Romans in Britain

When the Romans invaded in AD43-44, Britain became a province of their Empire and a new way of life was imposed on the natives. Read on to discover facts about Roman innovations in Britain.

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Road building

While ancient Britons used tracks and paths, the Romans built paved roads - over 10,000 miles in total - linking towns and forts. These were constructed by soldiers and marked with milestones so travellers could judge distances. Major Roman arteries such as Watling Street and the Fosse Way can still be followed today.

Communication

Roman roads were built principally to allow legions to march quickly around their new province to deal with trouble. They also provided safe routes for merchants, helping to expand trade and make Britain prosperous.

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall

Security

Hadrian's Wall is the greatest visible legacy of the Romans in Britain today. Begun in AD122, and 73 miles long, the Wall regulated the movement of people and trade at the unruly northern edge of the province. Built by several Roman legions, it was studded with forts and towers.

Cities

Pre-Roman Britain was dotted with villages. The Romans, however, built towns to house troops and to administer the province. These were centres for collecting taxes, providing markets for goods and courts for dispensing justice. Larger cities contained amphitheatres for public entertainment.

Running water

The Romans built pipes to channel water into towns and villas for drinking, washing and for powering mills. Many cities, such as London, had advanced sewers fed by streams to flush away waste.

Baths

An essential part of Roman life, public baths were created in every Roman town and fort. These usually contained saunas, hot and cold pools, and exercise areas. Romans went to baths not only to get clean but also to socialise and do business.

Central heating

Wealthy Roman Britons could afford a hypocaust - a system of under-floor heating to keep winter at bay. The floor of the house was raised on many brick pillars, which allowed hot air - perhaps from a kitchen fire - to flow around them and warm the rooms above. Hollow walls also allowed heat to circulate.

Roman coin

Latin

The universal language of the Roman Empire, Latin was used widely in Britain, particularly for writing. With the fall of the Empire, Latin survived in another universal institution, the Church, but went into decline in Britain.