Being Soldiers in Ancient Castles

Today we caught up with a couple of Roman soldiers.

Thing is, today they were Romans, the next week they might be Normans and the week after Hussars from the Napoleonic army.

For they are the new face of battle re-enactment in Britain: the cutting edge of action research with the Brit conservation body English Heritage.

With day jobs in other disciplines completely, they devote every shred of their spare time to painstaking research and experimentation.

And their passion has proven the historical establishment wrong on more than one occasion.

Today they were demonstrating how easy it would be to slice the head from an ancient Briton –  with the aid of cabbages on poles, to the amusement of the crowd..

Historians would once have said what they were doing was impossible.

“Ten or fifteen years ago,” an organiser told Letter From Britain, “most scholars believed that ancient Roman cavalry was relatively ineffective. But if you read the accounts of ancient battles, that’s not the case. Everyone said: they  didn’t have stirrups, so they’d have fallen off the horses.

“Saddles had been found in different archaeological digs and there were also drawings of Roman Cavalry. By recreating them as accurately as we can and then getting an experienced rider to ride in them, you find out you can do pretty much on a Roman saddle what you can do with a modern saddle with stirrups.”

English Heritage’s Special Events Unit has had many such victories: including the most faithful reconstruction of a Roman chariot to date.

Have a listen to the interview here.


  1. Wow! I thought this was a uniquely American pastime–dressing up and reliving battles and military drills, all done by passionate, very knowledgeable volunteers. I am glad you stumbled on my blog–I look forward to following you.

    1. Thanks for coming over to read! No, there’s plenty of re-enactment over here, spearheaded by the NAReS – the National Association for Re-Enactment Societies. You can find them here:

  2. What a fascinating bunch of people. You can find out so much by ‘walking’ that mile in someone’s shoes (or at least on their horse)

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