Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer Travels in Roman Western Europe

Randall Stephens

In time for the summer travel season Elaine Sciolino writes an interesting piece on "Roman France" in the NYT travel section.

Over the years, I have discovered traces of Roman civilization throughout the country, from Arras in the north to Dijon in the center and Fréjus in the south. My hunt for Roman Gaul has turned up treasures in the oddest places, including the middle of wheat fields, the foundations of churches and the basements of dusty provincial museums. . . .

If French history books tend to underplay ancient Roman rule, local politicians and entrepreneurs in the south do not. In the summer, area restaurants offer “Roman” menus with 2,000-year-old recipes: dishes prepared with cumin, coriander, mint and honey.

The article features a map with key sites marked out and a slide show. Related pieces include: "Traces from When Paris Was Roman" (May 17, 2009); and "Amid the Glory of France, the Grandeur that Was Rome" (May 17, 2009).

There's plenty to see across the channel, too. About a year ago Kevin Rushby wrote about a short trip he and his four-year-old daughter made to Hadrian's Wall and the Housteads fort, "England's Great Wall" Guardian, March 29, 2008. The serpentine wall is UN World Heritage site and a fascinating window into the distant past.

Built around AD124 in a commanding position on a swathe of the dramatic Whin Sill escarpment, Housesteads is one of the most important sites of Roman remains in Britain, in its day the last decent bath house before the great unwashed of Caledonia. . . .

Many interesting finds have come from the fort, even more from the settlement of hangers-on clustered below its walls. Two counterfeiting coin moulds from the 3rd century AD were discovered next to the remains of a house, the forger's den. Under his floor were two skeletons, one with a knife still stuck in the ribs.

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