The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


4 Nov 2007
  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 and Britannia. 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 on the side wings behind the colonnade or porticus 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 the rooms in some forts 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.

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.

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

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 dedicated to any god. We have some real temples 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.
 
When I was a soldier stationed in the Calvary in Buedingen back in the '80s. I came up for re-enlistment. We asked permission from the people who ran Saalberg to do my re-enlistment ceremony in the aedes. They granted it and that is where i re-enlisted, in that very room, in front of those Legionary standards. I thought it was kind of appropriate...after all, like those stationed there so long ago, I, too, was a soldier, also stationed far from home, also charged with protecting the border of 'The Empire' (NATO) in "Germainia" (West Germany). I remember thinking, "Times change very little after all."

The Saalberg people said I was the only soldier they knew of who had ever done this. I don't know about afterwards tho.

Thanks for a fascinating blog.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


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House of Knýtlinga
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The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


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A Time of Feuds

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

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Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
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Towns of the Hanseatic League

Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas


Poland

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union


Bohemia
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The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
(to come)


Other Times

Prehistoric Times

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Orkney

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Scandinavia

Gotland
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd


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Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
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Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
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Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

Biographies

European Nobility
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History in Literature

Biographies of German Poets and Writers
Theodor Fontane

Historical Ballads by Theodor Fontane
(Translated by me)
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Not so Serious History

Romans
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Mediaeval Times
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Other
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg


Geology

Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite


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