My husband and I recently took a trip to Rome – and we didn’t even have to go through security.
Well, that’s not exactly true. We did run across a pretty imposing Centurion soldier who very kindly suggested that we pay our census tax to Caesar. He said that it was “not required,” but there was something about the way his sword glinted in the sun that made us throw our $6 into the donation box.
For the ninth year in a row, Castra Romana
, the Roman Army Festival, recreated life in ancient Rome.
When you think of re-enactors, you might think more of muskets than of catapults, but these living historians do a great job of transporting you to the Rome of the first century.
The organizers strive to “create a learning experience that involves all the senses.” I was struck immediately by the smell of the encampment’s fire. The smoke hung in the air and caught the light as it shot in rays through the trees at Givhans Ferry State Park
. Walking down the road, we peeked inside tent flaps and caught glimpses of Roman citizens relaxing on animal rugs.
There was a real sense of authenticity about everything – the tents, the tools, the costumes. These are not men parading around with plastic swords. On the contrary, when I saw these representatives of the Roman army in their glistening armor I truly understood just how terrifying a sight they must have been to their enemies.
The Romans were great engineers, a fact highlighted at Castra Romana with demonstrations of Roman-era technology such as “the beast,” a powerful catapult. Watching the force with which this machine flung an arrow across the field and the accuracy of the shot as it careened towards its target gives you some idea of why the Roman Empire lasted so long.
During our visit, we also were lucky enough to see The Confession of Justus, a dramatic presentation that follows the story of the Centurion soldier who stood up for Christ at the Crucifixion, performed with great emotion. The introduction to the piece also gives some insight into how this unusual reenactment began – apparently several of the members of the Imperial Legions got interested in Roman history when they were drafted to play roles in church dramas.
Castra Romana only happens once a year, but if you would like to learn more about ancient Rome, some of the participants take part in other activities throughout the year.
for more information about Castra Romana or other Roman re-enactor events.