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


5.9.07
  It's Too Cold Outside, Centurion

Join the Roman army, you'll get regular pay, regular food, toilets with water flushing, and indoor training facilities. Because it was essential for soldiers to have "unceasing drill in wet and windy weather," as the military writer Vegetius said.

Example one: Birdoswald / Hadrian's Wall. The guys had a basilica exercitatoria, a drill hall measuring 16 x 42.7 metres.

Birdoswald, view from the south gate over the granaries to the exercise hall
and the 17th century farm house

Unfortunatley, not much is left. The foundations directly in front of the farm house (beyond the remains of the granaries) are the south-west part of the drill hall - the other part is today covered by the house. The headquarters (principia) had been beyond the trees to the left, but not much remains of these, either.

From the foundations of the drill hall it can be deduced that the roof was a double arcade supportend by a series of columns flanking a broad nave. Light came from windows above the arcade. The style was a typical feature of Roman public buildings and later used in the triple naved Romanesque basilicas all over Christian Europe.

My guidebook has a drawing of auxiliary soldiers training with wooden swords and wicker shields in the basilica exercitatoria. In the foreground, a centurion is barking commands; he looks rather grim. Some poor sods are in for an extra session.

The drill hall remained unaltered during the entire period of Roman occupation of Birdoswald (Banna) which shows its importance.

Saalburg, interior of the reconstructed exercise hall (view to a side door)

The next example comes from the Saalburg at the German Limes. Here the exercise hall was not a separate entity but part of the principia.

This one measures 11.5 x 38.5 metres and is constructed as simple hall without side naves. The hall is situated directly on the axis of the via praetoria and its crossing the ways leading to the side gates.

Part of the floor has been found during excavations, as well as proof that wooden canopies protected the doors on the outside.

The position of the hall allows us to assume that it was not only used for training but also as meeting place for the entire cohort on formal occasions like the annual oath to the Emperor.

Saalburg, basilica exercitatoria, door leading to the yard of the principia

The troops stationed in the border forts were not legionaries - those had their base camps futher off in Eboracum (York) or Moguntiacum (Mainz) - but auxiliaries recruited from all over the Empire. As mentioned before, the garrison in the Saalburg was the second Raetian cohors equitata since 135 AD. The garrisons in Birdoswald varied; it included the First Aelia Dacorum milliaria, a 1000 man strong double cohort from the Danube that moved in shortly after Septimius Severus established major restructuring of the Wall defenses in the early 3rd century.
 
Comments:
Nice to know the US Army tradition of "training to be miserable" has ancient origins. *g*

"Essayons, sound out the battle cry
Essayons, we'll win or we'll die
Essayons, there's nothing we won't try
We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers"

It's that third line we kinda took to heart. *g* Great pics as always, Gabriele. Thanks for the measurements. :P
 
Lol, I wish I could have a female engineer character without violating history. Just for you. :)
 
Hey, just use a male engineer with ADD, close enough. ("Okay, just drop that pivotal keystone in right about n--Oh, look, a bird!")

In uniform we all looked alike anyhow. :)
 
It's Too Cold Outside, Centurion,

Centurion: “You’re WHAT, well LET me help you, DROP and give me ten!”


Yep, an army is an army. Those drill halls look awfully familiar except for size. Now they also come with a complete set of exercise equipment that you would pay good money to use off post to use.

However the army is big on "train as you fight" these days, so wet and windy and cold weather is “good training weather.” Get out of the drill hall and train!
 
Lol, I bet the soldiers got a fair share of training in wind and rain, too, esp. the poor cavalry. But I find the existence of training halls interesting. The Romans did have a nice standard of comfort - the wet and cold cavalry soldiers could always take a hot bath after service. :)
 
Great pictures, Gabriele. I even noticed a few plot bunnies hiding in the picture of the farm house *g*. As for not having a female engineer, I'm sure even back in the Roman times there were women who dressed as men to get into the military (although it was probably much harder to hide in Roman times than during the U.S. Civil War-more nudity). Thanks for sharing.
 
Nothing ever changes, and what works, works.
That interior is eerily similar to modern ones I've been in.
 
Hi Ann, but keep those bunnies to yourself, will you? :) I have enough of them already to keep me occupied the next ten years.

Bernita, the more I learn about the Romans, the more I'm surprised how modern their technology level was. If they had been around a bit longer, I think steam power and such would have been invented much earlier.
 
That reminds me of school sports halls that double up as assembly halls when you need a space big enough to accommodate the whole school. Nothing changes.

Do you suppose that church architects deliberately copied big Roman building structures, either because they were the most impressive buildings around or because they were consciously trying to link to the Imperial glory days, or is it just the easiest way of building a big structure?
 
I want to go there. I love big huge buildings.


Hey, stupid question. What does "Gurkentopf" mean? I assume it's "best/top pickles" or similar--since it's the label on a big jar of pickles--but I want to confirm it. :-)
 
Good question, Carla. There was a tradition from Roman temples being used as Christian churches that might have spread certain sytlistical aspects together with Christian faith, but some buildings like the Carolingian Hall in Lorsch are not Roman-esque.

December, it means pickled cucumbers. Very yummy. :)
 
Gabriele, good place to exercise your horses, too. I knew the description reminded me of something. My old, antiquated riding arena!

Roman engineers kick butt. Look how long it took us to figure out how they did some of their engineering, let alone build anything on the scale of the Colosseum.
 
Lol, I should have looked up the scale of riding arenas, I've been in more than one in my life. :) It makes sense - most of the frontier garrisons has some cavalry.

The Colosseum, or the bridge in Trier which is used until today. And more Roman stuff would be left if they hadn't made such nice, well hewn stones that just looked to good in Mediaeval houses. *grin*
 
Post a Comment

<< Home


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.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Germany

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.

e-mail
Twitter


Links leading outside my blog will open in a new window.
I do not take any responsibility for the content of linked sites.