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


30.1.10
  The Romans in Germania - A Geography Lesson

In order to make it easier for you to put a location to the places I keep mentioning in context of the Romans in Germany, this post will provide you with some maps.

The first one shows the Roman provinces at the time of Augustus. The provinces have been restructured and renamed several times in Roman history. For example, part of what on this map is Gallia Belgica about 90 AD became Germania Inferior, and the land between Rhine and Danube then protected by the Limes would be called Germania Superior.

The Roman provinces at the time of Augustus

The red and orange ones are all provinces of the Roman Empire that started in the middle of Italy (that high heel boot kicking Sicily) a few hundres years earlier. You can see that there's a nice chain of provinces all around the Mediterranean Sea. After they, ahem .... collected those, the Romans pushed north. Southern Britain was conquered after Augustus' time, so it's still green on that map.

The borders of Germania (also green) are marked by the Rhine (running south-north) and the Danube (running west-east into the Black Sea). Under Hadrian, the angle formed by those two rivers was integrated into the Empire and protected by the German Limes. The provinces along the Danube include Pannonia where Arminius fought on the Roman side against rebellious tribes prior to his return to Germania.

Next comes a map of the Romans in northern Germany during the time of Drusus' and Tiberius' invasions in 16-9 BC until Germanicus' campaigns in 14-16 AD.

Roman supply bases and forts in Germania Magna

Since I photographed both maps in the Hedemünden exhibition, that fortress / supply base figures prominently right in the middle (the map only shows the northern half of Germany) at the Weser/Werra (Visurgis) river. Göttingen is a bit north of it, and if you follow an imaginary line to the Leine river, you'll see the Harz on the right, that's where the recently discovered battlefield of Kalefeld is situated.

You can see the two legionary forts at Mainz (Moguntiacum) and Xanten (Castra Vetera). The Limes would later start a bit north of Mainz. The Lippe (Lupis) river that from Xanten runs east into Germania was the location of several Roman forts, among them Haltern that also had a naval base. Kalkriese, the probable Varus battlefield, lies further north.

Close to the Rhine, but on the 'wrong' side lies Waldgirmes, a Roman town in Germania that was destroyed after the Varus battle. Another place on my To Visit list. The Elbe, the river that for some time was supposed to become the new frontier of a Roman empire that included Germania Magna, runs in the east.

Germany (map found here)

Germany today extends the borders of the planned Roman province. Since not all towns are shown on that map, you'll have to place Mainz near Wiesbaden. The Limes cut from there to Regensburg at the Danube. Xanten (also not shown) is at the border to the Netherlands; the Lippe runs between the line Duisburg, Essen Dortmund and Münster further north.

You can see that the whole Berlin area and Baltic Sea coast is north-east of the Elbe which confluences into the North Sea near Hamburg, while in the south part of the old province of Raetia in the Alpes now is Germany (the other part is mostls Switzerland), and in the west, Germany stretches towards Trier on the 'Roman' side of the Rhine.

Hedemünden is situated between Kassel and Göttingen, Kalefeld a third on the way between Göttingen and Hannover, and Kalkriese near Osnabrück.
 


22.1.10
  Roman Leisure Centre Caerleon

So, that's where Aelius Rufus whom we last met in Segedunum, is hanging out these days: the baths - or better to be called a leisure centre - in Caerleon legionary fort. Greetings, Aelius. How do you manage to get so many holidays?

Aelius grins. It's called research trips. Well, look at that weather, a nice, warm Roman bath is the best place to be these days.

But you're from Raetia, you're used to frost and snow.

Sure, but it doesn't mean I can't appreciate civilisation. And these baths are really impressive. You've seen your share of baths in forntier fortresses that usually hold a cohort. Caerleon can house ten times as many soldiers, and those baths are huge.

Model of the Baths as they may have looked

They are. Remind me a bit ot the Imperial baths in Augusta Treverorum. And like in Trier, as it's now called, not much is left of the baths.

That's a pity. Why don't you dig them out? You people from the Future love that.

We do. The problem is that people built a town over the Roman remains at some point, and you can't tear the houses down in order to dig up more Roman stuff. Though I'm sure people would find interesting things in their cellars if they poked around with a shovel a bit.

The excavated part of the outdoor swimming pool
(Today roofed in to protect the remains)

The visible remains of the baths in Caerleon are only a part of the entire complex. For comparison of the model size, the swimming pool is 42 metres long, that's close to the 50 metres standard of today.

Aelius sinks deeper into the warm water pool and wiggles his toes. So, what remains are left?

The features that have been excavated and conservated are half of the outdoor swimming pool (natatio), and the cold bath (frigidarium, part of the building in the upper right of the model above, the one with the cupola roofs). The great basilica to the left has vanished, as have the colonnades that sourrounded the palaestra yard. The swimming pool is covered with a roof today, and part of the museum.

Remains of the cold bath

That's a pity about the basilica or exercise hall. It is larger than the exercise hall in my home fortress Saalburg and very beautiful. A welcome place to train on cold days when the outdoor training facilities are too uncomfortable. Look at them right now, just lots of damn mud, partly frozen.

Yeah, that's a British winter for you. Mud and rain. The photos of the baths in Trier give some impression of the dimensions of such a building.

Heh, I bet the baths in Augusta Treverorum were even fancier. Emperors like it fancy for the most. Except our friend Tony, he's more the practical sort. Well, and you people from the Future can tell how the baths may have looked from that heap of stones?

With some imagination, yes. And there are books with drawings, models, and some fun features like the curtains here that indicate the places where pillars have stood.

Caerleon Baths, visual display

Nifty. I really like those lights that work with ... what did Merlinus call it? Electricity? But why is this tablet written in two languagues? One looks like that barbarian dialect they speak here only with too many d and l, the other is an odd mix of Germanic and badly misspelled Latin words that makes no sense.

Oh, that's English. It is an odd mix of a language indeed, but it does make sense. The other one is called Welsh.

Well, I'm glad I don't need to learn those; Latin was bad enough.

Can't blame you. Sometimes I suspect the Romans have come up with some really complicated grammar only to annoy the people who have to learn it.

Boy did they ever, Aelius said in his best imitation of soldiers' Latin drawl.

Caerleon Baths, floor level with part of the hypocaust ventilation

So, Aelius continues, you got something more you want to show your Future friends? I hope you won't chase me over to the arena in that weather.

Don't worry, we'll wait for the rain to stop. So there's nothing more today, but I have a reconstructed Roman river patrol ship in my archives.

Oh fun. I've been on one, but my shoulders didn't like it much.

Heh, nor did mine, but it was worth the effort.

You people from the Future are a bit crazy, but I like you.
 


16.1.10
  Hanstein Castle - The Next Generations

This is a continuation of this post. Castle Hanstein had started crumbling, and in October 1308 the brothers Heinrich (another one *sigh*) and Lippold of Hanstein signed a contract with the archbishop Peter of Mainz, stating that they would "build a new castle of their own means, the basements of stone and the upper storeys of wood, and they would not hold any other rights to it than their male descendants being bailiffs and lords of the castle." (1) In case the lords of Hanstein died out in the male line, the castle would fall back to the archbishop.

The archibishop would pay an annual fee of 20 mark silver for the garrison of the castle who'd pay hommage to the archbishop of Mainz as their overlord but also swear fealty to the lords of Hanstein. That is one of the many examples of mixed loyalties in the feudal system that could lead to problems. It didn't seem to have happened in case of the Hanstein retainers, but there are other examples.

The Hanstein family had large possessions in the surroundings and grew more wealthy. Soon they not only paid hommage to the archbishop (later Prince Elector) of Mainz, but also to the Landgrave of Hessen, the bishop of Fulda and others of whom they held lands and rights. It was a particularly explosive corner because so many different grand feudal lords had lands and interests so close to each other. Even today the area marks the corner between the counties of Hessen, Lower Saxony and Thuringia.

Those feudal lords were feuding with each other more often than not, and things got increasingly messy, with the lords of Hanstein in the middle of it several times. Speak about conflicting loyalties here. Contracts about armed assisstance and neutrality were signed and broken, and the lords of Hainstein got quite a reputation. Robber barons (Raubritter), some called them, though they were not the only familiy that tried to make the best out of the strifes that tore Germany in the Middle Ages.

In 1415 the Landgrave Ludwig of Hessen built a castle of his own on the other side of the Werra river, in sight of the Hanstein. It is called Ludwigstein and today houses a youth hostel. The 'my castle is bigger than your castle'-syndrome, I guess. :)

Hanstein Castle must have suffered during those feuds, and repairs are mentioned several times. In the 15th the walls were strengthened and room made to get the cattle and peasants inside for safety. But the methods of warfare changed with the invention of gunpowder, and the hilltop castles no longer proved safe and had long since ceased to be comfortable. The ever expanding Hanstein family moved to their manors in the lands around the castle, and in 1683 Hanstein Castle was officially abandoned.

The castle fell into ruins until members of the extended family started some repairs and built a hall for family meetings in 1840.

(1) This is a quotation from the official Hanstein website though without a source. I've discovered that the university library has a book and some essays about Hanstein Castle, so I'll try to hunt that quotation down. I hope to find some more interesting tidbits in the process.

The photos show details from the palas building of the castle.
There are more photos to be found here.
 


5.1.10
  Let it Snow

With the new year, the winter has come to Germany with snow and temperatures of minus 10°C -15°C during the nights and still below zero during the days. The sort of winter I like, though I'm part of a minority there. ;)

Fluffy stuff

The pretty pillows in the foreground are some of my potted heather. Yep, we got a nice amount of the white fluff this time, and more is to come next weekend, hopefully.

My balcony

My balcony is somewhat sheltered by the balcony above, but some snow found its way inside to powder my conifers.

Gardens in the snow

The summer gardens in the Leine valley offer a beautiful view from my balcony all year round. Now they are snowed in - let's hope for some time. Rainy winters are so dreary.
 


4.1.10
  Some Writing and Blogging Updates

Some of you may have noticed that I took down my snippet blogs. This is due to extensive rewrites.

In A Land Unconquered, the first of the Roman novels on which I concentrate right now, I had given a whole plot thread to the wrong character, and rewriting it with another character includes a lot more than changing a name. But the rewritten scenes come out much stronger now which proves that my decision to replace the secondary Gaius Antonius Merenda, a happy go easy sort of character, with the more serious main character Caius Horatius Veranius (whom I before had kept out of the Varus battle by sending him as envoy to the Batavians) was the right one - not only for the overall structure of the novel. Veranius will survive, only to face a treason charge later. That's a lot more fun, mwuahaha.

The epic monster Kings and Rebels, my alternate historical Fantasy or whatever you'll call that plot-Cthulhu, poses a different sort of problem - besides growing tentacles, that is. I had given some scenes to beta readers and it seems that I have a problem getting my characters' emotions across. The writing itself, the action and even the dialogue which I always find difficult to write, obviously work, but the characters remain remote. Well, I know where that comes from: In my first attempt I had written an emo opera, and when I realised that, I cut all the emo stuff. With the roots. ;) But there is a difference between characters being emo - and showing emotions where they would not (heck, most of them are men, lol) - and characters having emotions. I need to get those across in the subtext, and that's not easy.

I may post snippets at some point again, but only when I'm sure my writing has reached the best point I can reach at this stage.

During the 2000year anniversary of the Varus battle in 2009 I've collected a number of books about the battle and the Romans in Germania overall, and I need work my way through those. Some of this research will flow into my novel of which I so far only have written some battle scenes - what we know about the battle as such can be found in the primary sources, plus the location of Kalkriese which I still consider the most plausible - and some scenes between fictive characters in Rome, like the setup of the conflict between Veranius and Publius Cornelius Lentulus. Since I write out of order, I have not yet tackled Varus' politics in Germania and other 'historical' scenes.

But that research will also result in some blog essays with more and serious text and less photos (though I have a sufficient archive to find a few illustrations). I hope that won't scare readers away. ;)

Another feature I plan for the future is to take some of my academic research about Medieaval literature online. I'm not yet sure whether I will add those essays here or start a special blog. I'll see how the Varus essays will fare before I make a decision about that. Or I'll set up a poll. But that will take a while yet since I have to translate the German material into English, adapt it to a different readership and read up on the research of the last five years. I've let that stuff dry up a bit. Blame it on the Romans, lol.

Of course, the usual features that make this blog popular, the photo posts, fun tidbits, and posts with pictures and background information of historical places I've visited will continue to appear.
 


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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