The ‘saxon shore’ fort of Gariannonum ( Burgh castle) part 2.

In part one i gave a background of why the Saxon shore forts exist. Now i will concentrate on the features of Gariannonum (Burgh castle) itself.

Imagine climbing that

A very strategically placed fort, and well-built, it remains one of the best preserved roman building in East Anglia, no one built like the Romans, imagine them in charge of road works today ( we can only dream). Some of the walls at Burgh castle remain at their original height, apart from the parapet which was an extra part of the wall that ran all the way around it, allowing cover for the soldiers (see pic below).

At its full height, including the parapet, it would have stood at 5.7 meters, about 18 feet. A very daunting obstacle to an army ill-equipped with siege weapons. As well as the walls there were also drum shaped bastions, towers, they were the same height as the walls but probably had some sort of bolt firing artillery engines mounted on them, the hail of these bolts and the pilum thrown by the troops on the walls ( a pilum was a type of javelin, about 6 ft long with an iron pyramid-shaped tip but softer iron was used to make the shank so that it would bend on impact, thus rendering it useless for the enemy to throw back) would make attacking any one of these forts a foolish and daunting task, i dare say that the raiders knew this already and the forts acted as a wonderful deterrent. However, as stated in part one, in the year 367AD there are accounts of saxon raiders penetrating into Britain, i am not sure if they managed to break through the forts defences or simple skirt around them and head inland, i would imagine the latter. The Roman army occupying the forts at this time were not as well manned or equipped as roman armies in the years before, this is only 40 or so years before Romes withdrawal from Britain.

A fallen bastion


the crumbled walls of burgh castle 

As well as the fort came a civilian settlement, called a ‘vici’, which is the name given to a settlement that appears due to the presence of a Roman military building. They pop up as a way of making profit from the army, they would have offered entertainment and supplies for troops (you can imagine the sort, probably the same as modern-day garrison towns). As they were not official towns they would not have had grand stone buildings, and town officials, they would have fallen under the command of the local military commander, and some ,vici, even followed a mobile military unit, like a flat-pack town! They were very important coming from a military viewpoint, can you imagine how morale sapping just having a military surrounding would be, especially when not on campaign , even the Romans knew that soldiers needed an escape from it all, after all they were only humans who thought the same as us. I like to think of the guards patrolling the walls, grumbling about how rubbish it wall was, plotting their plans for when their military service comes to an end.

A view of inside the fort.
This would have been a great estuary 2000 years ago, the fort is a few feet behind. 

It may look like just a ruin today, but think on what the fort has seen in its years, think of all the forgotten tales that have happened within its walls over the centuries. It really is a testament to the might of one of the worlds greatest military powers that ever was. Part three will cover what happened to the fort following Romes withdrawal of Britain in the early 5th century AD.

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