Posts from the ‘lunt’ Category

Dominating forests and surveying swamps speculations on why the Romans chose Bagington

My two previous posts have been about the ancient landscape of Britain.  I have discussed the preeminence of water and all the pervasiveness of the forests which were the dominant features of ancient Britain.  Modern Britain is very different.  Our country is criss-crossed with good roads, we need not fear ambush from lawless bandits, we do not have to stick to the high ground to avoid swamps and the unhealthy atmosphere.

This often makes it hard to really understand why our ancestors built where they did.  Baginton in Warwickshire is a strange, lovely little place out of the way and overshadowed by Coventry.  Not the kind of place where you would normally expect to find a Roman fort.  The Romans were pro-active with their defensive strategies so building the fort in such a nice place means that at sometime in the past Bagington must have been a more, robust, place to live.

But there is much more to Baginton that first meets the eye.  Just down the road and across the river from the fort are the remains of two prehistoric barrows – somebody having approved planning permission to drive a bypass through them kind of ruined the archaeology – on the other side of the river is the remains of a small fortified manor house, then a quarry made into a lovely garden, then the remains of Baginton Hall which was burned down in the late 19th century, a series of medieval fish pools around which the fields bear the imprint of the medieval serfs who toiled on the land.   So clearly there is something about Baginton, some unseen factor that makes it important in so many different ages.

I think that the position of the fort can be best explained by the Coventry road which runs through Baginton, it seems to be an very ancient road elevated over the landscape following the contours until it dips down to a bridge over the Sow and then onto Coventry.

This makes the fort extremely important strategically.  It was constructed in the  years following Boudican revolt when Agricola was engaged in measures to  reduce the forces of the Britons.  Lunt fits into this strategy of reduction as it controls the Coventry road, the crossing of the Sow and a major route in and out of the Forest of Arden.  From this position the Romans were able to bring up resources and supplies, prevent resupplies to the celts holding out in the forest whilst at the same time providing a safe retreat for soldiers policing the forest seeking the fugitives.  At the fort we have a fantastic model of the site in the sixty first decade which features a group of Roman soldiers bringing prisoners into the fort… to assist the Romans with their enquires which I speculate was a regular occurance during the sites twenty year life span.

This is of course speculation.  It might be based on observation, the use of my powerful intellect (ha) and reflective conversations with my colleagues but the thought processes, the strategic considerations and the planing that led to the fort being built at Baginton has been lost in the mist of time.  By the time of the Dacian war all of the soldiers who had been based at the Lunt, who had survived his service, would have retired and soon be coming to the end of their lives and as they passed certain knowledge of the Lunt passed away with them.

The Abolition of the sky…

I recently joined the Cloud Appreciation Society – an organisation devoted to the abolition of “blue-sky thinking” and with a mission to persuade all who’ll listen of the wonder and beauty of clouds.

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Here we go back to the halcyon days of Summer to watch the course of a Cloud Day at the Lunt.

Let’s all try to live with our heads firmly in the clouds!

Teatime. Well-defined base of Cumulus congestus – producing torrential, but short-lived, rain.

Mid afternoon. Cumulus congestus forming.

Early afternoon. Thickening Stratocumulus approaching from W. Wind rising.

Lunchtime. Altocumulus forming. Rain approaching from SW.

Cirrus spreading and descending.

Mid morning at the Lunt Fort, early August. Spreading Cirrus

TRAJAN’S FRIEZE (Scene 6)

THESE  ROMAN  LEGIONARIES  ARE  MAKING  A  ROAD.

ONE  SOLDIER  SWINGS  A  PICK-AXE (A  DOLABRA),  ANOTHER  MOVES  EARTH  IN  A  WICKER  BASKET.  THE  ROMANS  DID  NOT  USE  WHEELBARROWS!

THEY  WORK  IN  THEIR  ARMOUR,  WITH  HELMETS  AND  SHIELDS  NEARBY  IN  CASE OF  SURPRISE  ATTACK.

TWO  CHOPPED  OFF  HEADS  HAVE  BEEN  SET  UP  AS  A  WARNING!

Soldiers building a road

Surely a mistake in the colour coding here. The severed heads, by their context, have to be  Dacian – and should have RED hair.  Should we associate these images with a head-hunting cult as suggested in previous posts?  I doubt it in this case. The troops here are legionaries,  which means they are all bona fide Roman citizens – and there is a purpose to this grisly display. It says “Men at Work.. Do Not Disturb”.  But if they are disturbed they are ready for you. Note the close proximity of helmets and shields.

Here we see construction work in an active warzone being undertaken while wearing body armour. I have done jobs in the construction industry involving hard manual labour. I also wear Roman body armour on a regular basis as part of my job at the Lunt. I would hate to have to combine the two!

Simply moving about and projecting the voice for two  hours , while wearing this stuff, is an exhausting  experience.  Of course, I am a modern softie – not of the hardy peasant stock these men were.  Yet even for them, this work, especially in high temperatures, must have been punishing. As we  learned  recently at the Fort, their stamina and endurance are held in awe by the toughest soldiers in the British Army of today….

Imperialism, soft power and the sausage…

I love Horrible Histories.  I have read the books and seen the series.  I can not get enough and when I saw this clip I nearly wet myself.

But it is not as silly as it looks.  Ever since the Robinson and Gallagher wrote about the Imperialism of Free Trade  imperial historians have looked to the myriad alternative explanations of the spread of empire to that of brute force.  Informal empire spread beyond the boarders of the official empire meaning that countries dependent on Britain for banking and industry, such as Chili and Argentina were more under the control of Westminster than formal colonies like Canada.

Culture, art, civilisation and food are all essential tools of the imperialist and their use can be demonstrated as effectively in the British Empire as in the Roman Empire.  The British encouraged their subjects formal and informal to drink tea at four in the afternoon, to wear dinner suits and listen to Elgar.  The same was true of ancient Rome.  In the prelude to invasion Roman goods, lifestyle and culture was being exported to Britain to bring that nation under the empire without the legions having to leave their forts.

But Rome did not have it all their own way and the sausage was a very dangerous manifestation of germanic soft power.  Just like the curry, roast beef or the beef burger the german sausage was an in road into the roman world centuries before the German armies even considered leaving their forests.

The Romans were confident enough to extend citizenship to conquered people, giving them a significant strategic advantage over the Carthaginians in the Punic wars.  But manumission only worked one way, barbarians were transformed into citizens by service in the army or as a reward for loyalty.  The patricians never imagined their citizens abandoning civilization to become sausage scoffers.

The Emperors reaction to the sausage says it all.  It was banned because they recognised its danger and it shows that the empire, after the civil wars, was culturally weak, looking for something new.  But the problem is that if you allow people to eat like barbarians, dress like barbarians and think like barbarians you end up with the kinds of people who watch and enjoy X Factor.

I need a farrier… is there a farrier in the house?

I have been thinking about the hippo sandal for months now and we have come up with a number of interesting theories.  What we need to explain is what it was used for… We know that it was a piece of horse tack worn on the hoofs the key problem is that we also know that modern horses can not get on with them.  A reconstruction for time team shows a very unhappy horse wobbling about on a set of hippo sandals looking uncomfortable.

This blog has seen a number theories about the hippo sandal, was it a training shoe? was it a hobbling device? was it protection against caltrops? or was it merely an emergency horseshoe?

So I did some reading, and read something interesting on Wikopedia…

“When a horse has certain types of lameness, the farrier may use the frog for support, using specialized shoes that help keep correct pressure on the frog so that less force is transmitted to the wall and sole of the foot or to the navicular bone, coffin bone, and deep digital flexor tendon.”

Now one of the interesting things about the Hippo sandal is how rare it is given that the centrality of the horse in the ancient world, especially in war.  It has always haunted me that an item that should be so ubiquitous should be such a rare find.  We should see a lot more of them even if horse shoes are so hard to find after they have been thrown.

So any explanation should account for this.  Now my new idea is that the hippo sandal was not a horse shoe, not a tactical tool but rather an ancient example of one of the above mentioned “specialist shoes” designed to correct the pressure on the frog.

So if any of you lovely readers is a farrier then please get in touch.

Another theory about the Hipposandal…protection from Caltrops

Right so this is a running theme of the blog… what in the name of Jupiters divine posterior was this thing for.  So far we have theorized that it was a hobbling device  a training device to get horses to highstep but not quite dismissed the idea that it was a temporary horse shoe… well not all of us.  The most exciting thing was talking to Amanda (thus avoiding having to actively participate in a little girls birthday party) and discovering that a similar design is currently being marketed and sold to equestrians (that means horsey people).

So guess what I did today…I was in the museum looking at the artifacts.  First I looked at the hippo sandal then the Caligae and then a caltrop.   Then I looked back to the hippo sandal and then the caltrop then the sole of the Caligae.

Caligae

The Caligae are an important piece of kit for the ancient Roman soldier.  They have thick soles reinforced with hobnails.  The Roman soldier had the best footware in the ancient world… maybe only rivaled by modern boots.  These were boots that enabled him to march over difficult ground and protect his soles spikes, caltrops and sharp stones not to mention a terrible weapon that enable the legionary to stamp a downed enemy into jelly.  But the caltrops held my attention.

Caltrops, known to the Romans as a tribulus, are a area denial weapon sown onto a battlefield to cripple men, horses and extreme cases elephants (and in the modern age tanks).  The enemy would stand on them and express their discontent in a loud manner before trying to get the thing out of their foot.  A charge of foot men is impossible, horses are rended lame and elephants go bonkers but the last thing the Romans would want is for their own horses to be denied the same area.  In fact a charge of light horse would change a faltering charge into a rout ,without the heavy infantry from even having to draw their gladius, in no time but they would need to protect their own horses frogs (the soft bit of the foot) from the caltrops.

What caught my attention was the “sole” of the shoe which is completely covered.  This iron base would be sufficient to squash any spike down allowing the horsemen to ride over caltrops with complete contempt… and of course anything else which was on the battlefield.

Drusus Gets Dressed Helmet

A Galea was a helmet worn by Roman soldiers.
 
 The ears and eyes were not covered so the soldiers could see and hear very well.
  The neck was well protected by a guard at the back.
  The top of the helmet was very strong with a guard across the front.
  Unfortunately the middle of the face was not protected and many Roman soldiers lost bits of their noses in battle!
 
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