Noviomagus Reginorum: Today’s British Chichester

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

The expanse of Roman influence was far and wide across Europe, and is still felt even today. Outside of Italy, a majority of well-preserved Roman ruins are found in Great Britain.

So today we head to back to Provincia Britannia as we explore Noviomagus Reginorum!

Map of modern Chichester with Noviomagus Reginorum outlined in blue.

Noviomagus Reginorum was the Roman town which is the modern cathedral city of Chichester, situated in the English county of West Sussex. It has a long history from Roman times and was important in Anglo-Saxon times.

Museum model of how Fishbourne Roman Palace may have appeared.

Noviomagus is a Latinization of a Brittonic placename meaning New Fields. It was given its epithet of Reginorum in order to distinguish it from other places with the same name, including the Noviomagus in Kent.

The settlement was first established as a winter castrum (fort) for the Legio II Augusta (2nd Augustan Legion) under Vespasian (the future Emperor) shortly after the Roman invasion in AD 43. The camp was located in the territory of the friendly Atrebates tribe.

Re-enactors of the Legio II Augusta

The castrum was only used for a few years before the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) withdrew. The site was then developed as a Romano-British civilian settlement.

It served as the capital of the Civitas Reginorum, a client kingdom ruled by Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus. The Regnenses were either a sub-tribe of the Atrebates or simply the local people designated the ‘people of the Kingdom’ by the Roman administration.

Inscription discovered in 1723 from a temple dedicated to Neptune and Minerva, erected on the authority of Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus.

Cogidubnus almost certainly lived at the nearby Palace of Fishbourne. He is mentioned on the dedication stone of the temple to Neptune and Minerva found in Chichester.

The area around Chichester is believed to have played significant part during the Roman Invasion of AD 43, as confirmed by evidence of military storage structures in the area of the nearby Fishbourne Roman Palace. The Roman road of Stane Street, connecting the city with Londinium (modern London), started at the east gate, while the Chichester to Silchester road started from the north gate.

Roman city walls

The original Roman city wall was over 6.5 feet thick with a steep ditch (which was later used to divert the River Lavant). It survived for over 1,500 years but was then replaced by a thinner Georgian wall.

The plan of the modern city was inherited from the Romans. The North, South, East and West shopping streets radiate from the central market cross dating from medieval times.

An amphitheatre was built outside the city walls, close to the East Gate, in around 80 AD. The area is now a park, but the site of the amphitheatre is discernible as a gentle bank approximately oval in shape.

Cupid on a Dolphin mosaic in the Fishbourne Roman Palace.

The town became an important residential, market and industrial center, producing both fine tableware and enamelwork. In the 2nd Century the town was surrounded by a bank and timber palisade which was later rebuilt in stone.

Other public buildings were also present including the thermae (public baths), now found beneath West Street, and the basilica, thought to be beneath the cathedral.

Bastions on the Roman wall at Chichester.

Bastions were added in the early 4th Century and the town was generally improved with much rebuilding, road surfacing, and a new sewerage system. There were cemeteries outside the east, north and south gates.

By the 380s, Noviomagus appears to have been largely abandoned, perhaps because of Saxon raids along the south coast. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the town was eventually captured towards the close of the 5th Century by Aelle of the South Saxons.

The dedication stone of the temple of Neptune and Minerva is now set into the wall of the Assembly Rooms. Part of a fine Roman mosaic may be seen in situ beneath the floor of the cathedral, while another mosaic from Noviomagus may be seen at Fishbourne Roman Palace.

The Novium Museum as viewed from Tower Street.

Chichester’s museum, The Novium, houses many finds from across the city. Opened on 8 July 2012, The Novium preserves many of the bath structures from the Roman town.

In January 2017, archaeologists used underground radar and reported the discovery of the relatively untouched ground floor of a Roman townhouse and outbuilding. The exceptional preservation is due to the fact the site, Priory Park, belonged to a monastery and has never been built upon since Roman times.

Timber barrack blocks, supply stores, and military equipment have been excavated. The foundations of a luxurious private bath house once owned by some of the richest citizens of Roman Chichester have been found under a public park in the centre of the city.

Local volunteers joined professional archaeologists in the excavation of the bath house.

The remains have survived because in the densely built medieval city that grew up within the Roman walls, the site remained open land. The land was eventually given to the city as a WWI memorial by the Duke of Richmond.

We hope you enjoyed the journey into jolly old England to explore this Roman town. We look forward to having you back again soon.

Till next time, Don´t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Dargie, Richard. A History of Britain. 2007.

Down, Alec. Roman Chichester. Chichester, 1988. ISBN 0850334357.

Kennedy, Maev. ¨Luxury bath house from Roman Chichester unearthed by archaeologists¨. The Guardian, 31 May 2017.

Manley, John. AD43: The Roman Invasion of Britain. Tempus Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7524-1959-6.

Wacher, John The Towns of Roman Britain Routledge; 2nd Revised edition. 5 April 1995. ISBN 978-0-7134-7319-3.

“Chichester Roman houses found under Priory Park”. 26 January 2017.

Archaeological Site of Ani

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in the Switzerland to uncover the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.

Today we’re traveling back into Classical Anatolia (or modern Turkey) as we check out the Archaeological Site of Ani!

Ani (known in Latin as Abnicum) is a ruined medieval Armenian city now situated in Turkey‘s province of Kars, next to the closed border with Armenia. Ani stood on various trade routes and its many religious buildings, palaces, and fortifications were amongst the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world.

This site is located on a secluded plateau of northeast Turkey overlooking a ravine that forms a natural border with Armenia. This medieval city combines residential, religious and military structures, characteristic of a medieval urbanism built up over the centuries by Christian and then Muslim dynasties.

The city flourished in the 10th and 11th Centuries AD when it became the capital of the medieval Armenian kingdom of the Bagratides and profited from control of one branch of the Silk Road. Later, under Byzantine, Seljuk and Georgian sovereignty, it maintained its status as an important crossroads for merchant caravans.

The Mongol invasion and a devastating earthquake in 1319 marked the beginning of the city’s decline. The site presents a comprehensive overview of the evolution of medieval architecture through examples of almost all the different architectural innovations of the region between the 7th and 13th Centuries AD.

How This Relates to Rome:

The Kingdom of Greater Armenia, or simply Greater Armenia (Armenia Maior), was a monarchy in the Ancient Near East which existed from 321 BC to 428 AD. Its history is divided into successive reigns by 3 royal dynasties: Orontid (321 BC–200 BC), Artaxiad (189 BC–12 AD) and Arsacid (52–428).

Roman-Parthian Wars Campaign Map (AD 58-60).

During the Roman–Parthian Wars, the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia was founded when Tiridates I, a member of the Parthian Arsacid dynasty, was proclaimed King of Armenia in AD 52. Throughout most of its history during this period, Armenia was heavily contested between Rome and Parthia, and the Armenian nobility was divided among pro-Roman, pro-Parthian or neutrals.

Statue of Trajan (2nd Century AD) from Ostia Antica.

From AD 114 to 118, Armenia briefly became a province of the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan. The Kingdom of Armenia often served as a client state or vassal at the frontier of the two large empires and their successors, the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. In 301, Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia, making the Armenian kingdom the first state to embrace Christianity officially.

During the Byzantine–Sasanian wars, Armenia was ultimately partitioned into Byzantine Armenia in 387 and Persian Armenia in 428.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Rome: The Punic Wars – The Second Punic War Begins

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whether it was fighting  in a civil war or fighting to expand/defend the Kingdom, Republic, or Empire, Rome rarely rested on its laurels. Last week we brought you Rome: The Punic Wars – The First Punic War.

Thanks to Extra Credits, today we carry on as we view the start of The Second Punic War!

Map showing Rome and Carthage at the start of the Second Punic War and the theatre of the Punic Wars (circa 218 BC).

According to Polybius, after The First Punic War there had been several trade agreements between Rome and Carthage, even a mutual alliance against king Pyrrhus of Epirus. When Rome and Carthage made peace in 241 BC, Rome secured the release of all 8,000 prisoners of war without ransom and, furthermore, received a considerable amount of silver as a war indemnity.

Legislative Assembly in the Roman Republic

However, Carthage refused to deliver to Rome the Roman deserters serving among their troops. A first issue for dispute was that the initial treaty, agreed upon by Hamilcar Barca and the Roman commander in Sicily, had a clause stipulating that the Roman Popular Assembly had to accept the treaty in order for it to be valid.

The Assembly not only rejected the treaty, but it also increased the indemnity Carthage had to pay. War was coming!

The Second Punic War (218 BC – 201 BC) is most remembered for the Carthaginian Hannibal‘s crossing of the Alps. His army invaded Italy from the north and resoundingly defeated the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) in several battles, but never achieved the ultimate goal of causing a political break between Rome and its allies.

Hannibal in Italy (on war elephants) by Jacopo Ripanda, ca. 1510 (Capitoline Museums, Rome).

Thanks for stopping by today, we hope you enjoyed the adventure. Be sure to come back soon for the Second Punic War marches on.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Running of the Bulls: A Spanish Event Like Nothing Else

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Back in November 2016, we shared a piece entitled Bullfighting: Having Roots in Ancient Rome. That was a bit more graphic than what we will be discussing, but there is still a clear and present danger involved.

Today we head to Hispania as we partake in Pamplona’s world famous Running of the Bulls!pamplona-spain-running-bulls

The Running of the Bulls is known in Spanish as Encierro, from the verb Encerrar (to corral, to enclose). It is a practice that involves running in front of a small group of cattle (typically 6) of the Toro Bravo breed that have been let loose on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town’s streets.

Saint Fermin
Saint Fermin

The most famous Running of the Bulls is the 8-day festival of Sanfermines in honor of Saint Fermin in Pamplona, although they are also traditionally held in other places such as towns and villages across SpainPortugal, in some cities in Mexico, and southern France during the summer.

The origin of this event comes from the need to transport the bulls from the fields outside the city, where they were bred, to the bullring, where they would be killed in the evening. During this ‘run’, youngsters would jump among them to show off their bravado.

In Pamplona and other places, the six bulls in the event are still those that will feature in the afternoon bullfight of the same day.

Spanish tradition says the true origin of the run began in northeastern Spain during the early 14th Century. While transporting cattle in order to sell them at the market, men would try to speed the process by hurrying their cattle using tactics of fear and excitement.

After years of this practice, the transportation and hurrying began to turn into a competition, as young adults would attempt to race in front of the bulls and make it safely to their pens without being overtaken. When the popularity of this practice increased and was noticed more and more by the expanding population of Spanish cities, a tradition was created and stands to this day.

The Pamplona Encierro is the most popular in Spain and has been broadcast live by RTVE, the public Spanish national television channel, for over 30 years. Held every year from July 6–14, it is the highest profile event of the San Fermin festival.

The first bull running is on 7 July, followed by one on each of the following mornings of the festival, beginning every day at 8 am. Among the rules to take part in the event are that participants must be at least 18 years old, run in the same direction as the bulls, not incite the bulls, and not be under the influence of alcohol.

In Pamplona a set of wooden fences is erected to direct the bulls along the route and to block off side streets. A double wooden fence is used in those houses where there is enough space for it, while in other parts the buildings of the street act as barriers.

The gaps in the barricades are wide enough for a human to slip through, but narrow enough to block a bull. The fence is composed of around 3,000 separate pieces and while some parts are left for the duration of the fiesta others are mounted and dismounted every morning.

Spectators can only stand behind the subsequent fence. The space between the 2 fences is reserved for security and medical personnel and also to participants who need cover during the event.

The Encierro begins with runners singing a benediction. It is sung 3 times, each time being sung both in Spanish and Basque.

The benediction is a prayer given at a statue of Saint Fermin, patron of the festival and the city, to ask the Saint’s protection. Translated into English it is as follows: “We ask Saint Fermin, as our Patron, to guide us through the Encierro and give us his blessing”.

singingThe singers finish by shouting “Viva San Fermín!, Gora San Fermin!” (Long live Saint Fermin!). Most runners dress in the traditional clothing of the festival which consists of a white shirt and trousers with a red waistband (faja) and neckerchief (pañuelo). Also some of them hold the day’s newspaper rolled to draw the bulls’ attention from them if necessary.

Runners in typical attire plus standouts
Runners in typical attire plus standouts

Another common dress practice, seen as a risk by some but as a daring depiction of courage by others is dressing in a conspicuous manner. Many runners that want to be perceived as daring wear colors other than white.

The most daring color alternative is blue for it is thought by some to draw the bulls’ attention. Others include large logos on their shirt to capture the attention of the bulls, anything to make yourself stand out in a photo.

Revellers on the town hall balcony hold up red scarves during the start of the San Fermin Festival in PamplonaA first rocket is set off at 8 am to alert the runners that the corral gate is open. Another rocket signals that all 6 bulls have been released.

The 3rd and 4th rockets signal that all of the herd has entered the bullring and its corral, respectively, marking the end of the event. The average duration between the initial rocket and the end of the running is 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

The Encierro is usually composed of the 6 bulls to be fought in the afternoon, 6 steers that run in herd with the bulls, and 3 more steers that follow the herd to encourage any reluctant bulls to continue along the route. The function of the steers, who run the route daily, is to guide the bulls to the bullring at an average speed of 15 mph.

Entering the bull ring from the callejón
Entering the bull ring from the callejón

The length of the run is 957 yards. It goes through 4 streets of the old part of the city (Santo Domingo, Ayuntamiento, Mercaderes and Estafeta) via the Town Hall Square and the short section just before entering into the bullring through its callejón (tunnel). The fastest part of the route is up Santo Domingo and across the Town Hall Square, but the bulls often became separated at the entrance to Estafeta Street as they slowed down.

Runners are not permitted in the opening 55 yards of the Encierro, which is an uphill grade where the bulls are much faster.

On the Estafeta
On the Estafeta

One or more would slip going into the turn at Estafeta, resulting in the installation of anti-slip surfacing. Now most of the bulls negotiate the turn onto Estafeta ahead of the steers, thus making for a quicker run.

Every year, between 50-100 people are injured during the run, but not all of the injuries require taking the patients to the hospital. In 2013 50, people were taken by ambulance to Pamplona’s hospital, with this number nearly doubling that of 2012.

goredGoring is much less common but potentially life threatening. In 2013 for example, 6 participants were gored along the festival, in 2012 only 4 runners were injured by the horns of the bulls with exactly the same number of gored people in 2011, 9 in 2010 and 10 in 2009; with one of the later killed.

As most of the runners are male, only 5 women have been gored since 1974. Previously to that date running was prohibited for women.

Another major risk is runners falling and piling up at the entrance of the bullring, which acts as a funnel as it is much narrower than the previous street. In such cases injuries come both from asphyxia and contusions to those in the pile and from goring if the bulls crush into the pile.

pile-upThis kind of blocking of the entrance has occurred at least ten times in the history of the run, the last occurring in 2013 and the first dating back to 1878. A runner died of suffocation in one such pile up in 1977.

Overall, since record-keeping began in 1910, only 15 people of the several thousand runners have been killed in the bull running of Pamplona, most of them due to being gored. To minimize the impact of injuries every day 200 people collaborate in the medical attention making it possible to have a gored person stabilized and taken to a hospital in less than 10 minutes.

sun-also-risesThe Encierro of Pamplona has been depicted many times in literature, television or advertising, but became known worldwide partly because of the descriptions of Ernest Hemingway in books The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon. The cinema pioneer Louis Lumière filmed the run in 1899.

city-slickers
City Slickers

The event is the basis for a chapter in James Michener‘s 1971 novel The Drifters. The run is depicted in the 1991 Billy Crystal film City Slickers where the character “Mitch” (Crystal) is gored (non-fatally) from behind by a bull during a vacation with the other main characters.

Running with the Bulls, a 2012 documentary of the festival filmed by Construct Creatives and presented by Jason Farrel, depicts the pros and cons of the controversial tradition. Since 2014 the Esquire Channel has broadcast the running of the bulls as a show in the US, with both live commentary and then a recorded ’round up’ later in the day by NBCSN commentators the Men in Blazers, including interviews with noted participants.

In 2014, the eBook guide Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona caused headlines around the world when one of the contributors was gored by a bull soon after its publication. Maybe one should take the advice given here with a grain of salt.

Many opponents argue that bulls are mentally injured by the harassment and voicing of both participants and spectators. Despite all this, the festivities seem to have wide popular support in their villages.

Many animal rights activists oppose the event. PETA activists created the “running of the nudes”, a demonstration done 2 days before the beginning of San Fermín in Pamplona.pamplona

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, and maybe you’ve been inspired to participate in the future. No matter what we’d like to have any stories you may have on the event and to check us out again for a new journey.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Alonso, Gorka. “Los encierros se saldan con 50 heridos trasladados y 6 corneados” (in Spanish). Noticias de Navarra. 15 July 2013.

Coviello, Will. “Running of the Bulls 2012”. Gambit Weekly.

Editorial Staff. “Pamplona, bull running, bull gorings, Esquire TV and poetry from New York”. The Pamplona Post. 10 July 2015.

Fiske-Harrison, AlexanderFiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona. Mephisto Press, 2014.

Marszalek, Keith I. “Big Easy Rollergirls to reinact [sic] famed bull run”. NOLA.com. 24 June 2007.

Vadillo, Jose Luis. “Así son los corredores de elite en San Fermín”. El Mundo. 6 July 2015.

“Bull gores man to death in Spain”. BBC. 10 July 2009.

“Encierro bullrun San Fermin festival Sanfermines tourist information on Navarre”. Government of Navarre.

“One dead in the running of the bull’s in Pamplona”EncierroSanFermin.com. 10 July 2009.

Running of the Bulls 2011 Live Stream (Event Information)

“Running of the Bulls”. Esquire TV.

“Running Of The Bulls 2015: A Democratic Sport”. Esquire TV.

“Running of the Nudes”PETA official site.

“San Fermín in Nueva Orleans, The Running of the Roller Girls”. Laughingsquid.com. 20 July 2008.

“San Fermín So Far – 2014”The Pamplona Post. 12 July 2014.

“The Bull Run”. Ayuntamiento de Pamplona (Council of Pamplona). Archived from the original on 29 May 2008.

“The last person killed at Pamplona”. BBC. 14 July 2005.

Book 7; Thought 5

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Is my understanding sufficient for this or not? If it is sufficient, I use it for the work as an instrument given by the universal nature. But if it is not sufficient, then either I retire from the work and give way to him who is able to do it better, unless there be some reason why I ought not to do so; or I do it as well as I can, taking to help me the man who with the aid of my ruling principle can do what is now fit and useful for the general good. For whatsoever either by myself or with another I can do, ought to be directed to this only, to that which is useful and well suited to society.

Caesar´s Germanic Cavalry: An Elite Fighting Force

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If this is your initial time joining us, we appreciate you stopping in to check us out. If you’ve been here before, thanks for thinking enough of us to come back for more.

On a site dedicated to the History of Rome and traveling to various regions to discover cool places and amazing things within what was the Imperium Rōmānum (Roman Empire), we couldn’t not discuss one of the most polarizing and charismatic people to grace the pages of antiquity. Love him or hate him, Gaius Julius Caesar was a man known among everyone in Ancient Rome.

How was it that Germanic tribesmen began so trusted upon by one of Rome’s greatest Generals? When did their use come into fashion for Rome? Let’s find out!

Caesar’s German Auxiliary Cavalry

Time and again, Caesar’s German Cavalry had more than proven their worth. In Gallia, they gave Caesar the advantage over hostile horsemen while alongside siege craft in Alesia they helped bring about Caesar’s victory.

In Greece, Caesar’s Germans proved that they could fight as well on foot as they could on horseback, then in Egypt they helped clinch the victory over Ptolemy XII Auletes.

Bronze statue of Julius Caesar (Rimini, Italy).

Few in number, Caesar treated his German Cavalry as elite, often holding them in reserve until the situation became desperate. It was then, that Caesar’s elite German warriors could decisively influence the course of a war.

But it this wasn’t always the case. Of course, the Romans had used neighboring people as Auxilia though never in such an esteemed role as Caesar held his non-Romans.

By the time of Julius Caesar’s Gallic War (58-51 BC), it appears that the typical Equites Romani  (Roman Cavalry) may have disappeared altogether, and that Caesar was entirely dependent on allied Gallic contingents for his cavalry operations. This is deduced from an incident in 58 BC when Caesar was invited to a parley with the German king Ariovistus and needed a cavalry escort.

Since he didn’t yet trust the allied Gallic cavalry under his command, Caesar instructed them to lend their horses to some members his Legiōnēs. Thus was the beginning of the Legio X Equestris (10th Mounted Legion).

The infamous Legio X Equestris

After Caesar had beaten back German tribal intrusions into Gallia in 58 and 55 BC, the Germans decided to join Caesar. Four hundred strong, they were there as a both a show of goodwill and trust as well as for the loot and glory in battle.

Julius Caesar’s Germanic tribesmen were tall, muscular men with skin toughened by the elements and scarred from battle wounds. Hailing from the Usipetes and from the Tencteri, these tribesmen were built for war armed with spears, swords, shields, and helmets.

That the Germans would fight for former foes was not at all unusual. What mattered to them was that they got the spoils promised or deserved.

The Roman troops of Julius Caesar prepare to face the Helvetii and their allies at the Battle of Bibracte in 58 BC.

Caesar was impressed by the martial spirit of the Germans.  He wrote that, though in the past the Gauls had been more warlike than the Germans, the Gauls had come to “not even pretend to compete with the Germans in bravery”.

Caesar valued his German warriors so highly, that he replaced their pony-like horses with the larger steeds of his bodyguard, Tribunus Militum (Military Tribunes), and Equites (Knights). It was in 52 BC, during the final and most critical year of Caesar’s Gallic War, when his fortunes would fall to an all time low, that his German Cavalry would rise to the occasion.

As Caesar was accepting the surrender of the town of Noviodunum Biturigum, the cavalry of Gallic King Vercingetorix appeared. Caesar ordered his Allied Gallic Cavalry to take the field.

Caesar’s Cavalry Charge

Caesar’s Gauls had the worst of the ensuing fight, prompting Caesar to commit his 400 Germans. With a furious charge, the Germans scattered the enemy and inflicted heavy casualties.

Vercingetorix, however, regained the initiative with a defensive victory at Gergovia. With many of his Gallic allies having switched sides, Caesar recruited another 600 German tribal cavalry and light troops from across the Rhine.

In Gallia Narbonensis, Vercingetorix again attacked Caesar. The sudden appearance of Vercingetorix caught Caesar unprepared, but the Gallic cavalry failed to close in for combat with the Romans.

North face of the Mausoleum of the Julii in Glanum, southern France, showing a cavalry battle (c. 40 BC).

Meanwhile, Caesar’s Auxiliary Cavalry kept the enemy at bay which allowed his Legionaries to form a defensive square. It was at this moment when Caesar’s German Cavalry gained the summit of a nearby hill.

Never content with being on the defensive, Caesar’s Germans routed a body of Gallic horsemen and hurled them back upon their own infantry. The rout caused the entire Gallic cavalry to flee like rats from a sinking ship.

The Gauls placed the greatest reliance on their cavalry, and with its defeat their spirits sank. Vercingetorix retreated to the stronghold town of Alesia.

Perched on a plateau and surrounded by hills and streams, Alesia seemed impervious to assault. In addition to its supreme defensive location, there were ramparts below the town, a 6-foot wall, and a trench to enclose the Vercingetorix’s camp.

The Fortifications built by Caesar in Alesia according to the hypothesis of the location in Alise-Sainte-Reine.

Caesar surrounded the Alesia with over 14-miles of 2 concentric rings of earthworks, ditches, ramparts, spikes, stakes, covered pits, forts, and camps. An inner ring of fortifications faced the defenders of Alesia, while an outer ring protected the Romans from the anticipated Gallic relief army.

Construction of the Roman fortifications was still going on when Vercingetorix’s cavalry sallied out of the Gallic camp. Numbering close to 10,000 men, the Gauls were met in battle by Caesar’s Cavalry.

Romans vs Gauls in the Battle of Alesia.

The fighting swept over a 3-mile stretch of plains between the hills. The Gallic horsemen gained the upper hand over Caesar’s Auxiliary Gallic and Spanish Cavalry, but once again Caesar had kept his Germans in reserve.

Just as before, Caesar’s Germans turned the tide and harried the Gauls back against either their outer wall or trench. Behind the attacking Germans, the Roman Legions readied for battle.

Below them at the camp ramparts, frantic Gauls jammed up the narrow gates as they abandoned their horses to scramble across the trench and up the wall. The Germans were right behind them, swords slashing and spears thrusting.

Riding down their panicked foes and capturing a number of horses into the bargain, Caesar’s German Cavalry galloped on. Vercingetorix was forced to remain on the defensive, and even sent out his own cavalry to raise a relief army among the nearby tribes.

Roman Cavalry counter attacks a Celtic force which is attacking the Romans that are laying siege during the Battle of Alesia.

As the siege dragged on, the rebellious Gauls and non-combatants of Alesia were reduced to near starvation. Their spirits rose with the sighting of the arrival of the Gallic relief army under Commius, King of the Atrebates, who had an army estimated at 120,000 men (or 3-times larger than Caesar’s worn down men).

With his Legionaries defending against Vercingetorix’ men, Caesar sent his Cavalry to engage Commius’ troops. The hard fought battle lasted until the sun neared the horizon.

Caesar’s Germans then massed all their squadrons for a charge. The German Cavalry struck Commius’ Gallic horsemen like lightning, causing the Gallic cavalry to flee and thus allowing his archers to be easily cut down.

Vercingetorix Throws Down his Arms at the Feet of Julius Caesar by Lionel Royer (1899).

A second Gallic assault at night died in the fire of Roman siege engines, and a third attack saw Caesar’s Cavalry seemingly destroy Commius’ infantry from the rear. With no help left, Vercingetorix surrendered more or less bringing an end to the Gallic Wars.

Caesar plunged the Roman Republic into the Great Civil War of 50 BC, when he marched his Legions across the Rubicon and into Italy. For 4 years, Caesar’s Gallic and Germanic Cavalry accompanied his Legions through the Civil War against the Pompeians and the interludes of the Egyptian and Pontic wars.

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon

In 48 BC, Caesar blocked Pompey from reaching his supply base at Dyrrachium only to find his own supply route to Italy severed by Pompey’s naval dominance of the Adriatic. When Pompey tried to break through Caesar’s entrenchments, the Germans fought on foot beside Caesar’s Legions.

The German sortie slew several Pompeians before returning back to Caesar’s camp. Nevertheless, Pompey eventually managed to pierce the blockade.

Caesar’s force was demoralized, low on supplies, and forced to withdraw into Thessalia. Caesar stormed the defiant town of Gomfoi and gave it over to be ransacked by his half-starved troops.

Battle of Pharsalus

The whole army, especially the Germans, embarked on an orgy of gluttony and drinking. At Pharsalus, Caesar overthrew Pompey’s initially successful cavalry charge and inflicted a crushing defeat.

Pompey fled to Egypt where the ministers of Ptolemy XII assassinated him. After a lightning campaign against Pharnaces II of Pontus, who had occupied Armenia and Cappadocia, Caesar returned to Italy.

In 46 BC, Caesar continued the war against the followers of Pompey in North Africa. At first Caesar was vastly outnumbered, but after being reinforced he was able to bring the campaign to a victorious end at Thapsus.

Caesar rallying his Tenth Legion at Munda.

The Great Civil War was brought to an end in 45 BC, when Caesar faced the last Pompeius’ forces at Munda. Caesar possessed 8 Legions with over 8,000 cavalry, including his veteran Gauls and Germans, plus King Bogud of Maurentia with his corps of Moorish horsemen.

The Legio X Equestris caved in the enemy’s left flank. The Cavalry, with Bogud in the lead, vanquished the enemy horsemen and fell upon the enemy’s flank and rear.

Caesar returned to Rome and became Dictator. For their allegiance and service to him, Caesar rewarded his veteran Legionaries with a generous gift of gold coins equal to 27 years pay (not too shabby).

Caesar disbanded his Praetorian Guard and his Spanish Cohortes (Tactical Military Units). Likely his Gallic and German Cavalry disbanded as well, with plunder and coin, and maybe even the coveted Roman citizenship.

Rome’s German Warriors

Upon the Assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, a new civil war erupted. No doubt, this gave many of Caesar’s Germans a chance for more military service for the Romans.

Fierce, fast, and ferocious, the Germanic Cavalry of Julius Caesar inspired those who would become Emperor to charge the Germans with their protection. This trend would last until the Sack of Rome by the Visigoths (Germanic peoples), and ultimately lead to the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

While it lasted, the Germanic Auxilia of was a thing of beauty. We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure and look forward to having you back again.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Appian, Appian’s Roman History. Vol. III. Trans. Horace White. William, Heinemann LTD, 1964.

Caesar. The Conquest of Gaul. Penguin Books, 1982.

Cowan, Ross. ‘Head-Hunting Roman Cavalry‘, Military Illustrated 274 (March 2011).

Delbrück, Hans. The Barbarian Invasions. trans. Walter J. Renfroe. University of Nebraska Press, 1990.

Dyke, Ludwig. ¨Caesar’s Elite Germanic Cavalry¨. War History Online, 8 June 2016.

Fuller, J.F.C. Julius Caesar, Man, Soldier, and Tyrant. Da Capo Press, 1965.

Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith. The Roman Army at War 100 BC-AD 200. Oxford Claredon Press, 1998.

Macdowall, Simon. Germanic Warrior 236-568 AD. Osprey Publishing, 1996.

Macdowall, Simon. The Late Roman Cavalryman 236-565 AD. Osprey Publishing, 1999.

McCall, Jeremiah. The Cavalry of the Roman Republic. Routledge, 2002.

Wilcox, Peter and Trevino, Rafael. Barbarians Against Rome. Osprey Publishing, 2000.

Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in the Tunisia to uncover the Amphitheatre of El Jem.

Today we’re traveling back into Europe as we head to Switzerland to check out the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch!

The extension of the natural World Heritage property of Jungfrau – Aletsch – Bietschhorn (first inscribed in 2001), expands the site to the east and west, bringing its surface area up to 203,615 acres (up from 133,190). The site provides an outstanding example of the formation of the High Alps, including the most glaciated part of the mountain range and the largest glacier in Eurasia.

 

It features a wide diversity of ecosystems, including successional stages due particularly to the retreat of glaciers resulting from climate change. The site is of outstanding universal value both for its beauty and for the wealth of information it contains about the formation of mountains and glaciers, as well as ongoing climate change.

It is also invaluable in terms of the ecological and biological processes it illustrates, notably through plan succession. Its impressive landscape has played an important role in European art, literature, mountaineering and alpine tourism.

How This Relates to Rome:

Julius Caesar and Divico parley after the battle at the Saône (Karl Jauslin, 19th Century).

One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii. Steadily harassed by the Germanic tribes, in 58 BC the Helvetii decided to abandon the Swiss plateau and migrate to western Gallia, but Julius Caesar‘s forces pursued and defeated them at the Battle of Bibracte, in today’s eastern France, forcing the tribe to move back to its original homeland.

In 15 BC, Tiberius, who was destined to be the 2nd Roman Emperor and his brother, Drusus, conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire. The area occupied by the Helvetii—the namesakes of the later Confoederatio Helvetica—first became part of Rome’s Gallia Belgica province and then of its Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia.

Remains of the Roman Theatre of Vindonissa.

Sometime around the start of the Common Era, the Romans maintained a large Legionary Camp called Vindonissa. Now a ruin at the confluence of the Aare and Reuss rivers, the Roman camp was near the modern town of Windisch.

The 1st and 2nd Century AD were an age of prosperity for the population living on the Swiss plateau. Several towns, like Aventicum, Iulia Equestris and Augusta Raurica, reached a remarkable size. Also, hundreds of agricultural estates (Villae rusticae) were founded in the countryside.

The Roman Empire in AD 120 and Germania.

Around 260 AD, the fall of the Agri Decumates territory north of the Rhine transformed today’s Switzerland into a frontier land of the Empire. Repeated raids by the Alamanni tribes provoked the ruin of the Roman towns and economy, forcing the population to find shelter near Roman fortresses, like the Castrum Rauracense.

The Empire built another line of defense at the north border (the so-called Donau-Iller-Rhine-Limes), but at the end of the 4th Century the increased Germanic pressure forced the Romans to abandon the linear defense concept, and the Swiss plateau was finally open to the settlement of Germanic tribes.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

The Sling: The Gun of the Ancient World

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Many of articles here speak of people or places from Classical Antiquity, and we even discuss the ancient buildings that remain there or the battles fought. While we even venture to know the process of how the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) was victorious (for the most part), but we have usually overlooked the weaponry involved.

Today that’s not the case as we explore the gun of the Ancient World, the classic sling!

A sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone, clay, or glandes plumbeae (lead sling-bullet). Also known as the Shepherd’s Sling, this personalized weapon has a small cradle or pouch in the middle of 2 lengths of cord.

The sling was inexpensive and easy to build. It has historically been used for hunting game and in combat. Today the sling is of interest as a wilderness survival tool and an improvised weapon.

Roman Slingers wore no armor and carried only a shield aside from their sling and ammunition.

Known to Neolithic peoples around the Mediterranean, the sling is likely much older. It is possible that the sling was invented during the Upper Paleolithic at a time when new technologies such as the spear-thrower and the bow and arrow were emerging.

Whereas sling-bullets are common finds in the archaeological record, slings themselves are rare. This is both because a sling’s materials are biodegradable and because slings were lower-status weapons, rarely preserved in a wealthy person’s grave.

The oldest known extant slings from the Old World were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, who died about 1325 BC. A pair of finely plaited slings were found with other weapons, probably intended for the departed pharaoh to use for hunting game.

Artistic depiction of one of the famous slingers from the Balearic Islands.

A classic sling is braided from non-elastic material. The traditional materials are flax, hemp or wool; those of the Balearic Islands were said to be made from a type of rush.

Flax and hemp resist rotting, but wool is softer and more comfortable. Braided cords were used in preference to twisted rope, as a braid resists twisting when stretched and thus improving accuracy.

The overall length of a sling varied based on the range a slinger needed to hit, with a longer sling being used when greater range was required. An average sling would be about 2 to 3.28 ft in length.

At the center of the sling was a cradle or pouch. This was either formed by making a wide braid from the same material as the cords or by inserting a piece of a different material such as leather.

Typically diamond shaped, the cradle would fold around the projectile in use. Some cradles have a hole or slit that allows the material to wrap around the projectile slightly, thereby holding it more securely.

At the end of one cord (called the retention cord) a finger-loop was formed, while at the end of the other cord (the release cord,) it was a common practice to form a knot or a tab. The release cord will be held between finger and thumb to be released at just the right moment.

The simplest projectile was a stone, preferably well-rounded, and most likely from a river. The size of the projectiles can varied dramatically, from pebbles massing no more than 1.8 oz to fist-sized stones massing 18 oz or more.

Projectiles could also be purpose-made from clay, which allowed for very high consistency of size and shape to aid range and accuracy. Many examples have been found in the archaeological record.

Roman cast bullets

The best ammunition was cast from lead (looking like an almond) which were widely used in the Greek and Roman world. For a given mass, lead, being very dense, offers the minimum size and therefore minimum air resistance.

Why the almond shape was favored is not clear, but it may provide some aerodynamic advantage. Itś just as likely that the shape was easy to extract from a mould, or it would rest in a sling cradle with little danger of rolling out.

Almond shaped leaden sling-bullets were typically about 1.4 inches long and about 0.79 inches wide, massing approximately 0.99 oz. Very often, symbols or writings were moulded into lead sling-bullets.

Ancient Greek lead sling bullets with a winged thunderbolt molded on one side and the inscription DEXAI meaning “take that” or “catch” on the other side (4th Century BC).

As a reminder of how a sling might strike without warning, examples of symbols included a stylised lightning bolt, a snake, and a scorpion. Writing might include the name of the owning military unit or commander or might be more imaginative: “Take this,” “Ouch,” and even “For Pompey‘s backside” added insult to injury, whereas dexai (“take this” or “catch!”) was merely sarcastic.

Julius Caesar writes in De bello Gallico, Book 5, about clay shot being heated before slinging, so that it might set light to thatch.

A skillful throw requires just one rapid rotation. Some slingers would rotate the sling slowly once or twice to seat the projectile in the cradle.

One made an overhand throw in a motion similar to bowling a cricket ball. This is relatively accurate, instinctive and quite powerful.

Facing 60 degrees away from the target, with slinger stood with his non-throwing hand closest to the target. With the target at the 12 o’clock position, a right-handed thrower would orient his body toward 2 o’clock, with the arm rotating vertically in the 12 o’clock plane.

The coordinated motion was to move every part of the body (legs, waist, shoulders, arms, elbows and wrist) in the direction of the target in order to add as much speed as possible to the stone. The slinger released the projectile near the top of the swing, where the projectile would proceed roughly parallel to the surface of the earth.

There were also sideways releases, in which the swing goes around. However, these throws made it very easy to release the projectile at a slightly wrong time and miss the target.

David and Goliath

Ancient peoples used the sling in combat. Armies included both specialist slingers and regular soldiers equipped with slings.

As a weapon, the sling had the advantage of its bullet being lobbed in excess of 1,300 ft. A bow and arrow could also have been used to produce a long range arcing trajectory, but ancient writers repeatedly stress the sling’s advantage of range.

The sling was light to carry and cheap to produce, while stones for ammunition were readily available and often to be found near the site of battle. The ranges the sling could achieve with molded lead sling-bullets was only topped by the strong composite bow.

Slingers on Trajan’s Column.

Representations of slingers can be found on artifacts from all over the ancient world, including Assyrian and Egyptian reliefs, the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, on coins, and the Bayeux Tapestry.

The sling was mentioned by Homer and by other Greek authors. Xenophon in his history of the retreat of the Ten Thousand, 401 BC, relates that the Greeks suffered severely from the slingers in the army of Artaxerxes II of Persia, while they themselves had neither cavalry nor slingers, and were unable to reach the enemy with their arrows and javelins.

Various ancient peoples enjoyed a reputation for skill with the sling. Thucydides mentions the Acarnanians and Livy refers to the inhabitants of three Greek cities on the northern coast of the Peloponnesus as expert slingers.

The late Roman writer Vegetius, in his work De Re Militari, wrote:

Recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones both with the hand and sling. The inhabitants of the Balearic Islands are said to have been the inventors of slings, and to have managed them with surprising dexterity, owing to the manner of bringing up their children. The children were not allowed to have their food by their mothers till they had first struck it with their sling. Soldiers, notwithstanding their defensive armor, are often more annoyed by the round stones from the sling than by all the arrows of the enemy. Stones kill without mangling the body, and the contusion is mortal without loss of blood. It is universally known the ancients employed slingers in all their engagements. There is the greater reason for instructing all troops, without exception, in this exercise, as the sling cannot be reckoned any encumbrance, and often is of the greatest service, especially when they are obliged to engage in stony places, to defend a mountain or an eminence, or to repulse an enemy at the attack of a castle or city.

According to description of Procopius, the sling had an effective range further than a Hun bow and arrow. In his book Wars of Justinian, he recorded the felling of a Hun warrior by a slinger:

Now one of the Huns who was fighting before the others was making more trouble for the Romans than all the rest. And some rustic made a good shot and hit him on the right knee with a sling, and he immediately fell headlong from his horse to the ground, which thing heartened the Romans still more

Less than 2 decades after the Romans attacked Burnswark and occupied part of the Scottish Lowlands, they retreated south to Hadrian’s Wall. Some archaeologists thought the Roman Army had used Burnswark as an ancient firing range and training camp, while other researchers regarded the hill fort as the scene of a lengthy siege.

Roman lead bullets found at Burnswark.

Trained metal detectorists then combed Burnswark’s hill sides and summit, producing more than 2,700 hits. Then excavations revealed that 94% of the metal detector hits were in fact Roman bullets (more than 400 Roman sling bullets and 2 spherical sandstone missiles known as ballista balls).

The archaeological then discovered a concentration of lead bullets across the entire 500-yard-long southern rampart of the Scottish hill fort, directly above one of the Roman camps. A second, smaller concentration lay to the north, along what may have been the defenders’ failed escape route.

The Trimontium Trust is directing a year-long archaeological investigation of Burnswark Hill.

The Roman slingers would have exacted a heavy toll, for recent experiments conducted in Germany showed that a 50-gram Roman bullet hurled by a trained slinger has only slightly less stopping power than a .44 magnum cartridge fired from a handgun. Other tests revealed that a trained slinger could hit a target smaller than a human being from 130 yards away.

In context to the Scottish siege, that is exactly the distance from the front rampart of the south Roman camp to the front rampart of the hill fort. Studies have found that the bloody assault took place around AD 140, early in the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius.

The Romans were quite effective at coming up with new inventions or, at the very least, improving upon something other people had already created. No matter what, we know that the Romans made good use of the ancient world’s version of a gun.

Thanks for stopping today, we hope you enjoyed the adventure. Please make sure to Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Burgess, E. Martin. “An Ancient Egyptian Sling Reconstructed”. Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, June 1958.

Cunliffe, Barry. Iron Age Communities in Britain: An Account of England, Scotland and Wales from the Seventh Century BC until the Roman Conquest (4th ed.). Routledge, 2005. ISBN 978-0-415-56292-8.

Dohrenwend, Robert. “The Sling. Forgotten Firepower of Antiquity”. Journal of Asian Martial Arts, 2002.

Pringle, Heather. ¨Ancient Slingshot Was as Deadly as a .44 Magnum¨. National Geographic, 24 May 2017.

Pritchett, W. Kendrick. The Greek State at War: Part V. University of California Press, 1992. ISBN 978-0-520-07374-6.

Richardson, Thom, “The Ballistics of the Sling”. Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol. 3, 1998.

“Bullets, ballistas, and Burnswark – A Roman assault on a hillfort in Scotland”. Current Archeology. 1 June 2016.