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

  Guess this Castle

Just for fun. It should not prove too difficult. :)

It's a scan of an older photo.

  What You Can Find in Cellars

Well, it depends where you live, but in places built on history, skeletons may be hidden down there (literally, in Göttingen) or remains of older buildings. Like parts of the Roman castellum bath in York, then known as Eboracum. The story goes that the owner of a tavern of long tradition and different names situated in St. Sampson's Square needed more storage space and wanted to expand his cellar. The poor guy soon found himself without any cellar at all, because what came to light when they played Little Hobbit Builds a Hole in 1930 were the remains of a Roman bath.

The owners of the tavern made the best of it and used their unique underground as advertising, and adapted the decoration of the interior with fake Roman murals and other more or less historical elements. In 1970, the name was changed to 'Roman Bath Tavern', and in 2000 the glass floor providing a view into the past was replaced by a little museum. Thus visiting the past today only takes ascending a rather steep staircase and passing the legionary at the entrance who charges a fee comparably low for British museums but a lot more than a visit to the baths would have cost a Roman. Public baths worked on subvention basis, and the soldiers in Eboracum wouldn't have paid anything.

Roman Bath York, reconstructed entrance to the caldarium

Contrary to Chesters where the bath is outside the fort down at the Tyne, or Vindolanda, Saalburg and Osterburken, where it is situated in the adjacent vicus, the military bath in Eboracum lies inside the south-eastern defenses of the Roman fortress. It was possibly erected sometime during the early second century AD. Chance is that the members of the 9th legion used it before they disappeared into the mists of legend and a few contradictory facts, and maybe the centurion who can be seen in the cellars of York, walking straight through the walls, is from that unfortunate legion. Anyone needs a paranormal plotbunny? :)

Roman Bath York, caldarium with one of the furnace openings.
The tiles indicate the position of pilae.

What remains today is the caldarium, the hot steam bath, with the adjacent plunge bath. The floor of this room was raised above the level of the foundations by about four feet, supported by pilae, or columns, made of clay bricks (a little Latin lesson: a pilum is a javelin, and the plural is pila; a pila is a column or pillar, and the plural is pilae - that's one of the things that makes Latin grammar so easy *grin*). That way, a space was created in which the hot air - hotter than for a hypocaust heating - from the furnaces could circulate under the floor. Since the flagstones got very hot, the visitors of the caldarium had to wear some sort of clogs. The hot air was then conducted through flues in the walls and expelled through vents in the roof. Leaning comfortably against the walls therefore wasn't a good idea, either.

Remains of the wall between caldarium and balneum to the left.
You can see the blackened layer on the stone where the hot air passed.

The apsidal chamber which contains the balneum (the XXL bathtub) was separated from the caldarium anteroom by a wall; the hot air was conducted through two parallel channels, and warmed a floor raised less high. Because of this filter, the floor of the balneum was less hot, so you could sit in the tub. The surface of the floor and lower walls was sealed with opus signinum, some sort of waterproof concrete made of ceramic fragments and lime. It doesn't get clear from the description, but I suppose the wall between balneum and caldarium was only as high as to form the semi-sunken tub, together with the outside walls of the apsis. There are still traces of the white layer of the opus signinum on the walls.

Apsis with remains of the balneum.
The white layer is difficult to see, but you can spot it on the three upper rows of bricks.

The charming little museum not only covers the remains of the bath, but also houses an exhibit of finds from the excavation, modern replica of a Roman soldier's equipment, and a number of tablets describing Roman life.

  Dialogue With a Character

One of the important historical characters, Calgacus leader of the Caledonian Confederacy, was strangely absent from my novel. My online friend and fellow Batavian fan Celedë Anthaas who also writes about the Romans in Britain (and has already made the 50K, *waves*) finally managed to track him down. He was hiding in her novel where he didn't belong, thus messing up two plots. So she came up with a trick to get him move over to where he belongs.

I used the chance to have a nice talk with the uncooperative guy, which will be reported here.

CALGACUS: This is what?
AUTHOR: An UFO - Unknown Flying Object. Not to be confused with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which is a deity.
CALGACUS: Ah, I see, the gods are involved. Well, that explains a few things. Like this strange shiny object we're in. Lugh's sun chariot, probably.
AUTHOR (mutters to herself): Ok, I better leave it at that. Since I slept through my Physics lessons, I won't be able to explain an UFO to him. Let's call it sun chariot, then. (aloud): I see you begin to understand. I, the author, am your god, and you better obey from now on.
CALGACUS (sullenly): I've always done my duty and sacrified horses to you. And that one Roman we caught crawling around in the heather.
AUTHOR: That Roman was an annoying walk-in anyway and he's of better use dead. But that's not the point.
CALGACUS: So what is the point? I'm not to into such subtleties; I'm no druid.
AUTHOR: The better for you; the druid I got is either mad, or sneaky, or both, and difficult to write. What I mean is your absence from my book. What were you doing in the wrong country and wrong novel?
CALGACUS: You mean that little holiday I spent in Wales? Just visiting friends. And then we got stuck in that damn hill fort with a bunch of Romans and those other guys, those Batavians, milling around, and there was no way out. No fishing either, and I so wanted a fried salmon.
AUTHOR. (ironically) What a pity.
CALGACUS: Well, there was that other author-god girl running around and asking the Batavians and Romans if they'd seen me, and they kept pointing at my friend's hill fort. Next thing I know is I was in this shiny chariot thingie. Do you have a fried salmon?
AUTHOR: I'm afraid I don't. You can get some food when we've arrived in my novel.
CALGACUS: OK, and what am I going to do in your novel?
AUTHOR: You are the leader of the Caledonian Confederacy against the Romans, so start doing some leading already.
CALGACUS: The Caledonians got a Confederacy? Says who?
AUTHOR: A guy named Tacitus.
CALGACUS (derisively): A Roman. As if they knew a thing.
AUTHOR: They do know quite a few things.
CALGACUS: Like what?
AUTHOR: Well, let's see. There's aquaeducts, sanitation, roads, irrigation - ok, you won't need that one in Britannia - medicine, education, public baths, order, and wine. Oh and formations ....
CALGACUS: I give you the wine, it's a nice invention. But we have lived happily since the time of my father's father's father without aquaeducts, sanitation, roads, medicine, education, public baths, and order. And those bloody formations. We can continue to live happily without.
AUTHOR: See? And that's exactly why you are to become the leader of the Caledonian Confederacy against the Romans.
CALGACUS: I keep hearing Confederacy. Surely you don't expect the tribes to work together? Darling, I'm from the Venicones and we've fought the Selgovae since my father's father's father, and the Selgovae fight the Novantae, the Novantae the Epidii and the Epidii the Cerones. It has always been like that, and it's fun. Oh, and btw, who gave our tribes those weird names?
AUTHOR: The Romans, who else? And I fail to see where's the fun in getting turned into a Roman province, since you don't want aquaeducts, sanitation, roads ....
CALGACUS: (interrupts her): .... and order and formations. I get it already. But I still dont want to work with those blasted Epidii, I can't stand their leader Cailt Sealgair.
AUTHOR: Oh, he's no longer a problem, beause he's dead by now. They have a little scuffle about who's going to be the next leader.
CALGACUS: One of Nectan's creatures I bet. That druid is as mad a frost troll in moonshine.
AUTHOR (slyly): Hm, I think we can do something about that. What if you start doing your job, visit the Epidii - in disguise, if you want - and get someone chosen leader with whom you can work.
CALGACUS: You want to trick me into that Confederacy.
AUTHOR: Of course, I want. I'm writing historical fiction, I'll have to stick to what Tacitus says.
CALGACUS (slyly as well): Erm, I have some memories that you didn't follow this Tacitus storyteller that closely last year. That German guy, the one who kicked the Romans out, got a rather favourable treatment.
AUTHOR: Arminius cooperated from the first day. In fact, he more or less took over the novel. He didn't hang around with friends in someone else's book. He didn't need to be dragged into the fray kicking and screaming.
CALGACUS: Hey, I didn't kick and scream!
AUTHOR: Metaphorically speaking. You were sulking.
CALGACUS (sulkingly): Wasn't. (aloud) So you'll land that chariot in another book and drop me off to woe the Epidii and fight the Romans?
AUTHOR: That's about it, yes.
CALGACUS (sighing): I see I better give in. (more animatedly) Can I disguise as ninja, pretty please? Cause the Epidii would kill me else - well, that druid would.
AUTHOR: You've spent way too much time in Celedë's novel. But you can disguise as Batavian rebel who fled the army or someting. Oh, and why do you think Nectan would kill you?
CALGACUS: He wants to lead the Confederacy himself.
AUTHOR: Now, that's an idea.
CALGACUS: Ok, ok, I go.
AUTHOR: Good boy. To play nice, I'll give you that freedom speech Tacitus made up. It's not what you would really say, but it sounds patriotic and will have the Hollywood directors drool.
CALGACUS: What's a Hollywood director? (shrugs) Well, I better don't ask. It's probably the same weird god stuff as UFOs and Spaghetti. I've had enough of these.
AUTHOR: So, shall I land?
CALGACUS: Yes. Oh, and can I have a fried salmon now?
AUTHOR: Go and fish one. But don't call it Sammy.

  York Minster, Outside Views

You can imagine that it isn't easy to capture pictures of the outside of York Minster that do the magnificient building even a shade of justice. But I tried.

West facade

Processions in the Middle ages would have entered in the west and passed the length of the building, but today, the south transept gate with the rosette window serves as main entrance.

East nave

The east nave shows an additional, shorter transept; that's the place where the quire is located inside.

Crossing tower

Part of the main tower situated atop the crossing, seen from the west in the evening sun.

West nave

It's difficult to distinguish, but behind those pillars standing up into the air, you can see the flying buttresses that connect the aisles with the main nave. It's a feature serving as support but even more as decoration.

  Architecture of Great Splendour

After the large Romanesque cathedral of Speyer, I'll present you some snapshots of the the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps - York Minster. Its ground plan is a bit different from the German churches I've shown on this blog during the last posts. Their structure is a nave plus aisles main building in either basilica or hall design in west-east direction; with a choir and apsis on the eastern end. Most of them have a transept that cuts the nave into a larger main and shorter choir segment, much like a cross. While the crossing sometimes has a tower, the main tower(s) are on the western end.

Western nave (decorated style)

York Minster, which shows several stages of Gothic architecture, has two west-east running naves of the same length (the east nave holding the quire), the western one in basilica, the eastern in hall style, cut by a transept in the middle, and the crossing tower is the largest tower of the building.

North transept (early English style)
You can see that the wall is structured even more than in Speyer.

The different stages of architecture are visible in the different parts of the minster. The transept is Early English (1220-1260) which responds to the German Frühgotik, the western nave is Decorated (12-80-1350) and the eastern nave, the youngest, Perpendicular (built 1362-1472).

View from the crossing, facing south-west

I don't know if Katherine Kurtz visualised a particular church when she wrote the coronation scene in Deryni Rising, but I see York in that scene - with some additions like the sigils on the marble flagstones, of course. It works better than some German Gothic cathedrals I know, like Lübeck, because there are subtle differences, and her books have the flavour of an alternate Britain.

York Minster is famous for its glass windows; it has some of the most beautiful ones I've seen. Remains of the Roman fortress Eboracum have been found under the minster. They can be visited, but photographing is not allowed.

  Autumn in Göttingen

Shelley tagged me for a meme about my hometown. And I have no pics of my own place. It's the usual You Live Here, You Can Take Photos Anytime feeling; and then they never get taken. The only one I have is the Paulinerkirche. I really need to get the Goose Girl, some of those pretty half-timbered houses, and the old lecture hall.

What I can offer is a few autumn impressions I photographed in October, but they're not from the town centre.

View from my balcony

Some of you may remember that tree with snow, and as decoration for some blogposts through the seasons.

Junkernberg Cemetary

It's one of the two graveyards Göttingen has, beautifully situated on a hill outside the town and more like a park, because there is so much space between the sections with the graves. The above view is taken from my mother's grave in the oak grove.

Way to Plesse Castle

I don't think Jannes will have admired the view, but the forest has been very pretty until last night's storm made short process with most of the remaining leaves. Winter is coming.

  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.

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.