The Roman fortress of Isca. Castle of the legion.
The village of Caerleon (right by the urban mess of Newport in South Wales) sits on top of what was once a huge Roman fortress. Over 1900 years ago, this fortress was started, and for about 250 years, it served as home to as many as 5500 soldiers. No, not the same ones for 250 years, but I knew you would try to suggest that. The total size was over 50 acres (200'000 m2)
Until 800 years ago, there was a significantly large amount of the fortress buildings still visible, but then most of it was removed for building material, and the remaining foundations built on top of by the expanding village, which now covers about 75% of the remains. The rest was excavated only 80 years ago, but is still one of the best examples of Roman fortification in the British Isles, and one of the largest in Europe.
- The visit starts outside the bath house. At 41 metres long, this outdoor swimming pool was larger than the famous Great Bath in Bath city, but sadly it is devoid of water. The remains of the fountain house is also visible at the end.
- Beside the pool is the remains of the old changing room, with the sewer running under the floor on the right, and the brick pillars that once supported the changing room floor on the left. In the gaps around the pillars they passed the hot air from the fire, which kept the floor so hot that they needed to wear sandals. On the right was a cold plunge pool, but most is not visible.
- The sewer that drained the cold, tepid and hot baths. Might not seem like much, but sewage systems never existed in this country prior to the Romans bringing the technology here.
- A placeholder for a washbasin, with the cold bath beside it.
- The cold bath, with washbasin area illuminated. The stone circle is a displaced massive drain cover. This is all that remains of the bath house, but represents less than 10% of what was once a massive structure, containing an exercise hall as well as the baths.
- Remains of a basin from a bath house outside the fortress.
- Remains of a mosaic that used to decorate the bath house.
- Just outside the fortress wall is the remains of the amphitheatre.
- This massive structure was excavated from almost complete burrial, and is now one of the most complete large example in the British Isles, as well as one of the largest in total exposed size.
- The total size is immense, with an oval arena of 60 metres by 45 metres, used for soldier training, gladiatorial combat, and public executions.
- Arched doorway leading up to the seats.
- Shrine built into a doorway.
- Stairs to nowhere.
- The massive stone supports that once supported the wooden seating structure. When complete, it could hold around 6000 spectators.
- Remains of a bath that was moved to make way for the aphitheatre.
- The fortress wall that used to run around the entire fortress. Only a short section remains, less than a quarter of its original length.
- Remains of one of the turrets that used to line the wall.
- The earth-covered remains of a far part of the wall.
- Behind the wall are the remains of the barracks - the only example in Europe. The remains of four barrack buildings are visible, though only the nearest one is actually excavated. The others are recreations, built on top of the earth that still covers the actual barracks underneath.
- The room layout is easily visible. Each block provides space for one century (as many as 100 men, but typically 80 - so much for the word "century"). On the far right was a hallway, then on the right is a store room for food and weapons, and on the left is a dormitory. On the far left was a Roman road - another one of those things they brought over here.
- Shallow drains around the buildings.
- Remains of the ovens.
- Service buildings at one of the gates.
- Right by the toilets. Despite having been invented over 2500 years before, flushing toilets were not seen until the Romans brought them here. They weren't really flushing so much as just a constant stream running under a wooden platform with holes in it. The outflow here did not use a sewer, and instead just flowed around the outside of the barracks. Lovely.
- The wooden platform really was very basic, with simple holes beside each other. There was no privacy - they would just sit beside each other, and do what they had to do. Can't be shy. They also had no toilet paper, but at least they did not use their hands. They used this; a sponge on a stick. Get it wet, use it, wash it off, and leave it for the next guy. If they had enough money, they would have a slave do it for them.
- Recreation centurion's uniform, at the nearby museum.
- Standard bearer.
- And a legionary, the normal soldier who would have to defend the fortress against the vicious celts. The weapon is a javelin, whish was thrown at approaching enemy. The shield and short thrusting sword were used in the famous tortoise battle formation. Children also get to try on this armour - why do they get all the fun?
- A selection of artifacts recovered at the site, including roof tiles, gravestones, signs, and decoration.
- More artifacts, including shrines.
- A sarcophagus with partial skeleton.
- And finally, a large section of floor mosaic. I have ignored the smaller artifacts, such as glass bottles, pottery, coins and jewellery.