Roman Villas and Gardens: A Vergilian Society Tour of Roman Britain

**Tour Closed**

July 17 – 29, 2017

Directors: Phil Stanley and George Perko

This two-week tour of Britain traces the culture, art, and history of this Roman province through the extant remains. With Julius Caesar’s first expedition to Britain in 55 BC and his second in 54 BC, Britain was brought into Rome’s sphere of influence. However, it was not until Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD that this island became a Roman province. The first provincial capital was at Colchester. Later the capital was moved to Londinium (London). For the next two centuries Rome’s power expanded over the entire island and Roman customs and art were introduced into the Celtic world of Britain. We will visit several Celtic sites, such as Badbury Rings, the Cerne Giant, and Maiden Castle in Dorchester. One of the major accomplishments of Rome in Britain was the urbanization of the island. They set up a hierarchy of habitation centers: the provincial capital, Londinium; four coloniae [Colchester, Gloucester (colonia Nervia Glevensium), Lincoln (colonia Lindum), and York]; and a number of towns throughout the island like Verulamium (St. Albans) and Caerwent. Wherever the Romans went, they introduced their bath structure. At Bath significant portions of the extensive Roman bathhouse have been found and preserved. They also introduced the villa system which thrived especially in southern Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. An important element in any villa was its gardens. Pliny the Younger in his letter to Gallus described his seaside villa at Laurentum. His description of the grounds was used by several gardeners in 18th and 19th century England to lay out the estates of the nobility. In these gardens elements of the Roman garden are present. Several gardens especially embody this Roman quality: Hidcote Manor Garden, and Hever Castle Garden. Stourhead Garden was developed with Vergil’s Aeneid in mind and is described in a Vergilius article ("Henry Hoares’ Virgilian Garden," Vergilius 42[1996] 3-13). A significant part of Roman life in the provinces was focused on the legions and auxiliaries stationed there. In the north there is Hadrian’s wall with its forts and mile stations. Suggested reading for this tour is the Internet outline at, Tacitus' Agricola, and Pliny the Younger’s Letter to Gallus.


July 17, London

The foundation of modern London rests on the remains of the Roman city of Londinium, the fourth largest Roman city west of the Alps. Annexed by the Emperor Claudius in AD 43, it was originally developed as a depot for the Roman army. Later, it became capital of the province.  When the Emperor Hadrian visited in AD 122, the cosmopolitan city was home to Celtic people, as well as Roman citizens from throughout the Empire. Remains of this period indicate the existence of a forum, a basilica, an amphitheatre and public baths.

After breakfast, meet Professor Stanley, George Perko, and the motorcoach driver in the lobby of the hotel. Embark on a sightseeing tour to the Tower of London, the Mithraic temple, and central London.
Afternoon free in London. Welcome dinner.
Overnight stay London. (B, D)

July 18, London

After breakfast, with tube pass in hand, embark on a full day of city touring.  Visit the British Museum and the City of London Museum.  Late afternoon return to your London hotel.  Evening at leisure. Overnight in London. (B)

July 19, London - St. Albans - York

After breakfast, depart by motorcoach for the Roman site of Verulamium.  The site visit includes a unique Gallo-Roman theatre, built in 140 AD and expanded in 300 AD.  Continue to the Verulamium Museum which houses an extensive collection of wall paintings on plaster, mosaics, Roman burial urns, and a well-preserved 2nd AD century bronze figurine of Venus.
Continue to York in the late afternoon.  Evening at leisure.  Overnight in central York.  (B)

July 20, York - Newcastle-upon-Tyne

The city of Eboracum was of considerable importance to the Roman Empire and was visited by Roman military leaders and the emperors themselves. Both Septimius Severus and Constantine died in the city.  Its importance continued into the Middle Ages.  Today, York is famous for its stately minster and its medieval city walls.  It combines the quaintness of a medieval town with a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Breakfast and check out. Lunch on your own and free time.  Afternoon departure for the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  Overnight in Newcastle.  (B)

July 21, Newcastle - Hadrian’s Wall (Hexham & Bardon Mill) -Newcastle

After breakfast, depart for a full day excursion to Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman barrier built 122-126 AD.  Begin at the Corbridge Roman site and museum.  Corbridge Fort (139 AD), a busy garrison town, played a vital role in the Roman conquest of northern Britain.  Building foundations include a fountain house, walled compounds for the military, and a pair of granaries.  The museum houses an interesting collection excavated from the site and its surroundings.
Continue to Housesteads Fort (Borcovicum), the most complete Roman fort in modern Britain.  Now situated in a landscape of bare grassland fields, stone farm buildings, and occasional woods, it is hard to imagine that this was once the hostile terrain of bramble and thickets that the Roman Army guarded.
End the day with a tour of Vindolanda, a fascinating Roman fort and settlement that lies just south of Hadrian's Wall.  Recent excavations have uncovered numerous buildings and some of the most unusual and well-preserved artifacts in the Roman world. On the site itself, there is a full size replica of a section of Hadrian's Wall in both stone and timber.  The museum, set in a lovely garden, houses a collection that includes Roman boots, armor, jewelry, coins, and rare ink on wood documents written over 2,000 years ago.  Full sized reconstructions of a Roman temple, a Roman shop, and a Roman house can be found in the garden.
Return to Newcastle this evening for dinner and overnight.  (B, D)

July 22, Newcastle - Lunt Fort - Hidcote Gardens - Cheltenham

Breakfast and check-out.  Depart by private motorcoach for Lunt Roman Fort, built following the Boudiccan uprising.  The site includes the Museum of Roman Army Life, with a replica of the fort as it appeared in 64 AD.
This afternoon, tour Hidcote Manor Garden, a garden with its origins in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Continue to Cheltenham an overnight stay.  (B, D)

July 23, Cheltenham - Caerwent (Wales) - Cheltenham

Depart this morning for a full day's excursion to Wales and a visit to Caerwent, the 3rd century Roman town of Venta Silurum.  Although small for a tribal capital, the strategically situated site shows evidence of considerable wealth.  Archaeological remains include original walls, shops, a large house, and a small Roman-Celtic temple.
Return to Cheltenham in the mid-afternoon.  Overnight in Cheltenham.  (B)

July 24, Cheltenham - Chedworth - Cirencester - Bath

Breakfast and check out.  Depart for Chedworth Roman Villa.  Described as one of “the best excavated Roman-British villas in Britain,” the remains of this 4th-century house feature a large courtyard, several fine in situ mosaics, two bath houses, and a water shrine.  The guided walking tour includes the villa and the museum, which houses a good selection of objects illustrating Roman life in Britain.
Continue to Cirencester. Originally built as a garrison for the Roman army, the Roman city of Corinium, grew to become the second largest city in Roman Britain with an estimated population of between 10,000-20,000.  Remains of a basilica and an amphitheatre, the largest in Roman Britain are still evident.  Tour the Roman collection in the Corinium Museum this afternoon.
Continue to Bath for your overnight stay.  (B)

July 25, Bath

In AD 75, the Roman's settled the colony of Aquae Sulis.   They dedicated this health and spiritual site to the Celtic goddess Sulia and the Roman goddess Minerva (the only cult center to Minerva in Britain).  Around this site to Sulis Minerva, they build a full-scale classical temple melding both Roman and Celtic decoration.  This morning, tour the impressively restored Roman Baths Museum, situated in the center of ancient Bath.  After, lunch and free time to stroll in this lovely Victorian spa and garden town.
Overnight in Bath (B)

July 26, Amesbury - Dorchester - Stourton - Portsmouth

Depart Bath for an extensive day of sightseeing.  Begin at the Neolithic site of Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site that spans the period of 3,000-1,000 B.C.   Continue to Maiden Castle for a view of the Cerne Abbas Giant, the outline of a giant cut into the turf down to the underlying chalk.  Generally considered to represent the god Helith or Hercules, the origin and creator of the outline are unknown.
Lunch in route
After lunch, visit the pleasure gardens of Stourhead Mansion.  Stourhead Gardens, designed 1741-1780 represent one of the finest expressions of the early 18th century landscape movement.  Designed by Henry Hoare II, the garden includes versions of Classical temples, including the Pantheon and temples to Apollo and Flora, picturesque bridges, a cascade, a Gothic cottage, a grotto and a parish church all laid out around a manmade lake.
Evening arrival in Portsmouth an overnight stay. (B, L, D)

July 27, Portsmouth - Chichester - Fishbourne - Portsmouth

Morning departure for Chichester and a visit to the beautiful Chichester Cathedral, completed in 1108. Known for its art, the cathedral contains amongst its collection, a 20th century stained glass window by Chagell and the beautiful 12th century Lazarus Reliefs, two carved pre-gothic stone panels unique in English architecture.
Afternoon arrival to the Fishbourne Royal Palace and Museum.  Currently, the largest Roman domestic building to be found north of the Alps, the palace and its surrounding gardens were constructed in 75 AD.  The archaeological site includes a bath suite, a Roman hypocaust system, and over twenty mosaics, with a number of them in situ.  The restoration of the site features a unique garden planted to replicate the original 1st century plan.
Return to Portsmouth for your overnight stay.  Evening at leisure.  (B)

July 28, Portsmouth - Pulborough - Edenbridge - London

Breakfast and check-out.  Depart by private motorcoach for Hever Castle Garden.  The mansion is the ancestral home of the Boleyn family (14C.)  Our visit will focus exclusively on the beautiful Italian gardens.
This afternoon, visit Bignor Roman Villa (2nd-4th century) and museum to view some of the best-preserved mosaics in situ found in Britain.
Early evening arrival In London.  Farewell dinner and overnight in central London.  (B, D)

July 29, London

Breakfast and check-out this morning. Return flights to USA

Price: $3,882  Single supplement $420.

Cost includes hotels, breakfasts, ground transportation in England, entrance fees to museums and sites, one lunch and 4 dinners.