Eboracum Roman Festival, York 1st – 3rd June 2018

The Romans invaded Britain in AD43. In AD71 the Ninth Legion led by the Roman Governor of Britain, Quintus Petilius Cerialis, marched north from Lincoln to subdue the Brigantes, a loose federation of tribes covering the north of England. Cerialis based his army camp at the juncture of two rivers, the Ouse and the Foss. The name given to this site was “Eboracum” meaning “the place of the yew trees”.

The construction of the first fortress was made of wood and then later from stone. The walls enclosed an area of 50 acres within which were garrisoned several thousand men. The outline of the fortress was in the shape of a playing card. You can see remains of one of the four corner towers, the Multangular Tower, along with a piece of the fortress wall, in the Museum Gardens. There is also part of another corner tower visible from the Medieval City Walls near Monk Bar.

The most important building within the fortress was the Principia, the governor’s house and centre of administration.Remains of these buildings still lie under York Minster and can be seen in the Undercroft.A grid of streets ran from the Principia to the four entrance gates leading into the fort.The Via Praetoria, following roughly the line of Stonegate, exited by the River Ouse where a bridge crossed the water into the Colonia or civilian settlement in the area now occupied by Micklegate. As well as military structures, there were a wide range of other buildings such as bath houses.You can see part of one of the military bath houses beneath The Roman Bath pub in St Sampson’s Square.

Eboracum lay on the outer fringes of the Roman Empire but nevertheless a number of Roman Emperors visited this important and strategic outpost. Probably one of the most famous was Constantine, who was proclaimed emperor in York in 306AD upon the death of his father, Constantius Chlorus. Constantine went on to found Constantinople, present day Istanbul, and was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. His statue stands outside the South Door of York Minster.

Religion played an important part in Roman life with the people believing in many different gods.The richer members of society built elaborate tombs and erected beautifully inscribed gravestones.You can see a number of sarcophagi,unearthed from various locations in York,displayed in the Museum Gardens.The Yorkshire Museum,also located in the gardens, has a wealth of artefacts, grave goods and tombstones exhibited in the Roman Galleries.

Why not come along to the Eboracum Roman Festival in the Museum Gardens, York, where a programme of family-friendly displays, exhibits, stalls, events and activities will give you an insight into “what the Romans did for us”.

Contributed by Jenny Denton – Yorkshire Blue Badge Guide