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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
A Description of the Trajan Column
by John Hungerford Pollen

printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode,
printers to Queen Victoria
London, 1874

Text and engravings are in the public domain.
Any color photographs are © William P. Thayer 1997-

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VII. Construction of a fortified camp

The constructions undertaken in this composition are of a kind more durable than those required for an entrenched camp only, as in the last instance of such a work. Not only are hewn stones used, but there is a triple line of walls. This was in accordance with the most advanced theories of Roman fortification. Each line of walls, it will be observed, is higher than that which is in front. This was arranged with the object, not only of discharging missile with safety over the heads of the defenders in front, but to prevent the near approach of hostile engines, whether tower or battering rams, by the circles of wet ditches interposed between the lines of wall. The slot or channel down which it is intended that the cataphracta, portcullis, shall be dropped is shown in the centre of one of the walls. Only one side is shown, which was all that was required by the artist to make his meaning clear. The gate itself, with the passages closed by this engine and by doors, is still to be constructed, and may be meant to run some way along the wall, as in those of the entrances to the fortified towns of Conway, and other instances of mediaeval military engineering, both in this country and on the continent of Europe, thereby obliging besiegers to attack the gate itself at great disadvantage. A soldier is half seen working at the foundation of the outer walls. He hands a round flat-bottomed basket without handles, cophinus, to his fellow. Another lifts a stone of considerable weight from a scaffold, or from a heap of stones, to a soldier doing some mason's work on the second wall. The action of the back and shoulder is seen as he accommodates himself to load his burden on the wall. The same is going on in other parts. The workmen are all fighting men, and work in their breast and shoulder p116armour. The shields and helmet are laid aside. Two are seen, the helmet on the spear head, the shaft being stuck into the ground, and the shield is leaning against it. Two sentries stand by in cuirasses and indicating by the raised action of the arm, and the grasp of the hand that they are holding spears, which are not given by the sculptor.

No buildings are visible inside this enclosure, as in some other fortified towns met with in other parts of the sculpture, only tents. The top of the walls, where finished, are ornamented with a moulding of beads or round plates or show the ends of timber beams required for wooden galleries for purposes of defence.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 01