Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall “was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in 122 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. It ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea, and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire. It had a stone base and a stone wall. There were milecastles with two turrets in between. There was a fort about every five Roman miles. From north to south, the wall comprised a ditch, wall, military Read More…

Boudicca’s Revolt

The Romans conquered Britain over the course of one hundred and fifty years.  Julius Caesar was the first to attempt it.  He established a beachhead in the east, but never got further into the country despite multiple expeditions. “His first expedition, however, was ill-conceived and too hastily organised. With just two legions, he failed to do much more than force his way ashore at Deal and win a token victory that impressed the senate in Rome more than it did the tribesmen of Britain. In 54 BC, he tried again, this time Read More…

The Eagle (movie review)

At last!  At long last!  A movie set in Roman Britain that I really quite liked! Though …  I just looked The Eagle up on the tomato-meter which gives this movie a 39.  Wow. I thought it was way better than that and here’s why: 1)  The book.  The Eagle of the Ninth is a wonderful book by Rosemary Sutcliffe.  It was one of my mother’s favorite books and she gave it to me to read in one of those old hardback editions with fraying edges.  A story of a Read More…

The Evolution of Welsh

The first thing you learn in linguistics is that languages evolve.  The second is that they are arbitrary.   This does not mean language isn’t important, or that it isn’t integral to culture. (see this article on Quebec’s policing of language).  It does mean that there is nothing inherent in the word ‘spoon’ that denotes the rounded tool with which you cook or eat. Medieval Welsh, or Middle Welsh, was the language spoken in the 12th to 14th centuries.  Like when a modern English-speaker attempts to read Chaucer in English, it is possible for a modern Welsh Read More…

Celebrating the New Year in medieval Wales

Celebrating the New Year dates back to Babylon, 4000 years ago.  The date was celebrated on March 23, which coincides with the Persian, Muslim, and Baha’i New Year at the Spring Solstice. “The Romans continued to observe the new year on March 25, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But Read More…

Did Medieval People Bathe?

One of the most interesting scenes in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (see my review:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/robin-hood-review-spoilers/) is when Robin first arrives at Marian’s house and she sends him to the bath room. It’s a room off the kitchen, devoted to bathing and laundry. I LOVED to see that scene because it was one of the few times that medieval bathing was openly acknowledged in film. “Contrary to popular legend, medieval man loved baths. People probably bathed more than they did in the 19th century, says the great medievalist Lynn Thorndike. Some Read More…

Cunedda, founder of Gwynedd

The medieval Welsh kingdoms are marked with a cultural beginning, that of the coming of Cunedda. “Historically, Cunedda became king of Gwynedd in North Wales during the first half of the 5th century A.D. and founded a dynastic clan from which Welsh nobility has claimed their ancestry for centuries afterward. Tradition holds that Cunedda originated from the territory of Manau Gododdin, the region around what is now modern Edinburgh in southeast Scotland, and later migrated to North Wales. This movement was apparently at the behest of a higher authority and Read More…

The Fall of Rome

The coming of the ‘Dark Ages’ was predicated on the fall of Rome.  Rome had dominated Europe (and parts of Africa and Asia) for nearly 800 years when Alaric, a Visigoth, sacked it.  According to the excellent documentary, The Dark Ages (available on Netflix here), Alaric had served in the Imperial forces until passed over for a promotion, at which point, he took his cause directly to the City of Rome.  He and his men then camped outside the walls in 408 AD, cutting off all food and succor to Read More…

Killed by a ref . . . in ancient Rome

I had to repost (and link) to this story because of the number of times I’ve listened to my husband shout at the screen while watching soccer. This is  part of an article about the discover and translation of a tombstone of a Roman gladiator who died in Amisus, on the south coast of the Black Sea in Turkey: “The tombstone . . . shows an image of a gladiator holding what appear to be two swords, standing above his opponent who is signalling his surrender. The inscription says that the Read More…