Rome from Home

Picture of Colosseum beyond feet wearing pink fluffy slippers

To be honest this isn’t 100% about Ancient Rome – I just liked the rhyme. But as lots of us are going to be at home over the next few weeks, I thought I’d put together a few links that might help pass the time. These are some of my own favourites – please chip in and share yours in the comments!

(I’m not affiliated to these sites in any way, and can’t guarantee what you’ll find when you get there. I just use and enjoy them as a member of the public.)

Armchair archaeology

First up – Sketchfab. This is a fantastic website for getting a good look at things from the comfort of the sofa. You don’t need to join to search through the vast selection of 3D models on offer (which includes the Colosseum, as above, minus the pink slippers) but you do need to be patient while they load. Below is a link to our noble emperor Hadrian to get you started. On my computer, you turn him with the left mouse button and drag with the right. Zoom in and you can almost touch the marble: https://skfb.ly/6nDzx

Digventures, run by archaeologists, is very good at combining modern technology and ancient mud.

There’s a great list of links to  virtual museum tours in wide circulation at the moment on TravelandLeisure.com   

Part of display case full of finds from the London Mithraeum

I don’t think they’ve listed the London Mithraeum, but you can check out the highlights of their finds display (much better than the photo above, I promise)  here: https://case.londonmithraeum.com/ You’ll need to use a smartphone or tablet, because it’s not designed for computer screens.

Explore

Here’s a digital atlas of the Roman Empire – and if only Ruso and Tilla had had access to ORBIS too, they could have checked out all their travel options and costs without the trouble of leaving home. Meanwhile their author wishes she’d found it years ago and saved herself hours of research.

Ancient earthworks in field

Hunt out some of the pre-Roman settlements in Britain and Ireland with the Atlas of Hillforts. The ramparts in this pic are in Norfolk and predate Boudica by hundreds of years. I was amazed at how many others there are. (This site refused to work on Firefox today, but was OK on Microsoft Edge.)  

Explore Britain’s more recent past in old maps via the National Library of Scotland

See the shape of things from above with LiDAR.  Sorry the coverage here is only England and Wales and very patchy, but if you’re lucky enough to be in an area that’s covered, you can zoom in and play “spot my house”. Most of the Hadrian’s Wall area is there so you can explore that, too.  

Maps with links to records of what’s old and interesting can be found  via Historic EnglandCADW (Wales), and Pastmap (Scotland). I don’t pretend to know about Ireland, but Google will.

Read

Tower of books - photo by Magda Ehlers

Let’s face it, most of us have enormous and terrifying To-Be-Read piles bearing down upon us. But if you feel yours is lacking, don’t forget to check your local library website to see if they offer free downloads of e-books and audio books. Mine does, and I’ve just finished Stephen Fry’s retelling of the old Greek legends in “Mythos”. Entertaining and educational!

Keen to brush up your knowledge of the classics in a more academic way? There’s a vast supply of texts at the Perseus Digital Library.

Here’s where you can see and read the world-famous writing tablets from Vindolanda for yourself.

While we’re on “reading” – I’m pleased to say that PRIMA FACIE, the novella featuring Ruso and Tilla’s second trip to Gaul, has been reduced to 99p on Kindle UK until the end of March. Apologies to everyone else, but the ways of Amazon are a mystery to me.

Learn

Futurelearn’s Virtual Rome course  includes virtual tours of parts of the ancient city.  Check out the full range of their courses here – lots to choose from and they’re usually free to join, although you can pay for extras.

Coursera’s series of Yale lectures on Roman Architecture is just starting again and may still be open for free enrolment. Excellent if you want a formal lecture course with lots of detail. You’ll never think of concrete in the same way again.

Make

Not to be attempted if you are feeling a little fuzzy around the edges, but Nalbinding (woolworking with a single needle) is a useful skill if you want to create the cosiest winter socks ever.

I said they were cosy. I didn’t say they were elegant.

This is apparently how the Vikings made their socks, but the techniques go back much further – there are some exhuberantly stripy socks from Roman Egypt made in what’s called “Coptic stitch”. I’ve never tried this, but can confirm that Oslo Stitch is possible for amateurs. Google offers plenty of instructions, including this website, and there’s also a Facebook page for anyone who’s really keen.

Relax

Sometimes only a jigsaw will do. Yesterday’s search for “Roman” on Jigsaw Planet brought up online jigsaws of the Colosseum, theatres, Roman streets and a young woman in a bikini. As I said, I’m not responsible for any of these sites…

And finally…

I’m aware that while some of us may be suffering from little more than boredom, worry, and a potential shortage of toilet rolls, many families are already caught up in tragedy. Others trudge on, keeping daily life going, while armies of health workers are out there fighting on the front line on our behalf. When this is over, I hope you will all have time to realise how wonderful you are.

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