Thursday, 19 October 2017

What Did Those Ancient Romans Ever Do For Me?

Good morning everyone!

It's been a few days since I posted and here's a bit of why... 

Rome Aqueduct - Wikimedia Commons
I've decided that living in rainy Scotland isn't such a bad deal after all. Though we've had intermittent downpours and sometimes continuous drizzle for days and days we are lucky compared to many areas of the globe that are having horrendous wildfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes. My part of Aberdeenshire just missed the effects of Hurricane Ophelia who was downgraded to a severe storm by the time she reached southern Scotland. For many of us in Scotland, a storm with winds of 70 mph was just  a wee blow, nothing special, and a 'good drying day' for the washing (laundry) hanging outside in between downpours! For sure, some roofs lost their coverings but not many, and those damaged were possibly not the best maintained anyway! Or, not built to last over the decades, or centuries, or even millennia...like the Roman aqueduct above! 

Enough of weather, and I'm not going near politics since that's something that's also taking up some of my precious day's reading time. Politics in the UK, and also in Europe, is a definite hot potato right now.  They say there is more than one way to skin a cat and what is needed now are sensible options being taken up by blinkered voters and incompetent governmental leaders in the UK.  

So, I'll return to my title topic What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? and explain why it's been a great reason for me being too busy to post on here. 

I posted on my regular slot yesterday (18th Oct) at Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog about  What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? but here I'll expand my notes a little further! 

That phrase in bold above might bring to mind many different scenarios. For me growing up watching UK television in the 1960s and 1970s, the first image would be of an irreverently funny show called Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The weekly show itself had many spin offs, one of which was a definitely irreverent feature film "The Life of Brian". In the film, a character (John Cleese) derisively asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  The answers from those assembled reply: err…sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system via aqueducts, public health…and our peace. 



From Youtube.

It's a very funny film though not to everyone's taste as it challenges some established theories of religion, dogma and the like...

Ancient Rome was an amazing place. It is a city that I’m learning more about every day during my FutureLearn Course - Rome: A virtual Tour of the Ancient City
Aqua Claudia by Pietro Sassi - Wikimedia Commons 

It’s only Week 2 of my course and I’ve already learned about some of the list above. It’s incredible to think of how inventive the original engineers of Rome were back in 312 B.C. when the first short aqueduct of 16 km (c. 10 miles), the Aqua Appia, brought a constantly running supply of fresh water into the city of Rome. The Aqua Appia was an underground channel but by 140 B.C. the Aqua Marcia (55 miles) had a about 6 miles of its total running over arches. By the first century A.D. there were around 11 aqueducts feeding the city’s 1 million inhabitants with fresh water. 

This site has information on another ancient Roman aqueduct built in the first century A.D.

The Ancient Romans didn’t only appreciate the fresh water coming into their city for drinking purposes. They also used it for:
  • continuous flushing out of their communal lavatories
  • supplying water to their communal bathhouses
  • for other domestic, trade and industry reasons
  • for sluicing down their streets and sewers 
  • and for feeding the many fountains around the city.  

 
Trevi Fountain, Rome -Wikimedia Commons
The famous Trevi Fountain in Rome is still partially fed from the Aqua Virgo which was initially constructed in 19 B.C. during the time of the Emperor Augustus. The Aqua Virgo brought in the fresh water from hills and streams some 18 km (11 miles) away from the city and was used as a source for 400 years till it fell into disuse around the time of the Fall of Rome in approx 397 A.D. during the ensuing 1000 years, some attempts were made to restore the aqueduct but it wasn’t till 1453 that it was properly restored to feed a fountain on the site of the present Trevi Fountain. 

By 1762 a fabulous new baroque fountain was created, the one we can view today in Rome known as the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi is famous for various reasons, one of which is the 1954 film “Three coins in the Fountain” that title song sung by Frank Sinatra, though he got no credit for it.  

This site has some info on where the name Trevi probably originates from and gives details of the fantastic sculptures around the Trevi fountain. 

BTW - I’ve also learned about the sewers of Rome but I'll leave that topic for another day! 

The architecture of the buildings of the Roman Forum are now holding my attention much more, although I confess to being fascinated that had the Ancient Romans settled in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, my surroundings might have been very different from they are now.




Aqua Claudia -Wikimedia Commons

The longest unbroken stretch of an ancient above-ground aqueduct near Rome is the Aqua Claudia. 

I'm off now to do a bit more of my FutureLearn Rome course and some very neglected writing. 

Slainthe! 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aqueducts_in_Rome.jpg



Sunday, 8 October 2017

Highways and Byways!

Sunday again!

I really can't believe it when someone tells me that their week has gone slowly past. I never have enough hours in the day to do all I want to. It's always a case of squeezing something in.

I do make time for non-fiction reading as well as my fiction slots and some of my recent reading has been quite enlightening. It's easy to see why rumours can grow and why local folklore is deeply embedded in what people believe of a an area. While doing some research on the possibility of Ancient Roman roads in Aberdeenshire, I got myself a copy of a book I'd been recommended some months back (probably sometime during 2016). 

The book is an 'out of print' hardback that was published in Aberdeen in 1985 and is titled Highways and Byways Round Kincardine. My second hand copy has no dust jacket and I've no idea if it ever had one but there are many interesting photographs,maps and illustrations within.

What I have in Highways and Byways Round Kincardine  is a companion volume to a first book entitled Highways and Byways Round Stonehaven and is the work of Archibald Watt who certainly (faithfully and lovingly)  had tramped many miles to gather up his information. The book I have is essentially a book of local driving routes which also take the hiker off road for much of the time- sometimes through public access land and at others over farmland or local private estate land.

I'm not local to Aberdeenshire and I have little experience of Kincardinshire or the Mearns area but the book is a little gem of Watt's knowledge gathered over decades which doubles as a history of the area as well.

Where his original information derives from is very varied -some from original textbooks, old maps,  and histories of the area; some from anecdotal material; some from the libraries of landowners of the area whom I'm guessing he was acquainted with.

The aim of Watt in writing the book of routes is to "stimulate public interest in the history, character and beauty of Kincardineshire, to further knowledge of and interest in our local heritage and to encourage the preservation of various ancient historical sites and buildings that mean so much to us and are of aesthetic and environmental importance."

The book was published just a few years before I moved to Aberdeenshire but I'm very ignorant of the area save when I drive northbound along the A90 to reach Aberdeen, or the opposite direction to drive south to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  Watt is careful in his book to make clear that some roads which were anecdotally and in the local oral tradition thought to be historically Roman are not attested by the Archaeological Department of Aberdeen University. That is not to say the Romans never laid down any proper roads in Kincardine, it just means thorough excavations have never been done to prove it.

In the following extract he writes about a Roman Camp near Kair House (Fordoun) It is believed by some historians to have been created by Emperor Severus around AD 210 rather then during the Agricolan expeditions of the first century AD (AD 84). Watt sounds pretty sure of his information in this book but the site has never been given official status because, like so many others, no formal adn positive excavations have been recorded.

An aerial survey led to this belief the aerial photograph taken in 1945. Watt's description is highly readable even if not proven!

"A Tired Roman Legionary's Earthen Wall
Now let us carry on up the hill to the steading of the Mains of Kair. Here we turn right and left again, past the dwelling house, until in just under a quarter of a mile in all we reach two small huts on the right. Between them you should stop again for you are parked on the site of the porta praetoria or general's gate, the main entrance to the camp, placed as was always the case in a slight re-entrant angle in the middle of the north-east side of the camp, the side facing the enemy. Between the two small huts can still be seen the remains of about 20 yards of the turf rampart or agger which, originally 7 ft high, had once surrounded the camp surrounded by a palisade (vallum) of sharpened wooden stakes. How fascinating that the earthen wall built by some tired legionary some nearly 1800 years ago should show today where the line of defence once continued for another 280 yards down the field on our left!" 

I'm particularly interested in the parts where Watt points out possible Roman sites but the general historical details are also very interesting for periods across all eras.

My next non-fiction 'book I've read' post is likely to be on The Military Roads in Scotland by William Taylor- also a fascinating, though not up-to- date, book.

Slainthe! 



Saturday, 7 October 2017

Review of Under Heaven's Shining Stars by Jean Grainger

It's still Saturday but this time I'm writing my thoughts on a book that I've just finished reading!

I've lately been getting daily emails from many different promotional sites like : Book Hippo; Booksends; Just Kindle Books; Bargain Booksy etc and some of those advertised have drawn my eye and I've done that 'Oh, So Easy' click though on Amazon. I can't remember which source I saw this one on but that doesn't matter because it was a great read. 

Under Heaven's Shining Stars by Jean Grainger 

This was a very engrossing book covering a number of themes.

The deep friendship of three very different young boys- Liam, Patrick and Hugo- from (or near to) the city of Cork, Ireland, continues to develop into adulthood, forming bonds that are unbreakable.

For a young devout Roman Catholic man entering the priesthood there are hurdles for Liam to pass and ethics to agonise over. For Patrick there are life changing events that it seems impossible to evade the consequences of. Hugo looks set to have the loneliest life, even though privilege sits on his shoulder, but fate has a way of balancing the sadness.

I'm not religious so I have no way of knowing how accurate the aspects of Catholicisms are but Roman Catholic religion is central to the story and how circumstances which don't fit the norm can be adequately accommodated.

Having money and the lack of is a theme that runs throughout. Death and the consequences to those left behind is a tragic theme that affects all three of the main characters but I’m glad to read that the story has favourable endings for all of them. 

I thought this was a 5* read!

Slainthe!