News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Monday, 8 November 2010

Roman Round Caerleon

Photograph of the military amphitheatre at Cae...Image via WikipediaTook a trip over the weekend with Mrs Trym to the Roman Fortress at Caerleon. It's extensive, well preserved, fascinating and free - a benefit that more than offsets the £5.50 Severn Bridge toll and petrol to Newport.

The fortress - one of only three permanent legionary fortresses built in Britain - contains original walls, barracks which accommodated up to 5,000 men, the largest Roman amphitheater in northern Europe, as well as two indoor museums.

The modern village has grown up inside the boundaries of the Roman settlement and is picturesque in its own right, quite apart from the rich and ancient history all around it.

Two thoughts struck me as I was gazing intently on the amazing artifacts that have been discovered on the site and are now on display in the Legion Museum. One was how extensive and well made many of the items were. Simple earth bowls sit alongside copper oil lamps, delicate glass bottles, enamel broaches and iron medical instruments.

The second was the realisation that, until the industrial revolution, western societies did not really manufacture many items that were of a higher quality, or that performed more advanced functions than these ones that had been lying under the Welsh soil for the last 1,700 years. Here were hinges for storage and jewelery boxes, hair combs, spears, large storage jars for importing foodstuffs, delicate rings, decorated copper ware and iron keys and padlocks. In other words, all the paraphernalia for a population to enjoy a civilized and decent standard of living before the invention of steam or coal powered machines.

Our own age, by contrast - media rich, resource hungry, fast-paced, energy dependent - is an historic anomaly.

Just saying.

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John said...

Have you seen their are Roman ruins just off the Portway in Bristol? I'd never realised that's why it's called Roman Way. Next time you're passing take a look, not a patch on the ones in Caerleon but worth a quick glance at some point.

Al Shaw said...

Hi John,

Yes, Abona (as it was called by the Romans) was a military base used in their campaigns into Wales.

Gatcombe (near the Long Ashton bypass) was a Roman farming settlement in the area.

Thanks for visting!

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