Illustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History


06/07/2008
  Reconstructed Roman Walls

One of the features the Roman border fortresses share is the combination of a stone wall - surrounded by additional ditches and earthen walls - with an earthen rampart on the inside that also serves as battlement.

The reconstructed fortifications of the German Saalburg fortress present a good, if rain blurred, example.


You can see the outside of the walls here, and the ditches on the first picture in this post.

I suppose this unsual combination goes back to the history of Roman fortresses. They all began as semi-permanent structures with earthen walls and timber palisades on top, a more elaborate version of the marching camps.

Along the frontiers (the limes Germanicus, the Hadrian's Wall, the Syrian limes, and the Welsh forts) the fortresses were later rebuilt in stone, most of them in the 2nd century AD. Besides the stone buildings inside the forts, the defenses of earthen walls and trenches got an additional stone wall, watch towers, and stone gatehouses.

Cardiff castle shows another example of the reconstructed earth ramparts.


The outside of the wall can be seen on the first picture in this post. There are no trenches here today because of the situation in the middle of a town.

The Bute family made the reconstructed Roman fortifications into a park, thus the trees that would never have been allowed to grow there in times when a praefectus castrorum had the say.

The ramparts added to the stability of the walls, definitely well enough to stop a ram, and neither the German nor the British tribes had any more elaborate siege engines. They usually tried to climb the walls or breach the gates only to meet with pointy pila poking at them. Attacks on fortresses were not very frequent; the tribes prefered to attack the Romans outside when they were stretched out in marching columns.
 
Comments:
Gabriele

WOW! An excellent review.

It would be a mean plot bunny to send an attack against those walls. But knowing your plot bunnies . . .
 
And made tunnelling...difficult.
 
Thank you, Hank.
Well, Arminius did try it once and scared the garrison badly enough that they prefered a nightly sortie to break through to the Rhine defenses.

Bernita, that too.
 
"the trees that would never have been allowed to grow there in times when a praefectus castrorum had the say. "

I should think not! - just asking for an athletic troop of tribesmen to climb them, swing down on ropes inside, and wreak mayhem and destruction :-)
 
Carla, it's more that they get in the way of the Roman archers and pila throwers who defend the walls.
 
Can't go over, can't go under, guess we'll go through. *g*
 
Well, you can try. :p
 
Pay a resident to open the door. (easiest)

Starve them out. (might take awhile...send in their women, children, old folks, dogs, cats, and anything else you can think of which will help them use up their provisions. Don't harm them in any way...you need them spry and hungry....don't let them back out. If you can get them to massacre their own families, even better, that will not just win the battle, but the war as well!)

Send in diseases. (Not so good...your own guys might get it too)

Cut off the water supply. (they "might" have wells)

Seal them off so that they cannot support their neigbours (or otherwise do their job.) Make sure every complaint reaches the Emperor, or his field representative. Make a few of your own as well.


Remove their reason for being there. (burn the bridge, raze the town, whatever...and build a new bridge a dozen miles upstream. Keep an eye on them....

Get them recalled to Roma by complaining about their behaviour. (might work...but there would be another garrison showing up. Maybe yours? Or one more friendly or beholden to you? This might be a more long term project than you anticipated, but not a bad answer.)

Get them to "think" they are being recalled to Roma, and give them safe passage to the sea. (The messenger would have to be pretty darned convincing!)


Pay the commanders enough to surrender. (tricky that one...they might just take the money and stay put. Well, its only money...

The only real good reason for being in a fort is to get a good night's sleep. So bang a lot of drums, keep them awake, and alert for a week or so. You can figure out how. Send in the fire arrows. That should flush them out from behind their walls. Then deal with the sortie. (if you can)

Use every person who can handle a shovel to build a ramp up to and over the walls. Or fill in the ditch...whatever. Flavius Silva liked that one.

I am sure there are more. These are just the tip of the iceberg.
 
Hey, my engineers like a challenge. :P As long as I pay them, that is...
 
Your post couldn't be more timely: this very day UNESCO's World Heritage Committee will decide whether or not the Roman Antonine Wall in Scotland will be given World Heritage status.

Will that be the first?

Visit Zenobia's blog at Empress of the East
 
Bill, the Gauls tried some of those tricks with parts of Caesar's army, starving them, cutting off the water supply and such, but there always was a relief force ere their measures could gain any effect. That would be even more the case on organised borders with watch towers and more fortresses within a days march.

Arminius flushed a garrison out of a fort east of the Rhine, and a number of the soldiers managed to break through to safety, but he was more interested in getting the Romans out of the fortress than in killing them - annihiliating an understrength cohort or vexillatio would not make the same point the three legions he nixed some weeks earlier did make. Arminius wanted the Romans west of the Rhine, and he had the advantage that they were demoralised after Teutoburg Forest, so he could herd them there (though the sources put it a bit differently ;).

Hi Zenobia, nice to see you. :)
Antoninus Pius alerted me to it. Let's hope his wall gets the attention it deserves.
 
(looks at the walls) Nah... I'll just wait in the bushes with my guys and wait for the next patrol to come by...

It's nice to have reconstructions to give you an idea of what these structures were like.
 
Kirsten, that's what they did most of the time. :)
 
I visited Alesia once - very impressive fort with ditches, spikes, and all the trimmings - all to pen in a bunch of pesky Gauls!
Great photos (even if one was a tiny bit blurry, lol)

Sam
 
Hehe, I don't have any pity with Caesar and his troubles in Gaul. Sure, he was a good general, but he was also an arrogant jerk and full of himself. The best thing about De Bello Gallico is that it's more readable than Cicero's speeches so loved by Latin teachers. :p
 
Great photos, Gabriele. It's always good to see how things worked.
 
Amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing!
 
Thank you, Shelley and Krista.
 
what about a giant wooden badger? would that trick work?

Steven
http://steventill.com
 
The Antonine Wall won! It's now a World Heritage Site. Antoninus Pius is over the moon.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel journal and history blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, as well as some geology, illustrated with my own photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

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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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Introduction

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A Virtual Tour

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Two Fairy Tale Castles

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Scarborough
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Hexham Abbey
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York Minster
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A Virtual Walk through the Town


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Beautiful Germany

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A Tour on the Wakenitz River

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The Hutewald Forest
The Raised Bog Mecklenbruch

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A Rainy Rhine Cruise
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Vineyards at Saale and Unstrut

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Forest Botanical Garden, Göttingen
Hardenberg Castle Gardens
Junkerberg Cemetary
Wilhelmsthal Palace and Gardens

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Oberderdorla and Hainich National Park

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Spring on my Balcony
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Spring in the Rossbach Heath

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Summer Hiking Tours 2016
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Winter 2010

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Harz Falcon Park
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Experimental
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Llama, Llama
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Spectacular Sunset
Carved Animals


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A Ghost Cruise on the Ouse River
West Highland Railway

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Some Photos from the East Coast

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Staffa
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Hazy Views with Castles
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Sea Gulls


Land of Light and Darkness - Scandinavia

Norway

The Hurtigruten-Tour
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The Farthest North
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Along the Coast - North of the Polar Circle

Norway by Train
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Wildlife
Bearded Seals
Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord


Shores of History - The Baltic Sea

Baltic Sea Cruise

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Nida and the Curonian Spit
Beaches at the Curonian Spit




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- Roman History
- Mediaeval History
- Other Times and Miscellanea


Roman History

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Traces of the Pre-Varus Conquest
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

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Limes Fort Saalburg

Roman Frontiers in Britain
Hadrian's Wall

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The Batavian Rebellion

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The Negau B Helmet

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Legend of Alaric's Burial


Mediaeval History

Feudalism
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The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League
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Stockfish Trade


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Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

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King Heinrich IV
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

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The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto of Northeim
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

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The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Famous Feuds

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War - Introduction
The Star Wars

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg


England and Normandy

From the Conquest to King John

Normans, Britons, and Angevins
The Honour of Richmond and the Dukes of Brittany


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War (1)
King David and the Civil War (2)

Houses Bruce and Stewart
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle
The Early Stewart Kings

Scottish Nobles and their Quarrels

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding


Wales

Princes and Rebels

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

The Rebellions
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Scandinavia

Kings and Vikings

Kings of Norway
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Other Times and Miscellanea

Post-Mediaeval History

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

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

History in Opera and Literature

Opera

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

Historical Ballads

Ballads by Th. Fontane, translated by me
About Theodor Fontane
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan


Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit

The Harz
Karst Landscape
Karst - Lonau Falls
Karst - Rhume Springs

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

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bogs
The Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Paleontology

Fossils
Ammonites


Fun Stuff

Not So Serious Romans
Aelius Rufus Visits the Future Series
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Royal (Hi)Stories
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Historical Memes
Charlemagne meme
Historical Christmas Wishes
New Year Resolutions
Aelius Rufus does a Meme
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances

Funny Sights
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg

My Novels in Progress / Planning

I'm a bit of a writer, too; here are the novel projects on which I'm currently working

Roman Novels (Historical Fiction)
The Saga of House Sichelstein (Historical Fiction)
Kings and Rebels (Fantasy)


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Orkneyar

Roman History
Deutsche Limeskommission
Internet Ancient Sourcebook
Livius.org
Roman Army
Roman Britain
The Romans in Britain
Vindolanda Tablets

Not so Dark Ages
Burgundians in the Mist
Viking Society for Northern Research

Mediaeval History
De Re Militari
Internet Mediaeval Sourcebook
Kulturzeit
The Labyrinth
Mediaeval Crusades
Medievalists.Net

Castles
Burgenarchiv
Burgerbe.de
Burgenwelt
Exploring Castles
The World of Castles

Miscellaneous History
Heritage Daily
The History Files

Mythology
Ancient History
Encyclopedia Mythica

Online Journals
Ancient Warfare
The Heroic Age
The History Files

Travel and Guide Sites

Germany - History
Antike Stätten in Deutschland
Burgenarchiv
Strasse der Romanik

Germany - Nature
HarzLife
Naturpark Meissner
Naturpark Solling-Vogler

England
English Heritage
Visit Northumberland

Scotland
The Chain Mail (Scottish History)
Historic Scotland
National Trust Scotland

Books and Writing

Interesting Author Websites
Bernard Cornwell
Dorothy Dunnett
Steven Erikson
Diana Gabaldon
Guy Gavriel Kay
George R.R. Martin
Sharon Kay Penman
Brandon Sanderson
J.R.R. Tolkien
Tad Williams

Historical Fiction
Historical Novel Society
Historia Magazine

Writing Sites
Absolute Write
TheLitForum.com
National Novel Writing Month


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