Did you know?
Who were the Romans?
Historians tell us the Romans conquered England, adding it to their empire. But who were the Romans?
At the time of the conquest the Roman Empire extended from western Europe to Iraq, and right around the Mediterranean, thus including today’s Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
Those serving in the military in the legions and auxiliaries were often recruited from outside Italy, as were the seamen, the officials, the builders/craftsmen, and the traders who came with them. So, when we say a Roman soldier – that person could be from anywhere in the Empire. So most of the conquering Romans, some of whom married and settled here, came from the whole Roman Empire.
A few examples of ethnic diversity from the Roman period: Emperor Septimius Severus, who died on a visit in 211 and is buried in York, was from Africa. His wife Julia Domna was from Syria. One of their sons, Geta became governor of southern Anglia; there were six other African-born governors, and 4 generals, and 38 officers.
In 2010 archaeologists examining skeletons unearthed near York found that 20% were ‘long distance migrants’, including from Africa. One is now known as the ‘Ivory bangle lady’: aged between 18 and 23, of African or mixed ancestry, she was buried in the 4th century, with earrings, pendants, beads, bracelets made of ivory, a mirror and a blue glass perfume jar.
Pottery called ‘African red slip ware’ or ‘amphorae sherds’ from Africa have been found all over England, including Canterbury.
Many people migrated to Britain in the Roman period and we now think this form of migration constituted up to 30% of the population.
Did you know?
- The remains of the Roman townhouse around which the museum is built were only discovered as a result of Second World War bombing – in the bottom of a bomb crater.
The Roman Samian-ware ‘Pudding Pan Pots’, dredged from the sea between Whitstable and Herne Bay, are the only evidence of Roman shipwrecks (at least three separate ones) off the British Isles.
Julius Caesar was an early visitor to the area. He defeated the Cantiaci, the local Iron Age tribe, in a battle at Bigbury hill fort just outside Canterbury in 54BC.
The Balsamarium, a small bronze oil container decorated with a dancing satyr (half goat, half man) and three male human figures is one of the only vessels of its type found in the UK, and was the Portable Antiquities Scheme star small find from Roman Britain in 2012.
The footprints of dogs and Roman children have been found in floor tiles excavated from Roman Canterbury. The clay tiles were left to dry in the sun before being fired in the kiln. Can you find the dog paw print?
The glue or ‘size’ used in Roman painted plaster was extracted from bulls’ testicles. Explore the museum to discover fragments of wall plaster decorated with flowers, and with the feet and legs of a Roman dancing girl.
The Roman silver hoard is one of the earliest pieces of evidence for Christianity in Britain. Several pieces include the Christian Chi Rho monogram.
Almost 30,000 individual mosaic pieces or ‘tesserae’ were used to create the Roman townhouse mosaics at Canterbury Roman Museum.