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A Brief Visit Back to Britannicus
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In the 400 years (or thereabouts) that the mighty conquering Roman Army occupied
the mainland of 'Britannicus' (better known today as Britain) all they wanted to
do after a hard decade or two of killing, pillaging and raping the whole place,
was to just settle down to a quiet life of ruling the country.
And the Romans certainly did this in England; teaching the uncouth inhabitants
how to bathe, write, be able and useful as farmers, carpenters, butchers, and
tradesmen. They even paid them a wage.
The Roman Governors and their underling Officers used their skilled soldiers in
charge of each sector of the countryside to full effect, and besides showing the
inhabitants how to do things, busied themselves showing off their skills by
building arrow-straight roads mostly named Watling Street or Watling Road, plus
fantastic load bearing aqueducts to carry water from the rivers in the hills to
the towns and villages. They even introduced the first latrines, communal they
might have been, but real 'loos'.
And to boot, they had central heating in the important buildings by using 24/7
wood or peat burning fires under specially constructed brick floors.
They even introduced wonderful food, and created what today we would term a
healthy diet, goading the peasants under their control to eat fish and bran or
oat dishes, steamed vegetables, and fruit.
It must have been heaven in the cold winter months in Britannicus with this
But during those 400 years not all was well in this idyllic picture of serenity
and cultured society, for there was a problem that the Romans just could not
seem to handle, even with all their superior skills and efficiency, for it came
in the form of the constant appearance of the meandering Scots rebels who kept
raiding the roman towns and forts in the lowlands of 'Caledonia' (Scotland)
Even though the Romans had invaded Scotland up as far as the Firth of Forth
(Edinburgh district to you and me) and made several attempts over the years to
go into the Highlands of Scotland, they kept coming up against these die hard
individuals that did not seem to want the niceties that the Roman Empire could
This went on for years, and eventually the Romans withdrew to the boarders,
along a line across England starting from the ancient City of Carlisle.
One lovely summer's day a new General from Rome named Hadrian stepped foot on
the jetty alongside the small Roman river town of 'Londinium' (London).
He had been appointed as the new Governor of the Northern hemisphere of
After what must have been a harrowing journey up to 'Eboracum' (York) or 'Pons
Aelti' (Newcastle) (It is not recorded exactly were he went, but some historians
believe it was Newcastle) in the North East of England, Hadrian settled into his
new appointment and began to make his mark on the area.
He erected towns and forts with radical new construction ideas brought from the
homeland, using skilled artisans. Hadrian did good things to improve the
regions, such as building schools for the thousands of soldiers under his
command that came from all parts of the Roman Empire including Germans, French,
Spanish, Serbians, and many others.
They in turn introduced their own culture and foods to the new Roman Society in
Britannicus, and to this day there is evidence of food dishes and other
traditional ways of doing things credited back to that era.
But I digress, so let's get back to our pal Governor Hadrian.
He got so cheesed off with these raids by the Scots rebels across the boarder
that he ordered the construction of a wall winding its way across England from
Newcastle to Carlisle to keep them out. Quite a considerable distance of several
hundred miles, and most of the wall and the mini forts the soldiers spent their
long period of duty on are still evident today, nearly 2000 years on.
So was the wall built to keep the Scots out?
That's one theory.
I tend to go with the other school of thought that suggests that Hadrian's wall
was built as a means of keeping thousands of home sick Roman soldiers meanfully
occupied so that they would not revolt, in what must have seemed to them after
the warmth of the Mediterranean, a God forsaken wilderness in the long winter
It is well recorded that as the years of roman domination in Britain rolled by
many of the roman soldiers married local girls and brought up families that
lasted generations, and indeed, today many people in the United Kingdom can
trace their heritage back to the Roman Conquerors.
What must have it been like to be alive in Roman Britain? Let's think about this
for a moment.
Depending on the year of course, you would probably be better off living about
200 years after the Armies came, for by that time everything would pretty much
be settled in, and providing you were a good person willing to learn and show
willingness to work, you would be treated in a decent manner by the Romans, and
even given a good basic education and a skill to earn your living.
Of course there was class distinction, but as long as you kept your station in
life you would have been treated in a fair manner, for there is evidence that
the Roman governmental authorities in Britannicus encouraged good community
relationships to retain harmony.
Just think again for a moment about the long void of several centuries after the
Romans withdrew from Britain; when nothing but anarchy was strife between rival
regional tribe leaders before the gradual establishment of government rule
So all in all, it must have been a pleasant experience for many people to
experience the many wonders of the Roman World in that era. It would be many
centuries before latrines, central heating, and engineering skills of the
magnitude of the Roman Empire, would be re-invented in the Victorian era.
I am lucky to be a resident of the United Kingdom of today, and to be able to
wiz up a modern highway or side roads of England, Wales and Scotland, enjoying
the same fantastic scenery that the Romans must have seen, only in the comfort
of my air conditioning in summer or heated car, in winter.
But I have one thing to confess. I am a Scotsman, and although I live in a
beautiful part of England because of my work, I never cease to wonder at the
beauty of Scotland on my frequent visits to the land of the waters of life,
knowing that the Romans of so long ago enjoyed the same timeless beauty of that
country too, despite the Scots not wanting them!
Thankfully, today, Scotland welcomes everyone from every corner of this
The Scots no longer have to raid England. Instead, they have something English
people love, and indeed, famous the World over for.
The waters of life. I rest my case.