Eboracum 2018 – Romans and beyond Posted on 6 Jun 20186 Jun 2018 by Ruth To begin at the beginning… Somebody needs to notify Little Bo Peep about this… In the background: part of York railway station. Train is my favourite way to arrive in the city, especially since the station is built over a Roman cemetery, some of which is probably still down there under the platforms. From the station area it’s a grand walk along the walls toward York Minster. As I haven’t yet worked out how to record video on the new camera, please imagine the Minster bells ringing out across the city. No, I don’t know why either, but York is full of this sort of thing. York Minster – a new addition to the Downie Towers collection of Famous Landmarks Seen Through Scaffolding (Nimes amphitheatre, the Trevi Fountain, the Parthenon…) Constantine, who was first proclaimed emperor here in Eboracum, explains the scaffolding to a visitor. Not Roman, but interesting… Wolf Hall costumes! Obviously I have to go in now, even if it isn’t Roman. Wow. Barley Hall is a much-restored building and many of the contents are reproductions. As a result, instead of looking like a museum, it looks and feels like a fresh and comfortable home. A window ‘glazed’ with strips of animal horn. I’ve heard of horn-glazed lamps before (the Romans had them) but never seen the real thing. It feels very smooth and strangely plasticky to the touch. Here they are! Just two of the Wolf Hall costumes on display. Fans of the series will be able to project Cromwell (Mark Rylance) and Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) onto those blank white faces. A quick diversion to the Jorvik Centre to discover that almost everyone in Viking York was slightly out of focus – witness this trader trying to sell fuzzy vegetables to a blurry lady. The Jorvik Centre displays are excellent but I have no idea how to work the camera in low light. Be glad this is out of focus: it’s the butcher’s. And yes, that grey thing with a pointy nose and a tail up on the chopping-block is indeed a rat. This is the sort of thing that makes the Jorvik Centre fine family entertainment. (Actually my favourite item on display was a very old sock with holes in it – made by naalbinding, for anyone who’s interested in textile production. There’s a good photo of it on the Jorvik Centre website.) But when, you ask, are we going to get to the Romans? Well, this is how they were looking on Friday night… …because anything involving camping always starts with a big heap of poles and plastic boxes in a field. By Saturday morning even the writers had got organized, although I wish I’d pulled the banner up straight before taking this picture. Ben Kane chatting to a couple of Roman soldiers who’d travelled from a city way beyond the bounds of the Empire – Los Angeles. Followers of LJ Trafford‘s Facebook page will already know statue Augustus and stone Tiberius, who regularly feature there. This is one of their rare public appearances. Here’s LJ Trafford herself, talking to Graham Harris, festival organiser. Paul Chrystal cunningly brought something to appeal to those who had only come to the Festival because some Romanophile had dragged them along. In amongst the Classics and Ancient History was, “Pubs in York.” Harry Sidebottom is a little fuzzy around the edges here but you have to admit that the offer of “Any Hot or Soft Drink and a cake, £2.50” has come out very nicely. Alex Gough. In focus (!) along with the splended “Watchmen of Rome”. Yesss! Penny Ingham, whose “The Saxon Wolves” I’ve just read and very much enjoyed, with its depiction of Roman Britain falling into ruin. Jane Finnis, Romanophile and Yorkshirewoman, whose Roman-era murder mysteries are set practically on the doorstep. Another of Yorkshire’s finest – Simon (SJA) Turney, looking very proud of his latest book, “Caligula” – as well he should. The Hospitium is probably the most splendid location in which I’ve ever set up a bookstall. Thanks to LA Hambly (in white with red stripe) there was a Romano-British Fashion Parade. The tags around our necks aren’t jewellery, they’re our passes in and out of the Museum Gardens – handmade by Sandra G-Neville (right). Too late, I found out they also got us discount in the local pub. At the command of the Emperor, the troops marched around the streets of the city. (If you’re keen on marching photos, there are more in last year’s blog post.) Here they are returning to base camp… …where they were very glad to down plenty of water. Marching is hot work. Meanwhile somebody was getting dinner ready. Other people were playing games Or admiring weaponry Or watching this military scribe at work. I’m sure he and Albanus would have had a fine time discussing the best types of sealing wax and where to buy pens. Re-enactor Sara Parkes explained this Roman-style saddle to me. Unlike modern saddles, it fits several sizes of horse. It’s also very comfortable and easy for the rider. (As someone with a talent for falling off, I was pleased to see there’s a wide choice of things to cling onto.) This chap was explaining something as I passed. Perhaps someone had asked him why there was a disembodied arm on the table in front of him. Once you’d got this loom set up, you would hope not to have to move it until you’d finished weaving. Because although it packs down into a box, all those weights holding the wool in position (which are the only thing between you and an almighty tangle) have to be removed for transit. Thanks to the lady from The Roman Military Research Society who took the time to explain it to me. On the right: Medicus Anicius Ingenuus of the IX Hispana legion. I failed to learn the name of the British lady on the left, even though she was kind enough to give me some very useful tips on Naalbinding (one of the ways people used to make socks before knitting was invented). And here’s my absolute favourite item of the weekend: the Medicus has copied the writings of Celsus on the subject of surgery onto this papyrus scroll so that he can carry it with him on his travels with the Legion. I’m sure if he and Ruso were to meet, they would have a lot to talk about. Share this:TwitterFacebook Related
17 thoughts on “Eboracum 2018 – Romans and beyond”
Looked like an interesting weekend. Must consider going sometime.
If you enjoyed the MK History Festival you’d enjoy this, Tony. They also have a programme of talks given by top experts, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to. Lindsay Allason-Jones, who visited Whitehall Villa when we were on Time Team, was one of them this year.
I did, of course, enjoy the MK History Festival, Ruth, so I’ll try to remember to consider going up to York next year.
Thanks for a terrific blog, Ruth, it captures the spirit of the weekend, and the flavour of York itself. It was grand fun, wasn’t it? Old friends, new friends, lovely people, and great to see so many family parties joining in; it’s never too early to get kids hooked on Ancient Rome. I’m glad the ladies’ fashions got a look-in, as well as the splendid military gear of the re-enactors. What is it about men in uniform…? Whatever it is, I go for it! I’m looking forward already to next year’s Festival.
Glad you felt the post captured the mood, Jane! It was great to see you and to catch up with other friends too. Plus there’s always so much to learn from the re-enactors.
Fabulous photos and commentary, Ruth! Thank you!
Thank you Sherry! It was well worth the trip and I managed to sneak an extra day this year to fit in a bit more of York. One thing I learned was that only about 2% of Roman York has been excavated, which leaves a lot left to be discovered next time somebody digs in their cellar.
Thank you Ruth, reading your blog about this weekend is both enjoyable and inspiring (in the sense that I now want to go to this festival next year!)
I hope you can make it next year! There’s lots to see and do, much of it indoors or under cover, so even though it rained on the first day I think a fine time was had by all.
I will have to make the effort to go next year, felt I missed out big time !
I’m pretty sure you’d enjoy it, Taff! 🙂
Thank you for the photos and the tour. I love York ,your books and seeing the costuming. A good window into this world.
Glad you enjoyed it, Lora! 🙂
Cool! Thank you for taking the pictures.
My mom and my sister were into natural textiles. I know how time consuming that stuff was.
Hi Steven – yes, the amount of time required was a real eye-opener for me when I started. Also, the amount of close work required would mean it was hard to do by the light of oil-lamps or candles. I wonder if production rates slowed down in the shorter days of winter?
Amazing Photo’s and commentary. I must attend one some day. Thank you.
Thank you Michael. It’s always a great weekend!