Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the Rockbourne Roman Villa site is also one of its least impressive: the gravel paths marking out the buried walls.
It is the sheer size of the building that is really strikes you. Admittedly not all of the rooms were in use at the same time, and some of them had agricultural rather than domestic uses, but at its height, this was a forty roomed house; big by anyoneʼs standards.
The entire history of the house can be traced in the gravel paths: Starting with the pre-conquest Iron Age round house, which was then replaced with a more fashionable rectangular, Roman-style house soon after the invasion. This was then replaced by a much bigger house in about 150AD, that was extended and altered over the years to become the extensive range of buildings, the remains of which can be traced today.
Such a large establishment could only be maintained by trading, not only with the surrounding country through the network of excellent roads the Romans built, but also overseas.
Pottery from northern France and amphora of wine and olive oil from the Mediterranean have been found on the site, and one must assume that meat and cereals from the farm were exported back to the European mainland.
Small wonder, therefore, that when the Roman troops withdrew in the first decade of the fifth century, the economy collapsed as did the villa, killing one of its inhabitants in the process.
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