Thurs. 2nd September: Major find at Caerleon

Caerleon, the former legionary fortress of Diva, which is only 40 something miles from where I live, is a place dear to my heart. I was delighted to see that there’s been a major find there recently, showing the existence of a lot of large buildings that were previously unknown. Read about it here.

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  1. Posted 2 September 2010 at 21:07 | Permalink

    Wow, that sounds like an archaeologist’s dream.

    Sounds like it could be a cannabae legionis on the way of developing into a town the way it happened in German Xanten (where the Roman Colonia Ulpia Traiana fortunately lies outside the town).

    Maybe that big leisure centre in Caerleon that’s still partly visible was not only used by the legionaries. Xanten shows the remains of an equally impressive one, and clearly situated in the town, not the fort.

  2. benkane
    Posted 2 September 2010 at 21:39 | Permalink

    It’s a great site for archaeologists, all right. Luckily for them, the nearby village isn’t very big, meaning that the ground around the site is undeveloped…
    Thanks for the link to Xanten, which I greatly want to visit.

  3. Posted 2 September 2010 at 22:03 | Permalink

    Xanten is definitely worth a visit.

    Germany has quite some Roman places as well. First along the Rhine which for a long time had been the border between the Roman provinces and ‘free Germania’. Those remains can mostly be found in towns that developed out of Roman ones (Xanten, Mainz, Cologne …. Trier at the Moselle and some places down at the Danube). Then there’s the Limes, a border that cuts from Frankfurt down to the Danube and provides us with a number of border forts and villas in the hinterland, the agri decumantes (it was the frontier between 83 AD and about 260). And there are the forts and supply camps from the time the Romans tried to conquer Germania (16BC-16AD): Haltern, Oberaden, Marktbreit, HedemΓΌnden ….
    Moreover, in 2008 a battlefield has been discovered not far from where I live and thus way deeper into Germany than anyone had suspected for a battle dating to the 3rd century AD (it’s most probably connected to Maximinus’ Thrax punitive campaign after the Alamanni overran the Limes).

    No shortage of novel material here. *grin*

  4. benkane
    Posted 3 September 2010 at 08:46 | Permalink

    No shortage indeed. It’s the great thing about Rome – one can pick almost any time period, and find wonderful material to write about!

  5. Posted 3 September 2010 at 15:14 | Permalink

    Oh yes. That newly discovered battlefield will play a role in a novel at some point, should I ever get published. πŸ˜‰

    Right now I’m working on a novel about the Varus battle and Germanicus’ campaigns – A LAND UNCONQUERED – which is developing into a pretty epic mosnter, partly thanks to Arminius who insisted in getting a main role besides the fictive MCs. Sneaky German, lol. There could be a sequel or two, connected by an ongoing family feud, that will bring us to the Batavian rebellion and Mons Graupius. I have some ideas for those. Maybe Caerleon will feature in the third book as well. πŸ™‚

  6. benkane
    Posted 4 September 2010 at 08:37 | Permalink

    Wow! That all sounds very interesting, Gabriele. I look forward to reading the published novel. πŸ™‚

  7. Posted 4 September 2010 at 10:05 | Permalink

    If you are ever lacking for a read Ben i would really like to know your opinion on a self published roman book called Marius Mules. by SJ Turney.

    Back ground from the author
    One reason for producing Marius’ Mules was to tell what is to me a great story but in a more easily readable form than Caesar’s original Gallic War diary. Probably the most important reason, though, was to try and put forward a different view of one of history’s most famous men. It is perhaps time we looked at Caesar more as a scheming warmonger than a heroic warrior. Fronto (the protagonist of the novel) is a fictional officer, though based on a composite of several known Roman generals and is a sympathetic character. I hope you like it.

    I read it and enjoyed it, it took a little getting into, as with any book thats self published it lacks that final editorial polish, but despite that its very readable, and great to see JC portayed as something other than the great amazing hero.

    he is also a member of the writers web site i run. (i have not told him im mentioning his book to you BTW, so no obligation or pressure).

    Cheers cheeky as ever…Parm!

    Back on track the Diva story is great news.

  8. Posted 4 September 2010 at 18:51 | Permalink

    Thank you. It will take a bit, though, a fast writer I’m not. I admit the one thing I’m not looking forward to in case I get published are deadlines. πŸ˜‰

    I was lucky that our department for Ancient History ran a series of lectures about the Romans in Germany this summer, plus there’s a flood of new books and essays due to the 2000 year anniversary of the Varus battle last year. And I discussed a few things I want to do in the book with my professor. Now to weave an engaging story around those facts and possible interpretations. πŸ™‚

    What fascinates me is the comparison of the Roman attempts to conquer Germania and Caledonia, the two places they never really got under control. There are a lot of similarities but also differences.

  9. benkane
    Posted 6 September 2010 at 08:54 | Permalink

    Hi Parm – I have Marius’ Mules – I bought it the moment it came out in May 2009, because the author posted about it on an HF forum I’m a member of. I wiched him luck, and offered to read and comment on it for him, but he never got back to me. Consequently, I haven’t been inspired to pick it up, although I’ve seen the good reviews it’s been picking up since. I’ll get around to it one day…

  10. benkane
    Posted 6 September 2010 at 08:59 | Permalink

    Gabriele – harr- deadlines. They’re definitely a presence on the horizon, and a reminder that in order to put bread on the table, the ms. has to be finished! Re Germania and Caledonia: I know what you’re saying about never getting either place under control, but surely the reason the Romans never conquered Cal. (apart from the fact that units/legions were forever being pulled back to pesky Germania or the Danube) was that they couldn’t be bothered. After all, there was never a Varus disaster in Cal – unless one subscribes to the widely held fiction that the Ninth Hispana was wiped out there in AD 117…To the Romans, Caledonia just wasn’t worth the effort. As one of the posters on RAT says, and he lives in Scotland, it’s the world capital of midges! (And by the way, I love Scotland. Been there many many times, and wish I lived nearer to it.)

  11. Posted 6 September 2010 at 10:39 | Permalink

    Not on the same level as Diva but some local work going on because they are making the A46 a dual carriage way. (being part of the old Fosse way)

    A well found @ Margidunum (Bingham)

    The building of this road is throwing up finds from across many periods of history from Bronze age through to Civil War and beyond.

  12. Posted 6 September 2010 at 11:23 | Permalink

    In a way, Germania wasn’t worth the effort, either. Sure, it wasn’t as bad as flushing Caldeonians out of glens where you can’t even grow decent crops (and I’m so with your friend about the midges, they are warriors in their own right πŸ™‚ ) – the Romans could have grown grain in Germania once they chopped some of those trees down and drained a few swamps*. But it cost too many Roman lives. Germanicus lost more soidiers in 14-16 AD than Varus, only in a less spectacular way, and didn’t manage to conquer the lot, not even after two pitched battles against Arminius (the second of which I think Arminius won, no matter how Tacitus and Dio try to write loops around the fact). That was the main reason Tiberius called him back, gave him a triumph and the position of consul to sweeten the blow, and sent Germanicus off to the east.

    From that time on the Romans tried to secure the border, and that meant pushing out into Germania along the Limes to get a grip on the Chatti who were extra pesky (and the reason Agricola had to do with understrength legions for a while), and called the provinces along the Rhine Germania Superior and Inferior because that sounded like they did conquer Germania. I think even Maximinus’ impressive campaign in 236 AD was more an extended punitive expedition than an attempt to give Germania another go. The Romans had enough problems in the east at that time.

    * Contrary to the Roman image of Germania being only trees and bogs, there were a considerable number of settlements, but no towns, and the Germans only grew what they needed for themselves, so there would have been work to do if the country was to support a Rome as well. In the end the army you’d have needed to achieve that cost more. Plus the Romans didn’t know about the ore in the Harz mountains and other places, or the might have been a bit more interested. πŸ˜‰

  13. Posted 6 September 2010 at 11:27 | Permalink


    I read an online sample of the book but the writing was too rough for me to enjoy it. It’s a pity the author didn’t try to find a publisher and get the book professionally edited; there seems to be a good story. I’m not a Caesar fan and a book that doesn’t present him as the hero you find in McCullough’s novels or Iggulden’s alternate history could make for an interesting read.

  14. benkane
    Posted 6 September 2010 at 13:13 | Permalink

    Parmenion – that’s the great thing about archaeology. Unfortunately, what wins out is the stratum which is most interesting. I saw in a documentary recently how there was no way on a particular site in Spain that the authorities could envisage digging up their (amazing) Roman amphitheatre, even though there was every chance of lots of Punic stuff underneath. It’s the way, I guess…

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