The Ancient Romans: They’re Just Like Us!

In today’s bustling world of technology and sanitation, the lifestyle of the Ancient Romans might seem very distant from our own. However, I can promise you that we are closer to the Ancient Romans than you might think! Turns out you don’t have to be in Rome to do as the Romans do.

They hate cleaning

You know the story, you host a few too many dinner parties in your barracks or maybe you have a messy roommate. Either way, people love quick fixes when it comes to cleaning. While you or I might hide things under a bed, the Romans just built themselves a new floor on top of their trash. Genuis!

They love a good seafood dinner

Nothing beats fresh oysters! Judging by the sheer quantity of oyster shells we find in the Vicus on a daily basis, the Romans had some great oyster buffets. They are the perfect meal for anyone who has had a hard day at the office or a tiresome shift defending the frontier.

oyster
This is one of the many oyster shells we have found in the Vicus over the past three weeks. Photo by Victoria Boerner

They drop their change

Find a sestertius, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck…or just leave it for someone else to find. We drop our nickles and they dropped their denarii. However, this is actually very useful! On archaeological sites like Vindolanda, we can pinpoint areas of trade and commerce based on the concentration of coins found in a certain place. Next time your pockets feel a little too weighed down with change, maybe think about placing some coins in convenient spots to help out future excavators.

They label their possessions

Living in close quarters with other people means you need to take extra care to label your stuff. When your roommate borrows your phone charger saying “I don’t see you name on it” you must be able to smugly point to your penned initials on the underside. Tygomas knew this well and scratched his name into his amphora to prevent any ownership disputes. Smart thinking!

 

tygomas
This is the handle of an amphora. If you look closely, you can see “Tygomas,” the owner’s name, carved into it! Photo by Elizabeth Clark

They break their flip flops

We’ve all been there, enjoying a nice summer day when *POP* the strap of your flip flop detaches from the sole. You can try to pop it back in but you know deep down it is just a matter of time before it comes loose again. No one has the patience for that kind of irritation, not even the Ancient Romans. Sulpicia Lepidina tossed out her sandals when the strap broke for us to find 1900 years later.

They appreciate a good tent

I am sure the Ancient Romans would agree when I say there is nothing worse than a leaky tent. Today’s outdoors enthusiast might go for a nice nylon or polyester-based tent; however, the Romans enjoyed leather tents using a sewing technique that created water-tight seams. We love finding their tent panels to remind us of our shared love of camping.

alineLeather
Aline found a nice piece of leather! Oftentimes the pieces we find were parts of tents or cut-offs from other projects. Photo by Avery Lafortune

These are just a few of the parallels between our society and that of Roman Britain. Although we are separated by almost 2000 years, it appears old habits die hard. There are many other similarities including footprints made in wet cement, children’s writing exercises, and letters home asking for care packages, to remind us that we are not so different from the people of the past.

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