Xystum is my X for the day.
I’m nearing the end of my Celtic/Roman AD 71-84 theme …and still going strong, the content of my posts having been relevant to my historical novel THE BELTANE CHOICE or to its sequel which is my current writing in progress.
(*****Beltane Bargains for you are at the end of this post*****)
Xystum is an architectural term. It can refer to a wall,, alley or open path, promenade or collonade. It can also refer to an atrium (Roman Courtyard), ambulacrum, or parvis in front of a basilica.
This post, in a way, follows on from my previous post on the temporary wall building of marching camps.
Based on a rectangle, or a square, the Roman temporary camps (as described in my W is for Walls post) sometimes developed into forts, the earliest of these in Britannia likely to be constructed of wood before some were converted into stone as the decades moved on.
Within the regularly used designs for the forts and fortresses were areas which were relevant to the word Xystum.
The plan above is of a fortress in Germany but the main areas would have been similar in northern Britannia. Around the central principia (the main headquarters building) would have been xystii (apologies-the plural spelling is guessed at)/ walkways since the basic designs were drawn around the ‘streets’ from the main entrances to the central principia. When built of wood the principia would have had columns of wood supporting the portico in front of the aedes (the temple building/ great hall) and a covered xystum/collonade was likely around the interior of the principia courtyard, to protect the doorways from the sun - in Britannia more likely to protect pedestrians from inclement weather.
The plan for the Roman fortress at Inchtuthil in Scotland is one of particular interest to me as some of the best action in my current writing in progress takes place not too far away. Started by Agricola, around the early AD80s, Inchtuthil fort was never completed though, and a collonaded atrium around the principia (P at centre of image),and other properly paved walkways were possibly never finished.The fortress played a very important strategic role during Agricola's campaign. Excavations have shown it was a critical supply base for the troops in northern climes and was likely to have been a crucial site for gathering/ housing arriving troops before the batlle at Mons Graupius.
In my sequel to The Beltane Choice there are many references to Roman forts and fortresses and I’ve even taken the liberty of including covered walkways around the exterior of the principia – knowing just how needed protection from the weather might have been. Though the word xystum does not appear yet in my current WIP, I’m thinking I might just squeeze it in somewhere to join all the other Latin names.
(ps Apologies to any architect who might read this and tell me I'm not totally accurate. I'm no expert but I'm trying! Corrections are welcome if they can improve my knowledge.)
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