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.
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.