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Here's a YouTube video of the group put together with soundtrack by Comerus of Roman Army Talk.

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Comitatus, 400A.D.

Fabulous show. My first display with cavalry: the thunder of approaching hooves wakens the blood.

I had the honour of joining Tranquilis as the pedes being run down by cavalrymen at the gallop and it was unforgettable. The sight will stay with me of Marcus turning from striking the previous man at the end of the display ground, reining in his rearing horse and then charging me, spatha levelled in the manner prescribed by Patton himself, as we'd discussed around the campfire the night before.

Germanicus attacks with spatha:

The Cantabrian circle was portrayed with bows against the testudo and then, against chosen men, blunt plubatae, padded javelin, padded lance (striking Tranquilis & I on the back as we ran) and spatha/axe on the shield. Marcus demonstrated the kontos two handed and the crowds went wild. We alternated standard infantry displays and, once a day, a scout attack scenario which ended with us facing a full attack as a shield wall.

Details )

Standouts: taking those charges, sparring with Caius: he closed & chopped the end off my padded spear, so I dropped my shield and grappled - he threw me & we had the crowd shouting "fight, fight" :-)

Kit Bit )
salvianus: (Salvianus shield)
Comitatus, Dateline 306 A.D.

After the triumph of the anniversary and dedication, we had a nice quiet weekend at Barley Hall. Well, quiet apart from the mad, drunken karaoke from next door 'til 4a.m. each morning. I may have been a bit tired.

Great fuddle on Friday in the big hall, with Constantine in the window & the passers-by interested, confused or, in one case, scared witless. Slept in the great chamber (briefly), & put a display together with the aid of Victor's bow lathe, which I got working quite well.

We made forays for pasties & ice cream, handing out the hand bills Helen had printed up for us, lurking outside the Roman Bath and ogling the superb gladiators from the Hungarian Collegium Gladiatorium

Some of Helen's friends who were over for her writing weekend came by & got the full personal tour & were very impressed with the long haired barbarians in the arena.

Read more... )
Sunday arrived all too soon, but we centralised all of the displays in the great hall and had a relaxed time of it. I watched the gladiators again with Helen & some of the girls & I think a new wave of fans were born. With the help of Cynric & Viventia I achieved my afternoon goal of using my new saw to shorten the adze handle I'm working on & we worked in shifts to get all the kit out to Swinegate for pickup.

Kit bit: )
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Comitatus, Dateline 25th July 306 A.D.

Seventeen hundred years to the day since Constantine was acclaimed Caesar by his late father's troops here in York. We attended the commemoration service as representatives of those troops & as honour guard to Archbishop Sentamu.

The service was held at the Minster, site of the very principia where it all happened. But a few feet higher, obviously. The Archbishop's robes are brilliant - he's completely updated the fossilised robes & actually carries it off! They brought the statue of Constantine to life & Demetrius & the lads carried him to his chariot & we processed down Stonegate, the fort's Via Praetoria, while the bish boogied along to a carnival band, to the Museum Gardens where we stood guard on the Museum steps & were entertained by Panther dancers, thoughts for the future, including banning aeroplanes & an 'It's a Knockout' version of the execution of Christians in the persecutions. Um.

But there were enthusiastic kids with DIY corni, the Museum staff gave us water & the whole thing finished with a falconer chucking a golden eagle at the Rev. It swooped up, turned over the crowd & flew towards us, then soared up into the sun - Aquila Invictus!

As we marched off, I managed to get the hang of Victor's tuba, & landed myself with the job of tubicens.

At the C4th Roman Bath House, Victor had already set up our new ballista. After a well deserved pint, we named it Constantine with some ceremony - a healthy 4th Century mixture of Mithraistic (incense & cymbals) & trad. classical touches (libation of wine & grains etc) and a bit of Latin I'd put together, hopefully without too many glaring errors:

Click for text )

Rather pleased to find "my arms can bend a bow of bronze" in Samuel :-)

The Sacramentum was hard to read by candlelight, but Fortunatus helped me out & all were sworn in for another year. I must memorise it.

In Latin ;-)

Graham at the Bath House was very welcoming & we had a nice drink to celebrate at the Yorkshire Terrier. All set for the big weekend at Barley Hall!
salvianus: (Intercisa)
Comitatus, Dateline 400 A.D.

The ruins & reconstructed fort are in the unusual setting of quiet little streets by the Tyne which remind me of where I grew up by the Mersey. It was great to be able to travel light, lug a bedroll & bag (OK, a large bag) into the centurion's quarters & sleep in a reconstructed Roman bed - I got the commandant's wife's room, handily ensuite for Victor (or should I say Dominus?) in the commandant's room ;-)

Sunset behind the gatehouse was beautiful. We talked the night away in the triclinium, serenaded by candlelight on Victor's new lyre & Victor & Demetrius gave me a tour of the wattle & daub barrack block in the small hours - pointing out the location of the mail shirt currently in the Constantine exhibition at York by the lightening morning sky.

A relaxed morning, chatting to archaeology students & tanking up on water. The hourly displays were punishing in the heat with a bit of commuting the camp - oh when will my authentic water bottle arrive? Very happy with my bow - re-tied the archer's knot to raise the bracing height & hit 5 out of 6 on one of the displays. Sorting out the ranks for the foulkon whilst mustering reduced the faffing considerably - it's hard to fall into a pattern when we have a different set of soldiers each display.

The gatehouse assault was as fun as falling into a ditch can get. Leather soles & no hobnails = no grip & in the ditch I stayed, as I was unwilling to drop my shield to claw my way out & my spear arm was just not strong enough on its own.

Talked about hobnailing my boots, when they arrive - will see how they do at Sewerby. I can always keep my campagi for City shows. Left arm totally knackered, so dreamed of planing down my shield to lighten it, but I might be glad of the thickness in the cavalry displays. Put a slightly smaller & thinner (6mm?) patrol shield on the shopping list. Must paint some symbols on the interior of my shield & sort that strap out & linseed my bow.

A pizza run & a nice quiet evening, with Fortunatus as made up as me to be in these surroundings and a photoshoot for our furry mascot Julian & some local muppets. Caius & I tried passing juggling again, with more success - need a set of balls the same weight.

It was very hard to tear myself away in the morning, but the Waggon plays only come round every four years!

Standouts: Wishing I'd had an adventure playground like this outside my back door, the site of the mail shirt find in the pale skylight of 4am, Waking in a roman bedroom, juggling in the sunset & Julian making a public appearance to the delight of all.

See the Photo gallery.
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Comitatus, Dateline 400 A.D.

Cut for rambling on... )

A very relaxed show, with rain keeping the numbers down & only two displays a day. Good job too, with my brain not getting into gear until mid morning. I need more sleep in the week before shows than I've been getting - being ready for a collapsed weekend doesn't prepare you well for camp life.

Victor trimmed me a new javelin shaft in seconds with a sickle & Claire initiated us into the secret of how WWI era puttees stayed up. H then modified my wyningas in one evening - long thin tags at the top to tie them off securely - & that sorted them.

For the first display, I got to shoot my longbow for the first time :-) I'd only just got some arrows in time & I hadn't had the confidence to string it on my own, but Rufus, Tranquilis, Victor & Fortunatus all helped me sort it out at various times & I tested it in front of our valiant little crowd, braving the drizzle - & hit with the second shot. It's certainly long - 6' 4" is nearly a foot taller than me, and the sycamore shows the dark heartwood for the belly contrasting with the lighter sapwood for the back very nicely. It's by Stephen Ralphs, 35lb draw. It feels quite 'zingy', considering I wasn't wanting to pull it too far back - apparently the bracing height is a bit low.

I cocked up my ukemi a couple of times, veering into a spear left upright & forgetting to take off my cloak & bag(!) but the last one was great, with added handstand. We did a photoshoot round the reconstructed tower & marched all over the site posing like mad. I was pleased I'd had time to paint my spiculum shaft blue. H said we looked like some sort of comedy routine, as the tops of our spears kept appearing in different locations wherever she went around the site.

Standout moments: That shot, the ukemi & walking with H back into the site with an astonishing full rainbow over the sunlit valley. Unbelievable to be camped in among the archaeology of this unique site and set in such beauty, too.

More rambling )

See the Photo gallery.
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Comitatus, Dateline 306A.D.

Hayton is a small village on the Hull Road, but has an international flower festival. With a Constantinian theme for the anniversary, they wanted some Romans. Happy to oblige.

Nice little paddock near the church to camp in & the run of the village hall. Kitted up to provide an honour guard for the preview & found when I went into the church that I recognised the singer & organist - my sometime leading lady & her husband from my amateur stage musical life.

Hourly shows again, making life quite busy and a steady flow of visitors. Corvina sent us off to display with a bit of the Aeneid to inspire us.:

‘Roman, remember, to rule the nations with power –
This is your work, to impose the ways of peace,
To spare the vanquished and to overthrow the proud.'
Virgil, Aeneid VI, 752-853

Did 500 Years of the Roman Legionary for the first time & Caius let me sub for him as a late archer - but I can't get my ukemi in with a quiver on my back. Tranquilis stole the show with his authentic underwear.

Caius also helped me punch my beloved helmet's cheekguards for a chinstrap - that made it a lot easier to keep it on when rolling. I started shaving down my thick dowel, but without a workbench or muscles it was slow work, cementing my reputation as Salvianus the Wood Botherer.

We were short of a file leader on the Sunday, so I filled in - apparently my warcry for the kids was very Japanese ;-) Victor encouraged me to throw my spiculum in the last cast of the weekend and it survived. I think I should get a second with a slightly loose rivet for throwing - can't wait to get some javelins sorted.

Can't wait to get the longbow I've ordered so I can do a bit more in the missile displays. Much less keen on plumbatae. Another one went awry - this time over the heads of the small crowd, yikes! Slings don't appeal for similar reasons.

Other ideas: store water & food closer to front of tent, put in a storm flap to exclude prying eyes, get a much bigger cup & a clean wrap/bag for authentic packed lunches and get some braies for the hot weather - these wool Thorsburg trousers are boiling me alive in the warmer shows.
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Comitatus, Dateline 306 AD
My first Roman show, a staggering weekend, full of unforgetable moments: arriving at the gate, I was speechless. The keys to the castle! Bodhrans in the bailey, herding a lost duckling back up the bailey steps, showing off with a ukemi in Caius' mail, the Temple Gardens in the quiet Sunday morning and the Usher Gallery with its perplexing frieze of carved cow-skulls, the calm of trangia cooking, owls courting around the Lucy Keep, improbably filled with trees & the memorials of the prison dead.

H had a lot of work to do, so was going in style in digs & it proved difficult to stay away myself, leading to much to-ing and fro-ing and relying on Catherine to let us in. I had new plain red wool clavi & orbiculi & superthick wyningas thanks to H and a spiculum & a guige for my shield, also now sporting my name & unit number. Most brilliant of all, H presented me with an early birthday present - an Intercisa helmet! It's brilliant, with crosses & eyes and its so shiny! I'm sure that won't last.

We were all grateful for Victor's fire base to keep off the cold in the evening, even if the wood left for us was as tough as old boots & very smoky. The resident hedgehog, ducks & ducklings proved most entertaining, including a duck attack on my tent in the early hours of Monday morning.

Cynric & Viventia kindly gave me use of an awning, Victor lent his tool box & hey presto, suddenly I was a woodworker. Well, wood botherer - I picked at the same limb all weekend in the brief periods we seemed to have in between arena displays. I relished reading out the sacramentum oath from a wax tablet and enjoyed conducting a camp tour. Caius suggested I could do storytelling - great for a germanic show. Maybe something from the Aeneid for Roman?

The three day show, with hourly displays, was a little tiring, but I was revived by simply glancing at our surroundings. We had the attentions of a local press photographer and a radio reporter who stayed all day interviewing all of us and making himself at home in Fortunatus' tent. Managed to sneak a peak at their display of one of the original copies of the Magna Carta made for the barons, suitable for framing.

Next kit jobs - repair helmet neck guard, add chin strap, paint spiculum shaft & pad a spear length shaft. More research on Roman age wood & metalworking.
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Comitatus Dateline 680's
Back to Jarrow. The Weather forecast was awful: no need to pack my straw hat, then. H came with me this time, remaining in civvies, but sleeping in the tent. We were able to put up an extra tent to add to the look of the tented village and it made a very convenient extra store house. I imagine we'll completely fill up the 13' tent I'm hoping to pick up in July.

As soon as I'd struggled into my last minute, unhemmed linen, wyningas it was of to the River Don for some sand & water play. I wasn't sure about having my first go in a Coracle, but Demetrios kindly lent me a reassuring life jacket and within minutes I was confidently splashing myself, spinning in circles and drifting downstream.

Given the chance to crew a Regia faering up the Don, I didn't hesitate. We merrily thrashed our way up to the Tyne, shipping water all the way and wrestling with rather notional rope rowlocks and found ourselves beneath the towering bows of the transport ship appropriately named City of Rome. Fortunately stationary. Turning across the slight waves seemed to threaten our few inches of freeboard & apparently Demetrios wanted his lifejacket back. I simply didn't hear him.

Our return was a lot faster with the tide & we nearly got a rhythm going. Back at the farm, I put out my humble display - an assortment of supposed trade items; tools, bowls, some tablet weave & spare leather - and we headed off for our scheduled arena display, 'Death & Fashion', were Victor lent me a rather nice spangenhelm with a sporty horsehair crest.

Missiles in the afternoon, a first outing for my padded javelins & Caius kindly let me shoot a few quivers - I just have to get a bow. Hanging a cabbage in front of the targets was inspired - the punters bayed whenever it was spitted. More lost arrow-hunting: must bring metal detector to see if it helps!

Trangia cooking was a tranquil way to unwind. The scary cows with the big horns got out & looked scary. I thought they were supposed to be vegetarian? Fuddle in the hall, with my shoes gently steaming away the river water, the farm cat Crighton (or is it Kryten?) getting pampered by Izabella and Caius holding forth in fine form.

Sunday came with glorious morning sunshine. Forget forecasts: Always take sunhat & raingear. A quick turn round the Museum, some more missile practice & archery, courtesy of Demetrios and a look at Izabela's flat-shooting longbow. Tom & Harry enjoyed being loud pirates in the coracle. Ellie walked about in the sunshine in her sunhat like some idyllic painting.

Unfortunately it was very wet putting tents away. Gambesons may not be quite waterproof, but they seem to keep you warm :-)
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Got totally carried away on Friday night talking to Andy about technique and ended up making a nuisance of ourselves. Note to self, hold it down boy. Drill was interesting - trying to stop my scram and spear getting in the way. Despite preparation I just couldn't carry that shield for long before my muscles gave out. Reading the Strategikon over Christmas helped a great deal with the commands and moves.

We had a skirmish in the woods both days which I preferred greatly to individual combat - especially against axes! Several Holderness guys attended on Saturday, which really made a decent body of troops. I enjoyed using a padded javelin & smaller round shield for skirmishing. I really like padded spears for practice, as I feel happier striking & could throw etc. My Ebay subarmalis seemed OK for now - certainly very comfortable. I ought to line the rivets & washers & think about pteruges. Doing a bit of target practice with javelins & plumbata was interesting and trying Dave's recurved bow was brilliant.

Folk were very kind & I tried on lots of different helmet styles. First kit making session: shortened Paulus' military belt & put early Saxon fittings on another with much assistance. I've got this whole buzz when I look at them - 'ooh I did that!'

Next stop - get a Regia standard spearhead & suitable haft, preferably ash, order marching boots & water bottle, get some more ash or white hardwood & replace my cracked spear shaft & make some padded javelins, get some leather & make a sheath!
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Comitatus, 627 AD, early Saxon.

Catherine kindly loaned me a canvas tent which really made for an authentic feel, as well as great convenience. I covered my modern gear inside with dust sheets & created my first re-enactor's picket fence with sticks and jute rope. It was quite a drive to get to Jarrow before going public at 10 am on Saturday - I'll have to look at Friday night journeys.

It's a great, great venue (see pics) - reconstructed farm, extensive museum and great hall with grubenhouser. The public was light, giving me a chance to work out all sorts of practical camping things & how to pin a cloak! I made friends with the farm cat (a complete tart), Victor lost his new bone headed bolt in the long grass & showed me how a staff sling worked. We practised with spear & javelins & I got some tips on dark age swordsmanship. The evening in the great hall was outstanding - firelight, braziers & candles, shields on the walls and the crack. On my way off to my futon (well, a pallet felt more authentic than a foam mat) I remembered a tip from Victor & walked up to the celtic cross monument that watched over this little artificial pocket of yesterday. The lights of the container docks of the Tyne before you and thatched roofs & woodsmoke behind. Unbelievable.

I slept in, sleeping off some overexcitment & conveniently missed the tidy up of the great hall. Sunday saw Fortunatus' great marching tent experiment with various configurations of a portable piece of canvas supported by standard patrol weapons, spiculum, veruta and shields. It was quiet enough for me to browse in the museum - although that meant I missed Victor's coracle voyage on the Tyne! I whittled the spoon blank Paulus had given me to look busy when the odd punters came by & envied folk's straw hats deeply - such a beautiful day. It seemed bizarre to go in to start the new school year the next day.
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Comitatus, Viking/Anglo-Saxon.

My first venture behind the barriers was a small scale Comitatus event in aid of the local village hall which proved a very gentle introduction in the quiet, sunwashed valley. I borrowed soft kit gratefully from Kobbi & watched amazed as a bespoke makeshift belt was kindly plaited for me on the spot. After safety instruction with a two-handed spear, I was able to join the group leader Victor for some javellin practice - managing to break one in the process! The relaxed pattern of throwing and collecting took me back to the couple of times I have tried archery & once again I wondered why I hadn't pursued it before.

Comitatus normally cover the late sub-Roman periods, but were doing Viking-age this time. The Living History Exhibit (LHE) was impressive, with some beautiful kit on display & Paulus' pole lathe which fascinated my Dad, as he's done a lot of turning in his time. Dai let me have a go making butted mail and I was able to borrow spear & gloves to take part barefoot in the combats - briefly! Mental note: when unequiped with a shield, don't choose an oponent armed with a javelin - my first 'fight' lasted under 4 seconds!

A mellow, sunny day with friendly people who made me feel very, very welcome.


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February 2011



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