Devon, a county in England, is not typically associated with ancient Rome. But, in fact, this area played a significant role in the history of Roman Britain. The Romans arrived in Devon in 43AD, when the Roman army marched through the area to gain control of the rich agricultural lands and valuable resources England had to offer. Before the Romans arrived, Devon was an enigmatic and mysterious region, occupied by the Celtic tribes who had developed their own tribal laws and customs.
Romanization of Devon
The Romans wasted no time in turning Devon into a prosperous Roman province. In the 5th century AD, Roman forts, roads and other infrastructure were built to facilitate their administrative power over the region. Roman settlements were established, marking the beginnings of what would become the towns and cities of Devon. The Romans also brought with them their language, Latin, and the province quickly embraced it. By the 6th and 7th centuries, Devon was a fully Romanized province, with Latin being the common language.
The Romans exploited Devon’s rich agricultural land and its bountiful fisheries. The province also held valuable minerals and resources which were in great demand in the rest of the Roman Empire. This provided the Romans with a great deal of wealth and allowed them to expand their territorial control. During this time, Devon’s landscape underwent some big changes. The Romans drained rivers and marshes, and invested in new farming techniques, such as crop rotation and animal husbandry, to help increase crop yields.
The presence of the Romans in Devon also had a significant impact on religion. Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire in the early fourth century and its spread throughout Devon was encouraged. In fact, relics from this period still exist today in the form of Romano-British churches, which demonstrate the influence Roman Christianity had in the region.
Decline of Roman Power
By the 5th century, the power of the Roman Empire was weakened and it was no longer able to control its territories. Devon was consequently left to its own devices and power began to shift to local rulers. These rulers, many of whom were descendents of former Roman citizens, established their own independent kingdoms and continued to govern Devon.
Legacy of Roman Devon
The legacy of Roman occupation in Devon is still evident today. The Latin language is still spoken in some parts of the region, while Roman place names, such as Exeter, are still used throughout Devon. Furthermore, there are still many archaeological sites in Devon that offer insights into the Roman occupation. Such sites provide invaluable evidence for historians and demonstrate the intricate history of the region.
What Ancient Rome Contributed to Devon’s Economy
The contribution of Rome to Devon’s economy was not limited to its establishment of agricultural and fisheries monopolies. In addition to the resources it provided, the Empire also introduced certain technologies that improved production and created new economic opportunities. The most significant of these was the use of road systems. Devon’s population was small and dispersed, making the trade of goods difficult. However, the Romans were able to connect towns and cities with road networks, allowing resources to be moved efficiently and opening up the possibility of increased commerce.
Social Impact of Ancient Rome
As well as its economic development, Roman rule left an indelible mark on Devon’s social life as well. After Romanization, Latin became the lingua franca of Devon, replacing the Celtic tongues spoken by the Celts. Roman mythology and customs also heavily influenced the culture of Devon, with many of its people taking on the clothing, art and superstitions of the Empire.
Leadership After Ancient Rome in Devon
In the wake of the Roman withdrawal, the leadership in Devon was handed over to local leaders. The transition from Roman to Saxon led to some changes, such as the adoption of Christianity by most of the inhabitants. However, the transition did not entirely douse the influence of the Romans, with the language and culture of Devon retaining traces of the ancient Roman past.
Preserving Roman Heritage and Monuments in Devon
Despite the fall of the Roman Empire and the passage of hundreds of years, Roman heritage and architecture is still very much alive in Devon. Many of the ancient Roman monuments, such as aqueducts, amphitheatres, and villa and baths, are still standing and are a primary source of pride and fascination for Devonians. Perhaps most notably, the Roman bathhouse in the heart of modern Exeter is a remarkable example of historical preservation and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.
Continuing Influence in Modern Devon
The legacy of the Romans is still very evident in Devon today. The Latin language still influences some of the vocabulary and dialects in the region, while Roman customs and cultural influences can be seen in local fairs and festivals. The influence of the Imperialists is also evident in modern Devon’s economic structures. For centuries, local traders and farmers were restricted by the Roman infrastructure, but these restraints were finally broken in the 17th century, paving the way for an era of prosperity and increased commercial activity.
Though Devon is more often associated with centuries-old coastal scenery and quaint towns, it would be wrong to overlook its fascinating history with the Roman Empire. Indeed, the Romans left an enduring mark on the region, and their ancient monuments, architecture and customs can still be seen in the region today. It is a reminder of how an empire so far away can have an influence on the lives of people thousands of miles away.