Chapter 3. Calleva Atrebatum and The Romans

The Roman wall in Silchester, as it appears today


The Iron Age Bazites certainly did have a high old time, but of course, Julius Caesar put a stop to all that sort of irresponsible nonsense when he invaded Britain. This was primarily because he was a fascist and like any good totalitarian, he felt that Romans should have a monopoly on decadence and fun. He brought with him a couple of crack legions and although Boudicca put up a good fight he soon kicked her ass. Then he just kept on a-whooping until he'd slaughtered every last druid and bair-breasted, painted witch at their sanctuary on Anglesea.

A garrison was stationed at Bavingvs and the Bazites were forced underground to fight an ineffectual guerilla war of resistance. Caesar was a straight-thinking bastard and so he sensibly put his major town in the region at another nearby settlement - Silchester. In another typically Roman move it was renamed Calleva Atrebatvm and an amphitheater was built. Now all that remains there are traces of the outer wall and amphitheater buried in the high ground amidst the trees and the fields of a quiet countryside. It's a great spot to go for a peaceful smoke; look out across the landscape and remember the worlds that were. One summer I came across some scaffolding some archeologists had left standing at the site of the main gate. I climbed up it and could see the pattern of the long buried streets as a ghostly imprint in the soil and grass. It was cool.

I was up there again, this time with company and a pint of black velvet, to toast the sun as it rose on the new millennium - A truly momentous and moving moment and another picture-perfect dawn. There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of nature reclaiming man's work and it's clear that the faerie folk are comfortable settled back in.

Over the next couple of hundred years, the Romans made themselves at home, inventing Londinium, building roads, country villas and walls. These walls were mainly to keep out those Celts in extreme regions such as Scotland and Cornwall who actually preferred running around in the cold with nothing on but blue woad. These Celts (much like the Basingvs rebels) enjoyed living in hovels and resented the hypocausts, hot baths and stuffed dormice that the Romans imposed on their subjects.

I took this shot just after dawn on August 8th, 1998 . It was one of those truly magical high summer weekends that pop up a few times every year in England.I had recently returned from the States, and had been up all night over at JJ's house getting introduced to RedBull and Vodka. My head had just hit the pillow when the cock began to crow, suddenly I was wide awake. I grabbed my camera and headed up through the misty pre-dawn to the Silchester ruins. Ghosts and spirit shapes scuttled into the high hedgerows and pre-dawn mist on either side of me as the light slowly grew. There are only ever a few days in the year that begin so fantastically, with all the sights sounds and smells that promise a long hot day under clear blue-purple cloudless skies. I trekked up to the ancient Yew in the churchyard and made my devotions, then snapped this shot of an oak tree on the way back.

Chapter 4. King Arthur, Early Christianity and the Saxon Settlement of Basingstoke


More pictures of Calleva Atrebatum that I have shamelessly gleaned from around the web:

The Front gate

The Market

Bird's-Eye View

Artwork and text ©2004 Chuck Whelon
Read Chuck's comic strip 'Pewfell' every weekday at: