Last term, Year 10 GCSE Latin students set off for Bath early in the morning. We left Paddington Station to embark on an hour and a half-long journey to a city we have, through our Latin lessons, come to think of as ‘Aquae Sulis’. When we arrived, we spent some time exploring central Bath, the limestone facades of the buildings gleaming in the morning spring sunshine. This was followed by an artefact handling workshop at the Roman Baths Museum where we discovered, to our disgust, the strange bathing habits of Roman citizens, such as using an iron ‘strigil’ to remove dead skin and hair from respectable Romans’ bodies. The excess from the process was then bottled and sold to admiring plebeians, who would anoint themselves with it in an effort to become more like their ‘superiors’.
After lunch at a local park, we proceeded to visit the bath houses. It was amazing to see the actual baths that we, as Latin students, have learnt so much about whilst reading Latin stories set in Roman Britain. They are breathtakingly beautiful and brilliantly constructed and the experience helped us to understand life and leisure in first century AD Britain. While wondering through the bath houses, we encountered an actress imitating a rich Roman ‘matrona’ who had just received a pampering session at the baths. Although this was in many ways very civilised, she explained to us that her clothes had been washed with urine! A powerful reminder that, while the Romans were very sophisticated and advanced in many respects, they didn’t perhaps have all the answers.
by Hannah Byrne-Smith and Nicole Clif