Roman Britain: Find out about how the Romans changed & influenced Britain. All roads lead to NicheEnglish.co.uk

The Pesky Romans

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The Pesky Romans

They came, they saw they conquered, a phrase Caesar once used and it was he who first invaded Britain in 55 and 54 BC off the coast of Kent. However, each time he didn’t stay too long and neither did he leave troops behind.

So, was is it really an invasion? Or just a short holiday to get himself a suntan and make himself look good in front of other important Romans back in Rome?

Well, although he won all his battles in Britain, he made peace with the locals and because of this didn’t need to stay in Britain. He created important links with local tribes and set up vital trade routes between Britain and Europe.

The first real invasion

However, his short trips to Britain got the ball rolling for future invasions to conquer Britain. The first real successful invasion was in 43AD and was undertaken by Emperor Claudius.

This led to the Roman Province known in Latin as Britannia which is the land we now know as England and Wales. People living here were called Britanni, and later known as Britain’s.

Britannia is also a Roman goddess, and is now a cultural icon of Britain. This also led to the song, ‘Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves,’ which represented Britain’s power at sea, and still does today. She is a lady that represents true British spirit.

A land of Mystery

To the Romans, Britain was a land of mystery as the locals wore face paint to scare them which worked at first. And to be honest it would scare me too! Just look at the photos!

The Romans also thought Britain was a strange land and of course, often complained about the weather as it rained, rained again, and of course rained some more. But, this is Britain, we are an island surrounded by the sea, so don’t complain.

Just keep calm, bring a brolly, and carry on.

The locals were brave warriors however, in the end the Romans were too strong and eventually took control of England and Wales. Scotland on the other hand, was a land the Romans could not take control of even though they tried many times.

The Scottish tribes fought back and sent the Romans packing. Well done boys!

Hadrian’s Wall and impact in Britain

This led to the idea of building Hadrian’s Wall, built by the man himself Emperor Hadrian when he visited Britain in 122, to keep the local Scottish tribes known as the Picts out of Britannia.

The wall is 73 miles long and is rich in history.

After taking control of Britain, a distinctive Romano-British culture was created as the Romans introduced new ideas with agriculture, urban planning, industrial production, architecture, and a whole lot more.

Although I refer to them as the pesky Romans, they had a huge impact on Britain that we still can see in modern Britain. And to be honest, when the cultures combined and we learnt from one another, it had a positive impact which we can still see today in our everyday lives.

Please continue with our map to find out more on how the Pesky Romans impacted life in Britain.

The effect on our language

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Effect on our Language

Before the Romans came, very few people, if any, could read or write in Britain. As a result, information was usually passed on from person to person by word of mouth. This might seem crazy today, but life was really like this in Britain before the Romans came.

The Romans wrote down their history, their stories, laws, and their language was called Latin.

After they took control of Britain, it wasn’t long before some people in Britain started to use their language and spoke Latin. However, it only really caught on in the newly built Roman towns.

Most people living in the countryside were a stubborn bunch and decided to keep to their old Celtic language and told the Romans to jog on and let them carry on with their own way of life.

Common Roman words

The Roman influence can still be seen today with many words and phrases still in common use.

Words like exit, pedestrian, enormous, victory, lavatory, agenda, ultimatum, visa, consensus, triumph, ovation, forum, aqueduct, emperor, civilised and so on.

The list can go on forever. See below for their meaning.

 

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The list goes on …

Did you know that ‘plumbing’ is called this because the Romans made their pipes out of lead which was called ‘plumbum?’

Plumbing is the system of pipes that run through a building that carry water. It can bring clean water and also take dirty water away.

The photo is an example of the Roman plumbing system which helped keep the towns and cities clean.

Furthermore, if a place-name has chester, caster or cester in it, it's almost certainly Roman. For example, the cities of Gloucester, Doncaster and Manchester are all Roman in origin. The word ‘Chester’ comes from the Latin word ‘castrum’ which means ‘fort’.

A ‘fort’ is a defensive building used for protection.

In addition, have you ever heard about a man being “worth his salt?” This is another one of those Latin expressions that is heard in daily life. But where does it come from and what does it mean?

The expression stems from the time when some Roman soldiers were paid in salt which was valuable in Roman times. And a person who was hardworking and earned his pay was said to be “worth his salt.”

Today, it can be used to express that you deserve the money you’re earning or making. To put it simply, you are good at your job and I am happy to pay you. You are worth your salt.

Moreover, if you look closely, our coins are also based on Roman design and some of the lettering is in Latin too. Written around the edge of some £1 coins is the phrase 'decus et tutamen' which means 'glory and protection'.

Even the way we measure distances such as miles, feet and inches stem from Roman origins. In addition, they even introduced Roman Numerals [numbers] which can still be seen on clocks and coins.

Although the Romans came, saw, and conquered, Latin is found everywhere in the English language. It even became the language of religion and law.

However, it must be said that even though Latin had a big impact on our language, English is in fact mostly a Germanic language. Latin makes up about 10% of the English language today.

So, I for one will say thank you for their influence on our language.

There is so much more to discover so please continue on the journey of discovery and explore other areas of our interactive map on the Romans effect on Britain.

What the Romans did for us

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What the Romans did for us

When the Romans arrived in AD43, they introduced new ideas and ways of living to Britain.

When they first came to Britain they had no intention of adapting to the local way of life. Instead, they brought their ideas with them and it was their way and nothing else.

However, over time, the people of Britain and the Romans mixed and began to adapt to each other’s cultures. The Britons began to live the Roman lifestyle and the Romans eventually followed some local customs.

Towns

The Romans introduced the idea of living in big towns and cities. They built new towns which were often protected by walls and had everything a citizen of Roman Britain would need such as houses, shops, meeting spaces, temples and of course bath houses where they went to bathe themselves and keep clean.

In the centre of each town was the ‘forum’, a big market square where people went to trade, small talk with each other and make new friends. It was like a big meeting place in the centre of the town.

If you see a town or city that has 'chester', 'caster' or 'cester' in it, it's almost certainly Roman. For example, the English cities of Gloucester, Doncaster and Manchester.

London was a Roman city too, although they called it ‘Londinium’. When the Romans invaded, they built a fort beside the River Thames which goes through London. This was where traders came from all over the empire to bring their goods to Britain and trade. It grew and grew, until it was the most important city in Roman Britain.

Villas

Although the Romans loved urban living (living in the city), some wealthy (rich) Romans also lived in villas to get away from city life. These had many rooms, were beautifully painted, and even had heated floors to keep them warm in the winter.

Villas were large farms in the countryside with a big luxurious house for the owners. They had numerous servants and farm workers to help run the villa and do the cooking and cleaning etc.

Most of the Roman villas found so far are in the south of England. Most likely because the weather is far better than up North. The Romans loved their sunshine and in Britain, the further North you go, the more it rains.

The Romans loved their comfort!

Plumbing and Sanitation

Keeping these towns and villas clean was very important as the Romans were a clean bunch (a clean group of people). It was also a completely new idea to the Britain’s. They liked to keep themselves clean so had underground waterways to take away dirty water which helped to stop the spread of diseases.

Plumbing and sanitation is the system of pipes that run through a building. The system is for taking dirty water and other waste products away from buildings such as the home, to protect peoples’ health. It helps keep the water supply clean.

The photo is an example of the Roman plumbing system which helped keep the towns and cities clean.

The Romans also built great aqueducts to supply towns with water from springs, rivers or lakes. The remains of Roman toilets and bath houses supplied by these aqueducts can be seen across the whole of Britain.

Bath houses

One of the most famous bath houses is in the historic city of Bath. The Roman baths there were known as Aquae Sulis.

It was named after the goddess Sulis because they believed her power lived in the water.

The Romans even used to place curses on others by writing a curse on to a piece of metal and throwing it into the water.

So, I could write: ‘I hope you lose your job,’ then throw it into the water in the hope the goddess Sulis would listen and make you lose your job.

If that could work I would most likely be president right now. Well, if only dreams can come true.

The importance of these bath houses is further shown by their belief that the water cured illnesses, and to say thank you to the goddess, people would throw gifts into the baths such as coins.

Fast food

Now, it might come to a surprise to some, but the Romans were the first to introduce street stalls and ‘food on the go’ as we might think of it today. With 10,000 soldiers in Britain, based at towns and forts, being able to enjoy tasty traditional Roman grub such as burgers, yes you heard it, burgers, was very important and street vendors serving fast food would have been common place in large towns.

Some people even believe it was the Romans who first invented the burger! The recipe is well known today and if you do go to a Roman festival in Britain you might be able to try out a Roman Burger for yourself. Fantastic!

In addition to the burger, the Romans also introduced staple foods such as apples, pears and peas to Britain.

All roads lead to Rome

With all these new towns, villas, forts, bath houses and the increase in trade, the Romans needed a way to travel around quickly as Britain had no real roads. So, the Romans built new roads all across Britain.

These linked the most important cities in Britannia, an area we now know as Wales and England today.

The Romans knew that the shortest distance from one place to another was a straight line. As this was the case, they made all their roads as straight as possible to get around quickly.

These roads were built so well that they can still be seen and used! Even the route the Romans took has been copied by modern day road builders which shows how good they were at road building.

Trade and currency

These roads led to the growth of towns such as Cochester and helped to develop trade throughout Britain.

With the increase in trade throughout Britain, this led to new ideas, the development of commerce, and the use of coins as a way to do business.

Before this point, coins were not used to trade or to do business with. Instead, they would exchange goods, such as food or animals and other objects with each other

The Romans brought in their own coins, which could be used across the whole Empire. So, a coin minted [created / made / produced] in Rome, could be used in Africa, Italy, Turkey or in Britain.

The Romans had the first and only global currency. You can think of it as the Euro today.

One final note: Our Calendar

One last thing I would like to add is that when you mark a date down on the calendar to arrange a holiday, a meeting or even the date of your dreams, remember, it was the Romans who gave us the calendar to allow us to do this.

The Roman Julian calendar was the first to consist of 365 days, along with a leap year every four years. It was used to create the Gregorian calendar today.

The names of the months are also from Roman months. July and August are named after the man himself Julius Caesar, and Emperor Augustus.

So now you know the effect the Romans had on Britain. Although they came, saw and conquered, they also enriched our culture and still enrich it today.

Keep on exploring, don’t forget to try the Roman Burger, and check out the rest of our map to discover more about Roman Britain.

Roman Ruins

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Historical Ruins

The Romans ruled over Britain for around 400 years, from Emperor Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD until the Roman’s decided to pack their bags and leave in the 5th century.

During their time in Britain, the Romans built towns, cities, forts, and of course roads, many of which are still followed and walked upon today.

So, do you fancy a Roman holiday in Britain? One that will be full to the brim with history!

Here are some of the top places to visit while you are on that trip of a lifetime. Sit back, unwind, and let the journey of discovery begin.

Hadrian’s Wall

If you are an avid walker, then going to see this historical gem is a must.

It is 73 miles long from coast to coast, and separates Scotland from England. It was built to protect the Romans from being attacked from the Scottish tribes known as the Picts.

It was built by Emperor Hadrian following his visit to Britain in AD 122 and took around 15,000 men over six years to complete.

Today you can explore the Wall’s rich history, awe-inspiring landscape, and more than twenty Heritage sites such as Housesteads Roman fort, the most complete and best preserved Roman fort in Britain, Vindolanda Roman fort, Chester’s Roman fort, and historic towns such as Corbridge.

You can discover the remains of the forts and towns that once brought this part of England to life. You can also see rare Roman artefacts, get hands-on in museums and find out what life was like for the men, women and children living near Hadrian’s Wall.

What are you waiting for! Put on your walking boots and prepare to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful historic place.

Chedworth Roman Villa & Cirencester

Let’s move onto to this hidden gem in a beautiful Cotswold woodland. You can see the remains of one of the largest Roman villas in Britain. If I had the money, I would love to stay here and enjoy the Roman way of life.

Chedworth Roman Villa was discovered in 1864 and is one of the UK’s most extensive Roman ruins. If you visit, you’ll stand in awe at some of its stunning mosaics, two bath houses, and it even has a Roman temple which is just a short stroll away. There is also more than a mile of walls to explore while enjoying the Cotswold woodland.

In Latin, ’villa’ simply means a rural building or property. There were hundreds of villas built across Roman Britain with many being built in the Cotswold area. There have been around 14 other villas found within ten miles of Chedworth so far.

During its heyday, it was a place of wealth, and luxury. If you wanted to show people how high you were in society, building one of these was a sure way of showing off and saying, look at me.

In addition to the above, if you are looking for more Roman history, then just a stone’s throw away from Chedworth Roman Villa, is the historic Roman town of Cirencester. This Cotswold town, was once the second largest Roman town in Britain, second only to London, and was the major administration centre for south-western Britain.

This once bustling Roman city was called Corinium. The town is home to a variety of Roman attractions, including the remains of a large Roman amphitheatre and the Corinium Museum, which houses an array of some of the finest Roman artefacts in England.

So why don’t you kill two birds with one stone and put these two wonderful places on your bucket list of things to do and see while in Britain.

Wroxeter Roman City

However, we are not finished there as near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, you can imagine a day at the gym exercising with Roman soldiers, enjoying a bath Roman-style, having a chin-wag in the town centre, known as the ‘forum’, or simply taking a stroll among the shops and shopping among fellow Romans.

It’s a Roman town where you can discover urban living 2000 years ago and was once the fourth largest city in Roman Britain.

You can spend the whole day wandering around the ruins and immersing yourself in Roman history while exploring the interactive museum.

And let’s not forget about the reconstructed town house, built using only the tools and materials available to the Romans. It was created in 2010 and is a copy of a real town house which once stood on the site at Wroxeter 2000 years ago.

Walking through the house, you can see how the Romans lived and went about their daily life.

This is a place full to the brim of Roman history waiting to be explored.

Dolaucothi Gold Mines

Now, if you want something different, the Dolaucothi Gold mines is place is for you. However, if you are afraid of the dark, this is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

This is where you can step back in time and go deep underground to discover the Romans search for gold. These unique gold mines are located in the Cambrian mountains where you can also enjoy the stunning Cothi Valley which has views that will take your breath away.

The Romans appear to be the first people to have searched Britain for gold and their Dolaucothi Mines in Wales are the only known Roman gold mines in the UK. The Welsh gold they found was sent to the city of Lyon, in France, where it was turned into coins.

It’s a unique place and one not to be missed!

So, if you are prepared to go underground, walk around in the dark cold mines that were once used by the Romans 2000 years ago, take a trip down to Wales and explore these dark and interesting mines.

Now, if you do go down these mines you will most likely get very dirty and will be in need of a bath. So where do you go you might ask!

Well, not to worry as I have the perfect place to unwind and clean yourself up for the next date of your dreams.

The Roman Baths - In the city of Bath

Built around natural hot springs in the 1st century, the Roman Baths, in the city of Bath, are a well-preserved reminder of Roman Britain. Sadly, you’re not allowed to take a dip in the warm waters today, but you can certainly see how the Romans looked after themselves.

The ancient bath house at Aquae Sulis, now known as the modern-day city of Bath, is one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world.

The city itself and surrounding countryside is also a sight to behold.

Conclusion

So that’s my list of top Roman places to visit in Britain. I hope you have time to visit them all as they are all wonderful places.

Remember, this is only a short list of hundreds of places. So, let’s get cracking and start planning that journey of a lifetime.

This is a place full to the brim of Roman history waiting to be explored.

A Roman Brexit

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A Roman Brexit: The end of Roman rule

All great things come to an end and around 409 BC it was time for the Romans to leave Britain and never return. Some of the locals were happy while some were worried about what might come next.

It was like a Roman Brexit and is one of the landmark moments in British history.

While the Romans were in Britain, visitors from as far as north Africa could have expected to be able to talk with the locals in a common language, and spend the Roman coins they had with them at the local market.

However, by the early fifth century, Roman life was almost over. Roman towns had disappeared along with the idea of urban life, which was not to be seen again for centuries, while dress, diets and buildings changed to be unrecognisable as Roman.

Even the bath houses were unused! Which may seem unbelievable as they were a perfect way to keep clean and keep unwanted smells away.

The economy: Business and trade

In addition, the economic affect was huge! When the Romans came to Britain, they changed its economy. They introduced the use of money, built towns wherever they went, and created a large-scale, integrated economy. They also introduced widespread manufacturing which was only localised when they arrived in Britain.

However, by about A.D. 450, this economic system had broken down completely. The Britons went back to very small-scale, localised manufacturing. Furthermore, the use of coins to purchase [buy] items was also abandoned [Not used anymore].

An interesting fact is that many coins found around this time had holes in them. This was because they used them as fashion items such as a necklace or an earring, instead of using them to purchase goods such as food.

A golden opportunity

At almost the same time the Romans left Britain, Barbarians from Ireland, Scotland and the Anglo Saxons attacked various parts of Britain and took it for themselves.

This led to the Roman way of life disappearing and was followed by new cultures and different ways of living across Britain.

For example, when the Anglo Saxons invaded Eastern Britain, it led to the widespread use of Germanic styles of dress, culture, language and buildings.

The locals did try to resist at first and it led to the legend of King Arthur. The legend says that he was a British war leader who fought against the Anglo Saxons and stopped them from taking control of the whole of England.

Some say he never existed and he is just a legend, somebody that was just made up. However, that’s what makes him more interesting as no one really knows if he existed or not.

Did he exist, or did he not exist, that is the question!

From “Britannia” to “Angleland”

There was also a change of name due to the Roman Brexit. Britannia, the Roman name for Britain, became Angleland, the place where the Angles, who were from Denmark and Germany, lived. This area is what we call England today.

Their language, which was a Germanic language, became the standard English from that point in time which is what we now call old English.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it guys. This is the final part of a brief history of how the Romans affected Britain and what happened after they left. Britain was a melting pot of local tribes, Roman culture and of tribes from Ireland and Europe such as the Angles and Saxons.

They have all influenced life as we see it today. However, in my opinion, it was the Romans that gave us most of the things that we still recognise such as the town markets, town centres, the use of money, culture, manufacturing at a large scale, added to our language, and of course the Calendar that we still use on a daily basis.

Britain is full to the brim of Roman artefacts and historical places to visit. So, let’s get cracking, pack your bags, and let the journey of discovery begin.