This is, sadly, the last post from my trip to the mystic south west of England…

After my attempt to walk the length of the avenue in Cirencester Park, I headed back into town to find the Corinium Museum. Modern Cirencester sits almost perfectly into the footprint of the old Roman city of Corinium. It was a favoured part of the Roman province of Britannia and the surrounding countryside was filled with well appointed villas for an ancient elite. It is prosperous now and it was prosperous then, the only difference being it’s now blessed with a Waitrose and a M&S.

But the point is whenever and wherever you dig a hole in the area something Roman turns up. A lot of this ends up in the Corinium Museum. I arrived just as it was closing (I’m from Manchester I do expect everything to be open all the time), so returned the following morning. It’s in this rather nice, impressive, Cotswold stone building. The wood was Cirencester Park green so it must have been a part of the estate. 

The next morning I returned for a look around. It was interesting and well set out. So here we have a Roman soldier looking very smart in his uniform.

These are Roman gravestones that came from the Roman cemetery just outside Corinium.

A reconstruction of a Roman Garden.

But the best part for me were the wonderful Roman mosaics. As I said, Roman Corinium was a wealthy place like modern Cirencester. It was a provincial capital and important people would have lived here. Some would have been local Britons who worked with the Romans and others would have been Romans themselves used to the comforts and lifestyle of Roman Italy. They were rich enough to import the Roman lifestyle and, on a good weather day, the Cotswolds are every bit as nice as Tuscany. I’ve always been attracted to the domestic Roman lifestyle. They were into comfort and had running water and central heating. Around Corinium they built well appointed villas. In these a big status symbol was having a mosaic floor, made of thousands and thousands of tiny, coloured tiles and stones. You can imagine a rich Roman having a new one put in and inviting all his friends round for dinner, ostensibly to entertain them, but really to show off how rich he was. Like we do with a new kitchen or a new car. 

This lifestyle went on for about 400 years. The levels of organisation and comfort weren’t to be matched or surpassed until our present times. They must have thought it would go on for ever. It didn’t. Around 400 CE, barbarians overran the neighbouring province of Gaul (modern France). Britannia was cut off from the rest of the Roman Empire and the Emperor told us we would have to look after our own defences. We didn’t have the resources and Angle Saxon barbarians started to arrive taking over the country. Cut off from the resources of the Roman Empire, Corinium went into decline and was almost abandoned. The luxury villas would have been tempting places to plunder and then they were left to crumble. The walls collapsed and the mosaic floors would have disappeared under creeping vegetation and soil which, mostly, preserved them.

We have found some of them and these beautiful reminders of Roman Britannia have been moved to the Corinium Museum.

And part of a wall of one of the villas has been found, miraculously preserved, complete with the paint, mostly intact. I’ve not seen such a quality of Roman painting since we visited Pompeii. This paint is nearly 2,000 years old.

End of my trip…..

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