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The Romans in Britain

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Roman Towns

 

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Hypocaust
Mosaics

The Romans built towns all over Britain as centres to administer the people they had conquered. Veteran soldiers and Celtic Chieftains were rewarded with houses in the towns and would hold important jobs in the law courts or town councils.

Calleva Atrebatum Roman Town. Picture painted by Alan  SorrellRoman towns were very organised, with straight streets and neat rows of buildings. The town plan might be based around a town forum - a large building often with an open courtyard that was used by the people of the town as a meeting place, a place to do business, discuss town matters and hold markets.

This is an artists drawing of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester, Hampshire). In the centre you can see the forum. The roads are laid out in a neat grid, and outside the town walls, there is the circular amphitheatre.

The market square. Painting by Ivan LapperThis painting shows Calleva Atrebatum again. This shows the market square or forum.

Wealthy people lived in large attached houses made from stone or brick called villas.

Poor people, who were mainly celts, worked as carpenters, potters, shopkeepers and craftsmen.

Wealthy people lived in large detached houses, made of stone or brick, called villas.

The homes of wealthy Romans looked bare from the outside. They were built to be private and safe from burglars. So there were very few outside windows.

The house faced inwards around a courtyard. In Britain the Romans found it so cold that they invented a sort of central heating called a hypocaust.

But the insides were very colourful with bright painted walls with murals and beautiful mosaics on the floors.


The Hypocaust

hypocaustInstead of a fire in each room, they had a special fire room built against an outside wall. The floors were raised on pillars and the walls of the villa were hollow. The heated air from the fire went to all the other rooms, through these spaces under the floor and in the walls.

It was a very clever invention and after the Romans left, it was centuries before the British people had central heating again.

This is a picture of the hypocaust at Rockborne in Hampshire. These pillars (red) held up the floor and allowed the hot air to circulate underneath, heating the room.


Mosaics

This is a mosaic floor.Wealthy Romans might decorate their house with mosaics, floors made of tiny, coloured clay pieces that together made a wonderful picture. They were called tesserae.

A wealthy Roman might have chosen a design from a pattern book, much like choosing wall paper today! Also it is thought that many of the designs might have arrived pre-made, so all the workman had to do was to stick them to the floor!

The mosaic here shows a man and a giant eagle. It is made from thousands of tiny tile pieces. They took a very long time to make.


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