The Romans came to this country in AD 43 and Britain stayed under their control until about AD 410.
The emperor Claudius ordered the occupation of the island. The Romans brought with them a civilizations that was very different to the way of life lived by the Britons. Romans thought of themselves as civilised and thought of the native Britons as Barbarians. More
The Romans liked to live in large towns.
This was the most striking thing about the Roman way of life. Up to this time, all the peoples of Britain had lived in smaller rural settlements. More
The towns were strongly built and offered a whole new way of life.
For the Britons that lived in the towns, life was very different from anything they had known before. The towns were well designed with the forum (main square) at the centre. In the third and fourth centuries Britain came under attack from raiding 'Saxons'. At this time strong walls were built around the towns to ensure the business of the town could be carried out safely. More
However most of the population continued to live much as they had before the arrival of the Romans.
During the three and a half centuries of Roman occupation the majority of the people continued to live in the countryside. However, even here they could not escape Roman influence. Roman fashions changed the way they farmed, travelled and even did business. Many important British families eventually built Roman style houses. More
Religion was very important.
Each town originally had a number of temples because, for most of the occupation, the Romans worshipped many gods, including those they discovered when they arrived in Briton. They also eventually introduced Christianity to the Britons. More
Local government was provided by a council, and magistrates administered the law.
Roman towns and their surrounding countryside were governed by a council of the richest men of the town. The day-to-day running was by elected magistrates, who also presided at public trials, where the crowd would vote on whether the person being tried was guilty or not. More
One of the main social centres in the town was the public baths.
At the baths, people gathered to chat and bathe. Even the rich, who would have had their own private bath-houses, used the baths to keep in contact with their friends. The water was often carried in pipes and aqueducts from miles away. More
Roman citizens enjoyed plays and watching spectacles based on combat.
Theatres for plays and amphitheatres for combative spectacles, provided the main entertainment for rich and poor alike. More
Well-built roads helped support a wide-ranging trade network.
These paved roads ran for hundreds of miles in more or less straight lines. The roads were not there primarily for the benefit of private travellers, or for traders, but for the army. More
In British towns, goods would be on sale from all over the Empire.
The central forum would be surrounded by shops, cafes and inns with goods from as far away as Asia Minor and Africa. More
For most of the occupation, Hadrian’s Wall was the northern outpost of the Roman Empire in Britain.
At York, Chester and Lincoln were huge bases for Roman Legionnaires. The legions were made up of soldiers from all over the empire. Many of these stayed on in Britain after retiring from the army where they were rewarded with money and land.. More
Richer townspeople lived in large houses with shady central courtyards and pools.
Large town houses often took up an entire block, or “island”, between the grid-patterned streets. Facing the streets would be shops, above which would live the shopkeepers and others who rented rooms from the owners. Inside would be the main house, with its many rooms surrounding a tranquil courtyard. More
The Romans kept many slaves to perform all the work of running the house.
It would be slaves who cooked and cleaned, and did the many other duties that kept a large household running smoothly. Slaves also looked after and taught the children reading, writing and arithmetic. Then older boys and girls had separate education. More
Rich people also had a villa in the countryside, surrounded by farmland.
Their farms would be run by trusted slaves, so that they themselves did none of the hard labour required to grow the crops and tend the animals. More
Roman houses had many advanced features.
Some of these things would not be seen again in buildings in Britain for many years. One example was central heating. More
Many of the things which made up Roman civilization fell into decay when they left.
In the third and fourth centuries the Roman Empire came under threat from the 'barbarians' from the north. In Britain walls were built to defend the towns, and forts were built to defend the coast. The city of Rome was sacked and Britain was left to look after itself. Gradually the towns and villas fell into disrepair and people moved back to living in the countryside. The Roman way of life was gradually forgotten. More