Roman Armor and Weapons - A day at Binchester Fort

Binchester fort is the ruins of an ancient roman fort. It is one of the largest in all of Britain and it is also considered to be one of the best. Although it is now a ruins there is still a lot of archaeological history and opportunity there. My friend Paul H. lives in the U.K. and he recently went to a reenactment taht was staged there on the grounds of this old Roman Fort. He tells us about it here. And he has included pictures. My thanks go to him for sharing all this with us. (I also have a video of firing a roman ballista at the bottom of the page.)


Now this fort is pretty much hidden away in a rural area of Durham and situated near the market place of Bishop Auckland.
Most places we visit are pretty much a shell but this is just a scheduled monument site and as such it is more or less marked out with the original stones.  However, there is a bath house which has interestingly a couple of footprints embedded in the Roman mortar.  A child and an adults foot is arrowed as it is quite hard to see unless you are directly above them.  Take a look at the pictures and see if you can see them too. There is I believe a further dig to this immense green site suggesting a find of a cemetery containing some Germanic troops buried there and further out another of civilians.  It is said that Binchester was bigger than the other Roman forts that existed between here and those that dotted along Hadrians Wall.  A small diorama in the activity hut on the site suggests what it may have looked like. 

Roman soldier

The reason for our visit today was not just for the Roman remains, but rather to see and experience the Life of the Roman soldiers and Cavalry.  This Roman festival is on every Bank holiday and the re-enactors for this period visit various sites and bring history alive for adults and children alike. 

Lorica SegmentataIn the erected tents there were displays of Helmets, armour, swords and shields. I can honestly say that it appealed both the young children and that inner child of the adult. There was a demonstration of the cavalry cutting the head off a brigand ( not really it was cabbage and a squash mounted on a stick)  There was a also a demonstration of a mercenary from the Netherlands training the Auxiliaries - the examples of different eras shown in their attire. Then a battle of painted Brigands and Romans. No prizes for guessing who won? The highlight was the description of the firepower that the Romans had.




Plumbata From the plumbata which was a lead weighted and barbed dart that was thrown either upwards or underhanded and the weight brought them straight down into the enemy and which could penetrate a helmet. They were also poisoned. Archeological find of a skull with such a dart embedded and helmet still attached, support this frightening premise. (Information only) While these darts were being thrown slingshots of lead bullet shaped missiles were also projected. Coincidentally, some found with paint on them suggesting they were sky colours for disguise? ( information only)  Pole slingshots which launched larger stones Bows and arrows were common and then the biggest baddest item - of course it is the ballista which fired a massive arrow that could punch through three bodies and still keep going. Or rip the arm off any unlucky Brigand holding a shield. Invented by the Greeks but  turned out by the thousands by the Romans.

Roman Weapons and armor


Roman weapons and armor

Firing The Ballista:

Legionary: The Roman Soldier's (Unofficial) Manual

Your emperor needs you for the Roman army! The year is AD 100 and Rome stands supreme and unconquerable from the desert sands of Mesopotamia to the misty highlands of Caledonia. Yet the might of Rome rests completely on the armored shoulders of the legionaries who hold back the barbarian hordes and push forward the frontiers of empire.

This carefully researched yet entertainingly nonacademic book tells you how to join the Roman legions, the best places to serve, and how to keep your armor from getting rusty. Learn to march under the eagles of Rome, from training, campaigns, and battle to the glory of a Roman Triumph and retirement with a pension plan. Every aspect of army life is discussed, from drill to diet, with handy tips on topics such as how to select the best boots or how to avoid being skewered by enemy spears. Combining the latest archaeological discoveries with the written records of those who actually saw the Roman legions in action, this book provides a vivid picture of what it meant to be a Roman legionary. 92 illustrations, 31 in color