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Roman Britain and Vindolanda Assignment

1) We visited Vindolanda on Tuesday 9th October 2001. Whilst at the fort and vicus we observed the foundations of buildings, the remains of the drainage and hypocaust system and system and the water storage tanks. We also saw the various artefacts in the museum and the replicas of the civilian buildings and forts.

2a) At Vindolanda there are various artefacts which show signs of advanced technology. Whilst on the visit we saw the foundations of what were once buildings. They were well organised in the form of a planned township. There is also evidence that there were roads, which would have been important for transportation and communications. We saw the remains of the drainage and hypocaust systems, these show great signs of advanced technologies and show that the Romans had a good understanding for the needs for warmth and hygiene. The remains of the bathhouse also suggests the Romans knowledge of the need for hygiene. There are also signs of the luxuries they had such as lamps, pottery, jewellery and metalware and articles which show signs of normal lifestyles such as writing tablets and charcoal fires.

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2b) The Vindolanda fort was well protected against attackers. By looking at the remains of the walls we can tell they were built very thick to defend attackers. There was a very steep slope called a vallum in front of the walls this would mean the enemies would have to make their way up a very steep slope before attacking. There were naturally steep slopes to the North, South and East of the fort so Vindolanda was well situated.

Also Hadrians wall was to the North of Vindolanda and so the soldiers at the fort and Hadrians wall provided a superb defence. The fort had two large turrets, which were slightly rounded to make them stronger and harder to destroy by attackers. There is also evidence of granaries and wells inside the principia, which was at the centre of the fort. This may have been incase of a siege so the soldiers didn’t have to leave the fort for any reason during the attack.

2c) There are many artefacts that prove that Vindolanda was not always in conflict and that there were periods of peace. Pottery has been discovered which shows that rather than spending time creating weapons they were involved in more peaceful activities. Among these activities were carpentry, metal and jewellery crafts. A chess board has been discovered this informs us that the Romans had the ability to make and play the game. The altars which have been found show that there was still time for religion and that the Britons adopted the Roman religion.

Also the remains of the bathhouse indicate that it was an area for social gatherings and Vindolanda was visited quite frequently. Woman’s jewellery and other accessories have been found on the site which shows that at some time woman were present and woman were not allowed to be present during the sieges showing at some time there was peace or they would not be there. If the people of Vindolanda were always battling there would not be as much time for peaceful activities and also the attacks may have destroyed many of the artefacts leaving not as much evidence.

3a) In source 1 Tacitus writes about Agricola and how he brought civilisation to the Romans in Europe by weakening their fighting spirits by raising money to build temples, shops, bathhouses and towns. He gave the people all the luxuries of Rome and this made the people of Europe come to love the Romans. Source 2 shows us that when the remains of the drains of the bathhouse were discovered hairpins, a gemstone from a ring and wooden combs were found this shows that people visited the bathhouse particularly woman.

In source 3 there a number of items which may have been luxuries to the people of Vindolanda such as jewellery and hair accessories which backs up the comment in source 1 “In these towns he gave the people all the luxuries of Rome.” In sources 2 and 3 it also shows that there were trades and shops as this would be were the items were probably purchased from. Source 4 is a picture of an altar, which was found in the vicus at Vindolanda and shows dedication to the God Vulcan by the civilians of Vindolanda. This shows that the Roman religion was adopted and that they still worshiped their own Gods.

It also gives evidence that civilians were present at this time in Vindolanda. Source 5 shows a plan of Vindolanda vicus in the 3rd century. It shows the fact that Vindolanda was well planned and set out and shows evidence of the married quarters. All sources 2-5 back up the statement by Tacitus and all 4 sources show normal signs of civilisation at Vindolanda. Tacitus said that Agricola raised money for temples which suggests that the Romans were religious this backed up in source 4, shops this is backed up in sources 2 and 3 with signs of discovered luxuries and public squares. This is related to source 5 with the plan of the town. The planned township shows that Vindolanda was well planned to Roman design.

3b) The tablets that were written by the Vindolanda citizens show signs of peace. The only problem with these tablets are they aren’t dated so we can’t see which time the Pax Romania policy was carried out. Source 7 shows a clemency appeal. It shows that a man was appealing against being beaten with rods. This gives us the idea that a legal system was in operation but it doesn’t show the date, so we don’t know exactly when the legal system was in operation. Source 8 is a birthday invitation for September 14th but it doesn’t have the year on. This suggests that the Romans had adopted some form of Roman calendar. It also shows peace and that they had social lives and communication systems. Source 9 contradicts the idea of peaceful times as this is a military report referring to the fact that there was some kind of fighting, “The wretched Britons take up fixed position in order to throw spears.”

3c) Sources 10 and 11 show that at Vindolanda there was prosperity, trades and businesses at some point. Source 10 is a statement mainly about prosperity, but also links in trading and business. In the source the writer describes how the soldiers were paid 100 denari a year, so between all the soldiers they had a million and a half denari a year. This money will have been spent on trading and businesses such as shops. At the beginning of the source the writer says, “these people were still very poor,” so the money brought into the community would have made a big difference to the local peoples lives. Source 11 shows an artistic reconstruction of the Butchers shop in the vicus at Vindolanda. This shows also as source 10 does signs of trading and businesses and also suggests that there was money to spend on luxuries.

3d) Sources 12 and 13 show that Pax Romania was adopted by some Britons but not all. Source 12 shows a model reconstruction of a British settlement found near the wall in Roman times, this shows that there were still British forts and many Britons were still living as they always had. Source 13 is a written source which states that some Britons lived in a Roman sort of life but in other parts of the country the Britons carried on as they had before.

3e) In source one Tacitus says, “in these towns he gave the people all the luxuries enjoyed in Rome.” There have been discoveries of these luxuries and examples of these are given is sources two and three. But sources nine, twelve and thirteen contradict the idea of Tacitus’ statement. By looking at these sources they show that the residents could not possibly have the life that was given to those who lived in Rome as there was still a lot of British civilisation as source 12 the model reconstruction of the British Settlement and source 13 a written statement which shows that many Britons lived as they always had show.

Source nine also contradicts this statement as it is a military report, which indicates signs of fighting, so if there was battles and fighting the civilians could obviously not have as good a life as those in Rome where there was no fighting. Vindolanda was a very special site on the Northern Frontier and the policy that was given by Tacitus was carried out to some extent but obviously the residents could not possibly be given the same lifestyle as they could be given in Rome.

3f) The sources, which are given, show different pictures of how life at Vindolanda. Some show signs of peace and happiness while others show signs of sieges and battles. Source 8 is a birthday invitation from September 14th but doesn’t include the year. This shows that at some time there must have been peace as a birthday wouldn’t have been thrown in the middle of a siege or if there was any indication there was going to be a battle. There are signs in source 2 (the findings from the bathhouse) that woman were present as wooden combs and hairpins have been found, so at some point there must have been peace as the woman wouldn’t be present otherwise and source 2 also indicates there was time to socialise by going to the bathhouse.

Also a chessboard, pottery and jewellery has been discovered which shows there was time to make or buy things and in the case of the chessboard time to play chess. Source nine is a military report, which shows at least once there wasn’t peace at Vindolanda. In this military report the statement ” The wretched Britons take up fixed positions in order to throw spears” is given. This indicates conflict between the residents of Vindolanda and the British. The fort was also very well defended which indicates they were prepared for attacks because if there were no battles or sieges they wouldn’t need all the security.

Pax Romana was achieved to a certain extent but not completely. Evidence such as the bathhouse, pottery and jewellery show that there was time for relaxing and socialising and doing ordinary everyday things other than always fighting. However there is also evidence which contradicts this such as the military report and the clemency appeal. There may still be evidence buried on the site of Vindolanda and as this is found it may help to come to a further conclusion.

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