Tuesday 30 October 2012

Being a Roman soldier

The two younger children and I have been experiencing some hands-on history.

The first stop was at Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex. Now, I must say that we've had mixed experiences taking children to Roman sites. I remember several years ago having some very disappointed children after a visit to a large villa. The children had expected something like a castle that they could go inside not just some half ruined mosaic floor. Since then, I've been very careful to manage expectations before going to see bits of floor. Thankfully, Fishbourne didn't disappoint-it is an enormous complex with a fair few mosaics but in addition, this week, is their Roman soldier week. 

The Roman soldier week was fantastic for the children. First, they had to visit the recruiting officer and be enrolled in the Roman army using the Roman version of their name. They were then given a sheet with six tasks that had to be completed in order to obtain their pay for the day-a denarius.

They had to go to receive the Roman army tatoo which thankfully came off in the bath later.

Then there was drill practice-in Latin. Both children now know that "sin/dex" is Latin (OK shortened) for "left/right".

Soldiers had to be able to throw stones at wild boar.

Then there was spear practice, medicine making and food tasting. I don't think that my children got beyond the spelt bread but there were other Roman goodies-not dormice. 

Of course, there was plenty else to see. The Roman gardens

including the amazing box hedges laid out on what are thought to be the original pattern, in the original spot

and even the gardener to tell us how much more difficult it is to garden here than home in Italy.

This was a great day. We don't plan to study the Romans properly until later in the year but this was a taster that has left the children really enthusiastic.


  1. We were planning a day there over the summer but had to cancel as my youngest was ill. How long do you think you would ideally need to spend there? I've never been- is it a whole day out, half or just an hour or so? It looks lovely- I might try and fit it in over the next few weeks!

  2. Angelicscalliwags-we arrived about 1pm and spent about two and half hours at the Palace. We went once before, years ago, with the older children but I think spent a shorter time there. The Roman soldier event was great and we almost certainly stayed longer due to this.

  3. What a wonderful 'field' trip!
    Your post caught my eye as we're gearing up to study ancients in 2013.

    Thanks for sharing your experience (something we'd only ever imagine doing ☺) - complete with photos and a link.

  4. It was good. I've been enjoying your posts about the ancients. Perhaps a bit young for your children but many of the activities they did for the Roman soldiers are transferable although you might need rather a long trip to see the actual ruins!

  5. I LOVE this post and pinned it for use when we get back to the Romans. Thanks for linking up to the history and geography meme.

  6. Thanks, Phyllis-we had a really enjoyable day and it has been so funny to hear the children march in Latin!

  7. I love this! I'm hopping over from the history meme and I am so glad I did.

    I'm pinning this for when we cycle back to Rome in a year or so.