Year 5 were riveted by a presentation on the Romans by Murton Park living history enthusiast David Thirlwall who, dressed as a centurion, ranged over the Romansâ€™ legacy, how we know about it and what it took to serve in the finest imperial army the world has ever known.
First, what are our sources and where is our evidence for what we know about the Roman Empire?
â€˜In the rubbish they discarded, and the buildings and time capsules they left behind,â€™ bellows our centurion.
Year 5 are now on the edge of their seats as he explains how the countless broken artefacts disposed of by the Romans can be pieced together to inform us about how they lived, what they ate and of their advanced their civilisation with its drains, underfloor heating and road network. The â€˜time capsulesâ€™ turn out to be the stone reliefs that the Romans had carved of themselves for posterity depicting scenes of everyday life, and the fact that every building had a plaque detailing who built it, when and for what purpose. The Romans clearly had an eye to the future and for informing future generations of how great their civilisation was.
Next, Mr Thirlwall shows how from 200BC the city state of Rome set out to conquer all around. By 100AD, it controlled 32 countries and patrolled a 45,000-mile boundary around its empire.
How did they achieve this?
Enter the extraordinary discipline, training and brutality of the Roman army, two-thirds of which was recruited from the grandsons of the peoples it ruthlessly conquered. The training was so harsh that a quarter of legionary recruits died before they had completed it. In Britain the Roman army all but stamped out the Celts and set about milking the country for food to feed its 300,000-strong army strung out across the empire. Every soldier was trained not only to kill but also as a builder and an engineer so they could construct roads, forts and living quarters as they conquered.
Life as a Roman soldier may not have been a picnic, but there were no shortage of Year 5 volunteers to dress up as an auxiliary, legionary and Celtic warrior as Mr Thirlwall described what they wore, how they lived and what they could expect â€“ which was a fairly short life if you were a Celtic warrior!
So it was, that with his passion and knowledge for his subject, that under Mr Thirlwall two hours flew by and a generation of Year 5 Historians had been enthused to learn even more about how the Romans developed and maintained their extraordinary empire.