Late last year during the building of a new hotel in the heart of the city of London, workmen discovered the statue of an eagle clutching a writhing snake. So well preserved, it was unimaginable that the statue could have been of Roman origin however specialists later confirmed that it did indeed date back to the 1st or 2nd century AD when the World’s greatest Empire had spread throughout England. Today, the statue is on full display to the public in the Museum of London but if you want to get more in touch with Roman Britain why not walk in the footsteps of the Roman people themselves and visit some of the country’s most stunning excavated Roman sites.
Below is adeo Travel’s countdown of our Top Five Roman sites of England:
5. Roman York
The Romans had an excellent eye for identifying strategic locations for their settlements and this was never truer than when they inhabited what was previously an unsettled area in Yorkshire, but which would soon become the undisputed capital of the North of England. The city of York was born in AD71 when the Romans pushed their empire North from Lincoln and gave them a strategic base at the point where the River Fosse meets the River Ouse and from whence they could continue to push north. Today the Yorkshire Museum in York houses some of Britain’s most impressive Roman artefacts including mosaics, sculptures and tombstones whilst existing Roman remains can be spotted in situ at Multangular Tower and in excavations in the under croft beneath the magnificent York Minster itself.
4. Roman Amphitheatre in Chester
Chester, or Castra Devana as it was known by the Romans, was once England‘s largest Roman settlements covering some 60 acres. It is thought the site was used for legionary training and as a strategic naval base on the River Dee as far back as 75AD. With parts of the area having been carefully excavated since the 1960s it was not until 2004/2005 that archaeological investigations uncovered (literally) parts of England’s largest Roman amphitheatre which at its peak could have seated 7000 spectators and included a shrine to the Goddess Nemesis.
3. Cirencester, Capital of the Cotswolds
As a result of Roman settlement, the charming town of Cirencester became capital of the region which would later become known as the Cotswolds located in the heart of England. Constructed in the 2nd Century AD, the Roman amphitheatre in the town would once have seated more than 8000 people; today it remains largely unexcavated but offers excellent walks for views of the town. In the heart of Cirencester however you’ll find its true gem at the Corinium Museum, a treasure-trove of local Roman heritage which houses arguably the best collection of Roman artefacts outside of London. Also well-worth a visit are the nearby excavations of the Chedworth Roman Villa.
2. Roman Baths in Bath
Possibly England’s most visually spectacular Roman remain, the Roman Baths in the city of Bath were constructed as far back as the 1st century AD. After discovery of hot water springs from the nearby Mendip Hills, with magnificently advanced engineering the Romans constructed their Temple of Sulis Minerva which was soon regarded as one of the best bathing stations throughout the entire Roman Empire and drew visitors from across Europe, even in those times! Since its rediscovery in the 18th century, when workmen uncovered the bronze head of the goddess Minerva, the magnificent temple has been fully excavated and restored and today you can walk the worn slabs that the Romans themselves strolled along and even sample the mineral-rich water which drew them here in the first place all those centuries ago.
1. Hadrian’ Wall
Undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of the Roman Empire in Britain, Hadrian’s Wall stretches from coast to coast across the North of England for almost 80 miles. Constructed by Emperor Hadrian as a barrier to keep out the “uncivilised” Scottish Pictish people the wall was an early form of border control with deep ditches, tangled undergrowth and frequent forts and watch-towers defending the wall itself which in places reached 15 feet tall. Long stretches of the wall remain in-tact today and provide excellent hiking routes whilst the Roman heritage comes to life at excavations and the best of the remaining wall-forts including those at Housesteads Fort, Chesters Fort and Birdoswald Fort not to mention at the Roman Army and Vindolanda Museums at Hexham.
For more information on experiencing first-hand any of the above locations as part of your tailor-made tour of England, simply ask your adeo Travel Britain vacation expert.