I take the liberty of copying this interesting description of the Fourth Century, Roman fort at Orsova,  from Dr. Gheorghe’s web site, The Alexis Project,  http://alexisphoenix.org/orsova.php


a) Zernes-Dierna Roman Castrum

The castrum is located west of the river Cerna. Due to its small size, the layout was originally considered to be the medieval fortress of Orsova.

The dimensions of the fortification, identified in the field, are 64 x 54 metres and the time is late Roman, during the reigns of the Emperor Diocletian, 284 to 305 AD and Constantine the Great, 306 to 337 AD. North of the fortress late Roman bricks and tiles bearing stamps were discovered.

In the barrows of the NE and SE of the late Roman fortification level are ceramics from the 5th to 8th centuries AD. (studied groups are between the 7th and 8th, 8th – 10th, and 10th – 13th centuries).

b) Roman City

It seems that Dierna developed as a civilian city, without a military garrison. It did not exceed the rank of municipium. A late Roman fortification civil settlement partly overlaps the ancient Roman city. Other constructions were investigated on different occasions (Danube Avenue Alley, 23 August Street, Decebal, Graţca Valley were on the site of the first cemetery, with the second cemetery near the Cerna Bridge).

We know that Roman habitation concentrated in two areas: the first stretching along the river, and the second between the two cemeteries. Bricks in the town were found only for the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. A double pattern representing the goddess Minerva shows the existence of official local military forces.


So apparently the footprint of the early fort was 64 X 54 meters.  At that range the ballista fire from the projecting towers would have been murderous for anyone trying to scale the walls.   If the barbarian leadership led its assault from the front, cutting down a few chieftains,  may have checked the general rush.

Or, not.   They were a pretty individualistic lot up in the northern tribes.  The expectation of a  good slathering of personal glory probably went a long way to seeing a lot of them “over the top”.   Maybe they didn’t lead their attacks chin first, and the high value targets hung back, the success of the venture depending more on how much collective mead the hooligans had been drinking, or mushrooms they’d been eating, the night before.  It seems clear, at least,  that the inducements to brave Roman ballista fire must have been particularly stirring.   Perhaps seeing their fellows cut down from a distance by a weapon as cowardly as a ballista just incensed their individual warrior spirits and made them fight all the harder;  not unlike the situation with modern, weaponized drones, where the tactical effectiveness of the device is often countered by its strategic usefulness as a recruiting tool for the very uprising it is attempting to suppress.  Sort of a, “shoot them in the head and they will come”,  kind of a thing.

No answers here, of course.  Just boorish ponderments for armchair generals to ruminate on.

“Hearts and minds!”,  me hearties.  “Hearts and minds!”

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