I went on my usual trip up a nearby mountain this morning with the dog. Today I left the camera in the car for the first time in quite a long time as visibility at the bottom of the hike was about 50 yards, meaning photography would be an utter pain.
As I climbed the visibility dropped so I was basically in a dome of whiteout maybe 30 yards out on any side. Initially Jess, delighted with this state of affairs as her usual trick of edging out so far and then poof gone and off running like the wind became moot since I couldn’t see her anyway. But as I neared the top she would walk to me with her head to one side as the wind and sleety rain was so fierce she was unable to walk square to it. Me, at this point, was soaked to the skin from head to ankle. In a sort of hemisphere. My back was drowned, while my front was dry, relatively.
It got me thinking about Hardknott Roman Fort.
The general thought about this place is it was built to crush a Celtic tribe, the Brigantes, in Cumbria. There are about 40 other forts within 50 miles, either on Hadrian’s wall or ringing the Lake District besides this one. But this one is very unusual in that it’s so isolated and only one other in the entire Roman Empire at Epiacum. The underlying thinking of pacifying is the very same used by the US army to crush the Apache. Where in effect you keep an encircling garrison to keep the population on the move but within a small region. You harry them into exhaustion and then mop them up.
This theory works, and works really really well. In the 1870s when developed there was more than enough examples where small well supplied forces could take over and pacify extremely large areas. Just then the British in small bands were pounding the bejapers out of Pathan/Pashtun tribes in the Northwest frontier, Myanmari and Malay princes, as well as the tribes of Southern Africa and Canada. And they did all this with less than the force deployed by the USA.
It was only in Afghanistan and the Mahdi in Sudan that they were given a bloody nose, and only one that they never took, even after three attempts.
The point is though, you never enter mountains( a bit like you never attack Russia and you leave the Afghani well alone), you ring them and probe them with swift troops and harry the population. You do not build a bloody great fort that need supplying with everything INCLUDING water ten miles in either direction from support (the coast at Ravenglass and Ambleside at the head of Windermere). So then, if it’s not a fort in the classical meaning what is it. I think it’s the Roman equivalent of Virginia City. A home for miners chasing Galena or lead ore. Built by a legionary cohort much like the Corp of Engineers built the levees on the Mississippi or probably more like Hoover Dam. A State investment if you like.
Today on the mountain at over 2,000 ft in the wet wind and sleet, I think I made a discovery about that Roman fort 225 miles away. There is no way in hell this fort held inhabitants year round. That wind that blew past me on the slopes would be passing over Scarfell Pike and the Roman Fort * in Hardknott Pass about an hour later and it sure as shootin wasn’t going to get more pleasant over the distance.
I will have to say it was fun. The sting of sleet on the return journey wasn’t pleasant, nonetheless my body found an internal heater some place. But a few hours is one thing day in day out would be quite different.
For some reason or another WordPress is getting huffy about my use of Tribe. They seem to think ‘ethnic group/s’ would sit better. Since ‘tribe’ is used in the body it can be taken that I demur.
*. Roman Forts are pretty much of a muchness. If you take a playing card and lay it down you’ve pretty mush got the dimensions. In general the roads leave midway on the short edge of the card and a third down on the long edge, a cross if you will. At the confluence of the routes is the headquarters tent or building, blocking the route. You cannot see from one gate out the other even though the road is plumb straight.