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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Waddesdon Manor's Roman Weekend Part 1 - The Roman Army

I had wanted to return to Waddesdon Manor for a long time now but life got in the way as it does sometimes and it did not happen. After a very hectic week with A'level results for both of our sons and Hospital appointments, I wanted to get away from it all and when The 'Roman Weekend 'at Waddesdon Manor came up in my Facebook feed, I knew that was where I wanted to go. I studied Classical studies as well as History in my youth and enjoyed both subjects, often wishing I could go back for a day to see how they really lived in those times. I think I love History as much as I do photography.

Sunday morning came and it was a journey I was to make on my own and after getting stuck in traffic on the A43, I arrived much later than I had hoped. It was the first time I had used the new car park and experienced their 'park and ride'. The shuttle bus took me to the top of the hill just in time to see the Roman soldiers marching down the drive from the house. It was an excellent scene to start the day off with Waddesdon Manor as the back drop!

First march the Roman Legionary. These men were Roman citizens who had to pass a very strict medical to to join this army. Many were also skilled tradesmen building roads, forts and bridges along the way. One Roman road I use most days is the  'The Fosse Way' which originally linked Exeter to Lincolnshire passing many Roman Towns on the way including Cirencester and Bath. Both these towns still have many Roman buildings existing today which shows you how well things were built in the old days.
Behind the Legionnaires came the Roman Auxiliary who were soldiers who were not Roman citizens but often from places the Romans had conquered or had become allied with. They could earn their citizenship by staying in the Roman army for 25 years. Most Legionary would do around 20 years.

I was so pleased to have caught the beginning of the display as I had been watching the time closely when stuck in traffic. I really did not think I would make it! Having less time than I had hoped, I had decided not to go in the house this time. I knew if I had gone in, that would be me lost for the rest of the day and I would have missed everything going on outside and there was lots to see! I love this house inside and out but 'you can't rush a good thing' as my Grandmother always used to say. To see a little of the inside of this beautiful house, here is a blog I wrote last year when the Chilli Festival was on.

The Roman display continued with an introduction to the different types of soldiers and their ranks.

The Centurions were in charge and wore helmets with horse hair that went from ear to ear and had large medals on their chests which they received for bravery. They wore the best leather and finest cloths and carried a special stick along with a dagger on the right side and a sword on the left which was the opposite to all the Legionnaires.

Next came the deputy Centurion (Optio) who wore a helmet with horse hair that went from the front to back and also wore medals for bravery on his chest.

The Standard Bearers.
 A Standard is a long pole with a flag or badge on it. The Flag this group are holding on the left of the picture below is that of the Twentieth Legion. (LEG XX) The man holding the flag is called a 'Vexillarius. The bearer on the right is the 'Signum' and is holding a pole made from several disks topped by a circle ring with what looks like Caesar's crown  around the edge and a hand in the middle. The Bearer in the middle is called the 'Signifer' and is carrying a large circular horn. The horn was blown to tell the soldiers what to do. All Bearers wore animal skins which always had their teeth on show over the front of the helmet. These animals skins were often from Bears which fits with them being called Bearers :) All the Standard Bearers were respected and well protected.

 The Signum

The Signifer 

                                             The flag Bearer ( Vexillarius)

Always protected behind the soldiers in battle.

Roman Legionary and the Roman Auxiliary Soldiers.

They had to be able to march around 20 miles a day and then build a camp and sometimes fight at the end of the walk. They would have to carry their armour, tools and everything they needed.

                 The Camp-site with tents made of leather.


 The soldiers doing their own washing-up!

                                         Back to the display.

There were some combat displays also. Fight training and spear throwing.

I used to throw the javelin at school. I should have had a go :)

Combat training.

The soldiers were trained with spears, swords and daggers, other were archers.

The Archers.

Roman Artillery starting with the 'Onager (Catapult) which was amazing when it fired. They used a melon to show you how it worked and it shot it so high and far. I really did not think it would go as well as it did. Apparently this catapult can fire rocks weighting up to 150 lbs smashing into walls of the enemy.

Next we have the 'Scorpio' or 'Dart thrower' which does exactly what it's name says.

At the far side of the picture below you can see the giant crossbow known as the 'Ballista'  You can click on any image to enlarge them.

Roman Army formations
I will start with the 'Testudo' or the  'Tortoise' as many people know it. The Roman soldiers would interlock their shields to act as one large shield to protect them all and allow them to advance quicker and safer. You will see what I mean in the photos.

If there were more men there would be shield around the sides too.

I have just realised that these photos would have been great to have when my children were younger as all children learn about the Romans at school. It is usually the first historical event they study.

The Wedge was a triangle shape used to break through enemy lines.

The Roman soldiers would carry a short sword called a 'gladius' which was easy to use between the shields to attack and thrust forward.

Charging at the enemy while still in the wedge formation.

I can't remember this one so feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this blog if you do.

The next set of pictures shows the soldiers marching in to battle in a straight line with swords and spears at the ready. This bit was funny as they marched at quite a speed straight towards to audience, stopping only a couple of feet from them and making many jump. 

A few more photos of the Roman soldiers and then I will start on the second half of this blog.

I hope you have enjoyed this first part of my visit to Waddesdon Manor for the Roman weekend. I have never been to a re-enactment before and thoroughly enjoyed this one.
The second blog will cover the Falconry display and the Roman stalls, including coin making and not to forget the beautiful Roman Mosaic which is the reason for the Roman weekend in the first place.

Here is some of what will be covered in Part 2 of this blog.

Thanks for reading my blog.

A link to Waddesdon Manor

A link to the Romans on display.

Copyright Jana Eastwood

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