The Lost Fort

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


28 Jun 2014
  Room Sharing, Roman Style

Hi, it's me, Aelius Rufus. Gabriele has taken an old post of me and added some of those little pictures and more information, so I have to retell a few things. I got to see the cavalry fort at Aalen which dates to the time of Antoninus Pius, and she thought it would be fun to compare the soldiers' barracks of the standard Hadrian's Wall / Limes forts to the cavalry ones.

A reconstructed barrack in Arbeia

That's the place where my friend Gaius Fannius commands a unit of the 5th cohort of Gaul auxiliary, sometimes visited by the mysterious, time traveling Merlinus. Well, he's a centurion and gets some more space to his own.

One barrack has been reconstructed, though there were several, of course, depending on the size of the garrison.

Interior of a room in a fort barrack (Caerleon Museum)

When I travel I usually get better places to stay than my living quarters in the Saalburg castellum. Thanks to Merlinus and the ongoing interest in Romans that leads to Rebuilding the Past projects, I can show you how our room looked. Pretty much like in the picture above.

Eight of us, called a contubernium, share a room of 15 square metres plus a little anteroom with shelves for our equipment, and a kitchenette. You see it's pretty dark and sparsely furnished - not that there'd be space for anything more than bunk beds, one table, and a few pegs in the wall. When on campaign, we also share a tent.

Oven for a contubernium, Caerleon Museum

Roman soldiers and auxiliaries don't have a central dining hall and no chefs (Asterix got that one wrong); we have to do our own cooking and can be glad if one of the chaps gets a bit of a hand for it. The ingredients, grain, beans, bacon, sometimes dried figs or other fruit and a bit of fish, as well as beer and wine are distributed by the command. There is always enough to keep us fit, but it's not roasted venison in a creamy juniper berry sauce.

Usually ten contubernia, a centuria that is though it only comes to 80 men, not a full hundred, share a barrack in the fort. Sometimes we get lucky and a bunch of the guys is commissioned elsewhere, like manning the mile forts and watch towers, accompagnying some tribune on some mission or whatever, and then we can spread out a bit more. The cavalry guys have more space, too.

(Modell of a fortress in Birdoswald Museum. In the lower part you can see the barracks with the attached houses for the centurions.)

We're led by a centurion, and those guys don't live in such crowded and dark quarters. No, centurions are special and have their own house at the end of the barrack and slaves to cook for them, and us poor soldiers to clean their armour.

Yes, dear Gaius, you know complaining about the centurions is part of the job.

Bedroom of the centurion, Arbeia

They also get ten times the salary we get. It's a damn injustice - invented by Augustus, I've been told. He wanted a gap between the ordinary soldiers and the officers so the army wouldn't stick together and turn against him or some such. And indeed, when there were mutinies like the time Tiberius became Emperor while the legions prefered Germanicus, it was the centurions who got killed during the mess, and in the end the mutiny came to nothing and Tiberius stayed put.

There's one good thing, though, and that's the fact the centurions are ranked according to the place of the centuria they lead, and half of them spend their time ogling the place of the centurion ranking above them. It's even worse in the regular legions where there are sixty of the lot and the structure is even more complicated.

Anteroom to the bedroom, Arbeia.
The centurion's anteroom was larger and also used as office.

There was another good thing to being a centurion, Gaius Fannius told me. He could order some of the guys to slap a fresh layer of paint on the walls of his rooms in Arbeia. The reconstruction needs a house makeover; it gathered a fair bit of dirt and cobwebs.

Yeah, I could try to rise to the centuriate - I'm a Roman citizen thanks to my father - but I'm not sure I really want that. I doubt I could have so much fun traveling around when I had the responsibilty for some 80 lads. No way I could claim the whole lot as personal guard and take them around with me.


Bunk beds like above is the most common layout, but sometimes barracks had kings size beds for four like in the image Gabriele captured with her little picture box below. Even worse, if you ask me; I prefer the bunk beds. Especially the way Gaius Incitus keeps trashing around at night, dreaming of fighting Germans. I don't want to get his arm in my face. Creating an earthquake in the bunk bed is bad enough.

Soldiers' quarters in Arbeia

But now I must go and fix the hobnails on those damn sandals. I swear they'll use lost nails to track the ways of the Roman army one day. *

Oh noes, Crispus and Buccio are playing at dice again. Which means the rest of us can listen to Buccio complaining that he's lost a weeks worth of pay. Again. He should know better and not play against Crispus, that man has some uncanny luck.

Barrack foundations at Caerleon

* They have in fact done that in Hedemünden where those nails mark the way from the south to Hedemünden Camp and the further route north on the hills along the Visurgis valley. A smaller camp (sort of a mile castle) also was discovered along that way. Sandal nails also helped showing the way the Romans retreated after the battle at Kalefeld.
 


14 Jun 2014
  Pretty Things That go Boom

Yesterday, I promised Brian McClellan* on Twitter that I would post some photos of historical guns and rifles I took in the museum in Coburg Fortress. So here we go.

*BTW, go check out his Flintlock Fantasy novels, they're a lot of fun. A revolution, guns, magic, a divine chef, and things blowing up.

Coburg Fortress; the Blue Tower to the left and the High House to the right

The history of Coburg Fortress (Veste Coburg) goes back to the 11th century, but I'll leave that for another post. It is one of the castles that has never fallen into ruins, but was altered significantly over time. Albeit some old features still remain, like the Romanesque lower part of the Blue Tower or the Gothic High House, the most striking parts today are the fortifications from the 16th century.

The name Coburg likely will ring a bell for those interested in history. The town and fortress are today in Bavaria, bordering Thuringia, but once the land belonged to the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Want some geneaology again? I'll try to make it easy, I promise.

Coburg Fortress, the outer curtain wall and bastions

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was the daughter of Prince Edward Duke of Kent (the 4th son of King George III of House Welfen/Hannover) and Princess Marie Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786-1861, House Wettin).

Marie Louise Victoria's father was Franz (Francis, 1750-1806), the eldest son of Ernest I Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1724-1800) and Sophia Antonia of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, of one of the several Welfen lines (1724-1802).

Marie Louise's brother, also named Ernest (1784-1844), would become the first duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1826 due to some altered distributions of the landed heritage. He is the father of Prince Albert (1819-1861), later Consort of Queen Victoria. Albert's mother was Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg whom Ernest divorced in 1826.

Outer defenses of the castle

Ernest's older son, another Ernest (1818-1893) who became second Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, would add significantly to the collection of arts and weapons in Coburg Fortress which his grandfather Francis had started in Saalfeld ansd which Ernest transfered to Couburg.

The family lived in Ehrenburg Palace in the town, though the last Duke, Carl Eduard (1884-1954) lived in the fortress which had been sold to the county of Bavaria in 1920.

One of the vitrines with guns

The collections displayed in several rooms in the castle include copper engravings, paintings, glassware and coins, as well as lots of weapons and amour, including historical guns, rifles, and pistols - that part encompasses about 10,000 pieces. I had a field day there, though of course, I took even more pics of the swords and the armour than of the guns. There are also some parade coaches and sleighs.

A flintlock gun

There is one hall full of vitrines with guns, rifles, pistols, and a few crossbows, mostly used for the hunt and sport shooting; some 300 pieces in all.

My father's friends from the sport shooting club would likely get lost in that room for hours. Well, the museum is couple friendly; you can leave the spouses to look at the glassware instead. ;-) Though personally I still prefer the guns.

Closeup of the trigger meachnism

Since it's not one of my special areas, I concentrated on the prettily decorated - and mostly older - pieces. If someone wants high resolution versions of some of the photos to better see the ivory inlays and other decorations, feel free to contact me.

Another vitrine with guns and pistols

This one looks like an early version of a flintlock. There's a video showing how the mechanism works, and the difference between various ways of firing a gun. I'm not a specialist on the variants of wheel locks and flint locks and their dates, but some of the older mechanisms look intriguing. Though I wonder how often those things blew off in the wrong direction.

Duelling pistols

Taniel gifts duelling pistols to his father in McClellan's Promise of Blood. Maybe they looked a bit like the ones above.

Wheel lock pistols

The collection is one of the most important ones in Europe. The weapons date from the late 16th century until present time and geographically reach from Russia to Spain and Sweden. Some famous gunsmiths are Zacharias Herold in Dresden (~ 1580), Lazarino Cominazzo, Brescia (~ 1680), Bertrand Piraube, Paris (~1700) and Ivan Permjakov, St.Petersburg (late 18th century).

Matching gun and pistol

The weapons and armour were mostly collected by Duke Ernest II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He also obtained part of the contents of the arsenal of the town Coburg and moved Francis' collction of glass and copper engravings to Coburg. He had the rooms renovated, and the castle and its collections opened for the public in 1839, which was a suprisingly modern decision at the time.

Racks with guns

There is another room with racks full of armour and guns from the 16th and 17th century, the Rüstkammer. Those were actually used to equip armies. They are much more utilitarian, and some of the armour sets, swords, halberds and guns show signs of use. Most of those come from the town arsenal.

Bulletproof armour

One of the things I found interesting was a group of armour sets that were supposed to be bullet proof. The sign of quality was a bullet shot (or several) that would leave a dent but not go through. You can see one in the left armour and there's a smaller dent at the junction between the right (left on the photo) leg and the body part in the middle one.

That armour was heavy, though, 20-30 kg. It was mostly used by the cuirassiers, the heavy cavalry which obviously got its name for a reason, lol.

Boxed set

Other exhibits include the stuff that is part of using a gun or rifle, like powder kegs, rammers, fuses and magazine boxes. They're mostly distributed among the guns and pistols in the various vitrines.

Organ mortar

There are also some cannons. I really liked this one, the predecessor of the magazine gun. It's called an 'organ', a sort of mortar that can shoot 49 bullets in salvas of 7 (one row). Nasty thing to have on a battlefield.

Some modern guns

Of course, there were several vitrines with more modern guns, pistols, and air guns as well, but I found those less interesting. Weapon fans may disagree, *grin* The above display shows some development of the trigger.
 


8 Jun 2014
  British Coasts and Beaches, or: It's Way too Hot

34°C this afternoon. That's just mad.

And so I looked for some photos with nice, cool water. :-)

On the way to Dunstanburgh Castle

Sunshine and pretty green grass is a bonus. I would have loved to walk barefoot, but there were too much sheep droppings.

A cliff at the castle

The fun thing about British coasts is that they never get boring with their mixture of sandy beaches and imposing cliffs.

Lindisfarne at low tide

The tide adds to the interesting atmosphere. In the distance, you can spot Bamburgh Castle.

Lindisfarne

And the other side, with the sun sparkling on the pools of water.

Scarborough, north beach

Or there will be mists coming in, drawing a cold veil over everything. Including the ruins of Scarborough Castle.

The beach at Alnmouth in the evening sun

I especially love evenings at the beach. That one was so calm and relaxing; I just sat in the sand and watched the waves.

The tide coming in at sunset

And then I walked a bit through the cold water - barefoot this time. A sweet change to rocks and pavement.

Tynemouth, wave breakers at the harbour entrance

Or we get all wind and waves and drama. I love that, too.

View from Dunottar Castle

I like this shot of the calm, mysterious water between the cliffs at Dunottar Castle.

More cliffs

All those photos are from the east coast, but I got some nice series from the west coast - mostly Scotland - as well. Those who are new(er) to my blog may check out these posts.

 




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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All texts and photos (if no other copyright is noted) are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Goettingen, Germany

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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Staffa
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A Baltic Sea Cruise

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Geology of the Curonian Spit






Roman History
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Miscellanea
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Roman History

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The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications
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Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

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Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles

Life and Religion

Religion
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Isis Worship
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms

Public Life
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Roman Transport - Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Roman villae
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Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
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Children's Toys
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Miscellaneous Essays

The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Germania

Wars and Frontiers

Maps
Romans in Germania

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

Along the Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg


Gallia Belgica

The Batavians

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction


Britannia

Roman Frontiers in Britain

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend


Mediaeval History

General Essays

Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
Carved Monsters
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Medieaval Craftmanship
Goldsmithery
Medical Instruments

Mediaeval Warfare

Mediaeval Weapons
Swords
Trebuchets

Castles and Fortifications
Dungeons and Oubliettes

Essays about Specific Topics

Feudalism

The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Privileges and Special Relationships
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League

The History of the Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings

Hanesatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship


Germany

Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors

Geneaologies
Anglo-German Marriage Connections
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

House Welf and House Staufen
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

Princes and Lords

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

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Famous Feuds

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

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


England

Kings of England

King Henry IV
King Henry's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Fiefs - The Honour of Richmond
The Dukes of Brittany and the Honour of Richmond
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany

Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


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, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 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

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Rebels

A History of Rebellion
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

A Time of Feuds

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


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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