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


4.11.07
  Saalburg Fort - Shrine of the Standards

Ave, my name is Aelius Rufus, and I've been asked to show you around some Roman sites in Germany. I'm a Raetian auxiliary, and since no Roman can pronounce my real name, they call me Rufus because of my red hair. We're a Celtic people living in the mountains called Alpes. My father got the citizenship under Hadrian after he served in the Roman army for 25 years. I'm following his steps and I'm currently stationed in the castellum Arcataunum, the Saalburg at the German Limes.

I'll want to show you the aedes principiorum today, the shrine where we keep the regimental insignia. Let's go through the exercise hall - I'll show you that one later when it's empty. Watch out for our dear Gaius Incitus, the guy near the door waving his gladius like it's a scythe. He's new and clumsy and hasn't yet figured out which end of the sword goes into the enemy. If he continues like that, the centurion will put him among the noncombattants where he can't do any harm. There we go.

Yard of the principia, view to the exercise hall gate

I'm sorry it's raining again. The weather is one of the reasons the Raetians got stationed here; we're used to it. Troops from Gallia Aquitania or Hispania would spend more time in the hospital sneezing and coughing than on duty, especially in winter.

Now we've crossed the yard of the principia, you should turn around and enjoy the view. It's a pretty large building of 41x58 metres. The Romans are good at that sort of thing. The rooms behind the colonnade or porticus on the side wings are the armamentaria, the weapon rooms. Oh, and just ignore those funnily dressed people huddling in the entrance, they're time travelers from the future. We get a lot of these.

View to the right corner and transept porticus
The half-timbered building in the background is part of the aedes

Ahead lies another yard and the transept. The yard is really a hall, though. I think we'll soon see a detachment of the XXII Primigenia here to build a new roof. Those Romans never trust the auxiliaries with the building stuff, don't know why. The higher middle room of the transept wing is the aedes, the rooms to the sides hold tabularia, also known as bureaus. They got hypocaust heating. Spoiled scribes.

The aedes is always guarded. Greetings, Crispus, my friend. We want to have a look inside the shrine. Ah come, those visitors are from Britannia and from the Terra Incognita across the Oceanus Atlanticus. Just a little peep through the wooden trellis. I'll pay you a jug of Falernian tonight. See, I knew you're a good guy.

Go up those stairs and then you can look inside through the holes in the trellis. The door is never opened outside the ceremonies. The regimental insignia are on that painted stone plinth at the back wall. This room is slightly trapezium-shaped, about 8x9-9.5 metres, but I've heard some have an apsis where the standards are kept.

In the middle is the regimental eagle of the XXII Primigenia, though I have no idea what the bird does here when the legion is stationed in Moguntiacum. Maybe it's for those time travel tourists. To the right is the pole with the insignia our signifer will carry when we march - the one with the red, lion-embroidered cloth and the golden plate with the goddess Victoria. A job of great honour but less fun, the thing weighs 7kg. The embroidered blue cloth is the vexilla our cavalry carries. We're a mixed cohort of foot and horse, a cohors equitata. The silver plates to the left are decorations we earned; they're called phalerae.

If you peek further to the left, into the shadows, you can see a little head on a pole. That's an imago of the emperor. It's made of gold, and will be brought out of the shrine when we swear our oath of allegiance every year. It is a very important symbol, the Romans say.

Closeup of the replica of the insignia (without the imperial imago)
(I had to use a flash to get that one, thus the shadows)

In the middle of the room is a trapdoor leading to a cellar. That's where all the money is kept. And I bet it's the true reason there's always guards in front of the shrine. Right, the regimental treasure and the personal savings of the legionaries, the funeral funds and the whole lot.

Yes, there is a bronze statue of our emperor, the noble Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus Pius. We call him Tony, but don't tell anyone. The stones are consecrations of gratitude made by members of our cohort for duties well achieved and such. The aedes is a bit like a temple, though not to any god; we have some of those outside the fort.

But we better go now, the prefect is coming our way, and I don't want Crispus to get into trouble. He's a bit of a stickler, that prefect of ours.

View from the porticus into the yard

Notes: The name Arktaunon found in Ptolemaios' Geography is not universally accepted as name for the Saalburg, but as writer, I need one, and so I use the Romanised version. Saalburg is a Mediaeval name.
The second yard should indeed be a hall, but no plans are made to change the original mistake. The Saalburg is history in itself, so only new additions are built according to modern knowledge. Only some smaller mistakes have been corrected, like getting rid of a few catapults on the battlements.
A reconstructed bronze statue of Antoninus Pius stands outside the main gate today. Some remains of a bronze statue have been found in the shrine during excavations.
 
Comments:
"We call him Tony"

Great. Tea on my computer screen :)

Love the pics and the descriptions; makes history come alive. I really wish we had some Roman sites here (aaaugh, plot bunnies! *runs and hides*)

But... shouldn't you be writing for NaNo? Something messy and ninja-filled, with several walk-ins called Bob. Make that word count bar nice and blue :)
 
Lol, thank you. Glad you like it.

An alternate history where the Romans reached Ultima Thule? Could be fun, and less hassle with research. :)

I'm not going the send the ninjas in to save Madalric. He brought it upon himself and he can see how he'll get out of it, the stubborn Batavian. Mwuahaha.
 
LOL, Awesome, Gabriele.

"Those Romans never trust the auxiliaries with the building stuff, don't know why"

I do... *g*

I'm jealous you get to walk around these places. We've got an old, abandoned pizza place here, but it's not quite the same... I'll just pretend "Tony's" descendants own it. :)
 
Lol, Tony's Pizza 'n Pasta Snacks.

I think I have found a way to make some of those history posts a bit more fun to read, though I won't use it all the time.
 
Gabriele

Great photos and an entertaining description.

To the right is the pole with the insignia our signifer will carry when we march - the one with the red, lion-embroidered cloth and the golden plate with the goddess Victoria. A job of great honour but less fun, the thing weighs 7kg.

It is an honor, sometimes bestowed for being the tallest person available, but it gets old quickly. And in those days it was like carrying a sign “Here! Here! I’m a target!”
 
It was mostly a reward for good performance in a battle or something. But yes, the chap was a target.

Remember poor Fulvius Vespillo, the aquilifer in my novel who's the first to die by a Cheruscian arrow. :)
 
Great post, Gabriele. I loved the pics and the tour.
 
Well done, Gabriele!
- a time traveller from Terra Incognita.
 
Ever thought of writing guidebooks for a living? This is great!

"If he continues like that, the centurion will put him among the noncombattants where he can't do any harm."
Having taken his gladius away forst, I sincerely hope :-)
 
Thank you, Shelley, Bernita and Carla.

Carla, I haven't thought about that. I'm just trying to find a way to present some of the historical information in a lighter tone, and it seems Rufus and Jannes (who's still busy trying to breach the second curtain wall of Plesse Castle) are a way to have some fun while learning.

But I won't use the technique for every post about Romans, churches and castles. :)
 
Terrific photos, Gabriele and I loved the way you presented them.
Tell me...what dpi are your photos to allow you to post so many on your site? I've only managed to get 3 of them up at a time, but mine are saved at 300 dpi.
 
Wynn, I start out with the highest quality my camera offers and then resize the photos to about post card format which makes them something between 75 and 40 kb. But I keep the wallpaper quality originals on CD.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction 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, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

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 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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