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As already three years ago (2011) I could propose a labyrinth draft to this event. The responsibles have decided on a Roman labyrinth of the type Dionysos from a list of 9 different suggestions. It is known since the 2nd century AD, and belongs therefore to the oldest labyrinth types at all.

 

The Roman Labyrinth type Dionysos

The Roman Labyrinth type Dionysos

The existing place allows only a labyrinth with approximately 13 ms of diameter. The ways width was 1 m to allow better access. Therefore, only 5 circuits are possible, because the center should also be a little bit more largely. In the design drawing the details are comprehensible.

The whole line length of the walls adds up to nearly 150 ms. If one chooses a distance of approx. 50 cm for the lights, one arrives after all at 300 candles. The distance may not be greater any more, because with a path width of 1 m the passageways must remain clearly recognizable. The way into the center adds up to 117 ms.

The design drawing

The design drawing

How to make the labyrinth

First one fixes the center and then the vertical main axis. Thereto I use a 3-mm-thick cable with marks for the different radii, hung up with a spring hook in an approx. 1 cm thick iron stick smashed in the center.

Then one draws with chalk the inner circle and the external one already taking into account the entrance. Afterwards one marks, outgoing from the lower mark of the vertical axis in the outside circle the horizontal axis on the rigt and the left side, at last still the upper mark of the vertical axis. By applying the chord length of 9.19 m for the 13 m diameter circle this suits best.

Now one draws preferably all the straight (vertical and horizontal) lines which begin in the inner circle, and are ending on the 2nd circle, seen from the outside. To this one uses best a second cable or a rope. In parallel distance of 1 m to the previous lines run an other one, beginning at the external circle up to the 2nd circle, seen from the inside. The lower vertical lines proceed in parallel distances of 50 cm, 1 m and 1.50 m to the vertical main axis. This shorter distances one measures up with a folding ruler which must be held more or less at right angles to the main lines.

Now one draws the four inner circular segments which begin alternately at a straight line and stop 1 m before the next straight line – and vice versa.

We were four persons and needed about two hours to trace the labyrinth and to lay the light bowls.

Here you can see, copy or print the design drawing as a PDF file …

Here a little photo gallery:

We had about 270 light bowls, with however, different burning time. Lighting the candles was more difficult this year as three years ago, because of the wind. It took good two hours, although we used a gas burner. And although the children helped.

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The first big change in the labyrinth figure happened in the time of the Roman empire of about 165 B.C. till 400 A.D. Before, for nearly two millenniums only the classical, sometimes called Cretan type, was used.

The Roman type is marked by the division in (mostly four) sectors / quadrants /segments which are completed one after the other, before entering the middle. Besides, the alignment and the external form can be different.

Jeff Saward has explained in one of his books how one can picture the development of the Roman labyrinth from the Classical one, which I tried to reproduce in a previous posting (see below). The following subdivision in three big groups is also from him. Here, I only want to explain it nearer.


The external form or the number of the circuits is not so important for the differentiation of the various groups. The kind of the alignment is what counts.

In the meander-type two simple meanders are completed in each sector, like in the classical labyrinth, even if in other order. In square form this looks thus:

Roman labyrinth: meander-type

Roman labyrinth: meander-type

One recognises the narrow relationship and the provenance from the classical labyrinth even better in the diagram:

Roman labyrinth: meander-type as diagram

Roman labyrinth: meander-type as diagram

We have nine circuits. One is used for the circumnavigation of the center and one to change to the next sector. The inner seven circuits are identical with those in the classical labyrinth. One can see clearly the two meanders.

One would have to call this type more exactly two-meander-type or more-meander-type. Since there are still other samples, made with more meanders.

Andreas Frei names this type as: Pont Chevron, Loig, Sousse

Examples of labyrinths to walk from our time: Hessisch Lichtenau, München


The next type is called spiral-type. It is less complicated and has only one change of direction within each sector. The spiral movement is caused by a meander.

Roman labyrinth: spiral-type

Roman labyrinth: spiral-type

Here as a diagram:

Roman labyrinth: spiral-type as diagram

Roman labyrinth: spiral-type as diagram

The principle of the alignment is identical with the one in the previous type, even if there are all together less circuits.

Strictly speaking one would have to call this type one-meander-type. Since the spiral is nothing else than a meander.

Andreas Frei names this type as: Avenches, Algier

Examples of labyrinths to walk from our time: Wittelshofen, Kirchenlamitz, Reupelsdorf, Schwanberg


In the serpentine-type the way inside the sector simply wiggles to and fro.

Roman labyrinth: serpentine-type

Roman labyrinth: serpentine-type

Here as diagram:

Roman labyrinth: serpentine-type as diagram

Roman labyrinth: serpentine-type as diagram

In this type it is quite easy to append more or less circuits.

Andreas Frei names this type as: Dionysos, Fribourg

Example of a labyrinth to walk from our time: Retzbach


The historically known Roman labyrinths can be sorted with some variations into these groups. And according to these criteria can be thought another immense number of variations. Since it does not depend on the external form (angular or round) or the number of the sectors. The original historical labyrinths were often mosaics and served more decorative purposes. Nowadays the labyrinths are mostly put on as walkable objects. There would be still a rich sphere of activity. Since the most frequent new labyrinths are either the classical type or the medieval Chartres type.

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