Toga Tuesday!

Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire was full of Romans last week. There were soldiers and civilians, and families ranging from toddlers to grandparents. They were wandering in and out of the houses, feeding the sheep, eating, playing, laughing, working, shopping and having their hair done.

Woman in doorway of round house


Lady with display of Roman goods

Some of them were even having their photos taken in silly poses:

Ruth sitting on couch with mirror

This splendid family day out was one of the Roman Days that Butser are running every week over the summer holidays, and last week’s theme was Wardrobe and Weapons. Costumes were on offer for anyone who wanted to dress up and the multi-talented Fiona Rashleigh was on hand to create authentic-looking hairstyles from unpromising material:

Plaited hair held in place with pins

The hairpins, the mirror (the one I’m holding in the photo) and much else were made by Fiona’s partner Steve Wagstaff, who crafts replica Roman items that jump off the display crying out, “Buy me! Buy me now!” I’m not sure who made the shoes in the picture below, but more of Steve’s work can be just about seen on the far table.

Some of the photos of visitors in costume will be used to inspire new murals on the walls of Butser’s very own Roman Villa, which is currently being renovated:

Builders' vans outside villa

Here’s what it looked like when we visited back in 2010:

Painted walls inside the Roman villa

Portrait of Peter Reynolds
Peter Reynolds, founding Director of Butser Ancient Farm

Front aisle of villa with row of tables

Olive branch painted on a wall inside the villa

Hopefully the renovated Villa will be open again later in the year. Meanwhile there was still plenty to see and try out, including felt-making (but no photos, because they all came out blurry) and this – weaving a braid from the ends into the middle. Painstaking and highly skilled work. I’m guessing you’d want to choose your partner carefully.

Two women weaving braid

One end of the woven braid

The other end of the braid

These are the farm’s Manx Loughtan sheep, an ancient breed. They’re about to be disappointed when they find out we haven’t brought any food.

Sheep running towards camera

This young chap will soon be off to charm the lady goats at a rare breed farm. Hopefully nobody’s told him that the best brushes for painting murals on Roman walls are made of… goat hair.

Close-up of young goat

And finally, a couple of useful thoughts to take home from a great day out:

Notices on gate - Archaeology is not what you find but what you find out, and Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence







9 thoughts on “Toga Tuesday!

  1. I am constantly amazed at home well people lived in Roman Britain. ..
    And I mean the ordinary people as well as the rich…..
    The clothing , housing, diet……
    Sorry to be a pain but can you resend the newsletter with the shoes…..
    I want to show them to various people

    1. What a great day out! I like the quote about absence of evidence. If you write historical fiction, absence of evidence can be meat and drink, because it leaves you free to fill in gaps in the history by using your imagination. With care, of course…let imagination run, but not run away.

      1. It’s a great quote, isn’t it? And as Auden said, “Guessing is more fun than knowing.” !

    2. Absolutely, Patrick! I remember seeing an information panel at Vindolanda suggesting that the standard of living for local people wasn’t surpassed until (I think) the 19th century. And there was a fantastic range of goods available if you could afford them. By contrast I suppose there would have been times when the harvests failed, and whatever food there was went to those who could either pay for it or demand it at sword-point. But who knows? I’m not sure how you would find evidence for the absence of food.

      I’ll resend the newsletter, that’s no problem at all. Always happy to show off the shoes!

  2. Ruth,

    That was grand – thanks for sharing. I posted the link on my Facebook Writer’s page and tweeted out the link. I did not include President Trump in the tweet. My fear was that he him mistake the Romans an invasion force and threaten “Fire and Fury” (which I think he stole from a Captain America movie) on the unsuspecting village.

      1. I won’t I promise. I would have loved to have seen the village. Especially that blonde woman who reminded me of Tilla. ;o)

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