Book 1, Chapter 4, 78 AD to 306 AD – Roman Roads and Towns – Continued
The general appearance of the houses and public buildings which formed these towns, may be gathered from various reliable sources. As the places increased in size and importance, they were inclosed within a wall, usually of great strength, and built of materials that have defied the tooth of time, though their outline and height have yielded to the ravages of war.
Vestiges of them, with Roman gateways and archways, are to be seen not only in London, but at Lymne, Richborough, Lincoln, Colchester, and other places. The masonry of all Roman buildings in the country is universally good, and the materials were well chosen and carefully prepared. Many specimens are continually being excavated, of tiles or flat bricks, varying in thickness from half an inch to two inches, made of clay, of various shapes and colours. Some of these are flanged, for roofing; others are hollow, for draining or heating.
Special care was taken in preparing the mortar, so as to render it hard, binding, and durable and it is easier to break the stones of a Roman wall than the mortar which holds them together. It was generally composed of lime, grounded tiles, sand, gravel, and small pebbles, the finest description of mortar being used for the facing stones. The space between these was filled with smaller stones or rubble, and liquid mortar was poured in, which caused the whole to harden into a solid mass in the course of a short time.
It seems probable that the houses of persons of wealth and quality were built entirely of masonry, while those of the common people had a foundation only of masonry, the superstructure being of wood. The floors were supported, not on the ground, but on a number of short, thick columns; arranged in rows, with narrow passages between. These formed the “hypocaust;” the Roman method of warming a house by means of an outside floe, not unlike modern conservatories, and from which the heat was distributed over the building through air chambers. This is one instance of the extreme care and ingenuity with which domestic comfort was provided for. Another is found in the careful, and often the elaborate means for securing good drainage. In the larger villas, also, baths of various kinds were deemed not so much luxuries, as essentials to cleanliness and health.
The tessilated floors, formed of small cubes of various colours, arc well known, and some of them have been found buried beneath the surface, their brightness uninjured by the lapse of time and their long interment. The entering walls were covered with thick plaster, or stucco, composed of lime, sand, and small stones, so tempered as to harden into a firm mass. The surface having been carefully prepared, a very thin coating of fine calcareous cement was laid upon it, and on this, while moist various designs were painted in fresco. The patterns were often ingenious and highly artistic, and the fragments which remain indicate much original beauty. Numerous pieces of sculptured stone show that in other respects the houses did not lack ornament.
Every important town had a court house, public baths, and temples. The basilica at Uriconium (Wroxeter) is two hundred and twenty six feet long, and the baths cover a space of two hundred feet. Verulamium (St. Alban’s) was the fashion able town of the south east, and possessed a theatre of considerable extent and elaborate construction. Almost every Roman station had its amphitheatre, where the national passion for gladiatorial combats and for public shows might be gratified. Occasionally, also as at Alborough and Leicester, traces are observable of a stadium, or race course. All these early remains are interesting, not only as being found in the country, but because, possibly, British workmen assisted in their erection, and it is more than likely that the more wealthy among the chiefs who had attained to power during the time of the Romans, copied their dwellings and domestic manners, as it is known they copied their dress, language, and habits in public life.
Chapter 4, Agricola
Chapter 4, Roman Roads and Towns
Chapter 4, Roman Memorial of Death
Categories: Book 1