A Roman Villa.
Forty-three years after the birth of Christ the finest soldiers the world had known came against the ancient Britons and conquered their land. These soldiers were called Romans, after their chief city Rome in Italy. They ruled Britain for nearly four hundred years & have left many traces behind them. While in Britain, one can still see the remains of their splendid roads, the ruins of the forts they built and parts of the great walls they erected to defend their towns. In the southern parts of the country homes called villas have been found.
Villas are not great castles with thick walls & towers built as a protection against enemies, but simple dwelling - houses unfitted for defense. That shows how peaceful the country was when first these villas were built under Roman rule.
On the heights of Greenwich Park overlooking the Thames there is a piece of pavement about two feet square. It was once part of the floor of one of these country houses. It is made of small pieces of red tile, each about a square in size, set in a bed of cement. No one can tell what part of the is belonged to; perhaps, it was a bit of the floor of a room, or a passage or even of a stable.
What did the Roman villa look like from the outside? We can scarcely tell. Perhaps, it was a long whitewashed building with a corridor running its whole length. Or, perhaps, it stood round two sides of a square or round three, and had the corridor on its inner side. Some people think that only the lower walls of villas were built of stone, while the upper walls were made of rough plaster held together with a framework of wood. The roof was made of red tiles or slabs of gray stone. The floors of the lower rooms were raised a little on pillars, so that hot air from a furnace might circulate underneath. And their were special pipes in the walls, so that the hot air might rise through the walls, so that the hot air might rise through the walls and warm them. The Romans brought this way of warming houses from their old homes in Italy, & they found it very useful in the cold climate of Britain. The rooms on the ground floor were paved with small pieces of tile laid very closely together in cement. By using pieces of different colors, pictures were made on the floors of the living rooms. Some of these have been dug up today & can be seen in museums. They are called mosaics. The walls of the rooms were decorated with painted pictures. Somewhere in the villa the was a bath, for the Romans were very careful to keep themselves clean. And certainly, too, there would be statues, either roughly made in Britain useful or brought by merchants from Italy, where the best sculptors were. Then the owner bought these statues to decorate his villa. And beautiful dishes of red pottery would be seen everywhere in the house. Some of them would be used for decoration, & some for eating from or for holding things. And in the grounds near the house there would be an orchard, for the Romans loved orchards. Their were fond of growing trees of all kinds, so their would be cherry trees & apples trees. The Romans were the first to grow cherries in England.
Let us pretend we are visiting a Roman villa many years after the conquest. A great many trees have been cut down since the Romans first come to Britain, so there is more room to grow corn then there used to be in the time of the ancient Britons. And many Romans who leave near the villa we are reading about have made much money by exporting corn to Roman armies quartered on the Continent. Their owner of the villa does the same us his neighbors. He has many labourers who help him to till his lands. He doesn’t pay wages, as modern farmers do, but in return for work he gives his labourers piece of land, on which they can grow corn for themselves. Today labourers can leave their master & go to another or if they like. But none of these labourers who work for the master of the villa are allowed to do that.
They lived in huts not far from the villa. The man who makes ploughs & hoes that are used on the farm & shoes. The farm horses lives in one of these small houses. He gets his wood from the great forest and his iron from the district that we now call Sussex. The man living in the neighboring hut is the cobbler, who tells leather & makes shoes & sandals for everyone one the estate, and harness for the horses. There is a joiner, to who is skillful in building barns and cowhouses, as well as in making carts. Sometimes however, things for the farm & the house are bought in London, & when anything requiring great skill has to be done, clever workers are send for from there. The master has slaves, too, & the work for nothing.
We can imagine the owner of the villa strolling round his orchard in spring. He looks at his blossoming apple trees & wonders whether the cherry trees that his grandfather brought from the Continent will have a good crop this year. When he looks across river he doesn’t see any buildings. There is only the marshy land, which is sometimes covered with water at high tide. And further of he can see forest. The merchant’s boats from Gaul are drafting up the river with the tide. And higher up are London Bridge and the red roofs of London. London, which the master of the villa looks at, has become a much bigger place than it was at the times of the ancient Britons. At has wharves & many warehouses. Its streets are noisy. There are huge buildings, such as temples & baths; and the inhabitants have lately built themselves a wall, because they fear that times of trouble are coming, & that all the wealth that they have collected will be in danger. But if you & I could see that Roman London, we should think it a very small places indeed.
The villa is not far from the Roman road from Dover to London. The road is making for the southern and of London Bridge. The owner of the villa has seen Roman Emperors ride a long this road at the had of armies, and often he hears the steady tramp of squads of recruits, who have been sent to Britain from all parts of the world to fill gaps in the Roman garrisons. They are mere lads thinking of homes on the Rhine and the Danube, which they will never see again. Sometimes their officers ride up to the door of the villa to beg a night’s lodging, especially in winter time. They have nothing like the long nights of winter in their southern homes. Our friend of the villa takes them in, for he has a boy of his own serving as an officer with the armies in the north of Britain & likes to send him messages, & parcels as well, on the baggage carts.
The officers & he talk a good deal together. He wants to know the news from other parts of the Empire, & they wish to know something of the land to which they have come. He tells them that he supplies corn to the great armies lying on the Rhine, & that the chief trouble of this part of Britain comes from the Saxon pirates, who sometimes capture his ships, raid to the coast, & even threaten to plunder London. Since the citizens have built their wall, his wife has never ceased to beg him to give up the villa & live always in London. She says she cannot sleep peacefully at nights for fear of the pirates. In winter time the owner of the villa lives a good deal in London, partly because of his wife’s fears, & partly because there is more company there.
He is careful about religious things & attends the services at the temples. Occasionally he goes to the little Christian church built in his father’s days. The Romans of an earlier time worshipped many strange gods, & our friend has some images of them in his hall. But missionaries of the Christian religion have been preaching in Britain for many years, & his always willing to talk to them & listen to readings from their books about Christ. In his grandfather’s time many Christians were persecuted & awful tales are still remembered. But people & more tolerant now, & the Christians have built themselves at church, in which the Christian faith is taught.
One year ago there was a film on Discovery channel. This film was about Roman conquest. I found the film very interesting and began to read books about that time.
During this year I new many new facts about this period of history. Doubtless this work will help me not only in English, but also in history. Many new words and expressions were known by me.
I think, that the most interesting information is about the meaning of the names of English cities. I sure, that if I’ll find new information about Roman times in the British history, I certainly add it to my topic.
History of London.
Numerous finds prove that the area around London was inhabited by the Celts from 800 BC onwards. The earliest prehistoric settlers in the London area lived along parts of the Thames valley. Some of their flint tools have been found in river graver. All the time it was mostly wild forested countryside.
In later prehistoric times the settlers became more organized. They lived in villages of huts made of timber, branches & clay. They hunted, fished & farmed.
Following Caesar’s initial landing in Britain in 55 BC, the Emperor Claudius conquered the south-east of Britain & founded the military camp of Londinium on a strategic ford across the Thames. The camp rapidly developed into a flourishing port & trading post. The area of about 1 square mile which the Romans fortified with a massive rampart corresponds approximately to today’s City of London.
They built a bridge over the Thames & there has been a «London Bridge» in the same area ever since.
Roman Londinium grew up on the northern side of the bridge. Products such as olive oil & wine were brought by ships from different parts of the Roman Empire & unloaded into wooden quays along the river.
Londinium was surrounded with a wall of stone & brick which lasted for many centuries.
Inside the Roman wall low houses were built with bright red tiled roofs. There were probably temples, bathhouses, shops & market stalls there.
Around AD 61, the Romans faced an uprising of Boadicea, the warlike Queen of East Anglia, who even succeeded in capturing London. From about 240 onwards, London was the capital of one of the four provinces of Britain under the Emperor Diocletian.
First & famous it is necessary to say that English language is one of my favorite subject, that is why I want to know more about the history of the country whose language I am studying. I learn English because I understand I can use it. For example, if I go to England or America I’ll be able to speak English there. English is used not only in England & USA but also in other part of the world.
I learn English because I want to read foreigner literature in original.
I choose the topic of history because I like history too. And to my mind it is very interesting to know new facts from the history of England. In the history I like wars best of all, of course and that’s why this topic attracted my attention.
Roman Influence in Britain.
As a result of the conquest signs of Roman civilization spread over Britain. There had been no towns in Britain before the Romans conquered it. The civilized Romans were city dwellers, and as soon as they had conquered Britain they began to built towns, splendid villas, public baths as in Rome itself. York, Gloucester, Lincoln and London became the chief Roman towns; there were also about fifty other smaller towns. London which had been a small trading settlement before the conquest now became a center for trade both by road and river. Colchester, Gloucester, York and Lincoln sprang up round the Roman military camps. The town of Bath became famous for its hot springs.
The towns grew up as markets and centers of administration. In most towns there were market-places and plenty where merchants sold their goods. The rich merchants and official had luxurious houses which contained many rooms, with mosaic floors and central heating. Every Roman town had a drainage system and a good supply of pure water. Temples and public baths could be found in most towns. The Roman towns were military stations surrounded by walls for defence which were guarded by the Roman warriors.
The Romans were great road-makers and now a network of roads connected all parts of the country. One of the chief road was Watling Street which ran from Dover to London, then to Chester and into Wales. Along the roads new towns and villages sprang up.
Great tracts of forest were cleared, swamps were drained, and corn-fields took their place. The province of Britain became one of the granaries of the Roman Empire.
A constant trade was carried on with other parts of the empire. The chief exports were corn, lead, tin, and building tiles. The goods were sent in wagons along the roads of Britain, Gaul and Italy to Rome. Britain imported luxury goods, especially fine pottery and metalware.
But together with a high civilization the Romans brought exploitation and slavery to the British Isles. Rich Romans had villas in the country with large estates, which were worked by gangs of slaves. Prisoners of war were sent to the slave-market in the Roman Empire. The free Celts were not turned into slaves but they had to pay heavy taxes to the conquerors and were made to work for them. The Romans made them clean forest, drain swamps, built roads, bridges and walls for defence. That was how the famous Hadrian’s Wall was built too.
Among the Celts themselves inequality began to grow - the tribal chiefs and nobility became richer than other members of the tribe. Many of them became officials acting for Rome. Tribal chiefs who submitted were appointed to rule their people as before, but now they acted in the name of the Roman Emperor. The noble Celts adopted the mode of life of their conquerors. They lived in rich houses and they dressed as Romans. They were proud to wear toga which was the sign of being a Roman citizes. They spoke Latin, the language of the Romans. But the rank-and-file Celts went on living in their tiny huts, they spoke their native Celtic tongue and they did not understand the language of their rules.
The Fall of the Roman Empire.
The Romans remained in Britain for about four centuries & during that time Britain was a Roman province governed by Roman governors & protected by Roman legions.
In the 3rd-4th centuries the power of the roman Empire gradually weakened. The unproductive labour of the slaves led to the economic decline of the empire. Neither new methods of land cultivation nor new technical inventions were introduced. Slavery became obstacle to technical progress. Poor cultivation exhausted the fields, the harvests became poorer from year to year.
The uninterrupted struggle of the exploited against the slave-owners greatly weakened the Roman Empire too. The enormous number of slaves presented of great danger of the Roman Empire. The end of the 4th century found the Germanic tribes invading the Western Roman Empire & the slaves who hated the Roman state were joining them by the thousand.
Early by the 5th century (407) the Roman legions were recalled from Britain to defend the central provinces of the Roman Empire from the attacks of the barbarian tribes. They didn’t return to Britain, & the Celts were left alone in the land.
During the 5th century the Germanic tribes overran the empire & settled in all parts of it. The fall of the Western Roman Empire meant the end of the slave-owning system in Western Europe.
The Roman Empire.
Two thousand years ago while the Celts were still living in tribes the Romans were the most powerful people in the world. Roman society differed greatly from that of the Celts. It was a slave society divided into antagonistic classes. The main classes were the slaves and the slave-owners. The slave-owners made up the minority of the population but they owned the land, tools, buildings and slaves. The slaves possessed neither land nor tools and were themselves the property of the slave-owners. The slaves could be brought and sold, exchanged or given away like any other thing. They could be kept in chains, whipped and put to death.
Slavery was the first and the most inhuman form of exploitation. The slave owners appropriated almost all the results of the slaves’ labour; the slaves were given some food and clothing so that they would not die of starvation and cold. Thus, whatever was produced by the slaves beyond what they needed to keep themselves alive was taken away by their masters. Therefore the slaves were not interested in the results of their labour.
Overseers forced the slaves to work more. The disobedient slaves were severely punished. Government bodies issued acts beneficial to the exploiters. With the help of the army the slave-owners put down the uprising of the exploited. The army also helped the slave-owners to protect their riches against foreign enemies and to wage endless wars in order to conquer new lands and to seize more slaves.
The Romans conquered all the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. In the wars, in which Rome gained one province after another for the empire, many thousands of prisoners were taken. They were sold at the slave-market at Rome. Slaves were so cheap that all the Romans except the poorest had one or more, and rich slave-owners possessed hundreds of them.
In the 1st century BC and in the 1st century AD slavery spread widely in the Roman Empire. Unlike the Ancient East and Greece where the land was cultivated chiefly by peasants, in Rome, very many slaves were engaged in agriculture; large farms in Italy were worked entirely by gangs of slaves. The slave system reached its peak in the Roman Empire. No other country in the ancient world had so many slaves as Rome did. In no other country did slave labour replace that of the freemen on such a large scale.
The Roman Conquest of Britain.
One of the last countries to be conquered by Rome was France, or Gaul as it was then called. The war against the Gauls, who were Celtic tribes, lasted for eight years. Julius Caesar was appointed Head of the Roman army which was sent to conquer Gaul. In the course of his campaigns Caesar reached the Channel and that was how the Romans came to see the white cliffs of the land of the British Celts.
In 55 B.C. a Roman army of 10,000 men crossed the Channel and invaded Britain. The Celts saw their ships approaching and rushed to attack the invaders in the sea as they were landing. The Celts made a great impression on the Romans, who saw them for the first time in battle. On the occasion of the battle their hair and moustaches were dyed red and their legs and arms were painted blue. With loud shouts they attacked the Romans in chariots and on foot and the well-armed invincible Romans under one of the greatest generals of that time had to return to Gaul.
In the next year, 54 BC, Caesar again came to Britain, this time with larger forces(25,000 men). The Celts fought bravely for their independence but they were not strong enough, in spite of their courage, to drive the Romans off. The Romans who had better arms and armour and were much better trained defeated the Celts in several battles. Some of the chiefs submitted and promised to pay tribute to Rome. Caesar then went back to Gaul to complete his conquer on the Continent.
Although Julius Caesar came to Britain twice in the course of two years, he was not able, really, to conquer it. The promised tribute was not paid and the real conquest of Britain by the Romans was not begun until nearly a hundred years after Caesar’s visits to the island.
In 43 AD a Roman army invaded Britain and conquered the South-East. Other parts of the country were taken from time to time during the next forty years. The hilly districts in the West were very difficult to subdue, and the Romans had to set up many camps in that part of the country. The Celts fought fiercely against the Romans who never managed to become masters of the whole island. They were unable to conquer the Scottish Highlands and the province of Britain consisted only of the southern part of the island. From time to time the Picts from the North managed to raid the Roman part of the island, burn their villages, and drive off their cattle and sheep.
To defend their province the Romans stationed their legions in Britain. Straight roads were built so that the legions might march quickly, wherever they were needed, to any part of the country. These roads were made of several layers of stones, lime, mortar and gravel. They were made so well that they lasted a long time and still exist today. Bridges of stone were built wherever a road crossed a river; some of these bridges can still be found in Britain today. Besides, to guard the province against the Picts and Scots who lived in the hills of Scotland a high wall was built in the North. It was called «Hadrian’s Wall» because it was built by the command of the Emperor Hadrian. From one end of the wall to the another forts were built a mile apart and the Roman warriors could be seen marching up and down the whole length of the wall. When the Northern Britons were not at war with the Romans they often came to the wall and traded with the warriors and the Romans would go hunting in the region north of the wall.