Pax Britannica day at Walltown, June 11th

Doing as the Romans did

Published on 01/06/2007

Times and Star

CHILDREN at a Workington school learned about Roman and Celtic life.

St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School at Westfield was visited by education staff from world heritage sites along Hadrian’s Wall.

It is part of the run up activity to Pax Britannica, one of the country’s leading living history events, which travels back in time nearly 2000 years to experience life at Hadrian’s Wall. Kevin Wallace, of Pax Britannica, said: “We are holding several workshops in schools along the Wall area before the Pax Britannica schools event takes place.

“Children will be able to handle objects such as pottery, jewellery and Roman soldier effects and we will look to engage and enthuse students with an informed range of workshop activities, which are both educational and fun.”

The Pax Britannica school day takes place on Monday, June 11 at Walltown recreation site on Hadrian’s Wall from 9.30am to 3.30pm and costs £3.50 per students.

Teachers and adult supervisors are free of charge.

Any schools interested in booking a place should contact Kevin on 07726 971462 or visit http://www.wyrdarts.co.uk/learning

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`Fictionalised history' about the end of Roman Britain

What the Romans really did for us Brits
Emma Unsworth
Manchester Evening News
1/ 6/2007

CONQUERING tyrants they may have been, but it's hard to imagine what Britain might have been like today if it hadn't been for the Romans. There'd probably be no indoor plumbing for a start. Ghastly.

One person who's spent time looking at the Roman people with wonder and sympathy – and endless fascination – is author Simon Young.

Born in Hebden Bridge, Simon grew up in Hyde before gaining a starred First in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic from Cambridge University. He has written for publications ranging from The Guardian to The Spectator, from History Today to the Fortean Times, as well as many academic journals and periodicals, and the M.E.N. for which Simon wrote the Place Names column.

“I've always been interested in distance in history,” says the 33-year-old Roman and Dark Age historian from his home in Italy, where he teaches at the University of Florence.

“What's interesting about the Romans is that it's so much easier to relate to them than the Celts who ruled Britain before. So many things about the lives of the Romans are similar to our lives today: they lived in cities, they had taxes, an army – they even had graffiti! They created this enormous empire which stretched all the way from the Red Sea to northern Britain and there was a great richness of life; people were zipping across a huge area. There are lots of trade stories as things were sold across the empire. I found one about a Roman who ordered Nile catfish to Britain because it was his favourite food.”

Simon's latest book, Farewell Britannia (pictured), tells the story of a 5th Century Romano-Briton, after the apocalyptic end of Roman rule on the island. From the wrecked remains of his villa, this narrator recounts the experiences of 15 of his ancestors. It's a family saga of sorts – what Simon likes to call `fictionalised history' – based on carefully sourced archaeological and historical proofs.

Scouting

The well-known events of Roman Britain are all there: scouting for Caesar's expedition in 55 BC, the Roman invasion in 43 AD, Boudicca's revolt and the massacre of 70,000 Romans, the Pictish attacks on Hadrian's Wall' the infamous Barbarian Conspiracy of 367 and the departure of the legions in 410.

Then there are less epic episodes dealing with personal histories: a desperate housewife cooking flamingo in Northumberland, a bad poet in Londinium, infanticide in an English country garden at dusk.

“I like to make a distinction between `historical fiction' and this book, which is more like `fictionalised history',” Simon says. “As a historian I have a good nose for strange and weird stories. I never start unless I have something out of the ordinary in the making.”

And as Simon has found during his research, the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

“The Romans were the first people to bring elephants to Britain,” Simon divulges with glee. “They used them for invasions. The Celts thought they were some kind of diabolical cow.”

It's this Celtic perspective, Simon explains, that is so rare, and something he's still chasing through his work, having just signed a contract with his publisher to write about the `four Celtic invasions that changed the world: the sword, the boat, the cross and the lyre'.

“I'm fascinated by the way you can enter the Roman mind and more easily look at the Celtic side of Britain.”

Farewell Britannia by Simon Young is published by Weidenfield and Nicolson priced £16.99.