The Hyginian Camp and its Modifications

The Hyginian camp was rectangular, being greater in length than in breadth, and having the corners rounded. It had four gates. One of these, the Porta Praetoria, occupied the centre of the front which faced the enemy, while the corresponding gate, or Porta Decumana occupied the same position in the rear. On either side were the Portae Principales, with a broad street running between them—on the right the Porta Principalis Dextra, on the left the Porta Principalis Sinistra. These latter gates lay directly opposite each other, and nearer to the front than to the rear, so that the road which passed between them, the Via Principalis, divided the whole camp into two unequal portions. In the centre, facing the Porta Praetoria, at the point where the street leading to that gate crossed the Via Principalis, lay the Praetorium, or quarters of the commander. Behind the Praetorium a third street, known as the Via Quintana, ran parallel to the Via Principalis. The section of the camp lying in front of the Praetorium was called the Praetentura. The spaces on either side of the Praetorium were the Latera Praetorii while the section lying between the Via Quintana and the Porta Decumana was termed the Retentura. All round the camp a clear space or intervallum separated the rampart from the tents of the soldiers. In the three main sections into which the camp was divided, the different corps forming the army had each its place allotted to it.

When we pass from the hypothetical camp of Hyginus to the plans of actual fortresses such as Novaesium we find that, while (as already indicated) the main features of the Hyginian scheme are reproduced, the conditions of a permanent settlement and the reduction in the number of troops to be accommodated have so far modified the plan that we are no longer able to apply it for the identification of the various buildings. The same plan, still further modified by reason of its smaller garrison, reappears at the fort at Newstead. But in an area so small, and with no definite information to guide us as to the exact nature of the garrison, we cannot draw from the Hyginian scheme anything more than a few general indications as to the character of some of the buildings, nor can we be quite certain that the technical terms employed by Hyginus to describe the main parts of his camp were used in dealing with a small permanent fort.[1]

1 Professor Haverfield has stated clearly the manifest distinction between the Praetorium of the Hyginian camp and the central building which constitutes so invariable a feature in the forts of the second and early third century. The latter has usually been spoken of as the Praetorium, but it is probably more correct to call it the Principia. The Roman: Fort of Gellygaer, p. 99, Appendix I.