O'er the Hills Early Peninsular War Scenario Book

O'er the Hills Early Peninsular War Scenario Book
Just click the banner if you would like to know more about the Kickstarter

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Rise and Fight Again - Devon Wargames Group


Following on from the review of Rise and Fight Again that I posted last month, Steve M and I took the toys over the Devon Wargames Group for our October meet up and ran the game with four players totally unfamiliar with the rules.


As you can see our table was based on a Guilford Courthouse style set up with the troops, Army and Brigade cards on and ready to go.


I have really enjoyed these first games of RAFA and think they have a lot to offer for the AWI enthusiast and can see myself happily playing these going forward.

If you haven't checked these rules out yet then I can recommend doing so.


More thoughts over on the DWG blog


Finally with a little less than a week to go on the Kickstarter for 'Oer the Hills' Early Peninsular War Scenario book, the total has now passed the £1500 mark and now offers an added bonus of two extra scenarios by myself looking at encounters from the middle and later periods of the Peninsular War, specifically Barrosa 1811 and Castalla 1813.

I play-tested the Barrosa scenario at the DWG when first getting started with OTH and have ended up re-writing the scenario based on further reading which sees the orders for the armies changed, a new map and order of battle, I think offering a much better interpretation of the actual battle than I first conceived.

The second offering is my interpretation of the battle of Castalla fought by Sir John Murray's Allied army against Marshal Suchet in 1813. Having walked the battlefield earlier this year, I came away with a very vivid impression of this battle which posed serious questions to both commanders about how far they were prepared to press the result.

In addition to them there is also the opportunity to pick up an extra army list for the early Portuguese army that aided Sir Arthur Wellesley on his first expedition to Portugal and did their best to resist the French prior to the Beresford reforms that would turn them into Wellington's 'Fighting Cocks' and a very potent force within his Peninsular Army.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this venture and with a big trip to Spain planned for next year visiting some of the key battle sights in the Peninsula I would hope to add to going forward

If you would like to get involved in this Kickstarter then just follow the link below.

Kickstarter - Oer the Hills Early Peninsula War Scenarios 1808-1809

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Roman Art of War & Roman Battle Tactics 109 BC - AD 313


Having just got back from a very enjoyable week of R&R in sunny warm Murcia on the Costa Calida in Spain and with a week of loft clearing and wargames room rearranging to look forward to getting stuck into I thought I should write up my impressions on a couple of books I have just finished reading which compliment each other rather well.

Two books reviewed for the price of one has to be a great deal especially when the review is free so off we go with a look at the Roman Art of War by C.M. Gilliver, published by Tempus Publishing Ltd, with my copy being an ex-library book in a protected cover first published in 1999.

With my own collection of 28mm Early Imperial Romans growing by the week and with games plans a plenty I have been really keen to capture in my minds-eye how a Roman commander would look to deploy in a given situation and what that should look like on the table when the figures are finally deployed for action.

As importantly, I want to try and capture some of the granularity of those tactics that reflect the undoubted ability of some Roman commanders and their armies to adapt to different enemies and situations.

As with a lot of my own reading I often take the references from other books I have read and enjoyed as a good resource for finding other books I might also enjoy and find informative. One such reference was this great read from Dr Kate Gilliver, Senior lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dr Gilliver's book which pulls together a detailed overview of the Roman army, looking at its organisation, order of march, temporary encampments, pitched battles and siege craft with reference to the observations of sources from the period, the content of the various military treatises and textbooks that would have been likely used by the commanders as required reading and what the archaeology reveals to help us corroborate what the text books suggests should have been the norm.

The book spans the manipular and cohortal organisation of the Roman military and looks at the works of eighteen writers on military practises from Cato the Elder to Vegitius, pointing out that senior Roman military commanders were not professional soldiers and would have needed guidance from senior veteran soldiers within their commands alongside the guidance and references offered by these various sources and others lost to the modern reader.

Perhaps that is one of the most astonishing facts when considering how successful Rome was in prosecuting its various wars to consider that for the generals commanding those armies, their military career was often relatively short and fast tracked forming just part of a career track hopefully leading to other political and senior state positions outside of the military.

Obviously many senior Roman commanders could rely on excellent input from experienced men in the ranks, particularly with the move from the militia based structure of the Republic to the professional one of the Principate and beyond.

Aspects of the book that stood out for me were the six pages of diagrams illustrating various orders of march from those recommended by various authors from the period to those actually used by commanders such as Caesar, Vespasian, Titus and Arrian together with a detailed look at march distances covered in a typical day using data from the many Agricolan and Severan camps established in Scotland during those particular campaigns.


When looking at marching camps I was particularly struck by the analysis of the use of wooden stakes to emplace the embankment and ditch constructed around a march camp, highlighting that the temporary nature of these camps meant that the stakes carried by the soldiers were more likely bound together crossways like a modern day iron hedgehog tank trap rather than being hammered into the soil which would have been problematic on hard rocky ground and would have degraded the point of the stake from being continuously hammered into the ground day after day. Thus I think for my marching camp models I will be looking to replicate that look.

So the book content:
One-hundred and ninety-two pages which include

List of fifty-seven illustrations
Preface

Introduction
1. The army: organisation
2. On the move: the army on the march
3. At rest: campaign camps
4. Open Combat: pitched battle
5. Violent Confrontations: siege warfare

Conclusions

Notes - One-hundred and ninety-one detailed references to support the quotes and statements used in the chapters

Appendix 1: Roman military treatises
Cato the Elder
Asclepiodotos
Cincius Alimentus
Vitruvius
Athenaeus Mechanicus
Cornelius Celsus
Pliny the Elder
Onasander
Frontinus
Pseudo-Hyginus
Aelian
Heron of Alexandria
Apollodorus of Damascus
Arrian
Polyaenus
Tarruntenus Paternus
Emperor Julian
Vegetius

Arrian's described tactics and deployment should come in useful when looking at games with Sarmatians and Parthians

Appendix 2: Arrian's Order of March against the Alans
The full text of Arrian's order of march and directions to his troops when forming for battle and how to deal with the enemy

Glossary - two pages covering common terminology
Bibliography - six pages of reference works
Index - Four pages for quick reference finding

A very interesting read that covers the references that support much of what I have seen quoted in other works but in a good level of detail and with expert analysis. I think this will become one of my constantly thumbed references when using my Imperial Romans.

Finally I thought I would also reference my reading through of Roman Battle Tactics 109 BC - AD 313 by Ross Cowan and beautifully illustrated by Adam Hook, published by Osprey as part of their Elite series.



It is so easy for wargamers to take Osprey and their publications for granted but the company have been the bedrock of providing instantly grounding references, since as long as I have been in the hobby, for just about any military period you care to take an interest in.

I think, like many of us in the hobby, particularly when embarking on a new period to model in, getting a few titles from Osprey amassed is just the initial ground-breaking part of our historical reading designed to get us up to speed with what we need to know.

The other aspect is that I am one of those people who learn more quickly with an illustration or diagram to compliment the information and a well executed picture is just the 'ticket' for getting the creative mojo going to start turning out painted units and terrain.

This particular title is perfect for getting a good understanding of Roman battle tactical organisation from the change from maniple to cohort and covers the Early Imperium with a good look at the Roman use of the 'acies' (literally means in Latin, the sharp edge of the sword) or lines of cohorts.


Examples covered include the simple single line simplex acies as illustrated at the Battle of Forum Gallorum, 43 BC  through the duplex acies as illustrated with Mons Graupius AD 84 through to the triplex and quadruplex acies illustrated by Caesar's and Pompey's deployments at Pharsalus in 48 BC and Scipio's deployment at Thapsus in 46 BC, each of which comes with a detailed battle plan and explanatory text.

Various tactical deployments are discussed covering all arms and looking at detachments and surprise attacks, downhill and uphill charges, offensive and defensive formations, the orbis or Roman equivalent of forming square, the testudo and agmen quadratum, similar to a brigade square in horse and musket, and particularly useful against cavalry armies and I think also used by Germanicus when marching in close country and threatened all round by German tribesmen.

As with all Osprey titles and the ones covering battle tactics the illustrations really bring to life the visual aspect of the text.

There are seven pages of full colour illustrations covering The Legionary Century in Close and Open Order, The Testudo, The Cunneus and Pigs Head. Battle Array, A Legionary Century Charging, Lanciarii Attacking Parthian Cataphracts, Cavalry Wedge and Testudo.

The whole book is sixty-four pages including a list of references and further reading together with a one page index and as well as the colour illustrations listed is lavishly illustrated throughout.

This Osprey title gives a good grounding in the subject of Roman battle tactics and I found made a useful reference whilst reading the former title.

I got my hardback library cover protected edition of The Roman Art of War, secondhand through Amazon for just £3.25 excluding P&P which I was very pleased about.

Likewise you can pick up a secondhand copy of the Osprey title for as little as £5.00 before postage, or a brand spanking new one like mine for £11.99.

Kickstarter - Oer the Hills Early Peninsula War Scenarios 1808-1809

Monday, 1 October 2018

Viriconium Cornoviorum - Wroxeter Roman City


English Heritage - Wroxeter Roman City
Wroxeter Roman City - Visiting Shrewsbury Part Two

Our visit back in early August to Viriconium Cornovium, now known as Wroxeter was the culmination of our trip to Deva Victrix now modern day Chester.

The two former Roman settlements were and are closely related and chart the rise and fall of Roman domination of a major part of the British Isles as they sought to expand the frontier and bring more of the island under their dominion.

The map below helps illustrate that gradual growth in Roman controlled territory as the road network grew in the wake of Roman military operations from the initial landings in 43 AD at Richborough near Dover on the south east coast and the relatively quick control of territory south of the Fosse Way, marking phase one.

The invasion then moved on to pushing over the Fosse and staking out fortresses at Isca Siluram and Eboracum but with the initial push into the northern welsh territory focused around the fortress of Viriconium (Wroxeter) before the subjugation of the Welsh tribes allowed for the army to move further north to consolidate their hold from the new base at Deva Victrix, giving better access to the north of Britain and seaborne access via the Irish Sea.

Original map created by Andrei Nacu

Deva Vitrix - Roman Chester Part One
Deva Victrix - Roman Chester Part Two

Thus it can be seen that before Deva Victrix the Roman army established Viriconium as its forward operating base and in its wake following the move to Deva facilitated the establishment of a new town occupied by wealthy members of the local aristocracy and veteran soldiers to help the process of Romanizing the locals out in the neighbouring countryside.

My picture of the Iron Age reconstruction at Butser earlier this year probably gives a good idea of how things were before the Roman army arrived at Wroxeter

Before the Romans came to Britain, the site of Wroxeter had already been settled and turned into farmland under the control of the local tribe, the Cornovi.

The Wrekin, seems to glower over Wroxeter as if remembering ill-deeds from the past

Their main settlement appears to be the hillfort on the Wrekin, the hill to the east that dominates Wroxeter, and it would seem the locals put up a short fight with evidence of the hill being taken by force before everything settled down and the Cornovi got used to their new rulers.

As with most Roman military forts the establishment followed a common theme with its position being close to a river, for water supplies and to enable control of the ford allowing access over and into the Welsh tribal areas to the west.

Alongside the picture of Roman cavalry is one of the tombstone of Tiberius Claudius Trinitius a cavalryman of the Thracian cohort who may have been a member of the garrison.

The fortress was established as a main base of operations in the late 50's AD first for the XIV Gemina Legion but later taken over by the XX Valeria Victrix Legion, being dismantled by the latter in the late 80s AD and handed over to the tribal authorities as they moved north prior to establishing Deva.

The illustration that shows how Viriconium may have looked with the area circled as the only part of it uncovered for public viewing

A wooden tablet found near Hadrian's Wall at Vindolanda confirms that the Roman name for the fortress was Viriconium and the town had the same name with the addition of the tribal name Cornovium, namely 'Viriconium of the Cornovi'.

By the late fourth century it is possible the name for the town had changed to Uriconium, the name by which it is referred to in copies of late Roman documents that survived the Middle Ages.

The area on public view as it may have looked

Today only the remains of the town's public bath and nearby market shops can be seen, but its central position allows the visitor to appreciate the wider town from it, with the remains of the fragment of the south wall of the basilica linking it to the bath house and known as the 'Old Work' giving a vivid impression of the scale of the public buildings that once stood here.

The aerial view to compare with the illustration above - Red gravel marks a walkway, the darker grey shows a Roman street and the beige gravel indicates the inside of a building and the grass areas showing open space among the buildings

The site of the baths and its surrounds have been uncovered since excavations carried out in 1859 by the London based antiquarian Thomas Wright, and sadly the bath house area has suffered damage in the intervening years.

Other excavations carried out in the intervening years in between two world wars has revealed the presence of the original military fort underneath that of the town together with data on other nearby buildings such as the forum, not to mention artifacts discovered in those explorations some of which are held in the English Heritage museum on the site.

The problems associated with the costs of uncovering a large area of archaeology are greatly multiplied when adding in those needed to maintain it once it is uncovered and so in recent years with the advent of chip technology, the trend has been towards remote sensing methods of investigation.

To date the aerial surveys and other geophysical work has revealed a town double the size of that first thought with over two-hundred and fifty buildings and an area that was intensively occupied. That work now presents some tantalising questions about those discoveries which may well require physical examination going forward.

Carolyn still walking with crutches on our visit enters the English Heritage reception close to the car park

We arrived at Wroxeter late morning and in great sunny weather to enjoy looking at the site.

The first part of the uncovered remains that greets the visitor on leaving the English Heritage reception is the vast expanse of the Basilica leading to the entrance of the city bath house indicated by the 'Old work'.

On exiting the reception building one is immediately struck by the size of the basilica 
The basilica is a massively impressive statement building that would have towered over neighbouring buildings and inspired awe in the visitor.

The basilica was the northern European answer to the Mediterranean style open air exercise yard which would have been less popular in these parts given the much cooler and less clement weather conditions.

An impression of the great basilica at Viriconium as it might of looked 

The Old Work on the southern wall gives a good appreciation of the original building, standing twenty-three feet high and together with the series of revealed round pink discs where the columns once stood enables an impression of the exercise hall to be created, as seen above.

The columns are thought to have been as high as the Old Work and supported an array of timber beams in turn supporting a sloping roof.

Directly above the columns was another wall as thick as the Old Work that was pierced in the upper level with round-headed windows to create a light airy interior to the great hall similar in effect as that obtained in the great cathedrals which are of a similar design.

The pitched roof is estimated to have stood another fifty-nine feet at its apex above the level of the Old Work.

The pillar bases and the Old Work south wall allow an appreciation of this massive exercise hall adjoining the public baths

At the far eastern end of the basilica are two rooms identified as 'apodyterium' or changing rooms to us barbarians.


It is not entirely clear why and how the Old Work survived in situ whilst the rest of the building clearly did not.

Evidence suggests that a rectangular room on its south side was used as a chapel and later as a granary, with evidence of a number of burials discovered in the nearby hypocaust system together with later deposits of burnt grain discovered when it was first excavated.

This re-use of old Roman bath houses has been uncovered on other sites so seems to be a plausible explanation.

Just to the left of the Old Work can be seen the two (apodyterium) changing rooms

One of the most prominent and obvious features of this section of wall are the double bands of orange-red tiles separating the carefully placed stonework which are thought to have been placed to add great strength to the wall.



In addition to the stonework a series of regularly placed 'putlog' holes are also immediately visible and reveal the building method used to create these high standing walls using wooden scaffolding affixed in the two outer skins of facing stone and in the infilled rubble between.

The orange red tiles also indicate the presence and height of the vaulted ceiling within the bathhouse as seen in the pattern arch above the main door

The drawing below shows how more scaffolding was affixed via the putlog holes as the height of the wall grew and then was later taken down, with the holes filled in with a pink plaster, and covered over with the interior plaster layer.

Should repairs be required at a later date the putlog holes could then be reused and covered over again when the work was finished.

A close look at the picture above shows remains of the original interior plaster layer still covering parts of the red tiling layers.


The strength of the build process is amply demonstrated by the width of the doorway leading into the baths which would have originally housed two pairs of wooden doors, with the gap being too large for a simple lintel to support.

The wide doorway leads into the bathhouse complex with a series of rooms designed to take the bather from cold to very hot and back again as the individual sought to clean themselves in a process of bathing and sweating ending their journey in the sluice room before possibly taking a bracing plunge into the outdoor pool.

The first room entered is the frigidarium or cold room, flanked on either side with rooms holding cold plunge pools.


The bathers would then progress into the anointing room where oil was applied to their bodies before progressing into the warm room or tepidarium and from there into the steamy hotter caldarium.



Both the tepidarium and caldarium are easily identifiable by the serried ranks of hypocaust tile stacks that would have originally been out of sight to the Roman bathers as they were covered with a layer of richly decorated flooring, a portion of which can be seen in the nearby museum of finds.



Bathing was an important part of Roman social life and normally separate bathing times were set up for men and women with men having the use of the facilities in the afternoon and evening and women in the morning.

The vaulted ceiling of the baths as depicted below put enormous strain on the walls carrying the load and it appears that there was some settlement that required the building of a buttress wall around the lower outside of the building as seen.

The buttress wall is all that remains today as the inner wall was robbed out for its stone.

Smoke emitting from the bathhouse flue vents as hot air from the furnaces is passed into the building and out. Other bathers can be seen 'enjoying' the outdoor plunge pool, centre left.

At the furthest end of the bathhouse is the main furnace room where the hot air generated would pass under the floor and through wall flue tiles and the level of it gives a good impression of the height of the interior floor.

The main furnace room heating the caldarium and tepidarium

As can be seen from the illustration above the bathhouse was finished with an exterior of plaster covering the stonework and evidence of it is still visible on some parts of the exterior walls.

Exterior plastering still visible on the outside buttress wall of the bathhouse complex


The outdoor plunge pool or natatio can be seen close by and is an unusual feature in Roman Britain.

One can only admire Roman stoicism for thinking that diving into an open air pool in this part of the world would be a good idea!

However it turns out that the Romans were not daft and the outdoor pool soon fell out of use and it was soon filled in



In the latter part of the 2nd century the bathhouse was extended to form an exclusive, independent bathing suite complete with its own heating furnace as depicted in the illustration below.


The precise reason for this addition to the main building is unknown, but guesses range from a bathhouse for a merchants guild to added facilities to enable separate male and female bathing.

The extension to the original bath suite 

Across from the bathhouse on the western side of this complex of buildings can be found the macellum or market hall together with latrine block and two large shops facing out on to Watling Street.


The latrines are clearly identified by the long trench that carried the waste to the town drains and was regularly flushed through by waste water from the bathhouse opposite.

The latrine block was built at the same time as the baths and could be accessed directly from the basilica.

The latrines with the entrance doorway visible bottom left and a row of two shops to the far right facing out on to Watling Street


This range of buildings were built right alongside Watling Street that ran through the city and the picture below gives a vivid impression of a busy bustling town in this area right opposite the forum.


Watling Street today is still the metalled road leading down to the River Severn at modern day Wroxeter village

The Macellum is thought to have performed an important role in the baths complex in that it provided somewhere for bathers to purchase food for the evening meal and the shop rents would have helped pay for the running of the baths.


The main entrance to the hall was via a portico on Watling Street and was not accessible directly from the baths.


The regularly sized open fronted shops opened out onto an internal courtyard surrounded on three sides and in one corner is a square room that is thought to have housed a staircase leading to private rooms above the shops and in an opposite corner appears to be another latrine.


The shops are thought to have been quite exclusive outlets selling fish and game, with animal bones found indicating high quality cuts of meat on sale.




Recent excavations have revealed life in the city following the Romans departure in the 5th century.

It seems the basilica fell into disrepair and had to be dismantled and by the 6th century was a half ruined shell with shanty houses occupying part of its space.


It seems that Romano-British people maintained themselves in the city after the Roman departure living in timber framed buildings, but that by the mid seventh century the town was abandoned and stone was robbed for nearby buildings such as the church in Wroxeter village.




Across the road from the basilica lies the forum or civic centre of the city which is thought to date from 121 AD and the visit of Emperor Hadrian on one of his many trips around the empire.


The area of the forum is also home to a modern recreated town house or villa urbana similar to those found in the town and built in 2010 by the TV show 'Rome Wasn't Built in a Day'.

Using materials and techniques familiar to Roman builders the house was built on a raft of compacted rubble thus avoiding any foundations likely to damage the underlying archaeology.


The pictures below give a good impression of the scale of public buildings that lie beneath the ground on this side of Watling Street with the forum and temple blocks taking pride of place in this, the centre of town.

The forum and temple area are seen to the right of Watling Street opposite the bathhouse

The magnificent forum with its ornate portico and inscription stone dedicating the building to Emperor Hadrian

The only part of Viriconium's forum still visible today is the colonnade that fronted the building along Watling Street with its prominent entrance indicated by a gap.


The depth in the ground that this colonnade can be seen at is the second century ground level giving a good idea as to how much top soil has accumulated in the last two millennia.

The entrance to the Viriconium Cornoviorum Forum

The reconstructed town house is based on the floor plan of a similar building unearthed in the town between 1913-14 by JP Bushe-Fox, named Wroxeter site VI and is typical in its design with a wooden-wattle upper structure built on top of a stone base and using tree trunks to produce the colonnade at the front.




I have mixed opinions about TV companies building entertainment shows around archaeology, be that traditional or experimental and I often find the time constraint imposed by the need to squeeze as much material into a given program slot tiresome and mildly annoying.

That said I suppose some of these stunts, at worst, and additional work carried out at the TV company or licence payers expense, at best, may have helped add to the greater understanding of important sites. One can only hope so.




From a personal perspective I found the reconstructed house interesting from a modellers perspective with ideas garnered on paint schemes and decor for some further additions to my MDF real estate.



I thought the views from the rear garden area out over the Welsh borders gave a vivid impression of what the view might have been from similar such properties out here on the edge of empire.






I was somewhat surprised to find that a very good friend of mine and regular contributor to the blog who visited Wroxeter only a few months previously missed the fact that the English Heritage Visitor Centre, as well as being the place where you pay your entrance fee to the site, also houses a very interesting museum of artifacts discovered in the Roman city over the years.

I mention this to stress to any readers thinking of visiting themselves not to make the same disastrous error as my friend as you will be missing out on a lot of the extra stuff this very interesting site has to offer.

As mentioned in the preamble the town was known by two names based on its mention on a tablet from Vindolanda referring to Viriconium and to later medieval references from late Roman sources to its later name of Uriconium.


The name of the city was confirmed with the discovery of the forum inscription stone dedicating the building to Hadrian and declaring that the taxes of the tribes-people paid for the building.


As mentioned in previous posts looking at Roman finds I never tire of seeing fine pottery and particularly glass objects that have survived in an amazing state considering their time in the ground and the likely ravages they were subject to.



The glass bowl seen below is a simply stunning piece of craftsmanship considering its age.


The simple addition of imitation fruit makes these household objects come alive and seem very contemporary.


The housewares are generally a mix of fine high quality containers together with cheaper, probably locally sourced, earthen ware.


Once you have locks you don't need to have guards and the Romans obviously kept their most important valuables under lock and key.

A variety of locks, from padlocks, tumbler locks and complicated lever locks have been discovered in Viriconium, together with various types of keys with one being incorporated into a finger ring for added security.



It would appear from the the many finds that Viriconium was a centre for bone and antler working that was a byproduct of the meat processing that was done in the city.



Everything from spoons, needles, hair pieces and other intricate pieces have been discovered along with the piles of unprocessed bones.



The city also hosted craftsmen working in jet and shale imported from Yorkshire and Dorset and worked into the ornaments and jewelry seen here.



For many years the local people would find Roman coins in and around the fields covering the city and named the old money dindars which is a probable corruption of the the Latin word denarius, the name of the principle Roman silver coin.

As well as legal Roman coins discovered in the city these molds and associated forgeries were also in use.


The city's inhabitants had to wrap up well to withstand the local climate and a selection of pins and brooches have been discovered that would have been used to secure cloaks and mantles. In addition Roman women used a lot of pins to create the hairstyles fashionable at the time.



Viriconium started life as a Roman fort and it is likely that it continued to have a military importance and role after its establishment as a city lying on Watling Street and the principle road to Deva and the north-west frontier region of Britain.


Not surprisingly then, you might expect to find evidence of the Roman army and you would not be disappointed.







The caltrops or tribulus are the ancient version of the landmine useful for dealing with bear-footed tribesmen or heavily armoured horsemen and it was a tactic for a cohort to fill one man's, from an eight man contuburnium, helmet with urine and splash the offending liquid in front of the line, getting the cohort to step into the wet ground and stomp around quickly creating a slippery muddy quagmire in front of the line.

Finally a good sprinkling of these evil little contraptions could be liberally sprinkled in the prepared ground and the line could drop back ready to launch a volley of javelins or pila into any unfortunate enemy formation trying to get across the prepared zone.

You knew you had upset your centurion when it was you that was selected to pass your helmet around to your mess-mates



Roman soldiers carried a lot of kit needed to entrench or simply to feed themselves and the military writer Vegetius records that Roman soldiers regularly trained carrying up to sixty pounds of kit whilst marching at military pace.



The Roman army had a presence in the later city as these examples of plumbatae or darts illustrate.



As with other civilian settlements established close to the military bases built by the legions they were popular retirement centres for veterans; and those few soldiers lucky enough to survive their twenty-five years of service and collect their accumulated back pay would often settle down in the area where they had served becoming significant people in the area as relatively wealthy citizens.

Of course retired auxiliary soldiers were less well off than their comrades from the legions but retired as citizens exempt from taxes, but would need to keep a copy of their discharge diploma ready to confirm their acquired status.


These are copies of one such diploma.


As mentioned in the look at the Roman bathhouse, I mentioned that the floor above the hypocaust would have been richly decorated and this is a piece of that flooring that gives a good idea of the interior decor.



As well as decorated flooring, the higher status buildings have also revealed examples of the decorated wall plaster you would have expected to see.



And of course, no self respecting high status Roman building would be complete without the odd mosaic or two.


Roman religious tastes are always interesting to see and the various local deities that are reflected in the artwork can vary quite a bit from site to site.

The hare carved into a column capital seen below, together with grapes on the vine, is reflecting the cult of Bacchus the Roman god of wine and having a good time.


Jupiter is always a popular deity and the statue below is a bronze representation of one of the Discouri or sons of Jupiter.


Finally my favourite of the three pieces, a beautiful bronze rendition of the goddess Diana.


The religious aspect of Viriconium would continue on to its final demise with the establishment of the bishops house built on the ruins of the old basilica in the fifth or sixth century as depicted below.


Viriconium is a rather enigmatic place to visit as the small parts that have been looked at closely barely scratch the surface of the secrets that the city most likely retains.

There are very interesting aspects about it that make it stand out for me, most noticeably the fact that the city didn't get a stone wall built around it as other such settlements in Roman Britain and Viriconium's defences rested on an earthen bank atop a ditch with a wooden stockade on its rampart.

It is the only Roman city in Britain that did not get built over by a later modern development and thus it is unique as a place for further study, likely to have much more undisturbed archaeology than other similar contemporary sites.

Finally Viriconium did not reveal all that can be seen as I didn't get time to visit St Andrew's Church in the village of Wroxeter that incorporates Roman stonework in to the building's fabric as well as early Saxon stonework dating from the time of the Mercian King Penda.

I guess I will have to call in again next time I am passing.

This post concludes my series of posts on our trip to Chester this year which I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed putting them together.

I should also mention that as this was Carolyn's and my thirtieth wedding anniversary I was allowed to treat myself to the odd anniversary present and I concluded our stay in Chester by picking up my own piece of Roman history in the form of these three copper alloy coins dating to the 4th century.



The top two are from the reign of Contantinius II 330AD to 336AD, the one below I haven't identified yet.


So its onwards and upwards with me trying out some new painting ideas, our trip to London in August, updates on progress with the Romano-Dacians and Mr Steve and my visit to the Welsh Marches in pursuit of Owain Glyndwr and more Roman stuff.

Kickstarter - Oer the Hills Early Peninsula War Scenarios 1808-1809


Oh and by the way there is a Kickstarter running, that all of those of you who wanted to know about the series of Peninsular War scenarios Steve M and I put together earlier this year might want to check out and hopefully support, see above.