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Why did so many join the Roman army?
What was life like for soldiers?
-Why did the Romans build Hadrian's Wall?
-What did Roman soldiers do?
-My name is Senecus Spurius Longus, centurion.
-Senecus Spurius Longus...
-Yeah, yeah. I heard you the first time.
It's a bit of a mouthful, that - Senecus Spur... Sen!
I'll call you Sen.
Romulus the Roman - master trader, genuinely good bloke.
You can call me Rom. Most people... Aargh! Ow!
Ooh! Mind where you're putting your sword, Sen!
-I've just done a marathon.
-You?! A marathon?!
I don't believe it. When did YOU run 26 miles, carrying full kit?
Ah! Not THAT kind of marathon.
It was... it was a 26-course marathon banquet.
-You should eat less and take fitness more seriously.
-I AM fit!
Fit?! Greedy, more like. Certainly you could never be a Roman soldier.
-How would YOU know?
-Because I'm in charge of strong, disciplined men.
The Roman army could never have conquered Britain
-if it had eaten a 26-course banquet!
I wanted a few snacks before I came to the 21st century.
-I'll take you to all my favourite places.
-This trip is not a holiday.
We're here to see signs associated with the Roman army, and only that.
-You'll have to do a full timetable on a full stomach.
-I can manage it!
-Hmm. We'll see.
'Next stop, 21st century. Mind the time gap.'
-Where are we?
-Can't you tell?
-I recognise that hill over there...
-It can't be!
-It IS! Hadrian's Wall!
As built by the great Roman emperor, Hadrian.
What's happened? This should be three metres high!
It's still here, though, eh? Look! It's very peaceful.
Why is it so quiet?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Well, I don't suppose there's much work for them any more.
It IS very cut off. Why did you lot come here in the first place?
-We were following orders!
-But there must have been a reason.
Hey, don't worry! I shall use my gadget to find out why.
After the Romans landed in Britain in 43 AD,
they conquered more and more land.
Large numbers of soldiers were based in the north of England,
keeping an eye on one of the Roman empire's furthest frontiers.
When Emperor Hadrian visited Britain in 122 AD,
he decided a wall should be built
to mark this boundary and keep the Scots away.
It was 120km long and called Hadrian's Wall.
-Where are we now?
-Wait, you'll see.
You said there were lots of signs of us Romans here.
There are. There are also lots of signs of the 21st century!
Sometimes you have to look a little closer. Come on!
This is Segedunum, a museum right at the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall.
It's fantastic, isn't it?
I've been here before. Ah, yes - excellent Roman remains.
This might come in handy!
Look! Great Roman objects,
-How can you say that?
Do people in the 21st century know how to look after anything?
A Roman soldier who neglected his equipment would be on latrine duty!
These are 2,000 years old! You can't expect them to be perfect!
Yes, I can. The Roman army was a precise military machine...
..disciplined, well-trained, with superior armour and weaponry.
They would let the side down.
Hey! I DO know some 21st-century people, though,
who are into all that Roman army discipline.
They dress up as Roman legionaries and put on displays across Britain.
Maybe you, um... maybe you could inspect them, Sen.
A Roman legionary was a fine fighting machine.
He wore a highly protective helmet, with guards for neck and face.
His armour, made from metal pieces, was called "lorica segmentata",
and he wore hobnailed leather boots, ideal for any situation.
His weapons included the "gladius" for one-to-one fighting,
the "pugio" - a shorter backup sword -
and the "pilum" - a long, deadly javelin.
His shield was an excellent defence against all enemies.
-What's special about the Roman army?
-Why did they win battles?
Of course, I'm not just a legionary.
-I worked my way up. I'm...a centurion!
-Yes, I know.
-I can tell from your helmet.
-Yes, the crest makes me stand out -
makes it easier for the 80 soldiers under my command to recognise me.
I have a very serious job to do. I give the orders, the soldiers obey.
Oh! So that's what made the Roman army so successful -
-lots of shouting and funny costumes!
-No! We had organised battle plans!
-I expect your toy could show you some.
-I expect so. It's very good.
The Roman army could have used one!
Our army was a mighty fighting force. It never needed a gadget.
Every Roman legion had more than 5,000 soldiers,
and there were 20 legions in the Roman army.
That's over 100,000 men -
a terrifying sight for any opposition.
In battle, the Romans had clever tactics and marching formations,
like the "testudo", or tortoise. Their skill gave them the advantage
time and time again.
We had it all worked out. The Roman army was perfect -
-impossible to beat.
-Impossible to beat?! I'm not so sure.
-We had this area licked.
-Yes? Well, why did you need to build this wall?
-It was to hide behind!
We were ordered to build it by the great Emperor Hadrian.
In fact, my great-great-grandfather,
Senecus Spurius Crispus, centurion, worked at it. It took six years.
I reckon you still hid behind it!
Use your gadget to find out!
Hadrian's Wall was built by the Roman army.
The soldiers constructed and protected it
and lived in forts alongside it.
This structure marked the edge of the Roman empire...
until Emperor Antoninus Pius built a second wall further north.
The Antonine Wall was occupied by the Romans for 20 years,
but they eventually retreated to Hadrian's Wall and remained there.
-Why did the Romans build so many forts?
-Were they wood or stone?
You know, the Roman army didn't just build walls.
We built roads, houses, shops, forts - all sorts of things.
-I suppose it was quicker to build forts out of wood?
And later, when we knew we were staying, we used stone instead.
Like these reconstructions of both here at Vindolanda?
See, Sen - another example of a site associated with the Roman army.
Can we have a break now? Oh, dinner!
I know a great place in Corbridge - it's a Roman town...
I'll remind you that we've come to the 21st century
to see signs of the Roman army, not to party!
I'll take you to Housesteads. It's a Roman fort not far from here.
Excellent! I know it well! Come on!
-Isn't it a magnificent location?
Come on! No loitering!
This is where we used to come every morning
and report to the commanding officer and receive our orders.
-Seems like there was a lot of orders being given!
-An army needs orders.
This doesn't really give any idea of how it used to be,
with its beautiful courtyard, and paintings.
The commanding officer lived in such luxury...and his family.
He was such a great man.
Related to the emperor...distantly.
You can't stand there! Only the commanding officer is allowed to!
I can stand where I like! This is the 21st century,
and I won't be told what to do by a commanding officer OR a centurion!
I was looking for somewhere to sit down!
No time to sit! We've got lots to see.
What was life like at a Roman fort?
Did the soldiers leave anything?
What are you doing? Sleeping on the job? I knew you couldn't keep up!
Excuse me! I was NOT asleep!
-I was admiring the fine Roman engineering.
The 16-seater latrine!
-Splendid, isn't it?
-It's a toilet!
-Yes, but what an invention!
-A good opportunity for bonding with the men.
-A thousand of you used it!
Yes - a bit of a queue after breakfast!
Ah, there you are. What are you writing?
-I'm writing a letter to my mother in Tungria.
-You're from Belgium?
That's what they call it in the 21st century.
She'll love to hear what I'm up to, especially in the 21st century.
-And I need new socks and pants.
-Careful what you write, Sen.
These archaeologists in the 21st century found lots of Roman letters.
You'd be amazed what they found out.
We're here at Vindolanda in the heart of Hadrian's Wall country.
What makes Vindolanda very special as a Roman site
is it has a lot of forts built on top of one another in a short time.
What that means is that the earlier forts made of timbers, like these,
are protected from the air,
so you find things at Vindolanda which simply don't exist elsewhere,
because they've rotted away through time.
You get hair and things like that surviving.
Here we have a man's shoe or slipper,
and you can see all the lacework.
Turn it over, and you see they've worn a big hole in the heel.
-Do you think that's a piece of cloth?
-Oh, yeah! Look at that!
That is ultra-rare, that you find bits of Roman garments surviving.
Today we've found a piece of Roman fabric. It looks like a bandage.
It's phenomenal, because things made of textile are very fragile,
and for that to survive is wonderful.
The Vindolanda writing tablets -
which look like wooden postcards, written on with an ink pen -
the very first tablet found told us about mundane things.
It was found by the director of the Vindolanda Trust, Robin Birley.
He was sitting in the trench and he found two little slivers of wood
that were sandwiched together.
He put his fingernail between them and split them, and opened them up,
and he found to his surprise he had line after line of writing there.
We discovered a wonderful letter -
somebody's mum sending a parcel, containing...
Up until this point in time,
we had no idea that the Roman army even wore underpants in Britain!
So they got parcels from home 2,000 years ago, just like we get today.
-How did Roman soldiers spend their days?
-Did they have any free time?
-Are you sleeping again?
-No! Of course not! What do you want?
There's so little left here, let's go back to a real Roman fort.
-Back in time?
-Yes. Let's see if the Vindolanda tablets are accurate.
-And I've got a letter to post.
At ease, men. ..See - these are real barracks.
Smell that? Porridge - best way to start the day.
You know, eight people live in these two rooms.
-They sleep at the back.
Every day, Roman soldiers train for at least two hours. Every month,
they must go on a 26-mile run.
Those swords don't look very dangerous. Wouldn't scare anybody!
They only train with wooden swords, so as not to hurt each other.
We've heard enough about soldiers' fitness, Sen.
What do they do for fun?
Well, there's the baths.
And there's the vicus. Every fort has a lively settlement outside.
The vicus! I've been to one or two of those in my time!
-Great bars, good place to do a deal. They...
Life in the Roman army was fun.
-Come on - can't we go back to the 21st century?
-Oh, all right.
-Why did people join the Roman army?
-Was being a soldier a good job?
Look! Little soldiers! I love this game! Do you play it?
I certainly do. Much more my idea of soldiering!
Why do people join the army? It seems such hard work.
It was a good life. Good money, good prospects.
Some soldiers - auxiliaries -
joined the army after we Romans invaded their countries.
-Army life was better than life as a slave.
-You're right. Your move.
After a spell in the army,
you could win your freedom and become a Roman citizen.
-Ha-ha! I win!
-I was distracted! I demand a re-match! I'll beat you!
-Got to get back - dinner soon.
-Can't we see one more Roman army site?
Well, actually, yeah. You might be impressed by what they've got here.
Ah! This is more like it!
Yeah. It's a reconstruction of Hadrian's Wall, back at Segedunum.
Impressive. They can still build a decent wall.
Why DID the Romans leave Britain?
We were so strong, so disciplined.
-Did some great invading force scare us away?
It just got harder to find people who wanted to join the Roman army.
Once the empire had granted them freedom, no need to fight for Rome.
-It was an honour to fight for Rome!
-You can't live on honour, Sen.
No - there was problems with wages not getting through to Britain,
lots of problems in Rome. Thousands of men got sent back there.
People did stay on in Britain.
They just looked for other ways to make their living.
I can't believe it. Things would never have got that bad in my day.
But we Romans have a lot to be proud about. We ruled here for 400 years.
-We have, haven't we?
-Thanks, Rom. It's been an enjoyable trip.
It's amazing -
there are still signs of us Romans 2,000 years after we first arrived.
-I think it's time...
Hey! Why don't you come to mine?
But I don't want a 26-course marathon meal...and neither do you!
Subtitles by Judith Russell BBC Broadcast 2003
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History for schoolchildren. Rom the Roman and Sen the Centurion search for signs of the Roman army in 21st-century Britain. They visit Roman sites near Hadrian's Wall and find out why the Roman army is still admired after two thousand years.