Page images

To illustrate the Roman history of this station, it will be necessary to particularize some of the remains that have been found here; but I presume it will neither be necessary nor interesting to discuss each subject in an elaborate and minute dissertation. Dr. Stukeley endeavoured to define and describe the form and extent of tie station, but his plan and account have been discredited. That it was formed on the southern bank of the river Soar, that an artificial channel was cut for the water to flow up to, and constitute one boundary of the station, and that the Romans were settled here for some length of time, are circumstances easily proved, as ample evidences remain, and are recorded in support of these inferences. Many tessellated-pavements, coins, urns, and other domestic and military relics of the Romans, have been discovered at different times: some of which are still carefully preserved as memorials of ancient art, but many of the most interesting objects must have been destroyed during the ravages of war which Leicester experienced under the Saxons, Danes, and Normans. Of the Mosaic Pavements, that which was found in a cellar nearly opposite the town prison, in the year 1675, is the most curious, as the Tesserae are disposed to represent two human figures, and a buck or stag. Many conjectural opinions have been published respecting the objects and story here represented; but it is less difficult to prove what it is, than to define its import. The present fragment, only part of a floor, is nearly octangular, of about three feet in diameter, and consists of variegated tesserae, laid in cement, on a bed of oyster shells. The figures represent a stag, with a naked female resting against it, and before both is a boy with wings, and a bow and arrow; probably intended for Cupid. This group has been described by some antiquaries as a representation of that nonsensically fabulous story of Diana and Actaeon, whilst others have hastily supposed it alluded to Cypressus lamenting the death of his favorite stag; but an intelligent writer, who has too much good sense to be captivaled by antiquarian reveries, says, that “no story in the whole metamorphoses, can be found bearing the slightest resemblance to the subject before

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

us".” Mr. Gilpin strangely calls it “a curious piece of Roman sculpture,” but is more just in pronouncing it “a piece of miserable workmanship.” That this, and several other similar pavements, are curious and interesting, as samples of ancient art, and as relics of particular customs, is readily admitted; but I cannot so far impeach my judgment as to praise, or even approve of them, as being beautiful in design, or fine in execution. Whatever taste or talents the Romans displayed in their own country, may be pretty well appreciated by the specimens which have descended to our own times; but if they ever executed any truly elegant or meritorious works in this island, such productions have been either entirely destroyed, or are yet reserved for future discovery. It has been generally supposed that these mosaic pavements were principally or only used in the floors of baths, but this opinion is not satisfactorily proved; and it is more probable that they were in general use in the houses of officers, and the higher classes of the Romans. In some of the ancient mansions in Italy, now in ruins, the whole floors consisted of highly ornamented mosaic pave

ments. - In the year 1754, three other pieces of Roman Pavements were discovered in that part of the town called the Black-Friars. These consisted of as many square compartments, ornamented with the guilloche border, engrailed fret, &c. Another fragment of a pavement was found in the year 1782, in a place called the Cherry Orchard. Two or three other fragments of this sort have been uncovered in digging cellars, graves, &c. Most of these were found from four to six feet beneath the surface of the present streets. The most curious relic of antiquity, and one that has provoked the most copious dissertations, is the MILLIARY, or Roman mile-stone, which was discovered in the year 1771, on the side of the foss-road, at the distance of about two miles north of the town. The stone is circular, resembling part of a shaft of a column, and the letters are roughly and irregularly cut into the Y 3 substance,

* “A Walk through Leicester,” 1804.

substance. It measures two feet ten inches in height, by five feet

nine inches in circumference, and is placed on a square pedestal,

with a tapering column above it surmounted by a lamp. This

antique monument did not excite any particular attention till

the year 1773, when an account of it was sent to the Gentleman's Magazine; and in the year 1783, the Corporation of Leicester deemed it worthy of removal to their town. Had they properly estimated its curiosity, they would have also taken care to guard it against wanton injury; but having fixed it on a pedestal in a public street, they fancied they had perpetuated their own fame with the name of Hadrian, in acquainting the public it was placed there “at the expence of the corporation at large, in the mayoralty of James Bishop, Esq. in 1783.” Surely, if the expence of removal deserved to be publicly recorded, the monument itself was worthy of some care to preserve; but it is now exposed to every species of injury that ignorance, sottishness, and folly, may choose to exercise upon it. Mr. Bray, the worthy treasurer of the society of antiquaries, communicated to that institution some account of the stone, and made out the following inscription, which was tolerably legible in the year 1781.


On another part of the stone are the letters—E: P. B.
If the abreviations were filled up, the full reading appears
to be
PotestATE Iv. CoNsulatu III. A RAtis.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

And thus in English:

Hadrian Trajanus Augustus,
Emperor and Caesar, the Son of the most
illustrious Trajan Parthicus,
In the 4th year of his reign, and his third Consulate.
From Ratae (Leicester) two miles.

If the Roman Milliary-stones were ever generally used in England, it is rather singular that so many of them should be destroyed: for a very few only have been preserved. Horsley only notices three, one of which has already been referred to in the present volume. That now under consideration is the most curious that has hitherto been found, as it defines the station of Ratae, and contains the name of the Emperor Hadrian, whose name, says Horsley, “is the first that occurs in any of our British inscriptions; and we have but few of his, though he built a rampart quite across the country; and the few erected to him are sim

ple and short”.” In different parts of the town, and at distant periods of time, have been found a great number of Roman Coins: among which, were several with the names of Titus, Trajan, Dioclesian, Constantine the Great, Constantine Junior, Constantius, Hadrian, Theodosius, Honorius, &c. Besides these, broken pottery, urns, jugs, &c. have been dug from the earth; and, in a place near St. Nicholas church, a vast quantity of bones have been found beneath the surface. This spot is still called Holy-Bones, and is supposed to have been a place of sacrifice. Contiguous to this is a curious fragment of Roman architecture, commonly called the JEWRYWALL. It consists of a mass of brick-work, stones, and rubbish, with dilapidated arches. Mr. King describes it in the following terms: “What remained of this wall was about 70 feet in length, and between 20 and 30 feet in height, and about five feet in thickmess; and from the bottom to the top it was built of alternate Y 4, courses

* Horsley's Britannia Romana, p. 183.

courses of rag-stone and of brick, in the Roman manner. Each course of bricks consisting generally of three rows, though the upper one of all has only two; and the several bricks being of unequal dimensions; yet, in general, a little more, or a little less, than 18 inches long, and about 1% inch thick, or sometimes a little more, and about 10 or 12, or sometimes 15 inches broad. The mortar between each row was found to be nearly as thick as the bricks themselves”.” The courses of stone were not so regular; as they consisted sometimes of four or five rows of rough forest stone, and in some places the stones were thrown carelessly and promiscuously into the mortar. The arches were turned entirely of tiles, which are bound together by a large quantity of mortar. The peculiar shape of these, with the disposition of the bricks or tiles, have excited many and various conjectures. Some writers have considered it as a remnant of a temple of the Roman Janus, whilst others have described it as the Janua, or great gate-way to the Romantown. Though neither of these opinions seems very plausible, it would be difficult, in the present mutilated state of the object, to define its original appropriation. If intended merely as a gate-way, it would not have had above two arched openings, and these nearly, or close together; but, according to Dr. Stukeley's drawing, this had four large arches on the eastern side, with a sort of arched niche in the middle, and on the western side two arches. Besides, a tessellated pavement, with other Roman relics, have been found on the outside of this wall—between it and the river—and had it been intended as a great gateway, it would certainly have been in the exterior wall of the city. The other.opinion is liable to many objections, and it would be extremely difficult to assign it a use that should prove quite satisfactory to all persons. A wall, with very similar arches, constructed with stone, is now remaining at Southampton, a particular description of which may be seen in Sir Henry C. Englefield's interesting little volume, entitled “ A Walk through Southampton,” &c. 1805. Another object of remote


* Munimenta Antiqua, Vol. II, p. 216.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »