Castellum is a Roman frontier fort in Valentia on the Bodotria Estuary. "Castellum" is a fictional name (meaning 'fort') for the Roman site at Cramond, Scotland, now a suburb of Edinburgh. It's the principal setting of Frontier Wolf and also appears in "Frontier Scout" and The Shining Company.

Resources Edit

Timeline Edit

  • 79-83 CE (Frontier Wolf): Built by the Second Augustan Legion during Agricola's campaigns [ahistorical]
  • 140-2 CE: Built in support of the Antonine Wall
  • 170 CE: Abandoned with the province of Valentia
  • 208-211: Severan reoccupation and enlargement; historical abandonment
  • 280 (Frontier Scout): A posting station on the coast road
  • 330s (Frontier Wolf): Headquarters of the Third Ordo, Frontier Scouts
  • 342 (Frontier Wolf): Final abandonment in Attacotti invasion
  • 599 (The Shining Company): Visited by Gododdin warriors

Frontier Scout (280 CE) Edit

The site receives an extremely brief mention in this short story, using the modern name of Cramond.

  • "It was a choppy crossing [at Queensferry] , and a slow one. But we made it at last, and I got a fresh horse on the further side—they kept a few there, for it was a posting station in those days—and was on my way again. Again the loneliness of night and storm and horse’s hooves, but now at least there was a road to guide me, which was as well, for I was almost past finding the way for myself, if the post horse hadn’t known it.

I got myself another remount at the Cramond fort; and with the first sullen streaks of a low dawn showing yellow over the firth, I was beating on the gates of the naval fort [at Inveresk]."

Frontier Wolf (341-3 CE) Edit

1980's Frontier Wolf is the novel in which Castellum is a main setting. The Author's Note acknowledges that the fort is not known to have been occupied by the Roman military at the time of the story.

Features Edit

  • Fort
    • Walls:
      • Praetorian [south] gate (2), of timber, opens landward onto the practice grounds and south road
        • Shooting turret (11)
        • To: the south road, practice ground, and graveyard
      • Dextra (West) gate (3), opens westward onto the river gorge
        • Inner alleyway (11)
      • North gate (4) opens onto the stockaded shipyard quarter (4), half-blocked up (11)
      • Sinister [east] gate (8), half blocked up, opens onto the eastern practice ground
    • Buildings:
      • Commander's house (4), with a colonnaded street entrance, around the corner of the Principia from the granaries and Dancing Ground
        • Commander's quarters (2), with greenish glass windows (3)
          • Outer room
          • Sleeping chamber
        • Mess (2), across the courtyard from the street entrance (4)
        • Courtyard (4)
        • Officers' quarters (4)
        • Walled garden behind (8)
      • Principia (4), glazed
        • Commander's office
        • Sacellum
          • Pay-chest
        • Cross-hall and forecourt
      • Signal tower (4)
      • Barracks (4), at least three rows (5)
      • Stables (4)
      • Granaries (4), where swallows nest (6)
        • Waggon-park, called the Dancing Ground (4)
      • Harness-shed (4)
      • Armourer's smithy (4)
        • Fuel-store (4)
      • Latrines (4)
      • Armoury (8), housing an owl's nest
      • Cookhouse (8)
      • A well (11)

Surroundings Edit

  • Road south (2) to Trimontium and Bremenium
  • the Bodotria Estuary [Firth of Forth] (2), immediately northward
  • Practice ground (2) outside the Praetorian (2) and Sinister gates (8)
  • Graveyard (2)
  • Settlement (2)
    • women's huts
    • wine-shops
    • the back chamber of the sandal-maker's shop (4), the Christian shrine
    • tannery sheds (5)
    • temple to Castor and Pollux (9), half-ruined
  • The Rath of Ferradach Dhu (3), westward
  • the Fortress Rock (3), eastward
  • the river [Almond] (3), immediately westward, flowing from the south
    • the gorge
    • the watering pool
    • the ford
    • the Lady, a standing stone
    • the estuary, mud flats at low tide (2)
  • the road to Credigone and the Northern Wall (3), westward
  • Old shipyard quarter inside the bank and stockade (4), outside the North gate
    • Jetties
    • Workshops
    • Store-sheds
    • Bath-house
      • Spring (11)
    • Mithran shrine, beyond the bath-house
  • the Long Moss (6), bog upriver
    • Chieftains' Death-Place, an island with standing stones
  • Coastwise bluffs (11) northward
  • old naval station [Inveresk] (11), eastward

Descriptions Edit

  • From the Author's Note: "Almost in the fringes of Edinburgh, where the River Almond joins the Firth of Forth, there is a village called Cramond; and where the village now stands, there was once a Roman fort. Its Roman name is lost, and so I have called it Castellum, which is simply the Latin word for a fort. When I first wanted to write a story about a unit of Frontier Scouts based here, I learned from the archaeologists who had excavated the site that there was no trace of any Roman military occupation at the date that I needed it – AD 343 – or for nearly a hundred years before. [...] Anyhow, after thinking it over for a long while, I decided to go ahead with the story I wanted to tell, playing fair with you who read it, by telling you that up to now, no traces have been found."
  • (2) [approach by road] "[A]head, as the road crested a shallow moorland ridge, the land changed, and the wilderness fell back as they reached the edge of the cropland. [...] And ahead too, crouching like an old scarred hound between the waters of the great estuary that shone sword-grey beyond it, and the brown thatch of the native settlement that huddled on its landward side, Alexios saw the fort that was to be his command."
  • (2) "And so they clattered up the last stretch, between the settlement and the roughly cleared practice ground, between the gravestones of men who had died there, since the Eagles first flew north, and in through the Praetorian gate of Castellum."
  • (2) [area of operations] 'When I [Julius Gavros] first served with the Frontier Scouts, the whole Numerus was stationed at Castra Exploratorum. We were responsible for patrolling the whole of the lowlands in those days. Now, of course, we are split up – well you will have seen that for yourself, on your way up here. One Ordo doubling up with the regular garrison at Habitancum, for scouting and security immediately in front of the Wall; one at Bremenium, under the Praepositus himself; also doubled up with a part-mounted auxiliary force and the main body of the Arcani, but the nearest thing we have now to a headquarters. One up here at Castellum, almost on the old Northern Wall; something over two hundred of us, counting Druim's lovely lads, rattling around in a fort that was originally built to house a full cohort. We are the forward observation post; our job to keep things quiet in general and an eye on the Picts in particular. It's a flimsy arrangement. None of us could do much about backing the others up if trouble started. The old way was better.'
  • (3) [the settlement] " 'In the town here?' Alexios had glimpsed straight streets and stone walls as he rode in; the corner of a colonnade, a memorial arch rising above the warm huddle of bracken-thatched roofs; enough to suggest more than the turf-walled chaos of tradesmen's booths and wine-shops and the bothies where the garrison kept their women and their hunting-dogs, that always sprang up in the lee of any strong-post of Rome."
  • (3) "[T]hey clattered out through the West gate, the Dextra gate, and took the steep track plunging to the river that came down from the high moors to join the Bodotria just below the fort."
  • (3) [The Lady] "Just where the track dipped to the paved ford below the ponies' watering pool, a tall stone stood up, leaning a little, in the wayside grass. Dark, smooth, with somehow the look about it of having passed through fire; the look too of being very old, older than anything else in that countryside. As they trotted by, Gavros leaned from his saddle and lightly touched the smooth worn crest in passing."
  • (3) 'Ferradach Dhu because Castellum stands on his Clan Territory that runs almost to the foot of the Fortress Rock.'
  • (3) [the Lady] "A silver-gilt gleam of evening sun had broken through the drifting clouds as they came down to the river ford below Castellum and splashed through; and beside the uphill track, the tall black stone had warmed into unsuspected colour, in the golden dappling of lichen on its weathered flank, and the silken gleam almost like the neck-feathers of a starling, on its poll that had been smoothed through the years by the touch of many hands."
  • (4) [Layout] "Over the next few days, the fort itself began to wear less of a stranger's face. The actual lay-out of course was familiar to him from the first, for the lay-out of every station of the Eagles was much the same, whether it was a mud-brick fort on the Nile or a stone one in the German forests, or a turf-and-timber outpost with stone-built gate-towers here on the old northern frontier. At least twice, since it was built by men of the Second Legion in Agricola's day, Castellum had been abandoned to the wild, and then patched up again and re-occupied. The men who had served there when Severus was their Emperor would have blasphemed to see it now, the buildings heather-thatched where tile had been; not a window with glass in it save a few in the Principia and the old Commander's house which now lodged all the officers together round its narrow courtyard; old grain stores pulled down because with only half the garrison the place had been built for, their was no further need for them, and their stones used to block up half the arches of the gates. But the bones of the place were still recognizable for what they had always been. And along with the fort, Alexios grew familiar with the jetties and workshops and dilapidated store-sheds which shared with the bath-house the protection of bank and stockade beyond the north gate, and formed a kind of ghost port where the river looped out to join the salt waters of the estuary below the fortress bluff. Soon he could have found his way about Castellum blindfold, as he could have found his way through the pattern of the days that started with Cock-crow sounding from the signal-tower, and ended with Late Rounds made by the gleam of lantern-light from guard-post to guard-post, from barrack-rows to horse-lines through the dark and the wind and often enough the rain; and all the complex routine that lay between. Fatigues and arms drill and stables, patrols in and out, endless listening to reports and deciding which needed to be sent back to Bremenium and which did not. . ."
  • (4) [Re-supply] "Everybody who could be spared from patrols or garrison duty went hunting. 'The corn in the barns and the boar in the forest'; that had always been the way of it on outpost service; and that year [341] there was less corn in the barns than usual, for the harvest had been a poor one. The supply galleys with the winter stores and the pay-chest from Segedunum – in the present state of the roads north of Bremenium, it was easier to supply the fort by sea – were late, and they looked for them anxiously as the days went by."
  • (4) [the Dancing Ground] "Ever since dusk, the great fire which the men of the garrison had been stacking for days had been blazing in the midst of the old waggon-park behind the granaries that was now commonly called the Dancing Ground."
  • (4) "Again there was a small sharp silence, filled with the crying of the gulls that formed a background to life at Castellum."
  • (11) [the walls] "The reserves were massing in the clear space below the ramparts, the wounded were being brought down. [...] There were dead and wounded men in the ditch and all across the open ground between the fort and the first buildings of the town; dead and wounded sprawling grotesquely along the rampart walk, hampering the feet of the living defenders."
  • (11) "A few moments more, and Conan the senior trumpeter would come down from the Dextra gate, and the last living man would be out of Castellum. [...] Alexios, reaching by long custom to touch the Lady in passing, felt the stone rain-wet and heart-cold and curiously empty, and knew, though he instantly denied the knowledge in himself, that Rome would not come back."
  • (16) "Alexios's gaze followed the road that led on and on, out of sight and still on, through forts that were dead now, empty to the wolf and the raven. Habitancum and Bremenium, Trimontium that had died a long time ago; Castellum. The road and the hills. . .They had seemed so different the first time he had looked out over them, and assuredly not because of the fire of autumn burning in the gold of birch leaves and the russet of bracken had given them warmth. They had been the wilderness of desolation waiting for him, then. Now they were the hills of his lost wilderness among which he would not go again."

The Shining Company (599 CE) Edit

In 599 CE, Castellum is an unfrequented ruin in the territory of Dyn Eidin, formerly Fortress Rock, now the capital of the Gododdin, or Votadini. Its former, perhaps lingering, inhabitants are remembered and avoided. In chapters 8 and 9, young warriors of the Company choose the site for their ordeal of wakefulness.

  • (6) "I had thought of the Legions' road leading us straight to the Dyn, but one of the Strathclyde men who had been that way before laughed and said, 'The Romans did not send their engineers to build their fine straight roads from chieftain's hall to chieftain's hall! This is the road to one of their frontier forts – over that way; Castellum they used to call it. the trackway here is the royal road of King Mynyddog.'"
  • (8) "Dara and Huil and I joined the old paved road that headed north-westward towards the long-forsaken Legionary fort on the shores of the Firth. Castellum, I had heard it called. The place had an unchancy reputation, for it was said that it had been garrisoned, not by Red Crests, but by men who called themselves Frontier Wolves and had some sort of kinship with the four-footed kind, and whose ghosts still came back in wolf shape to run through the ruins at full moon. That would have seemed a good enough reason for keeping well clear of the place, especially as the moon was near to full."
  • (8) "From the place where the Eidin Ridge track turned off from it, the road was almost lost, for few people travelled it anymore, and the tide of heather and bramble and rough grass had come flowing in. Sometimes, for a short distance, our feet sensed the hardness of stone under the grass, but at other times it was as though no one had ever passed that way before."
  • (8) "It was not the first time that we had come that way; by that time there were few places within half a day of Dyn Eidin that were not known to us; but I had not been so aware of the loneliness, the emptiness of the place before. There were birch and rowan in the ditch, and the past summer's willowherb turned to grey seed-silk massing in the gap where the gateway must have been; and midway between the fallen stone stump of the gatehouse towers, a path had been trampled through the willowherb."
  • (8) "[...] turf hummocks of fallen briar-grown walls" [...] "gate gap between breast-high banks, that gave out into what seemed to be some outer part of the camp where it ran into the grey waters of the Firth"
  • (8) [the Lady] "We went down to the burn that ran through its steep gorge below the western rampart [...] where the water ran clear and deep above the remains of a paved ford. There was an upright stone, I mind, marking the place where an old track from the fort must have entered the water, heading westward; a black stone, dappled with grey and golden lichen. I set my hand on its rounded poll, and got the odd uncanny feel that it was used to the touch of men's hands in passing. But that must have been long and long ago. . ."
  • (8) [Rebuilding a wall] "Close before our cave were the remains of a very small enclosure, a store shed maybe. At the near corner the wall stood pretty near elbow high; at the lower end it was almost lost under rank grass. In one place a rowan tree had seeded in the rubble filling and sent its roots down into the footings, heaving the stones aside. We hacked back the docks and brambles until the whole oblong lay clear, and began building. [...] heaving up yet another stone, I saw something scratched on the under side of it, and rubbing off the staining lichen with the heel of my hand, saw that it was a running wolf, not properly carved but crudely scratched as though with the point of a dagger, yet with something of life in it all the same."
  • (9) "We skirted the open space that might have been the parade ground [...] and gained the maze of half-lost ruins beyond. [...] Then we were crouching together in the breast-high ruins of a gatetower laced together by the roots of thorn trees, looking out over the remains of the old outer fort where it thrust northward into the paleness of the Firth, over traces of fallen buildings and jetties where I suppose the supply ships had come in when Castellum had been a place of living men who needed gear and feeding."
  • (9) "The other three had made their lair in a place no so very different from our own, among the wreckage of what might have been the fort's bath house. The faint fire-glow and the cold whiteness of the moon showed the still-standing pillars of the hypocaust, and the dark mouth of the stoke-chamber."
  • (9) "We went down to the burn to drink for the last time. The tall stone beside the ford caught the first light on its lichened flank, but I did not touch her again, feeling that I had not the right. The men who had made for themselves the right to touch her were all gone."
  • (9) "The last thing we did before leaving the ruined fort was to make our marks on the wall that we had rebuilt. We made them on the stone under the running wolf."