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Return to 'Meet Pyrrha'.
U.K. field trips
- the forts at the Lunt and Caerleon
(For more information about a soldier's life see the 'Inscriptions' and 'Tombstones' sections of this website).
This timber and turf fort just outside Coventry has been partially rebuilt.
The guide is here explaining to Year 7 girls how dangerous the defensive ditch was designed to be. There was a slot at the base of the ditch which was just too small for a man's foot - so anyone slipping down would break their ankle and then land on a row of spikes!
The area in front of the gates would have been lit by braziers at night.
A terrifying attack on the fort!
(But this is a shallower section of ditch near the picnic area).
Real attackers, if they got this far, would be shot at with arrows from the ramparts.
The girls would be sitting in mid'air in Roman times - the ground level has become higher since then!
Any attackers trying to get to the ramparts would have to clear two 8-foot ditches first. Arrows would be shot through the gaps in the ramparts, all sorts of missiles and hot things would be thrown at them from soldiers on the walkway behind, and if they reached the gates, the Romans themselves would open them wide, revealing a triple row of soldiers ready to mow them down.
Here the girls are demonstrating the heavy artillery which the Romans would use against attackers. These machines would be positioned on the turrets to hurl rocks or spears. A ballista bolt has been found at Maiden Castle in Dorset embedded in vertebra from an unfortunate Celt's backbone, having entered the front of his body. The range and accuracy of these weapons was fearsome.
The model in the museum clearly shows all the features of this fort, and even has model soldiers enjoying a refreshing dip in the river. This section of the fort has long since eroded, but proximity to the river meant that wells could be dug within the fort for a reliable water supply - for defence against fire-attacks as well as for general use.
You cannot see from this photo, but the shape of this fort is different from that of most others to accommodate the 'gyrus'. (see next picture)
Most Roman forts followed a rectangular plan, but this one contained a circular arena which was possibly used for retraining the horses confiscated during Boudica's rebellion. This is the only fort of its kind so far discovered anywhere in the world - but we know that there must have been others.
The circular shape means that any sounds echo wonderfully - very good for making the horses accustomed to the din of battle. Soldiers could practise stabbing a target (probably with a large vegetable for the head!) to see how many times they could cut it while galloping past. Horses would be trained to the standard of modern 3 Day Event competitors.
Here are Year 7 on the inside of the reconstructed gateway on the site of what may have been a bathhouse.
Heavy rainfall over the last few years has meant that visitors can no longer climb the ramparts here.
Now we know why the legionary's helmet was designed with a strengthening rim around the forehead!
This soldier seems none the worse for the experience - but this armour (lorica segmentata) does not smell of the pig-fat which would have been used to combat rust when the supply of beeswax ran out!
We were intrigued by the design of the cavalryman's saddle which allowed him to execute energetic manoevres despite the lack of stirrups.
We were surprised by the weight of this chainmail, and saw examples of the types and qualities used by the different ranks in different parts of the Empire. Chainmail tended to be used by the cavalry, who were auxiliary troops from areas around the Empire. At the end of their period of service they could be rewarded with Roman citizenship. (The legionary soldiers were citizens).
It is always good to handle examples of artefacts used by the Romans.
How big was the original pot and what would it have been used for?
The museum is housed in this reconstructed granary.
The floor is raised off the ground to keep the corn dry and well-ventilated, and double wooden tiles and overlapping timbers on the walls keep out the elements.
In the tiny village of Caerwent, near to Caerleon, the girls are examining one of the most significant inscribed stones of Roman Britain. This is in the porch of the church, and was set up next to a statue (now lost) of Tiberius Claudius Paulinus, who was once the commander of the fort at nearby Caerleon.
The town council (ordo) of the Silures, who had their tribal capital (civitas) at Caerwent erected this, giving details of Paulinus' career.
As you can see on the 'Inscriptions' section of this website, the Romans often amalgamated local gods into their own religion so that the local population would not feel alienated. Here you can see a beautiful little altar, again in the church porch at Caerwent, which is dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war. He is given the additional name 'Ocelus', who must have been a local Silurian god.
The altar is set in a picturesque niche in the porch next to the Paulinus stone. The inscription reads :
DEO MARTI OCELO
AULUS AUGUSTINUS OPTIO
V S L M
(You can find out how to translate this by looking at the Religious Inscriptions section!)
Amazing to see this stretch of Roman wall around a tiny Welsh village!
Year 10 marching over the barracks buildings at Caerleon. Notice how the rooms are in pairs : one for each group of 8 men to sleep in and the other for storage or relaxation.
The fortress at Caerleon was built in stone, and you can see a reconstruction picture on the board. We are standing on the line of the outer wall, looking towards the barrack blocks on the right.
Centurion's quarters. It is amazing to us how much space was given to the senior officers when the men were crowded together in their section of the barracks!
The latrine block. This was very well constructed, with a channel of clear water always coursing through the drain. Visiting the latrines seems to have been a sociable activity - there is no evidence for individual cubicles, and the tub in the centre of the room was for rinsing out the sponges on sticks (the Roman version of toilet paper!)
Year 10 showing how crowded each room in the barracks would be. It is possible that there were 6 bunks between the 8 men - they would never all be in there at the same time because some would be on watch.
Trying on the armour of a legionary soldier at Caerleon. Notice the face, ear and neck protection on the helmet. The body armour is called Lorica Segmentata - very heavy but with practice it would not restrict the soldier's morvements. The gladius was a short sword used for stabbing rather than fencing.
Testudo! This is how the soldiers linked their shields so they could advance without feeling vulnerable. 'testudo' is the Latin name for a tortoise or turtle.
What did the soldiers do during their time off duty? (This is a favourite GCSE question!) There is a lot of evidence for board games, and various theories about how the games were played.
What else? These writing tablets show that the soldiers were literate. The wonderful finds of writing tablets at Vindolanda near Hadrian's Wall are remarkable evidence of soldiers' correspondence - one tablet records that someone is sending a parcel containing socks and underpants to a soldier, and another is an invitation to a birthday party.
A mosaic in the Fortress Baths. These baths are well-preserved and have a long swimming pool as well as the usual saunas, jacuzzis and leisure areas.
What did they need in the Baths? - Soldiers would take their own strigils and oil-jars. Olive oil was used for massage and to remove grime from the skin. These blunt metal scrapers would then scrape off the oil and sweat before the bather jumped into a plunge bath.
The amphitheatre at Caerleon was just outside the fortress and much of the stonework remains. In the 'inscriptions' section of this website you can see one of the inscriptions which shows which group of soldiers built part of the amphitheatre. Careful examination of these building inscriptions shows that the 2nd Legion was later posted to Hadrian's Wall, where they left their mark on sections of the buildings there.
The amphitheatre would have been used for military training exercises as well as gladiatorial shows and beast-hunts.
Year 8 visited the amphitheatre just outside Cirencester (Roman Corinium). The wooden structure has now disappeared, but it is possible to identify the shape of the amphitheatre from the position of the mounds of earth!
for Class. Civ. Epic students.
forts at The Lunt and Caerleon
an Iron Age hillfort and Cirencester museum
for my Latin and Greek GCSE students.
Easter cruise 2006
trip to Greece 2002.
Latin passages read by Classics students.
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