Caerleon, a Roman Amphitheater in Wales
Maxine George takes you to Wales to visit an ancient Roman ruin, a site dating to 75 ADStory and Photos by M. Maxine George
The Welsh are a proud and independent people. The Celtic spirit has survived throughout many centuries of attempted domination by those who invaded their land, beginning with the Romans approximately 2,000 years ago. This is evidenced by the fact that the Welsh have retained their ancient language and unique traditions throughout those centuries. Roman ruins still proclaim the Roman occupation of Wales, as I learned during one stop on my tour of this beautiful, green bulge of land protruding from the west side of the British Isle. We stopped at the Caerleon Amphitheatre, an archaeological site where my Canadian companions and myself were soon snapping pictures as we scrambling over the remains of the only fully excavated Roman Amphitheatre in Wales. The amphitheatre was situated outside the walls of the Isca Military fortress, headquarters of the second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta) which had been established in about 75 AD. The military fortress covered some 50 acres. It was one of only three Roman military fortresses in Britain, the others being in York and Chester.
It was a quiet March morning, and the sloping sides of the amphitheatre were covered with green grass, but my mind’s eye could soon picture the legionnaires sitting on wooden benches, perched on the brick-reinforced sand hills, cheering, while the performers, be they human or animal, met in mortal combat inside the ring. The eight entrances and the remains of the small waiting rooms where these performers awaited their fate, still can be seen here. Also, a small room partially exists, with a niche in its rear brick wall, which might have been a shrine dedicated to Nemesis, the goddess of fate and divine vengeance. The Romans were notorious for their love of watching the ancient gladiators in gory combat. The more bloodthirsty the battle, the more the crowd loved it! I half expectantly listened to my inner ear, wondering if echoes of their cheers or the screams of their victims, still exist in the ethereal mists surrounding Caerleon. Christianity arrived in Wales in the 3rd century. It is known that two Christians named Julius and Aaron were martyred at Caerleon. However, persecution of Christians ceased in 313 The Amphitheatre is thought to have been in use from about 90 AD until the end of the Third Century when the Romans returned to their sunny southern climes and left the British Isle to the Saxons .
As we headed back to our bus, a rainbow appeared in the sky above a village seen off in the distance. Maybe it was a good omen for our visit to this ancient land, as we walked in the footsteps of those ancient Romans who formed their portion of the early history of Wales. For those interested in seeing more Roman archeological sites, Wales has more evidence of the Roman occupation, mostly at sites fanning out across the south.
Story and Pictures by M. Maxine George
Last Updated January 1, 2021 by Matthew George – Webmaster