A strange sight greated the children of Lympsham First School on Tuesday morning. Either Mrs Robertson was not quite herself today OR we had another interesting visitor!
We discovered that this was a Roman legionary called Aquilonius (or Caivs Aqvilonivs Statvtvs to give him his full name) sent by Caesar to train our young barbarians to become soldiers for the Roman army. He was tall, wearing a blue dress and speaking Latin. He was visiting the school for the day to teach some of the children just what a Roman invasion was like. A day that promised to be full of challenges faced by a ‘Brittunculi’, as the Romans referred to us.
The First Job for Aquilonius was to toughen up to withstand Roman discipline. To be in a Roman legion there were four rules-
You had to be free and not a slave, tall, single and a boy! There were lessons in knowing your left (sinister) from your right (dexter), how not to volunteer until you asked ‘what for?’, rules and standards, aquaducts, the decimal system, Centurians with a hard phonic ‘c’, taxes imperative ‘bossy’ verbs and the armour and arms of a Roman soldier. Why do they making that clanking noise when they march? What was so good about the segmentata armour?
Aquilonius was a great teacher (he told us many times)… speaking slowly, loudly and he showed us the vine stick which helped Roman trainee soldiers how to remember what they had learnt.
We discovered the rich Romans actually spoke Greek and only the poorer Romans and the soldiers spoke Latin. More than half of the Roman army were from lands that had been invaded. They wore Caldae which were sandals as they were light so they could march very quickly and also they let the rain out and didn’t give them blisters when they marched. Many of their belts and knife sheafs they decorated and sold when they got older. They did live quite old due to their diet of bread, fruit and vegetables with very little meat.
After break we learnt to march, drill with a sword and shield including the tortoise! All the instructions were of courses given in Latin too!
After lunch it was time to sample some Roman entertainment! Chariot racing for the rich Romans and Gladiators for the rich. The smallest (as they were the lightest) raced around the sand arena, each time the column with the copper sphere in the Spina (centre wall from which we get the word ‘spine’) raising to mark which circuit had been completed. Auquilonius was very impressed with the answer he got from Ruby when asked for a number between uno and decum (1 to 10) and she replied tres, which is the Roman for three!
Next came the gladiators
Caleb, in his bronze ocreae (shin pads) and manica (arm guard), played the part of a murmillo gladiator who was supplied by the venalicius (slave dealer) after he became a prisoner of war.
Alex was a young Roman who had gambled all his money away on the chariots and he wore much lighter armour and carried a smaller lighter shield and sword so that he could move around faster.
Will chose to keep his face on show to ‘charm the ladies’ but he carried a trident and a net being one of the retiarius gladiators.
After a brief demonstration from the teachers of fighting in the arena it was on with the history and a dramatic retelling of the story of Boudica’s Revolt.