The Golden Age of Roman Britain

The Roman period in Britain is an intriguing time and one of my favourite eras to read about. The fact that there are still many Roman sites to visit as well adds depth and colour to research into the period. Last week I visited Chedworth Roman Villa near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, one of the largest Romano-British villas in England.

Chedworth was discovered in 1864 when a gamekeeper found some small tesserae, pieces of buried mosaic. It’s fascinating to me to think of a villa lying buried beneath the accumulated earth of almost two thousand years. When did it fall down, how was it lost, when did it’s presence and those of villas like it fade from awareness? Were bits of it still visible 500 years after the decline of Roman civilisation in the country or had it vanished even then?

The heyday of Chedworth’s villa was in the 4th century AD when it was a large and luxurious country house with underfloor heating and two bath houses. Several of the fine mosaics survive, giving a glimpse of the style and opulence of the villa.  The existence of the villa also gives an insight into the peaceful times in which it flourished before the fall of Rome, the withdrawal of troops from Britain and the gradual decline of the Roman way of life. It’s a rich setting for a historical author and one which I hope to explore in my writing one day.

14 Comments

  1. I’ve just reread Mary Stewart’s Ivy Tree, a delightful thread of which is the survey of Roman ruins. Although, I must admit my Greek husband will never admit to Roman influence on civilization.

  2. Have you toured under York Minster? In the last few years they’ve dug out vast amounts of earth and you can see the outlines of where many of the original Roman Buildings stood – as well as the barces and supports that keep the Minster from falling down!

    1. That sounds fascinating, Alison. I haven’t been to York for many years although I do remember seeing the excavations of a Roman road on my last visit and hearing the story of the ghostly soldiers walking along it. That reminds me of one on my tutors at college, a very no-nonsense historian, who one quietly admitted to me that she had met the ghost of a Roman soldier when she was walking on Hadrian’s Wall. Extraordinary.

  3. I had forgotten about that thread in The Ivy Tree, Liz. I must re-read it. I’m in the mood for some Roman influence! LOL on your husband’s opinion of the Romans!

  4. The Minster exhibition is amazing, and it’s only been revealed in the last few years. There’s also a newly-discovered 14/15thc hall in the town, found when they cleared away buildings which had been bulit in front of it – I haven’t seen that. I think it’s called Barley Hall (but don’t trust my memory!)

  5. There have been a couple of discoveries of Roman gold in the past few years.. one in Breden Hill in Worcestershire County and the other from Frome, Somerset…. guess stashing your fortune in the back garden is a terribly new idea!!

    1. Wouldn’t it be amazing to find a haul like that! I frequently wonder how many undiscovered stashes of treasure there still are about the country.

    1. It’s a fabulous programme, Keira. I love how engaged and passionate Mary Beard is with the subject and the different angle on Roman history. I hope you’ll be getting the programme in the US.

  6. A very thin thread, Nicola. Actually, I’ve just remembered Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk, replete with Roman ruins (albeit not in England).

  7. Roman Britain is fascinating – I find myself coming back to it all the time. Lately I’ve been getting obsessed by the Hoxne Hoard (the farmer went looking for a lost hammer, and found treasure!)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Paris. Roman Britain is a fascinating era, isn’t it. I love to speculate about what happened after the Romans left. Any discovery of lost treasure also grabs my attention. I think it’s the mystery around why it was abandoned and what might have been happening at that time.

      I enjoyed browsing your blog btw. Will definitely be checking back.

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