Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


3.8.14
  Scottish History: King David and the Civil War (Part 2)

Continuation of this post, with some random photos (I don't have any of southern England; should save up to travel there, heh).

The arrival in England of the Empress Matilda, claimant to the English throne, who was supported by her illegitimate half-brother Robert of Gloucester, in September 1139, changed the political map. Ranulf of Chester, David’s rival for Carlisle, joined her party.

At first, David watched from the sidelines, consolidating his position in Northumberland and Cumbria by a net of feudal and marital relationships between himself, his son Henry, William fitz Duncan, and various nobles,among them Eustace fitz John and the Umfravilles who became members of Henry's close entourage. Robert Bruce of Annandale resumed his feudal relationship with David after the treaty of Durham, and Bernard de Balliol swore an oath as well. Hugh de Morville had always been faithful to the king.

The castles at Newcastle and Bamburgh were again brought under David’s control, and he attained dominion over all of England north-west of the River Ribble and Pennines. He held the north-east as far south as the River Tyne, the border of the core territory of the bishopric of Durham. David also rebuilt the fortress of Carlisle which replaced Roxburgh as his favoured residence.

Once the wars in the north had stopped, David could offer a better stabilitly than either Stephen or Matilda, and Scottish rule was eventually accepted. The lands north of the Tyne would remain peaceful during the latter part of David’s reign and that’s more than could be said for most of southern and middle England.

The castle of Newcastle (left) and Tynemouth Abbey, seen from the river

When Stephen was captured by the Matilda's forces at Lincoln on 2 February 1141 (1), David finally decided to disregard his agreement with Stephen (2) and support Matilda. In either May or June, David travelled to the south of England to join Matilda's entourage, and was present during her short and unpleasant stay in London. John of Hexham notes that David soon became aware of Matilda’s shortcomings and her inability to make concessions and win allies. There may be the misogyny of a patriarchical society underlying statements like this, but fact is that Matilda did fail to gain the important support of London, and the circle of close supporters remained small. The bishop of Winchester, who happened to be Stephen’s brother Henri of Blois, kept a backdoor open though he had agreed to crown Matilda.

In the end, Matilda had to leave London and fled to Winchester, accompanied by Gloucester, King David and some others. But Stephen’s wife, the other Matilda, had gathered an army of Stephen’s followers and Flemish mercenaries and laid siege to the town. When fighting broke out in the streets of Winchester, Empress Matilda and some of her entourage broke through (September 1141). Mathilda made it to safety in Devizes. John Marshal escaped from a burning tower, badly wounded. Robert of Gloucester who covered the retreat was captured. Ranulf of Chester escaped as well. David made his way to Scotland; he was captured but bribed the men (I told you he must have a had a silver tongue talking his way out of predicaments, and these newly minted coins proabably helped, too) and galloped through hostile territory all the way to Durham where his chancellor William Comyn held the castle (see below).

After months of negotiations, the captured Robert of Gloucester was exchanged for King Stephen. Neither was Matilda willing to make any concessions to Stephen, nor Robert to buy his freedom with a shift of allegiances. So the civil war would continue for another 12 years though it was a stalemate with little military action after the first flurry of activity following Stephen’s release. Matilda moved to her stronghold at Oxford which was besieged by King Stephen in December 1141. Matilda escaped across the frozen moat covered in a white cloak, and retreated to Wallingford.

Matilda’s son Henry, the future Henry II of England who lived with his father Geoffrey of Anjou in Normandy, showed signs of independence already at the age of 14. He came to England with some household knights and a band of mercenaries in 1147. But he couldn’t pay his mercenaries nor buy passage back to Normany, and Matilda refused to give him any money since he had not asked her permsission for the adventure. In the end it was Stephen who helped the lad out of his predicament. That’s pretty much Stephen, I think; he liked to be courteous and generous.

Robert died in 1147, other supporters of Matilda joined the second crusade, and in 1148 Matilda herself returned to Normandy.

The town walls of Chester

Ranulf Earl of Chester changed his allegiance back to King Stephen again in late 1145. He must have gotten a knot in his cloak, turning it so often. I suppose he realized that Matilda could not help him getting Carlisle back and he may have hoped that Stephen was angry with King David and would further Ranulf’s claim. Stephen had taken away the Huntingdon fief from Earl Henry and given it to Henry’s half-brother Simon de Senlis, though it would turn out that Stephen stayed well out of the north and let David and Henry keep the Cumbrian and Northumbrian lands.

The following events are a bit murky, but it seems that Stephen began to mistrust Ranulf – several of his barons certainly did not like the man or doubted his motives – and under a pretext had Ranulf imprisoned in chains. They came to an agreement again in August 1146 where Ranulf had to give hostages and render his castles, including Lincoln. Of course, Ranulf rebelled as soon as the dungeon door opened. Stephen managed to prevent him from taking some important castles in south-west England, though the earl still controlled most of the north-west of England bordering Wales.

At this point, Ranulf looked elsewhere for assistance and met with his old enemy, King David of Scots in May 1149.

(Left: York Cathedral, south transept.)

We have to go back in time a bit. One of David’s goals was the control of the bishopric of Durham and preferably the archbishopric of York as well, especialy since there still was the open question of the submission of Scottish bishops to York. Sor far, the bishops of St.Andrews and Glasgow had managed to escape such an oath. John's successor to the see of Glasgow, Herbert, was consecrated by Pope Eugenius III in August 1147, circumventing the involvement of York.

Archbishop Thurstan of York, David's nemesis for years, had died in early 1140. David wanted to get the position for his stepson Waltheof (the brother of Simon de Senlis, from the first marriage of his late wife Matilda; 3), but King Stephen, fearing further increase of David's power, put forth a candidate of his own: William fitzHerbert, one of his nephews. But the diocese didn't want him, and then Stephen was captured and the see remained unoccupied.

The see of Durham had fallen vacant in 1140 as well, and here David wanted to get the job for his chancellor William Comyn. The relationship with Durham had always been uneasy, and having his own man there would solve a bunch of problems. But the chapter did not want William. So Comyn controlled the bishop's castle and the town, but there was no way to get him elected by the chapter without interference of a higher authority. The papal legate, Henri of Blois, would be such a man, and David had negotiations with him during his time at Matilda's court. William Comyn had accompagnied him; he too escaped the route of Winchester.

When it became clear that Matilda would not be queen and Henri of Blois' alliances were more on Stephen's side, David for once did not try to push matters and accepted the chapter's candidate, William de St.Barbe in 1143, despite him bein a former dean of York. In the end, both town and bishop were quite happy with the outcome and supported David.

In 1143, William fitzHerbert was finally consecrated as archbishop of York, but that didn't put an end to his troubles with the diocese who began to look to David for assisstance. We've seen that David got along pretty well with Pope Eugenius who in turn didn't like William fitzHerbert (though my reference books don't give a clear reason for that dislike). Eugenius replaced William with another Henry just to confuse my readers: Henry Murdac, bishop of Fountains. King Stephen was of course furious about the papal intervention and refused to recognise Henry. David on the other hand had cultivated a friendship with Henry Murdac who was present at David's court at Carlisle in May 1149.

Carlisle Castle

The meeting at Carlisle not only included King David, his son Earl Henry, Henry Murdac and Ranulf of Chester, but also Matilda's son Henry of Anjou who seemed to like getting away from Normandy and having fun in England instead. David held a lavish ceremony and knighted his great nephew. Henry of Anjou in turn promised that he would recognise Scottish possession of Newcastle and all of Northumbria, should he become king. Well, at the time, with Stephen's position again secure, the likely next king of England would be his son Eustace, so Henry didn't give away much. He woud regret - and go back on - that promise later.

But that was only the festival part of the meeting, more important - albeit I bet getting knighted was pretty important for Henry - were the politics. An agreement was reached with Ranulf Earl of Chester who got lands in Lancastershire and the promise of marriage to one of Earl Henry's daughters in exchange for giving up his claim on Carlise and - according to John of Hexham - paying homage to David. That would effectively have cut any feudal bonds with King Stephen and confirmed David's position as king not only of Scots but of the lands as far south as the Ribble and Tyne.

Stephen still barred Henry Murdac from taking up the see in York, despite the support from the pope and the Yorkshire Cistercians, so David and Ranulf decided on a military intervention on his behalf. A success would have made York a Scottish archdiocese, and would have given Ranulf a base to regain his lands around Lincoln. Led by King David and Henry of Anjou, an army of Anglo-Scottish nobles and men would come down from Carlisle while Ranulf's host marched along the Pennines.

But Stephen got wind of the plans and installed a new garrison in York. David knew he could not take the fortified town (he may have learned from the long siege of Wark Castle), disbanded his army and returned to Carlisle. But Stephen was in no position to push further north, either, and withdrew southwards. Henry of Anjou escaped an ambush by Stephen's son Eustace with the help of Ranulf who created a diversion by an attack on Lincoln, and fled southward and back to Normandy Maybe the third time would be the charm, lol.

Stephen finally admittend Henry Murdac to his see in 1151. David at least got an candidate on the see he could work with, but lacking immediate control of the town meant that a Scottish archbishopric was out of question; York remained English.

York, the old town with the towers of the Minster

The death of his nephew William fitz Duncan in 1147 must have been a blow for David. He lost not only a dear relative but also a stout supporter who held a central role in the net of feudal alliances woven in Northumbria and Cumbria. Williams death is not documented, but he disappears from signing chartes at the time. His wife Alice de Rumilly was still alive in 1151 when she founded a church. William fitz Duncan was succeeded by his son, another William. There were three daughters as well, but all children were still very young.

There was a brief episode of a rebellion by one Wimund who clamied he was a son of the 'earl of Moray' (which could have meant William fitz Duncan) and deprived of his rights by King David. He seems to have held a clerical position in Skye and managed to gather a warband of disgruntled second sons. The whole episode is badly documented and garbled, so I spare you the details. Wimund ended his days blinded and castrated in Byland Abbey, and the west remained in David's power.

Problems also arose in Caithness / Orkney. I'll refer to these briefly here, because as I've said, Orkney will get its own series of posts. The son of David's kinsman Maddad of Atholl and Margaret of Orkney, Harald Maddadson, had been appointed Earl of Caithness and part of Orkney (the other part was held by Rognvald for the Norwegian crown) in 1139. The boy was five years old at the time and thus in need of guardians, and one can count it as success for David to have the boy accepted in favour of other, adult, candidates, including Rognvald who may have claimed all of Orkney if not for internecine strifes.

With a power balance established, Rognvald went on a pilgrimage. That turned out to be a mistake because the King of Norway, Eystein II, sailed over with a fleet and captured young Harald Maddadson at Thurso in 1151. Harald had to acknowledge Norwegian overlordship to gain his freedom. Eystein went on a raiding trip along the Scottish east coast before he returned home.

David decided to now back the claim of Erlend Haraldsson, another descendant of Thorfinn the Mighty who established a veritable dynasty in Orkney. David granted Erlend half of Caithness as fief. But King Eystein responded by granting him Harald Maddadson's part of Orkney, and thus a three sided conflict between Rognvald, Harald Maddadson, and Erlend Haraldsson arose that only ended with Harald killing Erlend in 1154. Harald would keep causing trouble for David's grandsons.

Birsay / Orkney, view from the Norse settlement

David was now a very old man by the standard of his time. He had secured a realm that extended farther than when he first became King of Scots. Lands held of the English crown in 1141 had become an integral part of his kingdom in 1149, and the inclusion of the Anglo-Norman nobility who intermarried with the leading Scottish families and often held land in both parts, brought an increasing Norman influence in culture and law. Fringe parts like the Western Isles and Orkney with their Gaelic-Scandinavian culture we no longer a threat, but often acted as allies (Fergus of Galloway and, to some extent, Somarled of the Isles). David had founded monasteries and churches and invited clerics from the continent, built and expanded castles in the motte and bailey style, improved the infrastucture and set up a system of coinage. He also introduced the Norman feudal structures at least in the southern part of Scotland proper. In short, he elevated the backwater kingdom of Scots to a major player in Europe, thus fulfilling what Malcolm Canmore had started with his marriage to Margaret of Wessex.

After years spent mostly in the south due to the problems with King Stephen, David after the settlements in 1149 finally was able to move north again, and in May 1150, he can be found in Moray; in June, in Dunfermline where he held a grand assembly; and the following year in Aberdeen. A number of names of great magnates and churchmen in the king's entourage come up reguarly during these months: the bishops of Dunkeld, St.Andrews, Aberdeen and Caithness; the abbots of Holyrood and Kelso; the earls of Fife, Atholl, Buchan, Mar and Angus - most of them of Celtic ancestry. It is a different circle from the southern one with men like the Bishops of Glasgow and Carlisle, or Eustace fitz John, the Umfravilles, Morville, Balliol, Bruce and others, though there were contacts between both groups, of course.

The river Tay near Dunkeld, the ancient centre of Scotland

But David's hope for a strong Scotland in the boundaries he had set got a serious drawback when he received news that his son Henry had died in Roxburgh or Newcastle in June 1152. He'd been only 38 years old and a strong and active man (see his conduct at the Battle of the Standard), though his health may have detoriated in the last years. There is a passage in Bernhard of Clairveaux' Vita of Malachy where Malachy is said to have cured Earl Henry of a severe malady in Carlise in the 1140ies. This could be a fact, but also one of those wondrous cures always ascribed to saints. There is no sign that David thought he might lose his son and successor so early.

Henry had three sons, so the succession was not in immediate danger. But the boys were still young, Malcolm 11, William 9 and David 8. There were two main problems: the feudal net in the south, bound to the adult Henry, did not work as well with a child not old enough to enter lord/vassal relationships on a personal basis; and in Scotland proper, primogeniture was not yet so safely established that no other claimant to the throne might see a chance.

David did what he could to prevent a crisis to come after his death. He named Malcolm (later known as Malcolm IV the Maiden) as successor, and Donnchad mormaor of Fife, one of his oldest and most trusted Celto-Scottish vassals, as regent. He sent Malcolm and Donnchad on a tour through Scotland proper - accompagnied by a number of retainers that looked suspiciously like an army *wink* - to have Malcolm acknowledged as heir by his subjects. Then David personally accompagnied his second son, the future Earl of Northumberland, to Newcastle to take the oaths of his Northumbrian barons. John of Hexham mentions that David took hostages which shows that the peace in this part of his realm was a more fragile one than Oram describes (4).

(left: Dunfermline Abbey)

David's health began to detoriate in spring 1153, and on May 29, he died in his bed in the castle tower of Carlisle, aged 69. He was buried in Dunfermline Abbey.

The Irish Annals of Tigernach called him: Dabíd mac Mail Colaim, rí Alban & Saxan (David son of Malcolm King of Scotland and England). Eulogists like Ailred of Rievaulx mention David as pious and just king who brought the 'barbarian' Scots into the fold of civilization (5).

In August 1153, Stephen's son and successor, Eustace, died. Stephen agreed to the Treaty of Wallingford which would allow him to keep the throne until his death, while he recognised Matilda's son Henry of Anjou as heir. King Stephen died in October, and Henry succeeded him as Henry II of England. Malcolm IV of Scotland would lose most of the southern lands his father had won to Henry. His brother William the Lion did not succeed in winning back Northumbria either; it remained an English possession.


Footnotes
1) One of the knights captured with him was the young Roger de Mowbray who had earned his spurs at the Battle of the Standard
2) His agreements were never a feudal relationship; that was all between Stephen and Henry, but only that vague oath to keep the peace. David was a sneaky politician, but no oathbreaker.
3) What I find interesting is that David obviously got along well enough with Waltheof to want him in such an important position, while his relationship with Simon, who alway benefited from Earl Henry's losses during the Civil War, was likely more than a bit strained.
4) Oram, David the King, pages 177ff.
5) There is, of course, a lot of Latin topoi in those eulogies, and among them, bringing civilization to 'barbarians' was a popular one.

Sources
Frank Barlow: The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042-1216. 5th edition, Edinburgh 1999
Robert Bartlett: England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225. 5th edition, Oxford University Press, 2003
Richard Oram: David, The King Who Made Scotland. Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2004
Richard Oram: Domination and Lordship, Scotland 1070-1230. The New Edinburgh History of Scotland, Edinburgh 2011
Ailred of Rievaulx: The Historical Works, translated by J.P. Freeland, edited by M.L. Dutton. Cistercian Publications 56, 2005
William P.L. Thomson: The New History of Orkney. Glasgow 1987, 4th edition 2008
Ian W. Walker: Lords of Alba, The Making of Scotland. Sutton Publishing, 2006

 


14.7.14
  Living With Horses - Roman Cavalry Barrack in the Limes Fort Aalen

Salvete carissimi lectori, it's Aelius Rufus again. Gabriele told me I should tell you a bit about the Limes fort in Aalen since that's from my time.

Gabriele has also added two maps about the Limes to her post with Roman maps so our dear readers won't get lost in the German forests.

Remains of the cavalry fort in Aalen

The German Limes, or as it's usually called, Upper German-Raetian Limes (Obergermanisch-Rätischer Limes) has a few things in common with Hadrian's Wall where my friend Gaius Fannius lives.

After Gabriele's ancestors had kicked the Romans out in the aftermath of the Varus battle, the Rhine in the west and the Danube in the north remained the borders of the Roman Empire. But her ancestors kept to that bad habit of crossing the Rhine, looking for shinies and cattle in the hinterland, so the Emperor Domitian (AD 83) pushed them back a bit further and established a road along the Neckar river and across the Swabian Alp from Moguntiacum at the Rhine to Augusta Vindelicum (Augsburg) at the Danube. That road was protected by watch towers and some forts were built. It was the same time when Domitian's general Agricola took a closer look at those tribes in the mountains of Caledonia who didn't leave the Romans alone, either. Only he got his big battle while Domitian didn't, because the German tribes knew better than to face the Roman army in a pitched battle.

Aalen, partly reconstructed cavalry barrack

At the same time the deified Hadrian decided to set the border between Romans and barbarians at the line now known as Hadrian's Wall, the emperor also proclaimed the fortified roads that cut from the Rhine to the Danube as border between the Romans and Gabriele's ancestors. But our dear Tony isn't content with those borders, so he pushed further into Caledonia with the Antonine Wall, and expanded the Limes border a bit east and north (AD 150/155). The fort at Osterburken dates to that time, as does the cavalry fort in Aalen.

Aalen was the main seat of the military administration of Raetia from about AD 150 until the fall of the Limes in the 250ies, and garrison of the Ala II Flavia pia fidelis milliaria. Its praefect also was the second in command of the entire province. No wonder they got such a big headquarter building.

View from the side

The fort in Aalen is quite a sight, I can tell you. With 277x214 metres it covers an area of ~6 hectares. It is surrounded by no less than four trenches. I'm glad I wasn't there for the digging. The fort as I've seen it has mostly buildings of timber or half-timbered walls on stone foundations, but Marc Aurel had most of it rebuilt in stone in about AD 170. Else it shows the usual pattern with walls, double-gates on each side and towers in the corners.

Gabriele says not much is left of those today, only the foundations of two of the gates and a bit of one of the trenches. Those stone filching locals from the future again, is my guess. Another remaining feature are the foundations of the principia, and excavations have shown the site of some of the barracks and granaries.

A room in the barrack

Today, one third of the fort lies under the old cemetery, another third is covered by houses, though when the first digs were made by the Reichlimeskommission in the 19th century, some of that space was still fields. Yeah, after the wars, building houses was more important than preserving the foundations of some Roman walls and barracks. The buildings usually found outside a fort, like the vicus settlement south of the fort and the baths are covered by houses as well.

Luckily for Gabriele and other Roman ... what does she call them, geeks? the foundations of the principia were never built over but made accessible for the public in the 1980ies. A museum has been around since 1964 and was recently modernised.

The fun bit, Gabriele tells me, is the partly reconstructed garrison barrack from 2005. Since it was a cavalry fort, those looked a bit different from the infantry barrack reconstructions you can find in Arbeia or Caerleon (where only the interior is shown). She should be able to time travel into the past and look at the fort in Aalen during the time of its splendour, when I visited the place.

The stable

Several sources say that an ala milliaria (a unit of 1,000) had 24 turmae of 32 men, but that would only bring it to 768 men. Well, I counted and Gabriele checked more sources*. We got another, more realistic number: 24 turmae of 42 men, that makes 1,008, not counting the decurions who lead the units (same as centurions for the footsloggers). The fort in Heidenheim where the Ala II Flavia had been stationed before moving to Aalen shows a size and number of barracks that would house a thousand.

They got a lot of horses, too. One of those research guys estimated a minimum of 1,200, but there may have been as many as 1,900 because of the need of extra horses as remounts and packhorses. You'll understand that I didn't count them.

Display of the fort layout Aalen

When you compare the reconstructed barrack part with the sketch of the fort layout Gabriele caught with her little picture box, you'll notice those barracks were a lot bigger. Well, there's no space to set up a full one, and I suspect no money either. Some things never change. The reconstructed barrack sits in the wrong spot, too, at my time there were two agricultural buildings, a magazine and a workshop for repairing horse stuff.

Since the barracks are under the cemetery and they won't dig up the bodies and make their ghosts angry, the fort in Heidenheim / Aquileia was used as foil for the reconstruction. The Ala II Flavia milliaria had been stationed there prior to moving to Aalen, and the Romans, practical lot that they are, dismantled the barracks and moved the parts, much like a prefabricated house in the future.

Roofed gallery at the outside of the barrack

The barracks in Heidenheim had been constructed of timber or in half-timbered style. Excavations in 2000-2004 showed the foundation groves and post holes of seven barracks. The results from the digs and surveys in both forts made it possible to reconstruct the ideal layout of a cavalry fort for an ala milliaria. It's the only way for the people from the future, though Gabriele sometimes mutters about how time travel would make research so much easier as long as you stayed out of the actual battles. I won't be surprised if she tried to bring one of those aviation machine thingies for that.

So we get 24 barracks - most of them combined to double barracks - with 13 rooms plus stables. Tacitus had no reason to be snarky about the Germans living in the same house with their cattle; the Roman soldiers do pretty much the same. That wattle and daub wall between living rooms (papiliones) and stables (stabula) doesn't keep the smell out, I can tell you. And there's always someone walking into the living room with his horse pooped sandals. But the advantage is that the guys got their mounts real close in case they had to go on an urgent mission.

Upper storey / gallery, maybe used for sleeping

The horse lads do have more space. 3 to 4 share a room of about 20 square metres, instead of our 15 square metres plus anteroom for eight men, and their rooms have a second storey. Each double barrack was about 80 metres long and 18 metres wide. The individuals stables could house 3 to 4 horses. Extra horses were kept in additional stables.

The bad thing about timber is that it's seldom preserved for those archaeologists from the future, but they can make some guesswork from post holes and such, like the basilica structure of the barracks.

The upper storey may have been supported by extra posts and crossbeams as in the reconstructed barrack, but one can't be sure whether the upper floor was a full storey or more like a gallery or loft. That the upper floor was used for sleeping is an assumption of course, it could also have been used for storage - those horses need a lot of fodder.

The decurio's quarter

The inner walls were half timbered with loam-covered wickerwork and roughcast, while the outer walls may have been a plank construction. All units were prepared in a way that they could be moved around. During summer, the front planks of the stables could be taken out so that they would be open towards the porch.

The roofs were covered by wooden shingles, and remains of glass point at glassed windows and transoms lights. A nice luxury in the German climate. Each papilio had a fireplace / stove facing the stable wall, probably made of bricks, with a brick or timber chimney taking the smoke out through the roof of the upper floor.

Those barracks used up a lot of wood. Mostly oak, but then, the German forests had a lot of those in my time. All the barracks in Aalen together would have used some 3,000 oak and about 400 pine trees.

Decurio's quarter from another angle
The wall segments / partitions have not all been inserted, and the view to the roof left open;
there would have been planks to add that second floor.

The decurios (decuriones), the commanders of a turma, got their own rooms, of course. A hundred square metres and a second floor. Though I have to be honest; the ground floor rooms were partly taken up by offices - tables and shelves - and I don't envy them the paperwork. They also had to make space for slaves. Hey, that's still more than I got for a flat, says Gabriele. And I have too many books; I could do with some more shelves.

The double barracks had living quarters for the decurios at one side, and for the lieutenants, the duplicarii at the other. They got some colour on their walls and their own loos. Though they still had to use the shared baths, heh.

A cavalry soldier and his mount in the museum

We know for sure that the Ala II Flavia pia fidelis milliaria was garrisoned in Heidenheim from AD 90/110* and moved to Aalen in AD 155/60 where it stayed until the midst of the 3rd century. But where the ala comes from is more difficult to trace. The name 'Flavia' points at an assembling under Vespasian (AD 70-79) or his sons (Titus AD 79-81, Domitian AD 81-96). The earliest mention is on a military diploma from AD 86 where it already got its full name pia fidelis milliaria. It is possible that the unit was created in the aftermath of the Batavian rebellion in AD 70; that would make it the oldest ala milliaria we know of.

Another scenario is that the basis of the unit was the Ala II Flavia Gemina stationed in Germania Superior which indeed was assembled after the rebellion but disappears from military diplomas before AD 90. It could have been expanded to 1,000 men, renamed and deployed to Raetia. The byname pia fidelis - pious and faithful - points at some special distinction; possibly during Domitian's war against the German tribe of the Chatti AD 83-85. But that doesn't solve the problem whether it was newly created then or expanded from the Ala Flavia Gemina.

An 'Ala II Flavia' can be traced in the fort at Günzburg (Gontia) at the Danube in AD 78 due to tile stamps, but it is not clear if that is the old Gemina (à 500 men) or the ala II Flavia milliaria. I think the most likely scenario is that of the expanded Gemina which was then moved to Heidenheim under the new name.

The reconstructed barrack seen from the shrine of the standards in the principia
The statue shows Marc Aurel

It definitely is a special troop, Aelius Rufus grins. And it got special, big headquarters for another post.

Sources:
Junkelmann, Marcus. Die Reiter Roms, Vol. II Der militärische Einsatz. Mainz 1991
Kemkes, Martin; Scheuerbrandt, Jörg; Willburger, Nina. Am Rande des Imperiums - Der Limes, Grenze Roms zu den Barbaren. Schriften des Limesmuseums Aalen, Stuttgart 2002
Kemkes, Martin; Scholz, Markus. Das Römerkastell Aalen. Schriften des Limesmuseums Aalen, vol. 58, Stuttgart 2012
Klee, Margot. Germania Superior - Eine römische Provinz in Deutschland, Frankreich und der Schweiz. Regensburg 2013

Note
* The number of 24 turmae à 42 men comes from Junkelmann.
* Kemkes/Scholz date the move to Heidenheim to AD 110 while Junkelmann dates it to AD 90. I agree with Junkelmann because it coincides with the disappearance of the Ala Gemina from the documents.

 


28.6.14
  Room Sharing, Roman Style

Hi, it's me, Aelius Rufus. Gabriele has taken an old post of me and added some of those little pictures and more information, so I have to retell a few things. I got to see the cavalry fort at Aalen which dates to the time of Antoninus Pius, and she thought it would be fun to compare the soldiers' barracks of the standard Hadrian's Wall / Limes forts to the cavalry ones (in another post to come).

A reconstructed barrack in Arbeia

That's the place where my friend Gaius Fannius commands a unit of the 5th cohort of Gaul auxiliary, sometimes visited by the mysterious, time traveling Merlinus. Well, he's a centurion and gets some more space to his own.

One barrack has been reconstructed, though there were several, of course, depending on the size of the garrison.

Interior of a room in a fort barrack (Caerleon Museum)

When I travel I usually get better places to stay than my living quarters in the Saalburg castellum. Thanks to Merlinus and the ongoing interest in Romans that leads to Rebuilding the Past projects, I can show you how our room looked. Pretty much like in the picture above.

(Oven for a contubernium, Caerleon Museum)

Eight of us, called a contubernium, share a room of 15 square metres plus a little anteroom with shelves for our equipment, and a kitchenette. You see it's pretty dark and sparsely furnished - not that there'd be space for anything more than bunk beds, one table, and a few pegs in the wall. When on campaign, we also share a tent.

Roman soldiers and auxiliaries don't have a central dining hall and no chefs (Asterix got that one wrong); we have to do our own cooking and can be glad if one of the chaps gets a bit of a hand for it. The ingredients, grain, beans, bacon, sometimes dried figs or other fruit and a bit of fish, as well as beer and wine are distributed by the command. There is always enough to keep us fit, but it's not roasted venison in a creamy juniper berry sauce, and potato gratin (ops, that's Gabriele chiming in, I have no idea what potatoes are).

Usually ten contubernia, a centuria that is though it only comes to 80 men, not a full hundred, share a barrack in the fort. Sometimes we get lucky and a bunch of the guys is commissioned elsewhere, like manning the mile forts and watch towers, accompagnying some tribune on some mission or whatever, and then we can spread out a bit more. The cavalry guys have more space, too.

Modell of a fortress (Birdoswald Museum)
In the lower part you can see the barracks with the attached houses for the centurions

We're led by a centurion, and those guys don't live in such crowded and dark quarters. No, centurions are special and have their own house at the end of the barrack and slaves to cook for them, and us poor soldiers to clean their armour.

Yes, dear Gaius, you know complaining about the centurions is part of the job.

Bedroom of the centurion, Arbeia

They also get ten times the salary we get. It's a damn injustice - invented by Augustus, I've been told. He wanted a gap between the ordinary soldiers and the officers so the army wouldn't stick together and turn against him or some such. And indeed, when there were mutinies like the time Tiberius became Emperor while the legions prefered Germanicus, it was the centurions who got killed during the mess, and in the end the mutiny came to nothing and Tiberius stayed put.

(Anteroom to the bedroom, Arbeia.
The centurion's anteroom was larger and also used as office.
)

There's one good thing, though, and that's the fact the centurions are ranked according to the place of the centuria they lead, and half of them spend their time ogling the place of the centurion ranking above them. It's even worse in the regular legions where there are sixty of the lot and the structure is even more complicated.

There was another good thing to being a centurion, Gaius Fannius told me. He could order some of the guys to slap a fresh layer of paint on the walls of his rooms in Arbeia. The reconstruction needs a house makeover; it gathered a fair bit of dirt and cobwebs.

Yeah, I could try to rise to the centuriate - I'm a Roman citizen thanks to my father - but I'm not sure I really want that. I doubt I could have so much fun traveling around when I had the responsibilty for some 80 lads. No way I could claim the whole lot as personal guard and take them around with me. Not to mention we'd create a stir in the Future. One or two guys in Roman attire get away with it, but a centuria would have people think they're making what Gabriele calls a movie.

Another interior shot of the soldiers' quarters

And here's the other layout. Kings size beds for four. Even worse, if you ask me; I prefer the bunk beds. Especially the way Gaius Incitus keeps trashing around at night, dreaming of fighting Germans. I don't want to get his arm in my face. Creating an earthquake in the bunk bed is bad enough.

Soldiers' quarters in Arbeia

But now I must go and fix the hobnails on those damn sandals. I swear they'll use lost nails to track the ways of the Roman army one day. *

Oh noes, Crispus and Buccio are playing at dice again. Which means the rest of us can listen to Buccio complaining that he's lost a weeks worth of pay. Again. He should know better and not play against Crispus, that man has some uncanny luck.

Barrack foundations at Caerleon

* They have in fact done that in Hedemünden where those nails mark the way from the south to Hedemünden Camp and the further route north on the hills along the Visurgis valley. A smaller camp (sort of a mile castle) also was discovered along that way. Sandal nails also helped showing the way the Romans retreated after the battle at Kalefeld.
 


14.6.14
  Pretty Things That go Boom

Yesterday, I promised Brian McClellan* on Twitter that I would post some photos of historical guns and rifles I took in the museum in Coburg Fortress. So here we go.

*BTW, go check out his Flintlock Fantasy novels, they're a lot of fun. A revolution, guns, magic, a divine chef, and things blowing up.

Coburg Fortress; the Blue Tower to the left and the High House to the right

The history of Coburg Fortress (Veste Coburg) goes back to the 11th century, but I'll leave that for another post. It is one of the castles that has never fallen into ruins, but was altered significantly over time. Albeit some old features still remain, like the Romanesque lower part of the Blue Tower or the Gothic High House, the most striking ones today are the fortifications from the 16th century.

The name Coburg likely will ring a bell for those interested in history. The town and fortress are today in Bavaria, bordering Thuringia, but once the land belonged to the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Want some geneaology again? I'll try to make it easy, I promise.

Coburg Fortress, the outer curtain wall and bastions

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was the daughter of Prince Edward Duke of Kent (the 4th son of King George III of House Welfen/Hannover) and Princess Marie Louise Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786-1861, House Wettin).

Marie Louise Victoria's father was Franz (Francis, 1750-1806), the eldest son of Ernest I Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1724-1800) and Sophia Antonia of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, of one of the several Welfen lines (1724-1802).

Marie Louise's brother Ernest (1784-1844) would become the first duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1826 because of some shifts in the heritage. He is the father of Prince Albert (1819-1861), later Consort of Queen Victoria. Albert's mother was Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg whom Ernest divorced in 1826.

Outer defenses of the castle

Ernest's older son, another Ernest (1818-1893) Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, would add significantly to the collection of arts and weapons in Coburg Fortress his grandfather Francis had started in Saalfeld.

The family lived in Ehrenburg Palace in the town, though the last Duke, Carl Eduard (1884-1954) lived in the fortress which had become the possession of the county Bavaria in 1920.

One of the vitrines with guns

The collections displayed in several rooms in the castle include copper engravings, paintings, glassware and coins, as well as lots of weapons and amour, including historical guns, rifles, and pistols - that part encompasses about 10,000 pieces. I had a field day there, though of course, I took even more pics of the swords and other pointy things and the armour than of the guns. There are also some parade coaches and sleighs.

A flintlock gun

There is one room full of vitrines of guns, rifles, pistols and a few crossbows, mostly used for the hunt and sport shooting; some 300 pieces.

My father's friends from the shooting club would likely get lost in that room for hours. Well, the museum is couple friendly; you can leave the spouses to look at the glassware instead. ;-) Though personally I still prefer the guns.

Closeup of the trigger meachnism

Since it's not one of my special areas, I concentrated on the prettily decorated - and mostly older - pieces. If someone wants high resolution versions of some of the photos to better see the ivory inlays and other decorations, feel free to contact me.

Another vitrine with guns and pistols

This one looks like an early version of a flintlock. There's a video showing how the mechanism works, and the difference between various ways of firing a gun. I'm not a specialist on the variants of wheel locks and flint locks and their dates, but some of the older mechanisms look intriguing. Though I wonder how often those things blew off in the wrong direction.

Duelling pistols

Taniel gifts duelling pistols to his father in McClellan's Promise of Blood. Maybe they looked a bit like the ones above.

Wheel lock pistols

The collection is one of the most important ones in Europe. The weapons date from the late 16th century until present time and geographically reach from Russia to Spain and Sweden. Some famous gunsmiths are Zacharias Herold in Dresden (~ 1580), Lazarino Cominazzo, Brescia (~ 1680), Bertrand Piraube, Paris (~1700) and Ivan Permjakov, St.Petersburg (late 18th century).

Matching gun and pistol

The weapons and armour were mostly collected by Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He also obtained part of the contents of the arsenal of the town Coburg and brought Francis' collction of glass and copper engravings to Coburg. He had the rooms renovated and the castle and its collections opened for the public in 1839, which was a suprisingly modern decision.

Racks with guns

There is another room with racks full of armour and guns from the 16th and 17th century, the Rüstkammer, and those were actually used to equip armies. They are much more utilitarian and some of the armour sets, swords, halberds and guns show signs of use. Most of those come from the town arsenal.

Bulletproof armour

One of the things I found interesting was a group of armour sets that were supposed to be bullet proof. The sign of quality was a bullet shot or several that would leave a dent but not go through. You can see one in the left armour and there's a smaller dent at the junction between the right (left on the photo) leg and the body part in the middle one.

That armour was heavy, though, 20-30 kg. It was mostly used by the cuirassiers, the heavy cavalry which obviously got its name for a reason, lol.

Boxed set

Other exhibits include the stuff that is part of using a gun or rifle, like powder kegs, rammers, fuses and magazine boxes. They're mostly distributed among the guns and pistols in that various vitrines.

Organ mortar

There are also some cannons. I really liked this one, the predecessor of the magazine gun. It's called an 'organ', a sort of mortar that can shoot 49 bullets in salvas of 7 (one row). Nasty thing to have on a battlefield.

Some modern guns

Of course, there were several vitrines with more modern guns, pistols, and air guns as well, but I found those less interesting. Weapon fans may disagree, *grin* The above display shows some development of the trigger.
 


8.6.14
  British Coasts and Beaches, or: It's Way too Hot

34°C this afternoon. That's just mad.

And so I looked for some photos with nice, cool water. :-)

On the way to Dunstanburgh Castle

Sunshine and pretty green grass is a bonus. I would have loved to walk barefoot, but there were too much sheep droppings.

A cliff at the castle

The fun thing about British coasts is that they never get boring with their mixture of sandy beaches and imposing cliffs.

Lindisfarne at low tide

The tide adds to the interesting atmosphere. In the distance, you can spot Bamburgh Castle.

Lindisfarne

And the other side, with the sun sparkling on the pools of water.

Scarborough, north beach

Or there will be mists coming in, drawing a cold veil over everything. Including the ruins of Scarborough Castle.

The beach at Alnmouth in the evening sun

I especially love evenings at the beach. That one was so calm and relaxing; I just sat in the sand and watched the waves.

The tide coming in at sunset

And then I walked a bit through the cold water - barefoot this time. A sweet change to rocks and pavement.

Tynemouth, wave breakers at the harbour entrance

Or we get all wind and waves and drama. I love that, too.

View from Dunottar Castle

I like this shot of the calm, mysterious water between the cliffs at Dunottar Castle.

More cliffs

All those photos are from the east coast, but I got some nice series from the west coast - mostly Scotland - as well. Those who are new(er) to my blog may check out these posts.

 


Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a writer of Historical Fiction and Fantasy living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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