St Albans' Roman Theatre of Verulamium features in new series of Tony Robinson's History of Britain
- Credit: Channel 5
The Roman theatre in St Albans will feature in the first episode of the new series of Tony Robinson's History of Britain on Channel 5.
Tony Robinson’s History of Britain is back for a second series on Saturday, February 12 at 7.30pm, with Tony Robinson travelling through time to find the stories of the people you never hear about – the ordinary Brits from across the UK.
In the first episode, Romans, Tony takes viewers back nearly 2,000 years to a time when Britain was under the cosh of the Roman Empire – a time of Roman soldiers, gladiators and European slaves.
Taking a 'bottom-up' view of history, the presenter visits the best preserved theatre from Roman Britain, Verulamium in Hertfordshire, which Tony says would have been "an entertainment hotspot" in Roman times.
He tells the story of an African Roman soldier who gets posted to its most northerly, coldest outpost: Hadrian’s Wall. The young recruit spends most of his time building roads, including some that we still use today.
Unfortunately, our Roman soldier eventually comes unstuck, not in a battle, but due to a chance meeting with the Roman Emperor, when he tries to play a practical joke on him. Which backfires!
Near Roman ruins in Leicester, archaeologists discovered a pendant that bears the names of an actress, Verecunda, and a gladiator, Lucius.
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A love token for a Roman showbiz couple, Tony goes in search of this ‘Posh and Becks’ of Roman Britain.
He visits the country's best-preserved Roman theatre at Verulamium, a place that Verecunda may well have performed at as part of a touring troupe of actors.
Tony says in the episode: "Roman theatre was inspired by classical Greek plays and mainly consisted of dramas that were either tragedies or comedies.
"They were performed by actors wearing costumes and masks to convey character.
"And although we don't exactly know which plays were performed in Britain, we do at least know one place where they were performed."
That place is Verulamium and Tony talks to Reading University’s Roman expert Dr Matthew Nicholls about Verecunda's world.
Tony also learns about the gladiatorial training and weaponry that Lucius would have to master before facing a performance in one of Roman Britain’s theatres of death.
We also meet slave girl Fortunata, whose name, ironically, means ‘lucky’.
Fortunata arrives from Gaul, modern day France, and is bought for a large amount of money.
Tony discovers how Fortunata would end up living in a Roman villa, cooking exotic food for her master.
One of the most beautiful Roman British exhibits in the British Museums is a small frying-pan shaped object, used in Roman religious rites.
Tony discovers that this exquisite piece was created by a chap called Boduogenus, who lived in the Fens.
Rather than fighting the Romans, this local lad had figured out how to use his incredible skill to make money out of the Roman market for high-value goods.
The first episode of documentary Tony Robinson's History of Britain season two airs on Channel 5 on Saturday, February 12 at 7.30pm.