Walk like a ro­man

When the le­gions of Rome ar­rived on British soil, they re­de­fined this coun­try’s con­cept of walk­ing. Fol­low in their foot­steps and you’ll find out how…

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

When the Ro­mans ar­rived they re­de­fined the con­cept of walk­ing for Bri­tons. Find out why.

ONE PLEAS­ANT AF­TER­NOON on the Kent coast in 43AD, ev­ery­thing changed.

The Ro­man Em­pire ar­rived. And this time – un­like their pre­vi­ous brief for­ays onto our turf – they came mob-handed. And they stayed.

In all hon­esty, there are a lot of un­knowns about the ac­tual de­tails of the day. We don’t know it was an af­ter­noon, or that it was pleas­ant, or ex­actly what day it was, or where they ar­rived (though Rich­bor­ough is the most pop­u­lar guess). But what­ever the minu­tiae, this was the day the armies of Rome ar­rived to take con­trol of Bri­tan­nia. If you were stand­ing on that shore­line that day, watch­ing the Im­pe­rial Navy loom­ing large on your hori­zon, you’d have had just one thought. There goes the neigh­bour­hood. From that day, the Ro­mans oc­cu­pied our soil for al­most 400 years. We’ll say that again, in words: four hun­dred years. En­tire gen­er­a­tions were born, lived and died in Ro­man Bri­tain, with no knowl­edge of any other way of life.

At this point we could list ev­ery­thing the Ro­mans gave us in those shock­ing, bru­tal, in­cred­i­ble four cen­turies of oc­cu­pa­tion ( you know; roads, san­i­ta­tion, medicine, ed­u­ca­tion…) but Monty Python cov­ered that ground beau­ti­fully in Life of Brian.

In­stead, we’ll fo­cus on one par­tic­u­lar thing they gave us: a new def­i­ni­tion of walk­ing.

The em­pire per­fected the art of get­ting from A to B on foot, quickly. They tamed our wild places, carved new paths through our hill coun­try, and in­vented the hik­ing boot. They even gave us (in a round­about way) the mile, and thus gave birth to a chal­lenge that de­fines Coun­try Walk­ing to this day.

And when it fi­nally all turned sour and the em­pire crum­bled into dust, they left us with a cul­tural and phys­i­cal im­print that has never left the fab­ric of our coun­try­side. Ad­mit­tedly, we didn’t treat that im­print par­tic­u­larly well in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, but even­tu­ally we re­alised it was in­ter­est­ing. Im­por­tant. Preserv­able. And that it made for fan­tas­tic walk­ing.

So grab your feath­ered hel­met, your shield and your big stick with SPQR on it and come with us to the places they gave us and the world they left us with. The roads, the forts, the tem­ples, the vil­las. The plea­sures and the pun­ish­ments. The dis­ci­pline and the deca­dence.

We’ll start by walk­ing a Ro­man wall that tells you the whole story of that ex­tra­or­di­nary oc­cu­pa­tion. And it prob­a­bly isn’t the one you’re think­ing of…

MOUN­TAIN STRONG­HOLD Dis­cover a Ro­man out­post on the wildest fringe of the Lake Dis­trict.

Se­na­tus Pop­u­lusque Ro­manus: the Se­nate and Peo­ple of Rome FI­NAL FRON­TIER The world’s big­gest Ro­man arte­fact. But it’s far from the only amaz­ing wall they built here. THE POWER AND THE PLEA­SURE Top: Will Me­dusa turn you to stone? Find out at a Ro­man plea­sure palace in Sus­sex. Above: Study the wall-builders’ prow­ess in Rome’s North­ern Pow­er­house.

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