Agricola and Roman Britain

By Andrew Robert Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter One
Forum Julii

AGRICOLA and his mother lived first at Forum Julii, between the sea and the mountains, on the coast of Provence. From the top of the walls, one looked over the glittering waves or the sapphire blue of a calm. It was only comparatively rarely grey, cold and rain-whipped, like the seas that Agricola later came to know so well in the north. West, north and north-east, one looked over miles of rich alluvial plain, orchards and vineyards, and cornland between grey olive-trees--to the wooded hills, green in clear weather or grey and purple in the summer haze. That plain was where the family lands were; broad lands--the family had prospered in the three generations since the veterans of Julius Cæsar's VIIIth Legion were established on small holdings there (the usual Roman method of providing for the ex-service man), and the little town became a Roman borough, bearing Cæsar's name. Down the other way, at the waterside, at the foot of the rocky knoll on which the town was built, were big government installations, no doubt quite as interesting to a smart little boy as the stables at the home-farm: the dockyard, with room for building a dozen war-galleys at a time; the great vaulted store-buildings, with the commandant's house conveniently built on top of the vaults and on a level with the streets of the town; the fortified war-harbour, with only one narrow entrance between its two stone moles. But there was not much life down there now. One had to pretend; for the base had been closed after fifty years of activity, and was on a caretaker basis, if not actually beginning to moulder. In an advanced state of decay, one can see it still: the vaults yawning open, with a jungle of blackberry thorn blocking their entrance and rooting dangerously in

-1-

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