Forty-three years after the birth of Christ the finest soldiers the world had known came against the ancient Britons and conquered their land. These soldiers were called Romans, after their chief city Rome in Italy. They ruled Britain for nearly four hundred years & have left many traces behind them. While in Britain, one can still see the remains of their splendid roads, the ruins of the forts they built and parts of the great walls they erected to defend their towns. In the southern parts of the country homes called villas have been found.
Villas are not great castles with thick walls & towers built as a protection against enemies, but simple dwelling - houses unfitted for defense. That shows how peaceful the country was when first these villas were built under Roman rule.
On the heights of Greenwich Park overlooking the Thames there is a piece of pavement about two feet square. It was once part of the floor of one of these country houses. It is made of small pieces of red tile, each about a square in size, set in a bed of cement. No one can tell what part of the is belonged to; perhaps, it was a bit of the floor of a room, or a passage or even of a stable.
What did the Roman villa look like from the outside? We can scarcely tell. Perhaps, it was a long whitewashed building with a corridor running its whole length. Or, perhaps, it stood round two sides of a square or round three, and had the corridor on its inner side. Some people think that only the lower walls of villas were built of stone, while the upper walls were made of rough plaster held together with a framework of wood. The roof was made of red tiles or slabs of gray stone. The floors of the lower rooms were raised a little on pillars, so that hot air from a furnace might circulate underneath. And their were special pipes in the walls, so that the hot air might rise through the walls, so that the hot air might rise through the walls and warm them. The Romans brought this way of warming houses from their old homes in Italy, & they found it very useful in the cold climate of Britain. The rooms on the ground floor were paved with small pieces of tile laid very closely together in cement. By using pieces of different colors, pictures were made on the floors of the living rooms. Some of these have been dug up today & can be seen in museums. They are called mosaics. The walls of the rooms were decorated with painted pictures. Somewhere in the villa the was a bath, for the Romans were very careful to keep themselves clean. And certainly, too, there would be statues, either roughly made in Britain useful or brought by merchants from Italy, where the best sculptors were. Then the owner bought these statues to decorate his villa. And beautiful dishes of red pottery would be seen everywhere in the house. Some of them would be used for decoration, & some for eating from or for holding things. And in the grounds near the house there would be an orchard, for the Romans loved orchards. Their were fond of growing trees of all kinds, so their would be cherry trees & apples trees. The Romans were the first to grow cherries in England.
Let us pretend we are visiting a Roman villa many years after the conquest. A great many trees have been cut down since the Romans first come to Britain, so there is more room to grow corn then there used to be in the time of the ancient Britons. And many Romans who leave near the villa we are reading about have made much money by exporting corn to Roman armies quartered on the Continent. Their owner of the villa does the same us his neighbors. He has many labourers who help him to till his lands. He doesn’t pay wages, as modern farmers do, but in return for work he gives his labourers piece of land, on which they can grow corn for themselves. Today labourers can leave their master & go to another or if they like. But none of these labourers who work for the master of the villa are allowed to do that.
They lived in huts not far from the villa. The man who makes ploughs & hoes that are used on the farm & shoes. The farm horses lives in one of these small houses. He gets his wood from the great forest and his iron from the district that we now call Sussex. The man living in the neighboring hut is the cobbler, who tells leather & makes shoes & sandals for everyone one the estate, and harness for the horses. There is a joiner, to who is skillful in building barns and cowhouses, as well as in making carts. Sometimes however, things for the farm & the house are bought in London, & when anything requiring great skill has to be done, clever workers are send for from there. The master has slaves, too, & the work for nothing.