Thursday, November 7, 2013

Provins. Tour de Ce'sar

Provins.  Tour de Ce'sar

Above a mid-twelth century castle.  It had an unsually shaped keep on a square base with four semicircular corner turrets.  I consists of twi levels.  The crenelated  wall that surrounds it is called a "chemise."

1. Wall extends down the motte and forms a gate;
2. Curtain (Chemise) Wall;
3. Allure (Wall walk);
4. Mound (Motte);
5. 12th Century Keep.

Orig. Sidney Toy. Mens. ETDELT. 1925

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chateau de Houdan -- The Donjon

The donjon at Houdan was built about AD 1130.  The inside plan is a splayed corner square, while outside it is multacircular, with four corner turrets (projecting).  The two stories of the donjon are of an unusual height .  The walls are carried up on all sides, 16 feet above th gutter to mask the roof.  The original doorway is in the North turret, 20 feet above ground level, and was reached by a drawbridge from the curtain wall which passed near the donjon at this point.

Reference:- Sidney Toy, "Castles - Their Construction and History," (Dover Books -1985)

Redrawn and Enhanced -- Marcus Audens

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Scarborough Roman Signal Station

Scarborough Roman Signal Station
The remains of signal stations have been found at Huntcliff, Goldsborough,
Ravenscar, Scarborough, and Filey.  A sixth was likely at Flamborough Head
 because four of the other signal stations could be viewed from that location.

In AD 383 these stations were built like smallforts.  Each had for its defense a
ditch, stone wall complete with corner towers.  The watch tower approximately
20 meters in hieght with a fire pit and beacon fire ready to light stood in the
center of the walled enclosure.

Note 1-- The Northeasternportion of the signal station (above) has been lost
to cliff erosion over the many years;

Note 2-- The Roman Inscription carved into a rock at the Ravenscar site reads;
One translation of this above text records that Justinianus, the Commander, and
Vindicianus, the Magister, constructed the tower (burgus).

How these forts and their beacon fires operated is a mystery.  They may have
been used to send a signal inland to the cavalry fort at Derventio (Malton)
which might then dispatch a rapid reaction force.  Alternatively, the
beacons may only have signalled a warning to local settlements inland.
One theory is that signals passed along the coast to warn ships of the Roman
 Fleet docked along the Holderness coast or in the Humber estuary.
Perhaps all these theories are correct and the signal stations could serve
several purposes at once.  The garrisons for these signal stations was small,
but seem to have been purely military.  The fortifications were certainly
significant enough, and must have easily deterred Saxon raiders from besieging
and disabling them.

Reference: P. Elliott, "The Last Legionary,.....," Spellmount, Gloucester, G.B., 2007


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Marghat Castle -- Interior Passage

Marghat Castle

Interior passageway with openings to the outside.  The rubble on the floor of the passage has been cleared, I am told, but the remainder of the restoration effort goes ahead very slowly.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Burj al-Sabi Tower (Margat Castle)

This seemingly isolated tower overlooks the coastal road south of Banyas, Syria.  It was strong enough to impose tolls upon travelers along this road to Antioch, but the main fortress in this area was "Margat Castle" which rises a short distance inland.  This tower is also said to have been linked to "Marqab" (Margat Castle) by a long stone wall. The castle itself was known as "Qalaat al-Marqab" (Castle of the Watchtower).  The tower and castle were a significant part of the holdings of the Hospialler Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens 

Roman Warship "Imperator"

The Roman Warship "Imperator" is now under construction at the Shipbuilding yard  on the Rhine River in Germania.  This ship will lead the Pirate Patrol Fleet in the area of the Rhine River's Mouth and the river length as far as it is navigable.  The Pirate patrol fleet will consist of three smaller faster vessels, armed with ballista's and the trireme that you see pictured here.  The construction goes forward slowly as materials for the four ships are brought in from distant ports of call.  The story "Rhine River Patrol" reflects some of the political and social situations related to the construction of these vessels.
Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Baghrus outside Castle Ruin Wall with three window vacancies

I was facinated by this photo so I redrew it.  The castle is an obvious ruin, as the other drawings of this castle have shown, but this drawing seems to me to be even more "ruined" than the rest.  Perhaps it is simply because of the window space arrangement which resembles (if one has the imagination that I do) of a badly beaten face.  Perhaps the face of the Hospitllers when they were driven out?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Third Crusader Chronology

Crusader Chronology 1194 --1453

1194 -- Amaury of Lusignan becomes the ruler of Cyprus; the following year he is recognized as a King (Creation of the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus);
1198 -- Proclamation of the Fourth Crusade;
1204 -- Fourth Crusade conquers the Byzantine Imperial Capitol, (Constantinople) ; Count Baldwin of Flanders is elected as the first Latin Emperor;
1205 -- Conquest of Morea (Peloponnese, southern Greece) by Geoffrey de Villehardouin and William de Champlitte; establishment of the Crusader States of Greece;
1229 - 1233 -- Civil War in Crusader Cyprus;
1235 --John of Brienne saves Crusader Constantinople; defeat of Byzantines and Bulgarians;
1259 -- Crusader Principality of Achaea in Greece defeated by Byzantines at Pelagonia;
1261 -- Byzantine “Emperor of Nicaea” retakes Crusader-ruled Constantinople; Crusader States also surrender Monemvasia, Mistra, and Maina in southern Greece;
1267 -- Crusader Principality of Achaea recognizes suzerainty of Charles of Anjou, ruler of southern Italy;
1271 -- Charles of Anjou recognized as king of Albania;
1278 -- Death of Prince William of Achaea; Charles of Anjou takes over direct government of Achaea;
1282 -- “Silcian Vespers” revolt in Sicily against Charles of Anjou; Peter of Aragon invades Sicily;
1285 -- Death of Charles of Anjou; end of Angevin attempts to create an empire in Italy, Sicily, Greece and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem;
1291 -- Mamluks conquer Acre; end of Kingdom of Jerusalem, though the title “King of Jerusalem” still remains, usually held by the Lusignan rulers of Cyprus;
1306 -- Crusader Order of Hospitallers invades the Byzantine Island of Rhodes;
1309 -- Hospitallers transfer their headquarters to Rhodes;
1311 -- Crusader forces in Greece defeated by the free-booting Catalan Company (mercenary army); Catalna take cotrol of Athens and Thebes;
1313 - 1316 -- Civil War in the Principality of Achaea; Ferdinand of Majorca, leader of the Catalan Company  and claimant to Achaea, defeated and killed by Louis of Bergundy, grandson-in-law of William of Villehardouin;
1332 -- Agreement between Venice, the Hospitallers, and the Byzantine Empire leads to formation of the first “Crusade League” against the Turks (France and the Papacy join the following year);
1334 -- The Crusade League fleet defeats the Turks in the Gulf of Edremit;
1344 -- The Crusade League takes Smyrna (Izmir) from the Turks;
1346 -- The Genoese take over Chios and Foca from the Byzantines;
1354 -- Byzantines cede Lesbos to the Geonese; Ottomans seize a European bridgehead at Gallopoli;
1359 -- Peter I becomes the King of Cyprus; Crusade League fleet defeats Turks at Lampacus;
1360 - 1361 -- Kingdom of Cyprus occupies Corycos and Adalia on the southern coast of Anatolia;
1365 -- Crusade led by Peter I of Cyprus  briefly occupies Alexandria (Egypt);
1366 -- Crusade led by Amadeus of Savoy in Thrace and Bulgaria;
1367 -- Peter I of Cyprus raids Cicilia and Syria;
1369 -- Assassination of Peter i of Cyprus ; Geonese take control of Famagusta in Cyprus, expelling their Venetian rivals;
1371 -- Ottoman victory at the Battle of Maritsa, followed by the Ottoman conquest of most of Bulgaria and Macedonia;
1373 - 1374 -- War between Cyprus and Genoa; Hospitallers take over defense of Crusader held Smyrna (Izmir);
1376 -- Principality of Achaea  leased to the Hospitallers, but is taken over by the Navarrese Company (a mercenary army);
1378 -- The Hospitaller Grand Master is captured by the Ottoman’s at Arta in Greece;
1379 -- Navarese Company takes control of Thebes;
1388 -- End of Cataln rule in Athens;
1389 -- Ottoman victory at the first Battle Kosova (Kosova Field) leaves them as the dominant power in the Balkans;
1396 -- Large Crusading army destroyed by the Ottomans in the Battle of Nicopolis;
1402 -- Timur -i Lenk (Tamerlane) conquers Izmir from the Hospitallers;
1406 - 1407 -- Hospitallers start building a castle  at Bodrum on the Anatolian mainland;
1424 - 1425 -- Mamluks raid Cyprus and capture King Janus;
1432 -- Thomas Paleol0gus, Byzantine despot of Morea, takes “Crusader” Principality of Achaea;
1444 -- Mamluks unsuccessfully besiege Hospitaller Rhodes; Ottomans defeat a Crusader army at Varna;
1448 -- Ottomans defeat Hungarians at the second Battle of Kosova;
1453 -- Ottomans conquer Constantinople: end of the Byzantine Empire.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Second Crusader Chronology

Crusade Chronology,  1192 -- 1302

1189- 1192 -- The Third Crusade sets off for the Middle East; King Richard I of England seizes Cyprus from the Byzantine Empire:  Crusaders retake Acre and defeat Saladin at the Battle of Arsuf; Crusaders fail to reach Jerusalem; King Richard agrees a peace treaty with Saladin;
1193 -- Death of Saladin;
1197 -- King Aimery of Cyprus  (since 1194) becomes King of Jerusalem (until 1205); German Crusade to the Middle East;
1198 -- Cilician Armenia  becomes a kingdom: German Hospital reconstituted as the Order of Teutonic Knights;
1202 - 1204 -- Fourth Crusade seizes the Byzantine imperial capitol; creation of the Latin Empire of Constantinople; beginning of the Crusader conquest of southern Greece;
1205 -- Hugh I becomes the King of Cyprus (until 1218);
1210 -- John of Brienne becomes King of Jerusalem (until 1225);
1218 -- Henry I becomes King of Cyprus (until 1253); Fifth Crusade invades Egypt by sea;
1221 -- Fifth Crusade is defeated at the First Battle of Mansurah;
1225 -- Emperor Frederick ii of Germany and Italy becomes ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (until 1243);
1229 --Civil War in the Kingdom of Cyprus (until 1233);
1231 - 1242 -- Commune of Acre becomes center of resistance to Emperor Frederick II’s rule in the Kingdom of Jerusalem;
1243 -- Conrad becomes King of Jerusalem (until 1254); Mongols invade Seljuk Anatolia;
1244 -- Kingdom of Jerusalem forms an alliance with the Ayyubid rulers of Damascus and Jordan against the Ayyubid ruler of Egypt; Khwarazian refugee army from eastern Islam (fleeing advancing Mongols) takes Jerusalem fron Crusader Kingdom; Crusader States defeated at the Battle of La Forbie;
1245 -- Emperor Frederick II deposed;
1250 -- Crusade of King Louis IX of France invades Egypt: death of Sultan al- Salith Ayub of Egypt; Louis IX defeated at second Battle of Mansurah; effective establishment of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt;
1253 -- Hugh II becomes King of Cyprus (until 1267);
1254 -- Conraddin becomes King of Jerusalem (until 1268; note that now was actual capitol of the Kingdom);
1256 -- Civil War in Acre (until 1258);
1258 -- Mongols invade Iraq and sack Baghdad;
1260 --Mongols invade Syria: Crusader Principality of Antioch and Kingdom of Cicilian Armenia ally with Mongols; Mamluks defeat Mongols at the Battle of Ayn Julut; Baybars becomes Mamluk Sultan of Egypt;
1261 -- Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII retakes Constantinople from Latin (Crusader) Empire;
1263 - 1266 -- Mamluks destroy Nazareth, and take Caesarea, Arsuf, and Safad;
1267 -- Hugh III becomes King of Cyprus (until 1284);
1268 -- Mamluks retake Jaffa, Belfort, and Antioch;
1269 -- King Hugh III  of Cyprus becomes ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (until 1284) ; Argonese Crusade arrives in Acre;
1271 -- Mamluks retake Castel Blanc, Crac des Chevaliers, and Monfort;  Crusade of Prince Edward of Englandreaches Acre then attacks Caco;
1276 - 1277 -- King Hugh IIIabandons Palestine for Cyprus; Mary of Antioch sells the Crown to King Charles of southern Italy; Kingdom of Jerusalem divided between Lords who recognize or reject Charles;
1277 -- Civil War in County of Tripoli  (until 1283);
1284 -- John I becomes King of Jerusalem and Cyprus (until 1285);
1285 -- Henry II becomes King of Cyprus (nominal ruler until 1324); Mamluks take Margat;
1287 - 1289 -- Crusade led by Alice of Blois reaches Acre; Maluks take Latakia and Tripoli;
1290 -- Northern Italian Crusade to the Holy Land;
1291 -- Maluks take Acre, Sidon,  and Beirut: Crusaders evacuate Tatus and Atlit;
1299 -- Mongols defeat Mamluk army near Homs, leading to a temporary revival of Crusading optimism in Europe;
1302 --Mamluks retake Arwad island; probable end of Crusader rule at Jbayl.


David Nicolle, Adam Hook (illus,), “Crusader Castles In The Holy Land 1192 -- 1302,” (Osprey Pub. -- Fortress 32 -- 2005).

Respectfully Submitted;

Marcus Audens

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

(4) Catellum Regis (al-Mi'ilyah (after Pease);

(5) Arima (al-Araymah); probably early structures shown 

in black; (A) Donjon, (B) Main Gate of inner citadel, 
(C) outer gate (after Muller-Wiener.

The above are relatively small spur-castles.

Spur-Castle = a castle built on a rock spur
 or promontory usually along the side of a hill. 

Spur-castles obviously shared 
 certain features, princially having the strongest 
part of  their defenses facing the promontory
 that linked the spur to a neighboring hill.  
Several of these spur-castles had a deep fosse
 or ditch cut across the promontory. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Crusader Chronology

Crusader Chronology -- 1097 -- 1192

1096 -- Departure of the First Crusade for the Middle East;
1097 - 1098 -- Siege of Antioch by the First Crusade;
1098 -- Establishment of the County of Edessa by Baldwin of Boulogne;
1099 -- First Crusade captures Jerusalem;
1100 -- Crusaders capture Sidon;
1101 -- Crusaders capture Arsuf; start of the Crusader siege of Tripoli;
1107 -- Crusaders capture al-Wu'aira in southern Jordan;
1109 -- Tripoli surrenders to the Crusaders after an eight-year siege;
1114 -- Maras is massively damaged by a severe earthquake;
1115 -- Muslim army attacks Crusader-held Afamia; Muslim army takes Crusader-held  Kafr Tab;
1115-1116 -- Crusader campaign in southern Jordan;
1119 -- Muslim army attacks and takes Crusader-held Atharib;
1124 -- Crusaders capture Tyre;
1129 -- Crusaders and the Kingdom of Jerusalem attack Damascus;
1136 -- Frontier territory or March, granted to the Templars in the Amanus Mountains of north-western                  
1144 -- Crusader -ruled city of Edessa retaken by Zangi; Count Raymond II of Tripoli grants the
             Hospitallers substantial territories around the Buqai'ah valley;
1147 -- Second Crusade is Launched;
1148 -- Second Crusade defeated outside Damascus;
1151 -- Last Crusader castle in the County of Edessa surrenders to Nur al-Din;
1153 -- Crusaders capture Ascalon;
1157 -- Serious earthquake damages fortificatins in north-western Syria;
1163 - 1169 -- Five invasions of Egypt by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem;
1170 -- Earthquake damages fortification in north-western Syria; Saladin captures the Crusader castle of
1177 -- Crusaders defeat Saladin at the Battle of Mont Gisard;
1179 -- Saladin captures and destroys the partially built Crusader castle of Vadum Jacob;
1183 -- Campaign by Reynald of Chatillon, Lord of Oulrejourdain, in northern Arabia and the Red Sea
1187 --Saladin defeats Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin, retakes Jerusalem and
            most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem,  His siege of Crusader-held Tartus is unsuccessful;
1188 - 1189 -- Crusader castles in southern Jordan captured by Saladin;
1189 -- The Third Crusade begins, King Guy of Jerusalem besieges Acre, held by Saladin's garrison;
1191 - 1192 -- Third Crusade retakes Acre, Saladin is deteated at the Battle of Arsuf.  Crusaders fail to
            reach Jerusalem and agree to a peasce treaty with Saladin.

Reference: -- David Nicolle, Adam Hook (illus.), "Crusader Castles in the Holy Land, 1097 -- 1192," (OspreyPub. -- Fortress 21-- 2004).

Respectfully Submitted;

Marcus Audens

Baghrus Castle - Main Sally-Port Arch Ruin

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Baghras Castle

Add caption
The Chapel Wall and five window openings.  This castle was built by the Byzantines in the 10th century and guarded the road to Antioch.

Only at Baghras Castle are there substantial remains of Templar building (1)  Here a rocky knoll is encircled and crowned by fortifications on two levels.  The fabric is of small coarse rubble and there are rounded towers and corners, very much in the Armenian style but quite unlike other known Templar work, and a fine enclosed defensive gallery with arrow slits on the lower level.  The Knights built two large well-lit halls as was their custom.  The Castle is compact and craggy and was to become a major political issue.  It was retaken from the Muslims in 1191, not by the Crusaders of Antioch but by the Armenians, and their possession of this outpost so close to Antoch itself soured the relations between these two Christian powers for most of the early 13th century intil it, like Antioch, fell into Batbar's hands in 1268 (2).

(1) Muller-Wiener, Castles, 48-49, R. Edwards, 'Bagras and Cilician Armenia', Revue des Etudes Armeniennes, ns.17 (1983), 415-455; Sinclair, EasternTurkey IV, 266-271;

(2) Hugh Kennedy, "Crusader Castles," (Cambridge Univer. Press -- 1995), P. 143-144.

Spur Castles

6-- Burj al-Malih (after Conder);

7--Ravendell (Ravanda)
(C) Cisterns, (E) Main Entrance, (W) Well, (after Morray)

Saone Castle's Crusader Stone Donjon

2.  Donjon's Ground Floor (after Lawrence);
3.  Donjon's First Floor (after Lawrence).

Saone Castle

(A) deep rock-cut fosse, (B) Stone Donjon, (C) Byzantine Castle, (D) Shallow fosse between upper and lower fortresses (afterDeschamps and Muller-Wiener).

"Spur-Castles such as Saone were built on a rock promontory.  Several of these castles had a deep fosse or ditch cut across the promontory as above.  Saone Castle is in the southern part of the Principality of Antioch and is the least altered of the large 12th century Crusader spur-castles.  Several of the features of Saone Castle -- merlons not pierced, no donjon in original castle, no direct communication between keep towers and the curtain wall,  These may well be of a Byzantine influence.

Burj Bardawil -- A Manor House

A. -- Gate (after Bir Zeit Universty Survey).  Under Crusader occupation therewas more intensive building in the rural regions of Palestine than at any other time since the 7th and 8th centuries.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Burj Bardawil -- A Manor House

1  A Manor House;
A -- Gate (after Bir Zeit UniversitySurvey)

Under Crusader occupation there was more intensive
building in the rural regions of Palestine than at
any other time since the 7th and 8th centuries.

al--Ram (a fortified grange)

#2. al--RAM -- a fortified grange (after Pringle)

al--Ram has been identified as the grange of a 'new town'
founded by the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre before 1160 AD

Urban and Religious Fortifications

Add caption
1.  The Citadel of Jerusalem, known as the Tower of David;
2.  The fortified Monastery of St. Simeon (Suveydiye).

1. -- (A) City Wall, (B) Posterns, (C) Inner Gate, (D) Outer Gate, (after Johns and Pringle);

2. -- (A) Outer Gate, probably from the Crusader period (after Djobadze and Morray).

The Tower of David was built on the foundations of a vast Herodian structure and formed the strongest point in Jerusalem's fortifications before the First Crusade.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Camelot Old" -- by the River

This is a sketch copy of a fictional castle ruin.
The drawing originally had no title so I have taken it upon myself
to provide a title -- "Camelot Old" -- by the River.  I settled on this drawing
because there is much here which is most authentic, and it makes a nice picture as well!!

Rural Fortifications

#3 -- Aqua Bella Manor House -- Ground Floor (After Pringle);

#4 -- Aqua Bella Manor House -- First Floor (After Pringle).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Un-named Eastern European Castle Ruin

The drawing features the Main Entrance and Roadway through the Upper Ward (open area surrounded by a curtain wall).  The church is the low section of the building, and what remains of the keep (donjon) looms above it pointing to the sky.

Hukvaldy Castle, Main Entrance

Huckvaldy Castle is located in the Eastern part of the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hukvaldy Hrad Castle

Hukvaldy Castle ---

The ruin of Hukvaldy Castle is one of the largest in Central Europe and the second largest in Morovia.   The stone castle was built in the 13th century by Arnold of Huckswagen and it was never captured.  It was only destroyed by fire in the 18th century and is currently partially restored.  The tower affords a broad view of the Moravian Gate and the whole Odra River Valley all the way to Ostrava and the main range of the Morovian-Silesian Mountains.

The Kabrul Gate

This is an Indian Fortress / Castle ruin.  The above gate is about all that remains of the structure that is intact. Note the special shape of the crenallations along the top of the gate structure and curtain wall.  The two salient-towers (towers thrust forward from a fortified wall) that flank the gate are rounded rather than squared indicating a European style of construction.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Principality of Antioch

The Principality of Antioch;

In 1096 "The First Crusade" set out from Europe with the idea of regaining the "Holy City of Jerusalem," from Islamic control.  By 1099, this aim had expanded into the capture of Jerusalem and Palestine closely followed by the creation of the  so-called, "Crusader States" across the region in what are now parts of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Isreal, Palestine,  and Jordan.  The "Warrior Elite" of these four Crusader States of Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem had to build ever more formidable castle walls to defend these territories after 1109.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Sea Castle" #2, Sidon, (Saidon) Lebanon

"Sea Castle," Sidon, (Saida), Lebanon

13th century, Crusader's Castle, harbour castle, damaged, rectangular, or polygonal.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Crac des Chevaliers -- Wall-head defences

This view is on the South front of the inner enceinte (curtain wall) immediately East of the central tower.  Note the arrow slit with the sloping stirrup base to allow downward firing.  The larger rectangular opening, to the left, may have been designed for the larger ballistas.

"Crusader Castle," Page 168

Rock-Cut Gatehouse, Li Vaux Moise

12th Century Crusader

"Crusader Castles," Page 27

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sidon Castle -- Lebanon

Sea Castle at Sidon, Lebanon

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Great European Steppe

Margat Castle

This castle was also known as "Qalaat al-Marqmb" (Castle of the Watchtower); near Baniyas, Syria.

This fortress was a major stronghold of the Hospitaller Knights.

Trenctn, Slovakia

1. Gate Tower;
2. Residential Area;
3. Gate Tower;
4. Fortified Church;
5. Lower Castle;
6. Administrative and Residential Buildings;
7. Chapel;
8. Moat;
9. Upper Castle;
10. Courtyard;
11. Keep;
12. Great Hall;
13. Lists.

Roman Empire, AD 395

The division of the Roman Empire into the West and East Empires at the death of Theodosius I in 
AD 395

Croyland Bridge (from the Topographia Britannica(

Antibes Aqueduct

Pont Ambroix, Gard Depi, France

Carcassone, France

The "hoardings" projecting from the wall of the castle created  an overhanging gallery.  The floors of these "hoardings" had openings from which the defenders could protect the walls from enemy assault.

Uex'kull - Inskile - Latvia

12th century harbor castle.  Founders -- Order of the Tuetonic Knights.

First stone castle in Latvia.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fortress of Baghras (Gaston or Gastein)


The Fortress of Baghras (Gaston or Gastein)
Original text by Maxime GOEPP and Benjamin SAINTAMON
avalaible on
Translation : Andrew Zolnai

When one ponders a castle one can’t help but wonder how it could be taken.  Yet, medieval commanders often racked up a long list of sieges during invasions.  The question comes up again in pondering about Baghras Castle.  Bagras or Baghras is the name of the  town near the castle in the Iskenderun District.  This fortification is located in Turkey, province of Hatay, around 60 km north of Hatay (Antioch) and is known locally as Bakras Kalesi.  The journey to the castle involves a steep climb up a rough and precipitous track.  At the top the view of a massive, grim, and somewhat ruined structure still above.  To call it brooding would do injustice to its obvious intent to threaten and intimidate.
The castle was originally built by the Arab conquers in the seventh century, but this was constructed on a base of even more ancient fortifications.  This site was always important because it controls the route from Antioch up the coast.  The castle guards the southern approach of the Belen pass, in the Amanus Mountains, and this fortress was, at the time of the Crusades, of primordial importance for the defense of the Principality of Antioch.  The northern approach to this pass was guarded by the Trapesac Castle about ten miles to the North.  Known then as Gaston (Gastun, Guascon, Gastimor, or Gastein) - from the greco-Roman name Castron; today it is known as Baghras.  The fortress provided a base  for a force to cover the Syrian Gates (the passes between Iskenderun and Antioch -- Belen Pass).  It was built in two levels around a knoll, the fortification resembling Armenian work and with water supplied by aqueducts.  The small village of Otencay lies close by the bottom of the hill on which the castle stands.  The fortress was first erected  by Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas, who stationed there 1,000 footmen, and 500 horsemen under the command of Michael Bourtzes to raid the countryside  of the nearby city of Antioch.  Thus the Byzantines besieged the Arabs and then later it passed under Frankish control in the years around  1150.  The Principality of Antioch, which was one of the Crusader states created during the First Crusade.  The Principality transferred the castle to the Templars as they are first mentioned  as the owners of the castle in about 1153.  In 1154 Brothers of the Temple held garrison there, as various chronicles report how a contingent of Templars  from Gaston, surorised and destroyed  the body of the army launched by the Sultan Masud in the gorge of LaPortelle.  THe Templars held the castle until 1171, when Baghras Castle and Trapesac Castle were both taken by a renegade Armenian Baron Mieh, renegade of the Order and passed to the pay of Nur Al-din.  At his death in 1175, the Templars reoccupied their citadel and then they rebuilt the castle and it became part of their defensive perimeter around Jerusalam.  Thirteen years later, on August 26th 1189, the Sultan Saladin seized the fortress, and then in 1190 dismantled it at the alarming announcement of the imminent arrival of the armies of  The Holy Roman Emperor Frederic Barberousse.  It was the knight Foulques de Bouillon who recovered the citadel on account of his cousin, the Prince Leon II of Armenia (proclaimed king of Armenia in 1198). The latter settled there in 1191 and under the auspices of Leo II Prince of Armenia Cilicia took possession of the damaged castle  and performed important restorations.  The possession of this fortress by the Armenians became a major point of contention between them, the Antiochenes, and the Templars. In spite of ceaseless claims of the Templars and repeated interventions of the Pope, the Armenian sovereign agreed to return Gaston to his rightful owners only in 1216, after much negotiation.  in 1268, Antioch had fallen to Ba├»bars , the Mameluk Sultan of Egypt.  According to Armenian chronicles the castle withstood  a siege by the forces of Aleppo at about this time.  The small Templar garrison at Baghras Castle then lost heart and destroyed the castle before abandoning it.  Baibars took possession of the castle and had it rebuilt.
In the late seventeenth century, Baghras Castle was abandoned.  There are large remains of an aqueduct which supplied  the castle with water from the mountains  Looking upon it now one wonders how this placed changed hands so many times.  The entrance before it was destroyed by an earthquake, was a ramp that ran along the edge of a cliff defended by a thousand feet of oblivion.  Any other approach involved scaling walls built on top of a giant rock formation already a hundred feet high.
The citadel stands upon this rocky peak with sheer faces, especially to the West, so that defenses were rather established on the other faces.  The view offered the kind of perspective on the world that only eagles experience.  I could easily see into Syria fifty miles away.  In exploring the ruined interior structures was found, on the East side, through which it was accessed, are two enclosures dominated by an imposing rectangular keep, all built as small compound.  Finally we come upon the most intact building in the castle, the court, the grand hall, and the remains of the fortress chapel still well preserved.  It still boasted of a vaulted roof, several Gothic features, and windows that once had held stained glass.   Between the chapel and the grand hall, one will notice the underground rooms supported by enormous pillars. These rooms added to the numerous main buildings throughout the site, leads one to conclude that the place could maintain an important garrison.  Note also to the southwest of the site the presence of a partly preserved aqueduct, which connected the fortress to the mountain where several springs emerged. At the foot of the fortress, lies a small but famous spring known as the Fountain of Gastien.  
Here the Templars practiced the traditional part of their strange monastic lives.  In gazing out of the broken windows down into the desolate chasm below, it is understandable how a garrison could give over this place to an attacker.  Isolated, without knowledge of what was happening in the outside world, hungary and depressed by the lofty bleakness of the place, a surrender on terms must have been appealing.
The above is a combination of several descriptions of the Baghras Castle.  I shall be pleased to put this description on my Blog set together with the plan of the castle and several drawings that I will be making.  I will notify all who may have an interest in this new project.
Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Byzantium, At it's high point - AD 1000 to 1180

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Baghras Castle (Gaston) Turkey

This original Byzantine Fortress was constructed in the seventh century, served for decades as a guardian under the Templars and was finally abandoned in the seventeenth century.

There are several photos of this castle which in the coming weeks I will be drawing and putting up here.  This castle and its history will be my new project for the Byzantium Novum.


Marcus Audens

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Capture of a Fortress

A Siege In Progress--

--A fortification with the outer wall breached;
--Two siege towers with battering rams in use;
--A catapult is in the left corner of the picture;
--Four men are taking a ballista up the approach road to the fortress.

As you  can see the fortress sits on a hieght of land between two steep canyons.  Beyond the fortress is the sea.  It looks like a pretty good location!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Senator Marcus Audens with Rods and Axes

This photo was taken some years ago at the Roman Days Event in Maryland.  The man carrying the Rods and Axes was one of the Magnus Gladiators, and the Rods and Axes bundle was loaned by Legion XXIV.  I had a good time at that event, but the toga was a real pain!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Margat Castle

Plan of the Citadel:

1. Path from outer Gate;
2. Inner Gate;
3. 12th century towers;
4. Hall;
5. Chapel;
6. Northeast Tower;
7. Donjon.


--The castletown and The Tour de l'Eperon both lie off the plan to the North;

--Margat Castle is one of the largest and most dramatic of the Syrian Castles;

--Margate Castle largely dates from the 12th -- 13th century with later Islamic additions.  This development has been done in such a way that the castles themselves have neither been spoiled nor over-restored;

--In the North, overlooking the Syrian Coast, the first Crusader Castle  of Margat (al-Marqab) was built by the Mazoir family, but all that remains of their original castle is part of a curtain-wall with the rectangular towers;

--By 1160 the Hospitallers had seven or eight castles in Syria, gaining a further eleven or twelve during the following decade.  One of the strongest was Margat (al-Marqab) which lay within the Principality of Antioch.  It had been the center of the Mazoir family's extensive properties after 1130, but was sold to the Hospitallers  in 1186.  (Ref. "Crusader Castles In the Holy Land 1097 - 1192 == Fortress 21," David Nicolle, Adam Hook (illus.) , Osprey, Oxford, UK, 2004 (ISBN 1-84176-715-8);

--Original building begun in the 12th century, it is a rock castle, in ruins, and only partially remaining; the Donjon  is located inside the curtain-wall;

--Donjon = The main tower of a fortified location, or a single isolated tower.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Byzantine Army Field Marching Plan

Marching Order for a field army in enemy territory, late 10th century.

Key :

(a) advance scouts;
(b) vanguard;
(c 1) cavalry center division;
(c 2) cavalry right wing;
(c 3) cavalry left wing;
(c 4) cavalry center / second line;
(d 1) infantry center;
(d 2) infantry right wing;
(d 3) infantry left wing;
(d 4) infantry rearguard;
(e) baggage / seige train;
(f) rearguard;
(g) emperor and household troops;
(h) outriders and flank scouts;

Byzantine Marching Order for defiles and Roman Territory

Key :
(late 10th century)

(a) advance guards;
(b) vanguard;
(c 1) cavalry center division;
(c 2) cavalry right wing;
(c 3) cavalry left wing;
(c 4) cavalry center / second line;
(d 1) infantry center;
(d 2) infantry right wing;
(d 3) infantry left wing;
(d 4) infantry rearguard;
(e) baggage / seige train;
(f) rearguard;
(g) emperor and household troops;
(h) outriders / flank scouts.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Plan of Caesaria, Isreal in the 12th century

1. Curtain Wall and Towers;
2. Moat;
3. Guard Tower;
4. Sea Gate;
5. East Gate;
6. North Gate;
7. St. Peter's Cathhedral;
8. Frank's Houses;
9. Port;
10. Jetty;
11. Citadel.