The Romanization of Britain Under the Roman Empire

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From language we pass to material civilization. Here is a far wider field of evidence, provided by buildings, private or public, their equipment and furniture, and the arts and small artistic or decorative objects. On the whole this evidence is clear and consistent. The material civilization of the province, the external fabric of its life, was Roman, in Britain as elsewhere in the west. Native elements succumbed almost wholesale to the conquering foreign influence. In regard to public buildings this is natural enough. Before the Claudian conquest the Britons can hardly have possessed large structures in stone, and the provision of them necessarily came in with the Romans. The fora, basilicas, and public baths, such as have been discovered at Silchester, Caerwent and elsewhere, follow Roman models and resemble similar buildings in other provinces. The temples show something more of a local pattern (Fig. 7), which occurs also in northern Gaul and on the Rhine, but this pattern seems merely a variation of a classical type.[1] The characteristics of the private houses are more complicated. Their ground-plans show us types which, like the temples just mentioned, recur in northern Gaul as well as Britain, but which differ even more than the temples from the similar buildings in Italy, or indeed in the Mediterranean provinces of the Empire. The houses of Italy and of the south generally were constructed to look inwards upon open impluvia, colonnaded courts and garden plots, and, as befitted a hot climate, they had few outer windows. Moreover, they could be easily built side by side so as to form, as at Pompeii, the continuous streets of a town. The houses of Britain and northern Gaul looked outwards on to the surrounding country. Their rooms were generally arranged in straight rows along a corridor or cloister. Sometimes they had only one row of rooms (Corridor House, Fig. 8); sometimes they enclosed two or three sides of a large open yard (Courtyard House, Fig. 9); a third type somewhat resembles a yard with rooms at each end of it. In any case they were singularly ill-suited to stand side by side in a town street. When we find them grouped together in a town, as at Silchester and Caerwent--the only two examples of Roman towns in Britain of which we have real knowledge--they are dotted about more like the cottages in an English village than anything that recalls a real town (Fig. 10).

[Footnote 1: British examples have been noted at Silchester and Caerwent, and in many scattered sites in rural districts. For Gaulish instances, see Léon de Vesly, Les Fana de région Normande (Rouen, 1909); for Germany, Bonner Jahrbücher, 1876, p. 57, Hettner, Drei Tempelbezirke im Trevirerlande (Trier, 1901), and _Trierer Jahresberichte, iii. 49-66. The English writers who have published accounts of these structures have tended to ignore their special character.]


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roman culture