August 8, 2008

Hengest and Horsa And The Saxon Invasions

The rhyme helping school children recall the kings and queens of England starts with William the Conqueor. “Willy, Willy, Harry…” etc. The kings who came before 1066 are not included. People seem to like their history much neater and tidier than it actually is, and perhaps the difference between England before and after 1066 is symbolised by two books, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle for the period before 1066, and The Domesday Book for the period after. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle has different versions, written by different people in different places. Particularly in its references to the very earliest days of Saxon Britain the Chronicle is a mixture of myth and history. The Domesday Book in contrast is precise and exact. Information in column after column, page after page, lists the precise details of all land holdings in England. There was no more ambiguity, no more questions. This was Doomsday, the end, the final judgement. The Domesday Book suggests central control of a high order. But the Chronicle talks of a much more indefinable identity.

The Chronicle begins in the dark confusion that came with the withdrawl of the Romans from Britain at the end of the fourth century. Following an occupation lasting over three hundred and fifty years, the Romans’ departure left a vacuum of power. Historical sources for the chaotic time following the Romans’ departure are poor, and the first history of the period wasn’t written until three hundred years later by the historian known as the Venerable Bede. And the Chronicle did not begin its compilation until late in the ninth century. The story that follows is not the Domesday Book. There is no last word. Much is left in doubt. This is a story that hovers somewhere between the possible and the probable.

It is fairly clear that the last Roman commander was a soldier who the Welsh call Coel Hen, and he has survived in the English nursery rhyme Old King Cole. He may have founded some kind of local dynasty in the south of England. Then it seems a warlord called Vitalinus came to dominate at least part of Britain, and he was known as the “Vortigren”, which means “supreme leader”. Without Roman troops the Pictish tribes in what is now Scotland were making increasingly bold raids into the province of Britannia. To try and control these attacks, the Vortigren is supposed to have contacted Hengest, a fearsome mercenary from Friesia, an area in northern Germany. Hengest was hired, and he arrived on what was then the east Kent island of Thanet – pictured above – possibly with his brother Horsa, and a band of men. This arrival is described in one of the oldest examples of English literature, Beowulf


Then came three keels driven into exile from

Germany. In them were the brothers Horsa

and Hengest… Vortigren welcomed them,

and handed over to them the island that in

their language is called Thanet, in British



Hengest was successful in his battles with the Picts, and he has left his legacy in the name of the city of Dumfries, which means “the fort of the Friesian”. At this point his job was done, but instead of returning to Friesia, Hengest started bringing in uninvited “reinforcements” who could not be paid. The lack of payment led to rebellion. In an attempt to control the situation Hengest was invited to attend a conference with three hundred members of the British council. Hengest and a group of his men came to the conference with weapons hidden in their clothing, and proceeded to kill all of the elders, except for the Vortigren, whose power was broken. From his headquarters on Thanet Hengest quickly moved to subdue Kent. Two battles in 455 and 456 defeated the British in Kent, but at the cost of Horsa’s death in the first battle. Hengest and his son Aesc were then left as leaders of the Fresians, with Aesc succeeding as leader in 488. Aesc was then king of Kent, according to the Chronicle, for twenty four years. By the end of the fifth century Kent, the first of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms was firmly established. Old names used in the area changed to Germanic names: Ruoihm became Thanet; Cantii, became Kent, Ripuarium became Richborough, and Dubris became Dover. Celtic speech was swamped by Germanic dialect.

Pevensey Castle

Meanwhile a different group of invaders, the Saxons, led by Aelle landed at Selsey Bill and set about conquering Sussex. In 491 Aelle’s men stormed the British fortress at Pevensey Castle and massacred all the people sheltering inside. Then in 495 Cerdic and his son Cynric landed at Southampton Water and launched an invasion of Hampshire and Wiltshire, an area that became Wessex, kingdom of the West Saxons. This in outline is the story that the Chronicle tells. No mention is made of the East Angles, East Saxons, Middle Saxons, Middle Angles or Mercians. No reference is made to the mysterious delay in advance between 500 and 545, which may have been the time of the last great British resistence. King Arthur ledgends may be linked to this period. This is the nature of the history of this time, imprecise, uncertain, peopled with semi mythic figures, whose general fascination has survived into the present day. In its way these history stories are as important as the incredibly impressive columns of facts and figures that came in with the Domesday Book. And those facts and figures are misleading in themselves. History did not suddenly become clear with the reign of William the Conqueror. Following 1086, the year of the Domesday Book’s preparation, history remained a battle of stories, with propaganda passing for history much of the time. Most of what I read at school about Richard the Second, to take just one example, turned out to be propaganda put about by Henry the Fourth who deposed him. With increased abilities in record keeping came increased possibilities for propaganda. In a way the things that clarify the story bring doubt to it again. Perhaps this shows that there is no actual Domesday Book which will end all doubt. History keeps going, and we should not neglect a great part of English history just becuase it seems unclear. History did not start with William the Conqueror, or with Hengest and Horsa. In history there are no real beginnings and no real doomsdays


The Rise of Vortigern

July 31, 2008

The Rise of Vortigern

The “Overking” of Britain

© Joseph Allen McCullough

Vortigern was the first recorded ruler of post-Roman Britain. Unfortunately, his best remembered deed was to invite Hengest the Saxon to come and fight for Britain.

In 410 AD the Roman Emperor sent a letter to Britain saying that the island must look after its own defences. Soon thereafter, the Roman Government within Britain collapsed. The next decade and a half are lost to history, but around the year 427, a man called Vortigern arose as the new leader of the Romano-British. There is no record of how he came to power, or who he might have been before. In fact, even his name is a matter of debate. In the ancient British language, “Vortigern” meant “Overking”. It was not a title that had ever been used before, nor was it ever used after. Most likely it was an honorific nickname that became so commonly used that it swallowed up his real, probably Roman, name. It is worth noting that his name alone is an indication of how quickly the trappings of Rome were deteriorating, and how the British were possibly reverting to their old ways.

As Vortigern came to power, Britain was under increasing threat from the Barbarians, most notably the Picts to the north and the Irish (For more information on the Irish see related article). At the time, Britain still possessed a decent sized army organized along the Roman lines, most of which had been set to watch the Northern border. Unfortunately, this force possessed no navy of any type. Thus the Picts were able to sail around the defenders and launch raids up and down the eastern coast.

In a move to help counter these attacks, Vortigern hired a group of Saxon mercenaries lead by the brothers Hengest and Horsa. During this age, the Saxons were the rulers of the waves and were one of the few groups that could actually fight at sea. (Even the Picts only used boats as transport, not as weapons). In exchange for the Saxon’s help fighting the Picts, Vortigern offered them the small island of Thanet as a place of settlement.

These original Saxons were soon reinforced by a large army led by Hengest’s son Octha. Together, Hengest and his son led a campaign against the Picts, blazing a trail of destruction through the north of England. These seaborne invaders proved too much for the Picts, and in that moment, they ceased to be a danger to the British.

Although, later chroniclers condemned Vortigern for replacing one danger (the Picts) with an even greater danger (the Saxons) it should be noted that Vortigern once again brought peace to England. And, in the end, it would be the British as much as the Saxons that brought Vortigern down.


The copyright of the article The Rise of Vortigern in British Dark & Middle Ages is owned by Joseph Allen McCullough. Permission to republish The Rise of Vortigern must be granted by the author in writing.

The Roman Water System

May 17, 2008

 Research: The Roman Water System- The Romans were famed for their hydraulic engineering. Describe the development of Roman hydraulic engineering and assess its impact on the Roman world.

The Roman Water system was a complex but amazing system which provided them with fresh water every day to bath, drink, cook etc. The Transportation of water to cities was knowledge known before its time. The Romans used a series of aqueducts which are used to transport water from far places to the cities of Rome Pompey, etc. The word plumb means lead and that was exactly what the pipes were made of. It is suggested that many Romans died simply from lead poisoning due to over expose to high lead levels in the water. 

This image shows a Roman water system (red line) from a natural spring to the city of Castellium. Aqueducts were simply used for to transport water through valleys without slowing down the flow of the water. These are the three ways that the Romans used to get water around the city. Two-tier bridges were used at low cross areas, Inverted Siphons were used when particular valleys were steep, & tunnels were used when equipped with vertical shafts for inspection & cleaning.  Through a Two-Tier Bridge, a Siphon and a Tunnel.

Waste was Frequently Emptied into Street-Side Openings to the Roman Sewers. The sewers carried off sewage, urban runoff, and drainage water together. The Roman sewer system probably carried off at least as much water as the aqueducts provided. Consumptive use in Rome was not high and there was a lot of infiltration into the drains from groundwater (parts of Rome are constructed over swamps). The flow of the Tiber River was greatly increased by discharges from Rome’s sewers.



April 28, 2008

The History of Plumbing – Roman and English Legacy

Testaments to the ancient plumber echo in the ruins of rudimentary drains, grandiose palaces and bath houses, and in vast aqueducts and lesser water systems of empires long buried. Close to 4,000 years ago, about 1700 B.C., the Minoan Palace of Knossos on the isle of Crete featured four separate drainage systems that emptied into the great sewers constructed of stone.

Terra cotta pipe was laid beneath the palace floor, hidden from view. Each section was about 2 1/2′ long, slightly tapered at one end, and nearly 1″ in diameter. It provided water for fountains and faucets of marble, gold and silver that jetted hot and cold running water.

Harbored in the palace latrine was the world’s first flushing “water closet” or toilet, with a wooden seat and a small reservoir of water. The device, however, was lost for thousands of years amid the rubble of flood and decay. Not until the 16th Century would Sir John Harington invent a “washout” closet anew, similar in principle. And it would take still another 200 years before another Englishman, Alexander Cumming, would patent the forerunner of the toilet used today. The luminous names of Doulton, Wedgwood, Shanks, and Twyford would follow.

But it’s to the plumbing engineers of the Old Roman Empire that the Western world owes its allegiance. The glory of the Roman legions lay not only in the roads they built and the system of law and order they provided. It was their engineering genius and the skill of their craftsmen that enabled them to erect great baths and recreation centers, the water supplied by aqueducts from sources miles away.

The Roman answer to the hot tub about 50 A.D. Bath, England

Plumbing Defined: While early pipe and conduit was made from wood or earthenware, later refinement to lead made skilled workers in lead indispensable. The Latin term “plumbus” means “lead,” as was also the weight at the end of a line for perpendicular alignment. The plumber was a worker in lead who, in today’s connotation, repairs or fits the apparatus of water distribution in and to a building. The Roman artisan plumbed pipe, soldered, installed and repaired; he worked on roofs and gutters, down to sewers and drains; in essence, everything involving supply and waste. In fact, this general job description of plumbers’ work lasted into the 20th century.

Hot and cold water systems were already developed by the Greeks, but to the stalwart, individualistic Spartan, it was unmanly to use hot water. His idea of the bath tub was a polished marble bowl about 30″ in height. He would stand in the tub, and have a slave douse him with water over his head and his body. The sole purpose was a quick, functional, cold rinse-the colder, the quicker! Thus Grecian bath houses never developed hot water systems as extensively as the Romans.

Roman society, on the other hand, fostered a communal spirit, and barracks camaraderie for its troops. The public baths were the city centers of group enjoyment, places of gossip and contacts. To prolong their pleasure and relaxation, they developed hot water and steam systems that evolved to service colossal structures. Some would say that the Roman bath houses by early A.D. would pale only next to those of King Minos.

The baths of the Emperor Caracalla, for example, covered nearly a 28 acre site. It contained more than 1,600 marble seats, and still fell short of the baths of Diocletian, which seated over 3,000. “Stupendous aqueducts,” reported Gibbons in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, “replenished the Thermae, or baths, constructed with Imperial magnificence…walls covered with mosaics; perpetual streams of hot water poured into capacious basins through so many wide mouths of bright and massy silver.”

Miles from the source of supply, water flowed through a series of aqueducts, streaming by gravity along the contours of land. The longest overhead section was about 14 miles long, but by 52 A.D., channeling covered a total of 220 miles all but 30 miles underground. At its peak development, aqueducts carried about 300 gallons of water for every citizen.

At first, the Roman baths opened only during the daylight hours, which allowed for the emptying and refilling of the water at least once a day. This helped matters somewhat, in that hundreds would use the same pools of stagnant, germ-ridden, unfiltered, fetid water. The dawn of scientific discovery would not be for hundreds more years. Even the best and brightest of the ancient Romans knew nothing about bacteria and the true causes of disease.

The bath complex housed a succession of baths, with many entrances for easy access. Surrounding the complex on at least three sides were houses and shops.

Warm air for the Thermae bath was supplied by furnaces heating hollow bricks located under the entire floor. As the name suggests, the Frigidarium was the cold water bath; it fed the hot water tanks and other baths. The Tepidarium contained baths of moderate heat, and the Caldarium the hottest.

There was also a separate steam bath, and a small circular chamber covered by a high dome. An opening in the center of the dome provided light; it also vented the chamber. As a rudimentary way of regulating the heat, the vent could be raised or lowered.

One could take a hot bath in a tub or a plunge into cold water, but the tub was soon supplanted by a larger unit.

The bath measured 10-12 ft. in diameter, and was about 3 ft. deep. One stepped down into it on two marble steps. A circular seat about 10″ from the bottom allowed the bathers to sit and wash themselves.

It was customary to bathe after exercise, and before a meal to promote digestion. As just one example of his fabled excesses, it was Nero’s pleasure to bathe, gorge himself with food and fancy, bathe, etc., in his great catered affairs.

In the cold water bath of Pompeii, water was supplied through a bronze spout, and wound its way through a conduit on the opposite side. It was also equipped with a waste pipe which prevented the water from running over.

A marble platform surrounded the bath, with pedestals for statues. The ceiling was vaulted and lighted by a window in the center.

By the 4th century A.D., Rome would have 11 public baths, 1,352 public fountains and cisterns, and 856 private baths. In Pompeii, some homes had 30 taps.

As mentioned, the water supply was provided by aqueducts, the first one built in 312 B.C. Named in honor of its originator, Appius Claudius, it spanned a total of 11 miles. However, it marked a milestone as the previous water supply was only from the immediacy of wells, cisterns, springs, or the Tiber River itself. As the city became more populous, and the Roman emperors more decadent and demanding, the engineering feats in water systems became increasingly monumental.

An artificial lake created for Augustus measured 1,800′ long x 1,200′ wide. One of his favorite spectator sports was watching actual battles between opposing fleets of ships, manned by criminals and slaves of the emperors. By Nero’s time of 37-68 A.D., a “sea” fight for his amusement would utilize 19,000 men on 100 ships. They fought in gladiator fashion, i.e., until one was killed in combat, or spared by the emperor.

The English Connection: At the height of its power the Roman Empire had conquered most of Europe, including about 1,600 so. mi. of Britain, its farthest outpost. And in the ruins of Aquae Sulis, the famed spas of Bath, lay the vestige of the rise and fall, and redevelopment of plumbing technique.

By the time the Romans reached Britain in 43 A.D., the curative powers of the hot baths were already part of English legend. Back in 863 B.C., the waters had supposedly healed the leprosy of its Celtic discoverer, Prince Bladud (the father of King Lear, who was to be immortalized by Shakespeare). Bladud founded the city of Bath, and dedicated the springs to the goddess Minerva. The Roman name of Aquae Sulis means “Waters of Minerva.”

Aquae Sulis was at a strategic crossroads for the Roman troops, and the natural hot springs made it a logical setting for the baths of the Emperor Claudius. In addition, the springs produced a constant supply of soothing mineral waters, heated by Nature to a temperature of 46.5 C. Important too was that available sources of building stone and lead were close by.

Following Roman custom, Claudius developed Aquae Sulis in the image of the great baths back home, but scaled in size to its smaller location. At that, the complex must have comprised approximately 23 acres.

One monumental hall led into another as the floor plan radiated to various heated rooms, steam rooms, baths and swimming pools, plus a gymnasium and social rooms for eating and drinking. A play field was attached to the complex as well.

The small, circular pool was probably built for women and children, who at first used the pool only at stated hours and separate from the men. But eventually regulations broke down and both sexes intermingled throughout the pleasure complex.

The Romans controlled the site for about 500 years, but their influence floundered, waned and just about expired in phase with the decline of the Empire, whose ruination became complete by the sixth century A.D. By then Roman garrisons in Britain had been invaded by hordes of Picts, Saxons, Scots and Irish, and could count on no help from Rome, which was in trouble itself. When the last Roman garrisons fled the isle of Britain, the secrets of sanitary design went with them.

Replacing them were the Barbarians, leveling cities and decimating populations as they hacked their way across the continent. Civilization reeled and regressed. Sanitation technology reverted to its basest forms.

The early Christians rejected most anything Roman, including the value of cleanliness. They considered it unsanitary to be clean, sinful to display material wealth. “All is vanity,” stated an early Christian writer. St. Benedict pronounced that “to those that are well, and especially for the young, bathing shall seldom be permitted.” A 4th century pilgrim to Jerusalem would brag that she had not washed her face for 18 years so as “not to disturb the holy water” used at her baptism.

By the Middle Ages, the “hot houses” or “stews” of the Roman baths carried the stigma of debauchery and wild parties. During the reign of Richard the Lionhearted, the little rooms or “bordellos” of the baths became synonymous with brothels.

In 1348 the first wave of Black Plague entered England through the town of Melcombe in Dorset County. One third of the population would be wiped out, as rats and fleas thrived in the filth and garbage steeped in and about and all around.

The Dark Ages had begun.

The Recovery: The spas of Aquae Sulis lay dormant, buried under rubble and dirt, and unappreciated for centuries before being restored to use. In the 16th century, the Cross Bath was “worthilie called the hot bath, for at the first coming, men thinke that it would scale their flesh, and lose it from it the bone, but after a season. . . more tolerable and easier to be borne.”

Cartloads of wood or coal provided the fuel for the warm-air furnaces, especially for the hottest room with its sub-floor heating. The Great Bath, which measured 80′ long x 40′ wide and 6′ deep, was still supplied water from the original conduit installed by the first Roman plumber in town. In the last century it was the rage to drink copious glasses of water from Bath s pump room, located next door to the bathing room. According to one account, ladies of the Blunderhead family allowed their servant girl, Tabitha Runt, to bathe in the waters next door while they drank their water at the pump. In those days servants bathed even less than their masters, who bathed hardly at all. Those were the days of perfume, powders and oil, not of soap and clean water. The following doggerel catches the tone of the age:

You cannot conceive that
a number of ladies
Were washed in the water
the same as our maid.
So while little Tabby
was washing her rump,
The ladies kept drinking it
out of the pump.
It was not until the activities, and public relations, of the dandy Richard “Beau” Nash in the last century that Bath reclaimed its luster.

Nash was a celebrity of his day, a nobleman gambler who set the rules of behavior that proved fashionable for the era. The social whirl was comparable perhaps to the “jet setters” of our current age who seem to do nothing but get their pictures in magazines, and help sell supermarket tabloids. The little town that had sprung up around the baths became the “in” place of royalty and the upper class, sort of a trendy “hangout” for Nash and his crowd. The Bath Address Book listed such dignitaries as Queen Anne and Thomas Gainesborough, and the showrooms of the great potter, Josiah Wedgwood.

In 1780-81, the future Admiral Lord Nelson spent some of his youth in Bath, and later paid occasional visits. After one visit to recuperate from battle wounds, he wrote: “My health, thank God, is very near perfectly restored, and I have very near the perfect use of my limbs, except my left arm.”

The baths were back in business. When it happened, their reputation for healing had been embellished beyond even Roman legend. The waters would be touted as “good for obstructions, still more: ague, dropsy, black and yellow jaundice, schirrus hints or hard swelling of the spleen, scurvy, green sickness, whites in women, and defect and excess of their course.”

Waste And Sewers: Where and how to dispose of waste and sewage have been the bane of Man since the beginnings of time.

While early on he recognized the value of camping downstream to let “running water take its course,” the problem of disposal became acute as populations proliferated and banded together.

Aristotle instructed his prize pupil, Alexander the Great, to make sure that dung from animals, human waste, etc., was disposed of far from camp. Predating his words by about 3,000 years is the Old Testament injunction that stated: Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad. And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be when though silt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig wherewith, and shall turn back and cover that which comets from thee. (Deuteronomy 23)

But for a workable, though odoriferous, plan on a grand scale, the Western world will have to again look to the ancient Romans.

The first sewers of Rome were built between 800 B.C. and 735 B.C., preceding the first aqueduct by about 500 years. Called the Cloaca Maxima, this sewer is one of the largest of the ancient sewers still in use. It was designed to carry off the surface water, and otherwise provide drainage for the entire city.

It was said that every street emptied into a channel of the sewer. However, only a few privileged patricians or noblemen had outlets to their houses. These were but extensions to their latrines located adjacent to their kitchens. As the untrapped ends of the sewer were the only sources of ventilation that the sewers had, noxious fumes expelled into the immediate area and wafted about. One wonders what the “smell” of “good cooking” really meant in those days.

By 14th century England, the problem was still unsolved. Culled from an old record, one reads that “the refuse from the king’s kitchen had long run through the Great Hall in an open channel, to the serious injury to health and danger to life of those congregated at court.”

Further complications resulted from medieval privies or the euphemistic “garde robes” (wardrobes for undressing) located in the “Great House” or castle. The chamber would be in a small vaulted room about 3′ wide with a narrow window. The privy was built within the wall, with a vertical shaft below a stone for a wooden seat. The waste would discharge into the moat below. If there were no water, the receptacle might be a barrel or a pit. In either case, it was a deadly chore to rake the offal. The job paid top wages for brave but desperate men needing to work. A crew of 13 men were paid three times the normal rate to clean the pit at Newgate Jail in 1281. It took them five nights.

But pity the plight of one Richard the Raker. He fell through the planks of a public latrine and drowned in the deep pit of excrement below.

Underground channeling was a haphazard arrangement as well. Drain tiles, constructed from the “roughest brickwork” or masonry, were 12′ in cross section, made by laying flat stones to form the bottom of the din. Then brick walls built up, and topped with flat stones.

The drains were built helter-skelter with no understanding of purpose. Some would be too big or too small, or running uphill or at right angles, etc.

The possibility of disease being transmitted through water and waste began to chip through centuries of ignorance. Scientific discoveries began to unfold. Some would even believe that an open cesspool was “the probable cause of headache, sore throat and depressed health to many a cook, kitchen maid and butler, and perhaps indirectly leads, in not a few instances, to the use of those treacherous self-prescribed medicines-spirits and beer.”

Stinks, Pots & Loos: The rivers of the Thames, Fleet and Walbrook were open sewers, the Thames the most foul of all. The abominable odors of the Fleet, complained the monks of the White Friars, “have overcome the frankincense burnt at the altar” they claimed the fumes caused the deaths of several brethren. Sherborne Lane, once a lovely stream back in 1300, was to be more popularly known as Shiteburn Lane. However, these were minor when compared to the state of the Thames.

No longer could a king’s polar bear catch salmon in the Thomas River, as did the pet of King Henry VIII. By the mid-1800s the by-products of the Industrial Revolution were flowering, mixing, and foaming with the waste and stench of nearly 3 million people in London. All sewers led to the Thames, pouring through bulkheads along the shores.

For several sultry days in 1859, the Thames seethed, seeped, and nearly boiled under the burning sun of an unusually hot season. Parliament was suspended as window blinds saturated with lime chloride and other disinfectants failed to subdue the odor and revulsion. It was so revolting that one foreign newspaper bannered twin headlines to catch the calamities of the day: “India Is In Revolt, and The Thames Stinks.”

Personal hygiene fared no better under such a dead-end sanitary system. Tenements swarmed with people, but there were no indoor “necessaries” for them, not even running water.

Water was drawn from pumps stationed in streets throughout the city, the water rationed and serving hundreds of people. The pumps were open only during certain hours of certain days, the water to be carried home in pots or jugs, or just tasted in a pittance of a sip.

The finer homes may have had a tin or copper bath tub. But in the early 1800s piping was still confined to the first floor, the water heated by kettles over an open fire.

Tenements loomed several stories high as space was at a premium. The buildings were erected in long rows, back to back, containing tiny-room apartments with little or no ventilation (landlords were taxed for windows). Dank and putrid latrines, if any, were on the ground floor.

Inside the house or apartment, waste was stored in a glass urinal or metal chamber until filled. Tenants usually disposed of the contents by tossing them out the doors or windows.

Injuries caused by the far-flung contents of the chamber pots, or “missiles of mirth” as the ancient Greek dramatist, Aeschylus, would call them, persisted through the ages. Early Roman law included the Dejecti Effusive Act, which fined a person who threw or poured anything out of an open window and hit someone. The law awarded damages to the injured party. Strangely, the statute applied only during daytime hours.

The habits of people remained basically the same, and the problem continued well after the Romans left England. King Richard II followed suit with his writ of Statuto quo nut ject dung “A writ that no one is to dump dung.” This earliest of health laws was finally repealed in 1856.

Proper manners would prescribe warning unwary pedestrians that a shower was on its way. Thus the cry of “Garden l’eau” (pronounced Gardy-loo, and meaning “Watch out for the water!”) would echo up and down the streets. Over time it evolved into English slang for the toilet, or loo.

The chamber pots of the working class were usually made of copper, although later ones might be of crockery. The chamber pots for the rich and royalty were solid silver, the kings’ ornate and pretentious. James I had a portable “potty,” which he used for traveling. All the chamber pots, of course, were carried and emptied by servants.

Paranoid about being poisoned, James I had one encased in a leather box and locked shut with a key. Edward Vl had a padded chamber pot, and the “close stool” of Henry VIII was padded in black velvet, trimmed with ribbons, fringes, and quilting, all tacked on with 2,000 gilt nails. The Victorians of the last century, the “wizards of gadgetry” invented a musical chamber pot that played when the hidden drawer in the table or commode was opened.

The Necessaries: But for sheer invention, there is the relic of Sir John Harington’s “Ajax” water closet, the first “necessary” ever built in English history. He built the toilet in 1596 for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I (immortalized as the queen who took a bath once a month “whether she need it or no”), and installed it for her use in Richmond Palace. Although the Queen did use it, the toilet and Harington were subject to ridicule and derision. Harington never made another. It would be another 200 years before the idea took hold again.

Examples of ornate Victorian closets at the Gladstone museum.

The first patent for a “modern” toilet belongs to Alexander Cumming, who invented the “S” trap in 1775. It had a sliding valve underneath to hold the water. Three years later, Joseph Bramah, a locksmith and engineer, patented an improved version with two hinged valves. An original is still used in the House of Lords. The “Bramah” also became a prototype for closets on boats and ships.

The Good Life: In 1848, England passed the national Public Health Act, which would become a model plumbing code for the world to follow. It mandated some kind of sanitary arrangement in every house, whether a flushing toilet, or a privy, or an ash pit. The government also released 5 million British pounds for sanitary research and engineering, and began to build a sound sewer system. Now that there would be outlets for toilet systems, their manufacture made sense.

With this new incentive for invention, pottery makers including Josiah Wedgwood, Thomas Twyford, and John Shanks began to team with the inventors as they replaced brass and metal workings of Bramah’s invention with all ceramic parts.

By 1858, George Jennings had popularized public lavatories. He had introduced the novelties by installing them in the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851; over 827,000 people paid to use the “necessary convenience.”

By 1870, Thomas Twyford’s improved version of the Bramah contained no metal parts, and Bramah fell out of production. And, although Jennings’ pedestal vase toilet of 1884 won the Gold Medal at the Health Exhibition, it was Twyford who is credited with the revolutionary design of a one-piece toilet.

Before, a toilet was built in two parts: the top part a bowl, and the bottom half holding a separate pan. To keep the two together, the entire unit had to be contained within a wood box. The box would leak at the joints, and the smell would be terrible.

In 1885, Twyford pioneered the first trapless toilet and built the “Unites” as a one-piece, free-standing unit on a pedestal base. This eliminated the problem of leaky joints and foul odor.

Tests for quality control were very basic: Jennings, whose toilet was judged “as perfect a sanitary closet as can be made,” tested his unit by throwing in 10 apples 1-1/4″ in size, one flat sponge and four pieces of paper. If the items cleared, the unit was pronounced fit.

John Shanks devised a different test for his units. He would throw a cap into the bowl and pull the chain. When the cap disappeared, he would cry out, “It works!”

Acceptance of water closets came slowly at first. But as closets became better made, and as proper connection eliminated disease, production grew. But there were still sporadic cases of typhoid in the second half of the 19th century. One of the most notable cases affected the royal family. Queen Victoria’s husband, the popular Prince Albert, had died of typhoid in 1861, as almost did her son, the future Edward VII, ten years later.

In 1871, the Prince of Wales lost his groom, a friend, and almost his life to an outbreak of typhoid in Londesborough Lodge where he and his friends were staying. His groom died as well as his friend, the Earl of Chesterfield. Investigation proved contamination in the plumbing lines, and the problem was corrected and eliminated.

The craftsmanship of the 19th-century sanitary engineer had come almost full cycle from the days of King Minos. In tribute, the Prince would be quoted as saying, “If I could not be a prince, I would rather be a plumber.”

Seven Hills of Rome Ancient and Modern

April 28, 2008

Twenty-seven hundred years ago, ancient Rome was built on seven hills that range from 150 to 180 feet high. On top of Capitol Hill, which symbolized the power of ancient Rome, the city administrative offices, partly designed by Michelangelo, now stand. On our first visit, from Capitol Hill we walked down a long staircase toward the Roman Forum. At the bottom of the staircase the Arco di Settimio Severo (the Triumphal Arch of Septimus Severus, marks the beginning of the Roman Forum.

Tired from our long trek through the city, we sat on the steps and rested for a few minutes. We had to move out of the way as a group of people came out of a plain doorway in a solid, high building wall next to the stairs.

During subsequent trips to Rome we discovered that doorway was the exit from the Mamertine Prison, the State Prison, dating from 105 BC. It is recorded that both St. Peter and St. Paul were, at one time, imprisoned here. Inside, the two-level building with ancient stone floors is an inspiring, but sad sight.

Tidbit by Jim and Emmy Humberd

For Discussion Answers

April 3, 2008

*What perspective is represented in Josephus’ reconstruction of what happen at Masada?

Joesephus perspective on reconstructing of what happened at masada was a pretty bias because he had and was in favour of the Romans. Josephus was bias against his people because he was presured by the Romans because they would kill him if he was to say anything bad or wrong about them.   

*What perspective does Yadin offer?

Yigal Yadin’s perspective was bias as well but against the Romans not the Jews. he called the Jews patriotic and was proud of there defences of Masada.

*What purposes can you identify in the reconstruction of Josephus and Yadin? Josephus had said that the Sicarii had killed them selves in the final hours of Masada. On the other hand Yigal Yadin had said that the Romans had fought with the Sicarii to the end and were deafeated slaughtered and put into the slave trade.  

*How are their respective audiences involved? The Respective Auidences are invovled because they challenged both Historians point of veiw. They looked at Josephus closely because it is a primary source and compared it with Yigal Yadin.

*How have both Josephus and Yadin selected and omitted sources? Josephus and Yigal Yadin had selected & omitted sources because, one: Yigal failed to research his finds (Skeletons) properly and prove that they were Jewish not Roman, and second: Josephus just used the accounts of the Roman soldiers to write his history. 


March 25, 2008

*The location and geographical features of Masada – “As a historic site away from an urban center, its cultural integrity has been preserved. The site is well-maintained, and the signage is adequate. It offers vistas of the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley rock formations of unprecedented beauty.

*An overview of Roman Rule in Judaea and the organisation of a province – The Romans had come to create their empire and looked to take over the known world at that time. The Jews were the next target,  the Romans had once been deafeted by the Jews and werent going to settle for another defeat. The Romans had started to seige the city, Jotapata where Josephus had been staying. The Romans broke into the city before dawn and quietly slaughtered the Jews. Joesephus was captured by the Romans, but soon betrayed the Jews and went to live in Rome.    

*The cause of conflict between Jews and Romans – Personally I beleive that the cause of conflict  between the Jews and the Romans were the need for an Empire by the Romans and for the Jews, not wanting to be ruled by their enemy. But here are some military engagements between the two nations.   

There have been several military engagements between the Jews and the Romans:

  • the Roman general Pompey subdued Judaea in 63 BCE (after which it became a client kingdom)
  • in 6 CE, the emperor Augustus deposed king Archelaus, and his governor of Syria, Quirinius, established the province of Judaea (which became a prefecture)
  • in 66, a serious rebellion started, which led to the destruction of the Temple (September 70); this war was described by Flavius Josephus in his Jewish War
  • a little later, the Romans took the fortress Masada (in 74)
  • in 115, the Levantine Jews revolted against emperor Trajan
  • when the emperor Hadrian forbade circumcision, Simon bar Kochba started a Messianic war, which lasted until 136. It meant the end of the multiform Judaism of the first century.

*Who and what were the Sicarii (Jewish Rebels)? – The Sicarii were originally assassins of Jedua. They would go into great festivals and huge gatherings (mainly religious) and they would knife their target in the back and quikly escape before detection. The people who were normally knifed were Romans, Roman followers and the rich and corrupt Jews, or people they don’t like.

 *The occupation of Masada – The occupation of Masada was the Sicarii or as they were known amoung the Jews as the Zealots. This fortress was built by Herod as a Fortress and was said to be impossible to seige, because of the geological and placment of this fortress.  

*Josephus and his Jewish War – Josephus was once the leader of a rebelion against the romans who had invaded Judea. Josephus was captured by Vipsannius and lukily survived. Josephus had told Vipsannius that he would one day become emperor. Josephus soon after became a roman citizen and started his historic accounts on the Jewish Wars.

*The archaeological evidence on the site of Masada and the work of Yigael Yadin – Yigael Yadin supervised the excavation at Masada in 1963. The biggest and the greatest archeaological artefact found is the Roman made ramp and also the city.

*The military campaign (strategy and tactics) and the role of Flavius Silva (Roman commander). – The Commander Flavius Silva marched and ran a campagin to the seige and destruction of the city Masada. He led the march of the tenth legion to the city of masada. The tenth legion built camps around the city and began attacks. Many failed, but the last attack was the attack that marched the romans to victory. The romans built a huge ramp which was supported by the land scape of that side of masada and managed to move a 25 tonne seige tower up this ramp which by the way was a very steep ramp. When they had accomplished this they catured the city with ease as the residents had probably committed mass suicide. 

*Evidence for the organisation of the Roman army and the arcaheological evidence found in the Roman camp  – The evidence found at the site of masada was of the Roman army which was the outline of the camp sites and also the peices of wood found to hold the ramp and to support the seige tower.  The weapons the Romans used such as catapults and arrows and swords were all artefacts.

March 13, 2008

Using all resources at your disposal, discuss what factors affect the preservation and destruction of evidence.

The preservation and the destruction of Archaeological sites are usually because of the following things:1.      The destruction of sites·        Warfare·        Tourism·        Modern development·        Pollution2.      The Preservation of sites·        Climate·        Geological Conditions ·        The Actions of People The worst case of the destruction of a site is warfare. Warfare can contribute to the destruction of a site because of aspects like looting, bombing, etc. One Example of this is the war between the Ottoman Empire and Venice which saw the damage to the Parthenon Temple to Athena.  Tourism is another cause to the destruction of ancient sites, the visitors touch, breath, photograph, and take souvenirs. Over time this can slowly discolour the walls, paintings etc. this can also slowly deteriorate in time from taking souvenirs and from touching. One example is the Valley of Queens in Egypt; it was closed down to the public because of the damage that was beginning to appear. Modern development can be one of the major threats to historical sites. Historical sites near building sites can be damaged from anything from dust, to plant vehicles being used around the sites. One example of this is the excavation work that was taking place around the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.Pollution can almost deteriorate anything at a slow rate. Acid rain in Europe effects many ancient city remains in Italy. Pollution from transport can slowly wear down anything from stone to metal. One example of this is the Egyptian Sphinx in Cairo, the pollution from the city has worn down the nose and the face of the mighty Sphinx. Although there are many factors that can cause the destruction of a site, there is always a will and a way to preserve them and save them from destruction. Some Climates are perfect for the natural preservations of different historical objects, whether it be human remains to huge ships and statues. Dry climates are the best at preserving historical objects; this is because dry climates usually tend to suck up all the water from the object. If the object is buried in a sandy desert there’s a good chance of the object surviving for many years. Cold climates are also very good for preserving things such as bodies. It is good for preservation because it freezes the tissue and freezes the fluids in the body which slows down the rotting process of the human body. One example is the Iceman Oetzi, who was discovered in the Alps between Austria and Italy in 1991. He was found baring all his equipment including weapons and clothing. Geological conditions of where a historical artefact is found can determine whether it will stay preserved or be destroyed. The Tar Pits of California is known to be one of the best forms of preservation by the geological condition. When anything falls into the tar pits, the tar immediately sticks to the skin, which blocks out any oxygen so that decomposition is stopped. One example of this is the prehistoric animals that have been thrown out of the pits. Another type of geological preservation is under water objects. If metal the water will react with the metal either making it rust or making it preserves itself. One example of this would be the Titanic.The actions of people can be of importance when preserving a site. The Ancient peoples sometimes would have hidden burial places; this protects them from destruction, deterioration, and ending up in the black market. This may have been because grave robbers weren’t able to find them. This would give the Archaeologists the chance to find record and study these places. One example of this is the Tomb of Tutankhamen. In conclusion when there is a way to destroy something, there is always another way to preserve it. Many sites have been destroyed or damaged, but without the use of preservation methods the majority of sites could not have been saved or repaired.           

March 12, 2008


Lesson for Wednesday 5th March

March 8, 2008

What factors affect the objectivity of authors of written sources? There are four main factors that effect the objectivity of authors of written sources, these are:

  • Fact and Opinion – Historians and archaelolgists have to determine whether a written source is fact or opinion. One way they do this is by looking at different sources of the same event.
  • Bias – Historians and archaelolgists have to determine whether a written source is bias or not by looking at what is said. In the case of a war/battle they would look at factors like who wrote the source, what nationality was he etc.
  • Gender Bias – it is hard not to look at any sources that are not gender bias because woman were not really raised to be anything but house wives.
  • One Sided Accounts – Historians and archaelolgists have to determine whether a written source is one-sided because the text could be about something like the battle of Thermopalyae, where only Greeks have written about this battle, there havent been any discoveris of persian texts of the battle of Thermopalyae. 

What is gender bias? Gender bias in History is simply looking at usually written sources, written by men of that time. This only gives us a male perspective on the events that were written about in the Ancient period.

How has it manifested itself in the reporting of history over the millenia? (sorry sir i dont understand this question)

Give three examples of gender bias?

  1. Dio Cassius – Roman history – Boudicca of Britain
  2. Sir Alan Gardiner – Egypt of the Pharaohs – Hatshepsut
  3. Josephus – Jewish History – No women used for acounts.

Is it still a problem today in historiography? This is still a problem for historiography because no-one knows what a women saw in the Ancient period, a single women could have known why the senetors killed Ceaser or why Nero hated the Christians so much.