The interaction between soldiers in the Roman army and native people has attracted considerable interest over the years as archaeologists have explored the process of Romanisation under the Empire.
Thinking about this has m0ved on enormously since Victorian times.
In Henry Perronet Briggs’ painting The Romans Teaching the Mechanical Arts to the Ancient Britons at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull the native Britons are patronizingly represented as grateful recipients of Roman imperialism. Rather like the famous Monty Python sketch ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ in The Life of Brian, the benefits of having been conquered by an ancient world superpower are indicated by reference to architecture and other trappings of Roman civilisation.
It’s something of cliché that people in Roman Britain all aspired to speak Latin, wear togas and live a villa with underfloor heating. Archaeology can reveal some of the messy realities of what was going on. Some of the finds we have selected for the Ancient Worlds galleries opening next year include material excavated from a building labelled (not particularly imaginatively) as ‘Building A’ outside the fort of Roman Manchester. There are gaming pieces and melon beads and the publication refers to glass from drinking vessels used in the consumption of wine and possibly beer.