). After resigning from his duties, Otto moved to Hamburg to live there with his son. In 1686 Otto von Guericke died there. His body was transfered to Magdeburg by ship and buried in the family vault in St. John's, with many of the church bells of the Old Town ringing him home.

* The society published some books though, where those things are probably treated in more detail.

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.

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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. :-)