Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday 30 October 2023

Forts on the Eastern Frontier of the Roman Empire

Declassified aerial spy photographs from the 1970s and 1980s have been used by researchers to pinpoint lost - and often remote - Roman forts on what was once the eastern frontier zone of the Roman Empire in the borderlands of Syria, Iraq and Turkey according to an article in Antiquity as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

The forts are from the mid-second century up to 305 and the abdication of Diocletian, and are just short of 400 in number. Their distribution suggests not a limes like Hadrian’s Wall or the Rhine frontier but defence in depth, and, presumably, over time. As the article points out this was an important area for trade routes and contact as well as border conflict, so not one single pattern but a network over time and territory. 

Many are remote and isolated, and sadly vulnerable to modern development. The politics and turmoil of the region does not help their protection, still less their study by archaeologists. It is a tragic irony that such sites come to the notice of scholars and now together with modern pressures upon them.

The Daily Telegraph article, which has a selection of striking examples of the photographs, can be seen at Declassified images from Cold War satellites reveal hundreds of lost Roman forts

Live Science has a similar account of the evidence from these photographs and of what can be deduced from them at all Cold War satellite images reveal nearly 400 Roman forts in the Middle East

The Independent also reports on the project with different photographs and maps and additional commentary at Nearly 400 hidden Roman forts uncovered from Cold War-era images

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