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August 22, 2005

Roman Ingenuity

Gloucestershire is rich in Roman remains; in fact it was the seat of the military government, the Comes Britainarium, the Commander in Chief of all Roman Forces in Britain was located at Corinium - modern Cirencester. All roads don't lead to London, they lead to Cirencester - at least the Roman ones do!

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The beautifully preserved mosaic floor of the "Dining Room" at the Chedworth Roman villa in Gloucestershire. The "hypocaust", underfloor heating can be seen in the opening in the foreground.

Cirencester had a "Stadium" amphitheatre, basilica, and a number of important "palaces". The area around here is full of large Villas which were probably home to local nobles "elevated" by their allegiance to the Romans. Certainly the opulence of the buildings suggests that they did very well, and the remains and excavations show that the area was heavily farmed and well populated. This all began to decay from the late fourth century as Rome itself fell into internal dispute, and increasing bureaucracy strangled its ability to respond to threats from external forces. Then the situation in Britain deteriorated badly once the troops and garrisons were withdrawn in the late 5th Century.

The great houses at first survived, but the craftsmen and women necessary to maintain them probably moved with the money - to Europe and Rome - as increasing lawlessness and invasion gradually eroded life in Britain. A visit to Chedworth certainly gives one a lot to think about - including what would life be like today had the Roman Empire not collapsed? What if we had not lost the skills and the technology between the 5th Century and the 11th? What if we had seen a technological revolution in the early 6th Century, built on the skills of the Roman craftsmen?

Maybe our past failures do have something to say about our future. Maybe we should see what would change the cycle for the better - and act on it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 22, 2005 07:48 AM


I had a meal in a delightful pub last week overlooking Chedworth. My knowledgeable companion told us about the mosaic and the richness of the Roman archeaology in those parts. A pity the original can't be seen, but the idea of a facsimile is good. It is extraordinary to think about how technologically advanced the Romans were.

Posted by: Rob at August 22, 2005 06:29 PM

Thanks for the comment, I understood that the mosaics in Chedworth are actually the originals, it is the ones at another site nearby that are not on display - only the facsimile. If you have never been to see them, the remains at Chedworth are well worth the effort. Roman technology was pretty advanced stuff, but heavily dependent on manpower!

Posted by: The Gray Monk at August 23, 2005 09:48 PM