Trajanic Frieze at the Lunt Fort Scene 8

THE  EMPEROR  SPEAKS  WITH  DACIAN  LEADERS.

 

HE  IS  SURROUNDED  BY  HIS  PERSONAL  GUARD  (PRAETORIANS), WHO  ALSO  WEAR  PURPLE.  THEY  CARRY  SPECIAL  STANDARDS  AND THE  BEARERS  WEAR  ANIMAL  SKINS.

 

THE  STANDARD-BEARER  IN  RED  (CENTRE)  CARRIES  THE  FAMOUS  EAGLE  STANDARD  (AQUILA)  MADE  OF  GOLD  OR  SILVER.  REPRESENTING  AN  ENTIRE  LEGION  WAS  A  VERY  IMPORTANT  JOB!

 

BEHIND  THEM  WE  SEE  A  ROMAN  FORT  WITH  TOWERS,  USED  AS  MODELS  FOR  THE  LUNT  FORT  GATEWAY.

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The reconstructions at the Lunt  are, of course, notional. The reconstructions rise from their original post holes, but their precise appearance above ground level is unknown. The images of gateway structures on Trajan’s Column were the primary sources used to inform the reconstructed Eastern gateway of the Fort.

The gateway, seen in the background of the photo of Drusus in the gyrus, has two levels. The first is a fighting platform, which would probably have mounted one or two ballistae to command the direct approaches. These machines would possibly have been supplemented by archers (sagittarii). Using a bow on the ramparts to fire down into the killing zone between the double ditches (as I have done) gives a real sense of command. The upper level provides  excellent  views of the surrounding area – a great panorama of the centre of the modern city of Coventry. Many a freezing watch duty must have been undertaken on it!

The Lunt would have been a tough nut for any attacking force to crack. When  fully garrisoned by a cohort of auxilia (500 men) I estimate that a war-band of at least 3000 Celts  would have been needed to stand any chance of breaching the ramparts. There is, however, no archaeological evidence that the fort was ever attacked. This is not surprising. Like most Roman forts, the Lunt was offensive, rather than defensive in its intent. It was not a place for the Romans to hide and await attack. The Romans used their forts to dominate surrounding areas, and they were normally  part of extended and sophisticated offensive or counter-offensive  systems.

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.

Dank Britain By Dominic Russell and Cleo Abtuse Tigerwiskers (Kitten) who is currently trying to edit my work and eat woodlice

In my last post, where I described the forests of ancient Britain which covered and dominated the landscape, I made no reference to the swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers and streams which were the other dominant feature which confronted the Romans.

Again ancient Britain is very different to the the land we now inhabit.  Modern Britain is remarkably dry.  Since the late 16th century a great deal of work has been done to navigate the rivers, that is make them navigable such as the Weaver Navigation in the 18th century impacting on the flow of water, the draining of fens, marshes and swamps to make farmland and protect population centres from flooding.  The impact of these industrial marvels has changed the nation beyond recognition in many different ways.  Diseases like Malaria once prevalent in the Oxford fens now has no foothold, marshland has retreated revealing ancient settlements and ancient victims in peat cutting operations.

Without these improvements the landscape had to be used differently and impacted people both culturally and materially.  Movement around the country was restricted to roads at high altitude avoiding the damp dark marsh haunted valleys.  The most ancient of these is the ridgeway which has been used for at least five thousand years.

The marshes provided natural fortresses for the defeated celts.  After the revolt the celts were driven to the forests and also to the marshes where they held off the heavy infantry of the Romans.  Just like the Saxson king Alfred the marsh became a well provisioned refuge from attack.

Finally it can not go without saying that water was a significant religious inspiration for the ancient celts.  I am not prepared to join in meaningless speculation regarding the religion of the Celt but it must be noted that marshes, rivers and lakes had a special significance for the ancients.  At flag fen alone hundreds of votive offerings have been recovered.  The idea that water was route to the other world was continued far into the Romano-British period evidenced by curses and requests written in reverse on lead and dropped into the hot springs at Aquae Sulis

Forests of Ancient Britain

I have spent the day working at the Herbert Art Gallery which has an excellent exhibition at the moment of the work of Michala Gyetvai.  Michala is a local artist who works in thread, fabric and paint to represent nature trees and landscape and it is very good.  Using this medium she had produced haunting, powerful images of trees.  I must admit, being a man, it took me a bit to understand what seemed at first to be sewing but when it hit me it was like being hit with a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick.

I have had a few days off over winter and it has taken me a bit to find a topic to write a post about and it occurred to me, in conversation with Rob, in fact it was Robs idea that we do not think about the forests of ancient Britain enough.  In fact it is rather difficult if not impossible for us to really get to grips with how dominated these islands were by these oak forests.

The farmlands of Britain, the patchwork quilt of fields seen from a plane, are an incredibly recent phenomena.  An unforested Britain, familiar to us, and people all over the world, from Victorian pictures is unusual.  Throughout our history we have been dominated by the deep dark woods.

The deep dark woods were not the exception, they were the rule.  It was an isolated farmstead, a Celtic hill fort or emerging Roman city that was the exception, surrounded at all times by a sea of green foliage and if that foliage were gifted the power of the movement it could easily have shaken man from the island, into sea and reserved the island for themselves.

For the Romans this must have been… disconcerting.  In the early years the famous Roman roads had not been completed and even where they had a cohort might march out of Colchester and vanish almost immediately into the forest.

Forests were not the friends of the Romans and since the terrible loss of three legions in the Teutoburg forests generals into the darkness.  Varians humiliation cast a deep shadow over the minds of later generals who would prefer to use auxiliaries in the Britain rather than their heavy infantry.  The invincible heavy infantry were disadvantaged in the woodland in contrast to the auxilaries who, recruited from Germany and Gaul were in their element.

To march out of the fort was to march into hostile territory where the Romans were usually at a disadvantage.  The forests inhibited communication, speed of movement and combat efficiency.  And after the Boadicea revolt with those forests haunted by dispossessed Celts it is no wonder that the “pacification” of the midlands took over a decade.

Name that Moggy…

The Lunt working cats, famous throughout the land, need names…

All proper cats have three names, this makes them Jellicle.

THE LUNT ROMAN FORT NEEDS HELP TO NAME ITS PUUURRRFECT NEW RECRUITS

 

The Lunt Roman Fort has employed two expert hunters in a bid to help keep the fort safe from incoming sieges by their enemies. Two elite feles have started working at the museum in order to keep the ground safe from vermin attacks.

Feles, or cats, were introduced to Britain by the Romans two thousand years ago. The new recruits are a mixture of white, black and tortoiseshell in colouring and have fearless but graceful personalities along with sharp, rending claws.

The Lunt Roman Fort is asking for help from its visitors to complete the cats’ names. Like the Romans they need three names but unfortunately only have two. The tom, or male, is called Drusus Pollux and the molly, or female, is Drusilla Castor.

The winner will have the joy of having their name going down in mouse catching history and a glorious, private guided tour of the Lunt Roman Fort in March.

To submit your entry contact Dominic Russell or Andrew Peel on 024 7678 6142 or email luntromanfort@theherbert.org by Tuesday 31 January 2012.

Happy Consualia Citizens

Rejoice for Consualia in honour of Consus.  This venerable festical was started by Romulus himself.

Happy Septimontium and Agonalia Citizens

Celebrate citizens and remember refrain from horse driven vehicles today…

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