Nearly 2,000 years after their first definite visit to Colchester, the Roman army is returning! – and visiting the Roman circus visitor centre… The famous Ermine Street Guard is a group of Roman army re-enactors and they will be here at the Roman circus centre for the weekend of the 10th-11th June.
The Ermine Street Guard will actually march through Colchester town centre to the Roman circus visitor centre on Saturday morning and then spend the rest of the weekend at the circus centre – and they will be encamped in the garden of the former Sergeants’ Mess next door! They will perform Roman battlefield drills on both Saturday and Sunday and visitors will be able to look round their Roman army camp and talk to members of the Guard about the life of a Roman soldier over the whole weekend. (See event details below.)
The Roman army invaded Britain in AD 44 and headed for Camulodunum, the Iron Age precursor of Colchester. Here they received the submission of British tribal leaders and the Roman conquest of Britannia was begun. It is thought that Legio XX (the 20th legion) of the Roman army built the fortress within what is now Colchester town centre and occupied it until AD 49. In AD 49, Legio XX moved on, and the buildings of the fortress were converted for use in the Roman civilian town which was founded here in AD 49. The town was settled with Roman army veterans. The Colchester Roman circus – the only known Roman circus in Britain – was built in the early 2nd century AD and seems to have gone out of use at the end of the 3rd century. However, we do have a chunk of wall from a building in the Roman fortress at Colchester on display here at the Roman circus centre. (It is also very appropriate for the Roman army to visit us here at the Roman circus centre in the former Artillery Barracks of the old Colchester garrison.)
Sat.: 10.30am – start of the march at the Town Hall, proceeding to the Roman circus visitor centre via Abbeygate Street.
Sat. and Sun.: 11.00 am to 4.00 pm – the Roman circus site, visitor centre and tea room will be open to visitors. See the Guard perform battlefield drills, look round their camp and talk to the re-enactors about the life of a Roman soldier. Come and handle archaeological finds and talk to Trust archaeologists. Our children’s tent includes a sand-pit dig, a quiz and craft activities.
There will be guided tours of the Roman circus visitor centre and site on both days.
Boudica, queen of the Iron Age Iceni tribe in Norfolk, will also be here. (Boudica, of course, led the ‘Boudican revolt’ of British tribes against the occupying Roman army in AD 61 and has a historic connection with the Ermine Street Guard… .)
FREE for members of the Friends of Colchester Archaeological Trust, non-members £3 per person, accompanied children under 16 FREE.
We look forward to seeing you!
The event is being presented by the Friends of the Colchester Archaeological Trust: visit their web-site at http://focat.org.uk/ .
Visit the Ermine Street Guard web-site at www.erminestreetguard.co.uk .
The images show the Ermine Street Guard in action at other events. [Image to follow.]
Ten facts about the Roman army in Colchester:
1 It is thought that Legio XX of the Roman army built and were based in the fortress within what is now Colchester town centre.
2 Legio vigesima Valeria Victrix was the full name of Legio XX.
3 The funerary monument of a centurion or junior officer of Legio XX, Marcus Favonius Facilis, was found in Lexden and is now on display at Colchester Castle Museum. It is thought to be the earliest example of Roman sculpture in Britain.
4 The funerary monument of Longinus Sdapeze of the First Thracian cavalry regiment, which served as an auxiliary unit with the Roman army, was found at Lexden and is now on display at Colchester Castle Museum.
5 Evidence of the Roman army which has been excavated at Colchester includes a dagger sheath, a helmet reconstructed from fragments, and an incomplete cooking-pot.
6 The Trust has excavated the remains of a number of Roman military buildings at Colchester, dating to AD 44-49.
7 In AD 49, the legionary fortress at Colchester was decommissioned and a Roman civilian town -a colonia – was founded here, for the settlement of Roman army veterans.
8 Part of the military diploma of Roman army veteran Saturninus of Glevum (Gloucester) has been found in Colchester.
9 Legio IX Hispana was another Roman unit which served in Britain – and the Ermine Street Guard re-enact Legio IX Hispana. Legio IX Hispana also had a historic connection with Colchester. They were stationed at a fortress at Lincoln in AD 61 and were sent to relieve Colchester during the Boudican revolt in that year. (‘Ermine Street’ is a later name for the major Roman road to Lincoln.)
10 The chunk of Roman military wall which was excavated in Colchester by the Trust and which is now on display at the Roman circus visitor centre includes chevron markings which indicates that it was constructed by a Roman legion.