A dash of local history: Romans & fizz

When Himself first mentioned where we now live as a possible location, I wasn’t overly keen, for all I knew was its fame as an area of mass housing development. It wasn’t till I came to view our apartment, that I discovered all those new houses were built around an existing village with its own history.

This area was one of the first parts of the country to be ‘Romanised’. Built alongside a historic Roman road which linked Chichester (on the south coast) with London, although there is no evidence that this village existed in Roman times, evidence of a Roman settlement has been uncovered some 5 miles hence, during excavations in the 1920s, 1980s and, most recently, in 2005.

You can barely go out for a drive to the coast without passing a brown sign (indicating a site of historical significance) pointing to this or that once-was Roman house, fort or settlement. Not much survives apart from a few stone walls and some mosaics, but it’s left me itching to know more. My knowledge of Roman history is pretty rudimentary, for my early school years were spent in India where Roman Britain wasn’t exactly high on the agenda.

Just across the road from those aforementioned excavations of what was a mansio (a sort of inn crossed with a roadside service area) is a hillside covered in vines. English wine is now a burgeoning business, with a growing reputation for its sparkling wine in particular. Our county of Sussex has 19 vineyards listed, a few of which already have excellent reputations.

Himself (bringing his Geography degree to welcome practical use πŸ˜‰ ) explained this is due to the fact that this area shares the same terroir as the Champagne region of France. Me being me, I had to speculate whether vines were also located on that self-same hillside in Roman times, to provide for thirsty travellers and Roman legions. These most local vines have no signage yet – but as it takes a minimum of 5 years for a vineyard to establish, we may still have a year or two before they set out their stall.

The only fiction I’ve read on the subject was Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth. That was so long ago, I can’t honestly claim to remember much at all. I shall clearly have to re-visit it, but any other reading recommendations would be welcome (Alan, I’m most especially hopeful of you πŸ™‚ ). As for the sparkling wine, I plan to do rather more practical research of the imbibing kind πŸ˜‰

What’s your local area known for? And in a slight twist, do you like your reading to have a historical or contemporary setting?

10 thoughts on “A dash of local history: Romans & fizz

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  1. “The Silver Pigs” is the first book in a series by Lindsey Davis, set in AD 79. The first book and one other are set in Roman England, which the snarky narrator hates because it’s cold and wet and dreary and miserable and he always catches a cold. It’s a fun series, and one of the books was based around a bath house mosaic that was uncovered, possibly in your area.

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  2. One of the Aunt Dimity novels is set in a little Roman dig. I think you are asking for something with a little more historical information, however. But do get on that first hand research. It sounds like a lot of fun!

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  3. Gee thanks! πŸ™‚

    A lot will depend on what you want to cover as there is a huge range of material, including alternative fiction. The first one that springs to mind is ‘I, Claudius’ by Robert Graves: that is set in ancient Rome. The Lindsey Davies Marcus Didius Falco books mentioned above are good fun to read. She has written another series of detective novels featuring Falco’s daughter, but I’ve not read any of those. If you want something non-fiction then almost anything by Mary Beard is worth reading – scholarly but not deadly! I particularly liked ‘SPQR’ a very readable history of ancient Rome. She also wrote ‘Laughter in Ancient Rome’ and has written on Pompeii.

    If you really want to topple the TBR pile then a browse through https://tinyurl.com/hu8d6ahf will give you plenty of scope πŸ™‚ And Rosemary Sutcliffe wrote three novels including ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ about Roman Britain.

    That’s a start!

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  4. That does make one speculate on what exactly was served at those mansios. πŸ˜‰ It sounds like a future post from you on Sussex wines could be in the making?

    We live in the nation’s oldest city (St. Augustine), so French and Spanish history abound (with splashes of England to boot). When we first moved here I got immersed in it all, and now I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by it. But it’s always interesting. – Marty

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  5. Zazzy, I think I’m after a bit of both. I enjoy taking in a bit of historical information via the medium of fiction (so long as it’s accurate & well-researched) but balance it with some heavier weight non-fiction. Thank you for the Aunt Dimity recommendation, I shall go take a look to see if I can identify it.


  6. Marty, I do hope to (on the future post on Sussex wines πŸ˜€ ) Oh French, Spanish & English history does sound like it could prove overwhelming while being fascinating. Too many strands all at once perhaps?

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  7. You always do such great (and terrible) things to my TBR Alan πŸ™‚ I think I realised that SPQR had to be on the cards, although it’s such a beast, I felt somewhat daunted. I’ll check out her other offerings as well, which I was completely unaware of, and thank you for reassuring me on SPQR’s readability. I didn’t know Rosemary Sutcliffe wrote other offerings on Roman Britain than The Eagle of the Ninth, I shall gon on a hunt for those too.

    I’m almost afraid of clicking on that link… but will get brave & save the results for future browsing.


  8. I did not realize that the UK was growing a reputation for sparkling wines, but I do like an occasional glass of the fizzing variety, so next trip to the wine store, I’m going to see if they carry any from the UK. Either way, I will be toasting you with my purchase. Cheers!

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