50th Rome, England

On Friday we went to Rome. Or some of what is left of it in England. In the Victorian era the game master of a Lord Elton was hunting and his dog followed a rabbit and in the scramble and digging the dog unearthed some tesserae which a friend of the Lord’s later identified as Roman floor tiles. Much vigorous Victorian vandalism ensued. Many walls were uncovered and rooms identified and they had the good sense to do two things, they covered the walls with little stone caps and they reburried the mosaic floors under several inches of dirt. They did take many artifacts which today would enable the National Trust to be more precise identifying the rooms. And they lost a lot of the finds.

This villa was the property of a wealthy Roman…but not likely a real Roman. The locals were more than encouraged to adopt Roman language, customs, everything, so the owner of this grand place was really a Brit. The first buildings were built in 150 AD and continually refitted and made very grand until it declined after the Roman Empire withdrew its troops form Britain in 403 AD. Most of the troops were withdrawn before the actual fall so those left in Britain simply as assimilated. The wonderful Roman archaitecture fell into disrepair helped along by people who dug into the mosaic floors to build storage pits  and put fires on the floor for cooking and heat. The standing stone posts in this picture, unevenly uprighted by the Victorians and left, are what held up the floors. I do not know but suspect that wooden cross beams and planking constituted the subflooring. The villa would have been comfortable in the patritician’s family rooms with the hot air heat. Not, however in the servants quarters. 

 

This round pool was a temple to a dryad, a water nymph and would have been revered because that is who brought clean water. The pool is spring fed still but only trickles as most of the water is diverted to the visitors center. In Roman times this little temple would have been pillered, painted, tiled, the works. The phesant is drinking from the water intake for the pool that the peasants must have cleaned.  This bird was not at all afraid of our group.

 

The Romans liked to eat snails so they imported their favorites from Italy and fed them on milk until they were too fat to get back into their shells. Those that were left in Gaul (France) became the fancy 🐌 escargot. Some enterprising snails escaped the kitchens and went native and today their descendants roam the Roman villa’s grounds. In 1600 years they have only extended their range by ten miles proving once and for all that a snail’s pace is truly slow. Here is a picture of one so slow it barely made it out of the room. The creamy white and brown streaked shell is typical of them. They are reported to be very tasty if you like snails (and I do) but they are protected and we were warned not to put one in a pocket for a snack. This snail was not afraid of our group, either.

The baths of the villa took up a much space since the villa was used as a place to hunt and entertain and many guests would have been invited and much influence brokered. The baths are still intact and they had pools of increasing heat until the final frigid plunge bath. I took a picture of a picture showing the baths as they would have looked in all their glory. They have excavated the baths, put in an elevated walkway and covered the whole thing…looks very good, sturdy and handles many people. All this was many feet underground when it was discovered as it is at the base of a hill and the dirt washed down over the centuries.

We also visited a stately home and the grounds were very nice, six really large redwoods on the long drive. It had a plain exterior but the inside was beautiful and full of art. The family has collected art for a long time.But…it is a private home, the family still lives there and we were not allowed to photograph inside. However, here is a photo of some random sheep on the way to the Roman villa.  Saturday we leave Cheltenham and head for…..

 

About Clio

I am an organic gardener with thirty years experience, a former minister, a former home-schooler, (they grew up), a current clarinet and flute player, knitter and spinner, and swimmer. I am interested in food security issues, food and policy issues, food preservation and encouraging people to become more aware and pro-active about their own food supply. I teach home food preservation, especially water bath and pressure canning, beginning organic gardening using bio-intensive methods, and give talks on food and food security for groups.
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