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Dionysias: Plan of Roman Fort

Plan of the Roman fort at Dionysias (xxxxx).

As the first outpost on the western edge of the Fayum, Dionysias was fortified with a Roman fort or military camp which had been built by the early 3rd century AD. The fort, referred to as Castra Dionysiados in 4th century texts, was constructed with a plan similar to forts in the Kharga Oasis. Measuring 83 by 70 meters in area, its mudbrick walls were some 3.8 meters thick, with square towers at each corner and semicircular towers on three of the sides. There are records showing the fort was repaired in AD 308, perhaps after an earthquake.

Within the fort's walls, t
he principia or headquarters building was located on the southern side or back of the camp, on a platform suggesting it may have originally served as a cult center, associated with some fragmentary murals. A 2nd-century marble statue of Nemesis with her foot on the head of a barbarian was found in the central apse of the principia. The statue, perhaps dating from the time of Hadrian (AD 117-136), was later destroyed. On the north, or opposite side of the fort was the front gate, facing the lake rather than the town.

The interior north, east, and west walls were lined with storerooms and barracks, indicating the fort may have housed up to 300 soldiers. Surviving records show that the fortress garrison belonged to the Ala Quinta Praelectorum, made up in the 4th century of regular mounted troops. Various papyrus documents record some of the personnel, including a praefectus castrorum (fort commander) named Flavius Licinianus in AD 315; another named Flavius Abinnaeus who served from AD 340-351; a decurion named Eulogios; a recruit involved in camp provisioning; and another recruit recently transferred to Dionysias who, in selling two cows to Abinnaeus, has a veteran sign his name for him.

 A mint located in Dionysios was probably directly linked to payments at the fort. About 15,000 terracotta moulds for casting coins of the period AD 311-315 were found in the mint. The customs house was also located near the military camp, which may have taken over its function in the latest period of town occupation. While the camp at Dionysias was mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a late 4th c.AD Roman gazeteer of offiical sites, it was probably closed by about AD 400. When the fort was excavated in the 1940s by Schwartz and Wild (1950), the Roman lock was still fastened to the gate.

Within the ruins of the fortress are also the remains of a Christian basilica where a few column bases and Corinthian capitals survive

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