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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Roman Villa at Chedworth

The Roman Villa at Chedworth is THE BEST Roman ruin that I have ever visited. Given that there are Roman ruins just about everywhere in Europe including Rome, that says something about how well curated these remains are. I walked through the most fascinating history lesson ever!

This marvellous place is tucked away near Chedworth, behind tall trees and impenetrable hedges. It is accessible only through 2-way roads so small that only a single car can pass at a time. Yup! Odd for a 2-way road. When we did meet a car coming the other way, either one of us had to back up to one of those road bulges where the road is slightly wider. One car had to park a while to let the other car pass. Things got a bit exciting for us when we met a small truck.

It was an enjoyable ride there on roads so empty it felt like we owned the land. The birds here sing all day. They really do. The weather is so cool and sunny that the birds are happy all day. Everywhere you go, birdsong comes along. It's piped-in music that God plays only in the Cotswolds, through powerful speakers on every tree and shrub. Meanwhile, verdant green fields roll away into the distance, accented with dark green patches of woods here, and spots of white woolly sheep there. The Husband and I stopped the car, stared and listened. 

Then, we took a selfie.

These short pillars are what remains of the Roman hypocaust system from the 4th century. They're close to 2000 years old!! The hypocaust is the Roman under the floor heating system. These pillars hold up the floor.

See how the pillars hold up the floor, and the beautiful mosaic laid atop them. The Romans really had something going. Instead of carpets (trapping dust and creepy crawlies of all sorts) they heated the floor. That way, even in winter, they could run about barefoot in the house. That is certainly much cleaner than carpet, no?

A depiction of the hypocaust under the floor in a family room.

The sacred water shrine where the Romans worshipped Artemis.

A close-up of the mosaic.

See how large this Roman villa was. It was a huge mansion, clearly meant for some rich fellow. Maybe one day, 2000 years hence, someone will excavate Bill Gates house and curate it?

A wooden clog for use inside the bathhouse, where the floor is so hot that it would burn the feet.

A bronze scraper for scraping dirt and oil off the body. The Romans had soap but preferred to bathe in oil. They would spread scented oil all over their skin and go sit in the sauna to sweat out dirt and toxin. After that, they would scrape oil and such off their bodies. Only when they were all clean would they go into the hot baths. 

Personal toiletries set: tweezers, ear digger and nail trimmer.

A small glass amphora that was used to hold the dirty oil scraped off dirty bodies. This oil was then turned into some hair product women would use to style their hair. I find this a bit hard to believe and wanted to ask the guide for references... but I did not dare. Anyway, it is quite plausible because us women have been known to do strange and icky things for the sake of beauty... so why not use the oily human body detritus?

This is a Roman snail. The Romans imported these snails into England because they were a Roman delicacy. They placed these snails in a plate of milk. The snails would absorb the milk and become too swollen to fit back into their shells, whereupon the Romans would pluck them out and fry them up as milk flavoured snail steak. They are quite large and very meaty, about the size of my fist.

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