Here I am again! In this god forsaken place. Standing on the wall, staring into the darkness, and just waiting. Watching and waiting. Mind numbing, waiting.
Always this wretched cold! Biting into my bones and nipping my knees, a woollen cloak no defense against the real enemy. Boredom. Oh, for some action! Something to warm me up. I’d put paid to a barbarian or two. If only they’d storm the fort, like real men, instead of hiding in the trees. They wouldn’t stand a chance, against us trained soldiers. Training! That’s all we do. Day in, day out! Pitting our wits against each other to stay sharp, in the service of the Empire.
It’s fine for the Centurion with his fancy house. He never has to stand out here, shivering. I’m just an auxiliary. A slave to Rome. 25 years I have to survive this dog’s life, before I can become a Roman citizen. The days are not so bad. No time to think. At least you can have a hot bath and decent food. Maybe get out on a hunting party for some fresh meat. Even have a skirmish with some of those savages. Makes you feel alive, alright! Anything’s better than this creeping death from the cold and damp. The mocking whisper of the wind. Deathly stillness!
From Vindolanda we drove 15 minutes to the Roman Army Museum, close to the village of Greenhead, to learn a little more. A joint ticket can be purchased for the two, which compliment each other. A highlight of this visit is ‘Edge of Empire-The Eagles Eye’, an atmospheric 15 minute film, for which 3D glasses are worn. ‘Night watch’ was written in response to the film, of which I can only share the trailer.
At the museum I learn that it is Rosalia, the Roman festival of the rose, traditionally held in May. Curiously, the Romans believed that Mars, god of war and protector of Rome, was born from a rose. The blooms were worn to honour the fallen.
The displays and information add to my knowledge about the Romans, and their surroundings. They were very serious about the business of ‘conquer and defend’. Training was done with weighted weapons to add to the strength and skill of the soldiers. In battle, wielding a sword would feel so much easier, and inspire confidence. Training could be brutal, with little quarter given. The armour and weaponry engendered huge respect for the skill and craftsmanship of these people.
I learnt that discipline was very strictly enforced. Falling asleep on sentry duty in the long, dark nights was a crime punishable by death, often at the hands of your fellow soldiers, while the garrison looked on. A background video, running on one wall, told the story of a bunch of young soldiers and how they felt about life in the Roman Army. Wine and gambling were happy diversions from the training schedule.
A timeline and Hadrian’s interesting story completed the exhibits. I doubt I would make the journey especially for the Roman Army Museum, but it works well in conjunction with Vindolanda. When we had left the fort there was a freshness in the air and we were glad to be indoors. By the time we left the museum it was spitting on to rain, and the skies a dull grey. The iconic Sycamore Gap looked a little ‘all forlorn’.
I’m adding this post to Cathy’s collection of Prose, over at Wander.essence. I hoped to give you a flavour of life on the bottom rung of the Roman Empire. Not always a comfortable place to be, but with its own rewards. The 3D film made quite an impression on me and I feel like I’ve been living alongside those Romans. I’m glad you could keep me company.