The Lost Fort

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


23 Jan 2008
  Aelius Rufus Visits the Future - The Site of Segedunum / Wallsend

Salvete, carissimi amici. It's me, Aelius Rufus. You may remember me from a guided tour through the castellum Saalburg in Germania. I'm visiting my friend Gaius Fannius. He's a centurion with an auxiliary cohort from Gallia stationed in Arbeia and just helped building the Antonine Wall - his lads covered the legionaries from local surprises. *grin* He's on holiday now and promised to show me some places in Britannia. But what is even better, he has a friend from the Caledonian tribes, one Merlinus who is a druid, a sorcerer or something, and he'll show us the future. Let's hope that Tony won't find out about it; he and his generals don't like soldiers to dabble in tribal magic.

So I took a ship from Bononia to Arbeia harbour where the Tinea river flows into the Mare Germanicum and where my friend Gaius awaited me. I recognised him at once in the crowd lining the pier. The soldiers nicknamed him Ursus because of his broad shoulders and hairy arms; some say also because of his temper, but he's a nice guy. He only shows his temper when some inept recruits still don't keep formation after a month's training. Then he can get quite formidable as I've once witnessed. Those recruits probably longed for a good fight against the Caledonian tribes if that got them away from Ursus.

Roman recruits from the future; they call it reenactment. Look at those funny sandals they wear. Can't keep formation either. I could hear Gaius mumble some not so nice comments, but Merlinus told us they don't speak Latin in the future, though some people still understand it.

Together, we walked the few miles to Segedunum - Roman soldiers are very good at walking - the place where Hadrian's Great Wall begins. It's very impressive and a far cry from the earthern walls, trenches and palisades of the limes Germanicus. Gaius told me the Antonine Wall was more like the German defenses, and it didn't really keep the tribes out. Not to mention there were tribes south of it as well with doubtful alliances. Northern Britannia is a worse mess than Germania.

The next morning we met with Merlinus. He had explained that Segedunum was the best place to travel to the future because it would change so much. It was cool and misty, the sky covered with grey clouds, and we huddled in our sagum cloaks. Merlinus didn't look like one might expect a druid to look, he was a slender, dark haired fellow dressed in a simple tunica and a chequered cloak, no bed sheets and no white beard, either.

We found an unobtrusive place behind one of the barracks, touched hands, Merlinus murmured an incantation in an unknown language, and we found ourselves ....


... surrounded by dragons. The low, graphite sky was the same, the air still smelled slightly tangy from the sea, but the sounds were different. There were roars and screeches unheard in a Roman fort, and one of the dragons swung its head towards us. I grasped my gladius - not that it would have been of much avail against a beast standing higher than a Roman insula - and then I realised the dragon was made of iron. It was a giant crane. I could not imagine how many slaves it must have needed to swing it around and to pull the thick ropes with the heavy chest hanging from a hook - no, it were not ropes as we knew them, they were made of steel.

"It's a harbour," Merlinus said. "We're in the year 2007 as it will be called in the future when there are no consuls to count the calendar by - 1863 years into the future. The place is called Wallsend now.

"How large must the ships be that need such giant cranes to unload them," Gaius murmured.

"We'll see the ships in due time," Merlinus said. "Let us have a look around."

Most people we met wore trousers and some sort of longsleeved tunica with weird collars, or a sagum with sleeves, but a few were dressed in Roman attire. "They do it for fun," Merlinus explained, "and call it reenactment or creative anachronism." It had one advantage: we fitted right in and didn't create much of a stir. Though some people stopped in front of us and held little metal boxes into the air, stared at them, and then smiled at us and aimed their little boxes at the cranes or some other object.

"What are they doing," I asked.

"They're taking pictures," Merlinus said.

"Pictures?"

Merlinus waved a man to join us and spoke to him in a strange language. The man held the little box so we could see a tiny glass plate, and there was indeed a little picture of Gaius and me. The man smiled, and I smiled back, hiding my nervousness. "It's magic," I whispered to Merlinus.

The man said something that sounded like, "ur Italian?"

I recognised the last word. "Italia," I nodded.

"Ah, Italia, Roma .... beautiful." He said something else and left us with a wave of his hand. I waved back; Gaius shook his head in disbelief. "People from the future still remember us?"

"He wished us a good journey," Merlinus translated. "And yes, the Empire of Rome is remembered in the future. They get some things wrong, but they still read Roman books, and keep Roman artifacts they've found."

With that he led us into a building. That it was a building we could see, but it looked different from anything we knew. It was an oversized barrack made of stone, dominated by a high tower, but the tower had an unusual form, a bit like a snake that had swallowed a discus. The discus had glass windows all around.

Display at the museum

It was a museum, Merlinus explained, where objects from our time were displayed. Our attention was immediately caught by this.

"I've seen such tableware in the general's tent sometimes, when I had to make report," Gaius said. "It's pretty, isn't it?"

Our prefect had a few silver pieces as well, but not as beautiful. Beside me, a few children wriggled their way to the glassed box and gaped. School kids, I realised, accompanied by their magister. Some things had not changed in the future, it seemed. It was nice to know that they would have some memories of us. Two of them carried wooden swords.

That, too, had not changed.


After having admired the artefacts, we took the lift up to the glassed discus (you can see the tower in the background of the picture with the recruits). Timber constructions with cogwheels and ropes to move people and goods to a higher level were not unknown to us, but this lift covered a greater height than anything I'd seen, 34 metres, and again I wondered how many slaves it would take to move it so fast. But Merlinus told us there were no more slaves in the future but the lifts, cranes and many other machines worked with something called electricity.

The view from the tower was splendid. Merlinus pointed ahead to a flat area with lines of stone and explained that was our fort, or what was left of it. During time people had taken the stones from our buildings and erected new houses in the area, and those had been taken down and rebuilt many times over until the existence of a Roman fort was all but forgotten.

Segedunum, foundation outlines of the fort

But some people remembered and researched, and during a new phase of construction where old houses were pulled down, excavations took place and remains of the Roman fort were discovered. Since the foundations were still pretty much intact (albeit not much more than those), it was decided to mark them and build the tower so people could get an overview of the fort from above. Archaeologists also reconstructed a Roman style bath and a little section of Hadrian's Great Wall. The park was opened to the public in 2000, Merlinus told us, and has developed into one of the main tourist attractions at the Wall.

We could distinguish the outlines of the headquarters and the commander's building in the foreground, and the barracks where we first entered the future, back to the left. Everything looked small from here, and the tourists walking around resembles children's toys.

View towards the harbour with part of the fort's outer wall outlines
The white house outside the fort is the reconstructed bath house

Tourists seem to abound in the future even more than the Romans who visit Greece. And no Roman ever got the idea to dig in the ground for shards of old amphorae. Though I began to wonder what you might find in those old graves in Egypt.

We moved our gaze towards the Tinea river they now call Tyne, and the harbour. Everything had become so large and wrought of steel and iron. If we could move goods in amounts like that, our supply problems would come to an end. Too bad we could not capture an engineer from the future and have him build some cranes and ships for us. Merlinus grinned at my suggestion.

The weather was something that had not changed in the future. We could have seen to Arbeia, Merlinus told us, but for the low clouds. Yet the view over the Tinea winding its way west was splendid enough. Back in my own time there had been few houses outside the Roman forts and the vici near them, and most of the indigenous buildings were mere huts.

Tyne river at Wallsend

On the street of the other side vehicles moved that were not drawn by horses or oxen. "They use combustion engines," Merlinus said. "Basically, they burn that black liquid you find in the Arab deserts and make the cars run."

Gaius shook his head. "This is all so strange. Can we visit the baths? I might feel more at home there."

Merlinus agreed. But I caught myself wanting to ride in such a car.
 
Comments:
I can see why Gaius Fannius might be up set. The recruit who is acting princepalein the first rank seems to know what she is dong, but the rest???

Gaius "You people [redacted]"
 
Great photos!!!
I was helping my daughter with her Latin homework last night, and one of the phrases was:
Gallus laetus militem Romani occidit.
'The cheerful Gaul killed the Roman soldier.'
Of course, this is in France.
LOL!
 
Love the photos. Who's the re-enactment group?
 
Those recruits were attempting to form testudo, I take it?
 
Lol, considering the fact they're school kids, it's not such a bad formation, after all. But an ol' drill sergeant of centurion can't get out of his skin when he sees a wobbly formation. :)

Sam, isn't that typical? Only the French manage to make a hero out of Vercingetorix who lost the war against Caesar.

Carla, some school class. They had a lot of fun, and when I started dressing up Roman style myself, we had even more fun. The guide who played the centurion would have made Gaius proud; he could imitate a gruff Roman officer pretty well.

Yes, it's supposed to be a testudo, Bernita.
 
Great photos, Gabriele. I really enjoy your posts like this. You make it all come alive.
 
Thank you, Shelley.
 
My, my. Is there nothing those druids can't do?

There's something about school kids and Romans. They love them. It's the same with the wee primary schoolers I see when I'm up at the museum. They wander around the Roman exhibits with shiny eyes and march around like miniature legionaries with gusto. It's very cute. :)

I feel for Gaius. I myself have two centurions with me, shaking their heads and muttering expletives at the sight of a shoogly testudo. It seems to hit a collective nerve in the centurionate. :D

And now I'm away to read about Aelius and Gaius' further adventures.
 
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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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Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

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
(Including Silesia and Moravia)

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


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
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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