Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Roman Marching Camp in Wisconsin?

The Romans were very consistent folks with respect to their military architecture.  A legionary fort in Scotland would have the same layout as one in Syria.  The similarities even crossed different categories.  The forts manned by legionaries were larger than those staffed by auxiliaries but the basic geometry was the same.

In the later stages of the Empire cities acquired walls and gates that were modeled on the military template.

And sometimes the Romans took things to what we would regard as ridiculous extremes.  When the legions were on the march they would stop for the night, then build a temporary "marching camp".  It took three or four hours but they could then sleep securely behind a system of ditches and dirt walls...with the exact geometry of a conventional Roman army post!  In the morning they just packed up and moved on.

This of course was one reason why it was so difficult to dislodge the Romans once they took an interest in your land.  By the time you figured out where the Romans were, and got your fellow tribesmen rounded up and sober, the only way you could mount a night time sneak attack would be to go against some formidable defenses.  A five foot deep ditch, then a five foot tall wall with sharpened spikes on it.  Each Roman soldier carried a pre-sharpened spike with him!

A few images....

The "Porta Nigra", a marvelous surviving Roman city gate in Trier.

Note the similarity to this Roman coin of the same era.  This is referred to as a "camp gate" by numismatists, and is felt to reflect the less substantial - but clearly similar - gates of Roman forts.

Finally I offer this, my concept of what Roman marching forts might have evolved into had the Empire not fallen.  You need a temporary camp?  Why spend hours and hours moving dirt?

From our local Oktoberfest...

They actually got a lot of details spot on.  Even little things that essentially nobody but I would notice. On the left hand side we have a soldier in the uniform of an auxiliary.  On the right, a proper legionnaire.

I don't know if I should deduct one authenticity point for the "Crusader" cross on this fellow's shield. The unknown artist could I suppose argue that it was one of Constantine the Great's soldiers at the battle of Milvian Bridge.  That of course was where Constantine received his vision of "in this sign conquer" and had his men paint Christian symbols on their shields.

I would for sure give serious authenticity points if that was the intent, but would also point out that the symbol used is thought to have been the earlier Chi Rho monogram.

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