So, to set the background a bit. I'm writing a story that is an alternate history basically diverging midway through the 1st century BC: the roman empire falls. Here I am looking at a Germanic people that made its way to Eastern Europe (bordering the Black Sea — above Dacia). After about 10 to 15 centuries (equivalent to late middle ages), could the fortifications have evolved to the castles we generally see in fantasy settings?

I've looked at a bunch of castles and their history and it is difficult to find any traces of things left from the 1st century BC. There is a Dacian fortress from around that time but other than that, nothing much.

So with minimal magic (there may be dragons that serve as kinda siege weapons but their fire is minimal and they don't fly, so really they're just OP mounts), would castles have evolved like they did in our timeline with a motte and bailey type construction followed by fortified stone keeps? And what are the odds of this leading to fortified cities similar to what we see Minas Tirith to be like in Lord of the Rings? As in a big city with a lot of walls around and a keep on top with even more walls?

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    $\begingroup$ The fall of the Roman Empire (I assume you mean the one that was sacked by the visigoths) was complex. It was thought to be at its height at 117ish A.D. and "fell" (depends on your definition) by 530 A.D. Are you suggesting its decline accelerated by 500 years? What caused that (has a HUGE effect on whether castles develop)? How many dragons are there? How organized? What are their exact attributes? What peoples exist? How many are there? People always build for defense. Minas TIrith required magic/tech, you might get them if the Romans didn't fall. VTC OT:Unclear. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 11 '19 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ Needs more on what differs in the war style: currently the question just describes a change in the ruling class' culture from Italian to Germanic, so we can't guess how that'd change the advancement of siege weapons, strategies and tactics, invention of cannon, etc. $\endgroup$ – Dewi Morgan May 11 '19 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Well ok so the Gauls get a tarasque (giant lizard-like beast: larger than a horse, maybe bear-sized) with thick scales and defeat Caesar and eventually Rome. By 54 BC. For maybe a century dragons stay a Gaulish thing, until Germans pick it up. Theirs might spit a bit of fire (no hotter than firewood and a couple meters away). In the end, I'd say maybe 20-30 dragons all together? Between Celts, Germans, and some Greeks? The Celts build an empire in W Europe that falls apart within decades, the Germans fight between tribes with the dragons one dominating and… I guess you get countries that way? $\endgroup$ – Nierninwa May 11 '19 at 19:06

While I don't seem to understand your question entirely, I'll give it a shot.

After the Roman Empire fell, there was a power vacuum that lasted some time. Your question places it falling about 500 years before it does in our time, and some important changes occur in that time. However, we see when looking at the Roman Empire that much of their technology was forgotten.

Here we get to the confusion. You mention the first century b.c.e. and the Dacian fortress, but you then mention the 10th to 15th century c.e. So I'll answer both.

Even in the current timeline, there weren't really complex castles one century after the fall of the Roman empire. This is because the shattering of the Pax Romana was really the instigator here. However, 10 to 15 centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire in our timeline is the just about the period from the discovery of the new world to the modern day. So in those circumstances, we can say that your people in this timeframe would have definitely made castles, and maybe even gone past that.

The introduction of your dragons to this, though... The first real castles were made out of wood for ease of construction, and you mentioned of your dragons that

their fire is minimal

implying that they still have some fire. If you have this, I see a move towards stone much quicker. Additionally, you have heavily armored dragon that is very large, and I assume can climb over short walls. This may actually cause a move towards very vertical castles much like Minas Tirith. The technological challenge associated with this would be very daunting, and so your civilization may evolve faster than our own.

Because of this, you can really take this many different ways. Do your dragons cause larger and more powerful weapons to be created? Does the search for armament go as far as, say, China for gunpowder, making castles obsolete? Who knows, it's your world.


While castles don't appear in the first century c.e., 10 to 15 centuries later they probably will exist and be highly vertical. The dragons will cause this, and might even accelerate society.


The concept of medieval castle is an evolution of the roman castrum

In the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, the Latin word castrum1 (plural castra) was a building, or plot of land, used as a fortified military camp.

Castrum was the term used for different sizes of camps including a large legionary fortress, smaller forts for Cohorts or Auxiliaries, temporary encampments, and "marching" forts. The diminutive form castellum was used for fortlets, typically occupied by a detachment of a cohort or a century.

When the empire collapsed, the safety was granted by fortified villas which, over time, saw their fortification increase and becoming what we today know as a medieval castle.

If in your world the empire collapses, it's plausible that a similar path will be followed.

Moreover, even in our real world we have examples of concentric rings of walls, Carcassonne being the most famous:

The fortified city itself consists essentially of a concentric design of two outer walls with 53 towers and barbicans to prevent attack by siege engines. The castle itself possesses its own drawbridge and ditch leading to a central keep.

Summing up, yes, I think it is perfectly plausible.


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