The Romans are coming! VIII strange and spectacular facts about their time in York

29 May 2016 @ 11.48 am
| History

You don’t need a time machine to experience York’s ancient origins. The Romans may have left us back in 410AD but in just a few days, the Eboracum Roman Festival will be upon us.

Between 1-5 June, there’ll be military parades, siege weapon demonstrations, guided walks, expert speakers, and even the chance to meet bestselling author Caroline Lawrence.

Most events will be free and based in Museum Gardens, where you’ll find a Roman camp depicting domestic life and stalls selling themed goods.

Full event listings can be found here.

Think you know all about Roman York?

Image courtesy of Roman Tours.
Image courtesy of Roman Tours.

To help get us all in a toga-wearing, empire-conquering festival mood, York Museums Trust have shared eight Valde Informativus (“quite informative” – apparently there’s no Latin word for “interesting”) facts:

I. Constantine knocked heads together

We all know that Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor in the city – but did you know that it was he who re-joined the Eastern and Western Roman Empires in 324AD and who played a major part in the spread of Christianity in the Western world? More info here.

II. Famous deaths

Two Roman emperors died in the city – Constantius (Constantine’s father) and Septimius Severus. The latter ran the whole Roman Empire from York for three years. Find out more here.

III. Exotic imports

While occupying York the Romans brought in goods from all over their Empire. Frankincense from Ethiopia has been found in York, as well as ivory from elsewhere in Africa, but they appreciated local products too, with Whitby jet a prized possession.

You can hear more about exotic influences on Roman York at the festival, with a special talk by TV expert Jo Fletcher on Egyptians in Roman Yorkshire. Click here to book.

Centurian Titus Flavius Germanius (Bryon Angel) and Luciusartorius Castus (Graham-Harris)
Centurian Titus Flavius Germanius (Bryon Angel) and Luciusartorius Castus (Graham-Harris)

IV. Naughty Roman dogs

A head pot depicting Julia Domna (wife of Septimius Severus), Roman tiles complete with the footprints of a naughty Roman dog, and even a preserved hair piece complete with two hair pins, which was found in the coffin of a young woman.

All are on show at the Yorkshire Museum, along with star discoveries such as a statue of Mars, the God of War, as well as the marble head of Constantine which would have stood on what is now Stonegate.

V. Gladiators… ready!

While updating the toilets during the Yorkshire Museum’s redevelopment in 2010, they uncovered a Roman skeleton under the museum! After much analysis the skeleton was found to be that of a large athletic man who met a grizzly end.

Was he a gladiator? See the full story here.

VI. The big mystery

Did you know Eboracum had one, possibly even two amphitheatres? But archaeologists have no idea where in the city they would have been!

You can go along to the free X Factum event to find out more.

Image: Jo Rutherford
Image: Jo Rutherford

VII. The lost legion

York boasts the last known mention of the mysteriously ‘lost’ legion.

After many military successes, they founded Eboracum, but when they left no-one knows what happened to them. Their fate has inspired many popular films and fiction writers.

VIII. Wall-to-wall Romans

Hadrian moved most of the troops out of Eboracum to help him build his famous wall. When they returned, they also completely rebuilt the walls of Eboracum in stone.

Find out about Eboracum during the Hadrianic period (second century York) in two talks at the Yorkshire Museum.