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


29.9.06
  Hedemünden, Fort 1 - Stone Foundations

Most of the buidlings and fortifications were made of timber, and conditions have not preserved much of that aside from post holes. The first version of Roman forts often were timber structures, even those later reconstructed in stone like Vindolanda - only the conditions in Vindolanda have preserved more of the wood. So what we do have are stone foundations, supposedly of storage houses and maybe other buildings (there seem to be two different sorts of foundation remains, one more crafted and fixed with mortar, and one that looks more like loose stones roughly hewn).

Crafted stone foundations.

Size, structure and strategical position and the already unearthed details within the walled ground of fort 1 (diggings are still going on) make it clear that it was a supply camp, intended to store foodstuffs (grain, salt, cattle) and replacement material for armour and weapons as well as fabricae (repair workshops) for the legions involved in the area. There may also have been a lazarett. A logistic centre like this was an important factor in organising the supplies.

Another stone foundation. I deliberately took the pic from the tree side
because I like how the boles give the place a feel of 'times gone by'.

The second function of the fort was the guard and control of the Werra ford and the crossroads meeting there.
 


27.9.06
  The Roman Fort at Hedemünden - Introduction

Since Caesar established the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis and Gallia Belgica west of the Rhine in about 50 BC, the German tribes had developed a habit to cross the river and raid the richer places along the border. To put an end to this, Nero Claudius Drusus the Elder (known as Drusus) and Tiberius Claudius Nero (Tiberius) led several campaigns into the lands of the Cherusci and Chatti and pushed as far as the Elbe (Albis) between 16 and 9 BC. They managed to play the tribes and families against each other, and for some years it looked like Germania Transrhenania could become a Roman province.

During this time, a base camp was established some 65-90 metres above the valley of a Werra ford, near a village now called Hedemünden. The fortress protected the ways that connected the lands of the Chatti (basically Northern Hessia and southern Lower Saxony) with the lands of the Marcomanni (who migrated from the Main river to Bohemia) and Cherusci (Northern Lower Saxony). The exact borders between the tribes are still disputed and the Roman sources none too clear. In a country of woodcovered hills and mountains, paths and rivers were strategically important. The fort at Hedemünden is so far the easternmost proof for a more permanent Roman presence between Rhine and Elbe; the known forts and settlements are all closer to the Rhine/Main/Lippe area.

First announcements of the find were made in 2004. The existence of walls was known earlier since they stood out in the landscape, but they were thought to have been an Iron Age hill fort until diggings by Klaus Grote of the Archaelogical Seminar Göttingen brought to light a number of Roman artefacts like pioneer axes (dola-brae), iron spear points (both hasta and pilum type), parts of horse harnesses, a brok-en gladius sword, and coins dating from the time of Drusus' German campaign. Grote and his assistants also found the remains of stone foundations for storage houses and discovered there were actually four forts, the main one used for storage and probably as garrison, the others as marching camps with less permanent structures (the soldiers may have lived in tents; there were a number of iron tent pegs among the finds).

See also these posts: Stone Foundations, Artefacts found at Hedemünden: spear points and dolabrae.

The pic shows the north wall of fort 1, taken while I was standing on the top of the wall.
 


25.9.06
  I'm Back

Tired, and with a head full of new impressions. No, no plotbunnies this time, Augusta Treverorum (the name changed to Treviris in the 3rd century*) will play a minor role in The Charioteer and Endangered Frontiers anyway. And yes, you greedy folks (you know who you are, lol) there will be pictures. I took lots of them, and I want to prepare and archive them first.

Btw, I ate some Roman food, and it was pretty good. Unusual in the combination of ingredients and spices, but a lot better than the stuff I tried in Karlsruhe last year. There seems to be a difference between a mediocre cook and a skilled maître de cuisine getting at those old receipes.

* Both names go back to the name of the Treveri, a Belgic-Celtic tribe that gave Caesar a hard time. The city was founded by Augustus in 16 BC.

So, for today you'll have to do with a view from the former Roman base camp at Hedemünden to the Werra (Visurgis). Don't we have some beautiful landscapes in Germany?


What one can't see with all the foliage in summer is that the Werra makes a bend to the right that brings the river much closer to the fort. There lies the old river ford the fort protected. Good reason to go back there after the leaves have fallen - it's not far from Göttingen.
 


21.9.06
  Absence

I'll be off to Trier (Augusta Treverorum) to have a look at some Roman remains, Mediaeval churches, and maybe take a nice ship tour on the Moselle.

I will return on Monday, Sept. 25th. Regular posting should continue soon thereafter.
 


19.9.06
  Summer Picture

For Bernita.

Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863)
Sommerbild

I saw the summer's last rose standing,
Like she could bleed, so red.
While passing by I said with a shiver,
Thus far in life is too close to death.

No breeze was whisp'ring in hot summer air
When a butterfly softly brushed past.
Yet, albeit his wings' beat barely moved the air,
She felt it and faded and died.


Ich sah des Sommers letzte Rose stehn;
Sie war als ob sie bluten könne, rot.
Da sprach ich schaudernd im Vorübergehn,
So weit im Leben ist zu nah am Tod.

Es regte sich kein Hauch am heißen Sommertag,
Nur leise strich ein weißer Schmetterling,
Doch, ob auch kaum die Luft sein Flügelschlag
Bewegte, sie empfand es und verging.

Translation by me.
Rose in German is female, and she sounded better that it to me.
 


12.9.06
  Bogs

Roman sources agree on the fact that it had rained the days previous, and during the Varus battle. I think they could be right there, German autums can be on the wet side, lol. Now, imagine a Roman legionary carried some 30 kilo equipment; I have no idea what the stuff weighs when wet, but according to Bernard Hill's statement in the LOTR extras, it's a lot (his armour as Théoden is a mix of metal and leather as well). In 9 AD the mail shirt was still the more common armour albeit some pieces of lorica segmentata, the rectangular plates connected with leather straps we know from the movies, have been found at Kalkriese. This new form of armour became more popular in the time to follow because it was less heavy than mail.

The poor legionnaires also carried a large shield made of leather fortified plywood. That's a lot of leather to get soaked. Not to mention wet equipment doesn't work well: the Romans had a whole auxiliary company of Balearic slingers with wet slings, archers with wet bows, legionnaires with wet feet, soaked shields and rusty mail, and mules with sore hooves.

And this sorry troop, already diminished and disenheartened by two days of continous guerilla attacks from the Germans, now gets driven into bogs by a horde of Germans more used to getting wet, with smaller shields and less armour.

The weather surely was on Arminius' side but would the outcome have been different with weather as sunny as I experienced at Kalkriese? The Romans still would not have been able to display their army in proper fighting order, and a marching column is always an easier target. The bogs would still have been there (like in this little, reconstructed patch),


and we don't know how many Germans there were, not even the Roman sources, usually not beyond exaggerating the numbers, do mention any numbers at all. Maybe a few more Romans would have managed to break through but I think even with good weather, the battle in the Teutoburg woods would have been a disaster. The problems the Romans encountered were too varied, and obviously a bad command - Varus was an administration guy, not a military leader - was among these factors. A psychological aspect as well, I think, the Romans hated the German woods and if you talk about the boogieman long enough, people will believe in it.
 


8.9.06
  About Books and Bunnies, and Other Things

1) I got my very own digital camera. It's an advance birthday present, and unexpected because the price of those darlings lies well above what I usually get.

2) I also got some books, about Heinrich IV (for the Canossa exhibition I already mentioned) about the Roman Frontiers, Roman Britain and the Late Roman Army. Loaning books is good, but owning books is better. An attitude that will be the bane of several households among my relatives that suffer from Where Can We Put Another Bookshelf-syndrome. One of these days the books will take over and drive us out. :-)

3) I'll be in Augusta Treverorum (Trier) Sept. 22-25. Lots of Roman remains and some Medieaval ones as well. Thanks to the weird price system of the German State Railway, I'll travel first class because it's cheaper. Yes.

4) There are actually some jobs I could apply for, after a long period of nothing being on the market. Got two invitations for interviews.
 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

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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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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