Archaeologists have called the Fishbourne site a palac Essay Example
Archaeologists have called the Fishbourne site a palac Essay Example

Archaeologists have called the Fishbourne site a palac Essay Example

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  • Pages: 9 (2367 words)
  • Published: December 23, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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There is much debate among archaeologists and historians about the true purpose of Fishbourne, which has often been called a palace. Some argue it was used as a retirement home for Emperor Vespasian or as a mansio, while others suggest it may have served as a military base or industrial site for the Roman army. To analyze this evidence, I must consider that it can be interpreted in multiple ways to support each argument. This essay will explore the various potential uses of Fishbourne and examine why it is commonly referred to as the Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Regarding whether Fishbourne may have been a palace during the ancient Roman era, my answer will be exploratory as there are various critical factors to consider. One of the most compelling pieces of evidence indicating that Fishbourne might have se


rved as a palace is its immense size, which even surpasses the norm for palaces. At a massive 10-acre area, Fishbourne is larger than many of today's palaces and is presently the biggest excavated residential area from the Roman era discovered north of the Alps. This historical site is situated near the heart of the Roman Empire in Rome. Comparatively, Fishbourne dwarfs the Bignor Roman site in size.

Some suggest that Fishbourne is four times larger than Bignor due to the number of outbuildings, granaries, and stables. This is a significant factor in why it is referred to as a palace instead of a villa, unlike the relatively small Bignor site. Compared to many Romano houses or mansions built in England, the Fishbourne site is massive. In fact, it is about the same size as Nero's palace called Domus Aurea o

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'golden house' in English. Nero's palace extended from the Palatine to the Esquiline, an area of Rome that included imperial baths, villas, and grand buildings such as the 'Golden House.' Initially, Nero named it the House of Passage, but after it burned down and was rebuilt, it became known as the Golden House.

The Fishbourne site's comparability in size to a grand and expensive building implies that it may have been constructed as a palace for a wealthy or high-status individual. Moreover, numerous indications on the site further support this possibility. For one, the site housed well over 100 rooms, along with a considerable number of mosaics and tiles amounting to 50,000. Such features are unlikely to be found in an ordinary villa, and certainly not at the same scale as the Fishbourne site.

The reason for the high cost and time consumption of creating mosaics resulted in some mosaics being layered over previous black and white ones on the site. This indicates a desire to keep up with trends originating from the Roman Empire in Rome, as well as a significant amount of wealth possessed by the individual residing at Fishbourne.

The mosaics in Fishbourne were laid by skilled craftsmen who were brought over from Italy as immigrants. This suggests that the person who lived there had connections with wealthy and prosperous people in Italy. In addition, the plastered and painted stone walls in the establishment were a sign of wealth, as they were expensive to construct during that time. Samian pottery was also used, which had a glaze and was therefore costly.

It is possible that Fishbourne was home to royalty, as seen in the use of

purple paint on some walls. A gold ring was discovered on the site, which would have been a symbol of status during that time. Even with status, permission from Rome was required to wear gold. The presence of gold on a child suggests that the residents or guests at Fishbourne were very wealthy. The individual responsible for the site is uncertain, but Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus (or Cogidubnus) is a popular speculation.

According to theory, Togidubnus was a relative of Verica who convinced Claudius to invade Britain, and Togidubnus was made client king of the pro-Roman Atrebates tribe. He likely interacted with Vespasian during this time and his men may have aided Roman troops in the AD61 battle against Boudicca, which resulted in an expansion of his influence. Roman historian Tacitus spoke of Togidubnus as a rare known figure from ancient Britain, mentioning that he remained loyal to Rome as he was granted certain states as a king, in line with the tradition of using them as instruments of servitude. An inscription found at Chichester (Noviomagus) suggests that this was Togidubnus' capital where a temple to Neptune and Minerva was erected by craftsmen under his permission as "great king in Britain" under Tiberius Claudius.

It is possible that the buildings at Fishbourne, which were designed in a classical style and included a particularly grand palace built in the late AD 70s, served as the residences of King Togidubnus until his death towards the end of the century. The kingdom was then divided. The palace's gardens were both extensive and ornate, covering a significant portion of the property. Given the grandeur of the palace, an impressive garden would have

been necessary to greet important dignitaries. Within the garden area were rare examples of native fruits, culinary herbs, apples, pears, and medicinal plants.

It would be unusual to have these fruits, vegetables, and herbs growing at a location where cooking was unnecessary. Additionally, the palace featured numerous intricate embellishments and finishes, such as dolphin sculpted door handles. These adornments were most likely crafted by skilled foreign artisans who would have incurred high shipping costs to come to Britain. This further highlights the wealth and international connections of the palace's occupant. Some indications suggest that the site may have served a disparate function.

It was discovered that the site contained a military helmet and a distinctive V-shaped military style ditch, indicating the presence of soldiers. This suggests that the site may not have been a palace, as it would be unlikely for a homeowner to possess such items. Additionally, the site was originally too small to be a palace and was situated on the coast, which made it vulnerable to attack by Saxons. However, it is possible that the site was later expanded to become a palace. An alternative explanation is that the site may have been a retirement home for Emperor Vespasian, as Fishbourne was built during his reign in Rome.

The reason behind Fishbourne's grand size could be attributed to Vespasian's love for grand buildings, with a desire to outdo Nero. The spacious, luxurious rooms were fit for royalty and high-status guests and could have been used for entertaining and housing visitors who had traveled from afar. If Fishbourne was originally intended as a retirement home, it would explain its opulence, which matched the size of

Nero's renowned 'Golden House' in Rome.

Despite the need for rooms to entertain guests, it is unlikely that Vespasian would have left Rome to live and rule in England due to the distance from the center of the Roman empire and the potential issues that may arise in his absence, such as invasion or a senior figure's death. Additionally, having too many rooms for guests may not have been necessary as not all guests would arrive at once.

If Vespasian were to retire to Fishbourne, he could potentially face an issue of gaining enemies, despite the luxuries that come with being an emperor. Even if his soldiers were present, they may not be enough to withstand an attack from an English tribe who disapproves of him. Some historians speculate that the Fishbourne site was used as a type of Roman hotel called a mansio, which would explain the large size of the establishment and the many rooms available. This could be favorable in case many people wanted to stay at once, unlike in a retirement home. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the entrance hall may have served as a reception for clients staying at the mansio.Within the site, there were four large wings and a well-maintained garden area spanning 75,000 sq ft. The garden featured wide colonnaded walks adorned with pillars that may have served both decorative and load-bearing purposes. These features suggest that the site may have functioned as a mansio. Evidence also suggests that a hypocaust heating system was installed under the flooring, although it was never used. This system could have been intended to keep guests warm during the winter months. Additionally, excavations revealed

an abundance of evidence indicating that the residents of Fishbourne enjoyed lavish meals. The discovery of 10,000 oyster shells suggests that either many wealthy individuals visited or that the residents consumed unusually large portions. Since oysters were expensive then as they are now, this evidence points towards the serving of high-quality meals for wealthy guests. The discovering of piglet bones further supports this notion and indicates the wealth of those who stayed at Fishbourne.

It is evident that the individuals at the mansion were affluent, as they opted for more tender meat from piglets instead of waiting for the maximum amount of pork, despite it yielding only half as much as a fully grown pig. There was also a discovery of a child's gold ring at the location, implying that the guests had children with them. This is significant because wearing gold during that time required approval from the emperor in Rome, which was only granted to those who were wealthy or held high status.

Despite its advantages such as a large harbour due to its location by the sea, one major drawback of the mansio at Fishbourne is its distance from Staines Street, the closest Roman road stretching from Fishbourne to London. If Fishbourne had been intended as a Roman mansio, it would have likely been constructed near or neighboring Staines Street for ease of access. A few archaeologists have proposed alternative uses for the site, including as a military base/fort or an industrial site.

The military base had two notable features. Firstly, a military-style helmet was retrieved from Bosham harbour, which is adjacent to the base. Secondly, unique V-shaped ditches, typically found in military settings, were

discovered at the Fishbourne site. These ditches are shaped like a narrow V at the bottom opening up into a wider top. Their purpose was to prevent enemy advancement by causing their ankles harm should they unwittingly jump into the ditch. The base's location on the coast also made it strategically placed for defending against invading vessels.

Although it would have been a formidable defensive position, the military base presents a key argument against it. The elaborate decoration and paintings on the walls and floors would have been susceptible to dirt and damage caused by soldiers traversing them. The expenditure on such luxuries would have been wasteful. Additionally, if it had really been a military base, there should have been more remnants apart from a single helmet. Turning to the industrial site, there are multiple reasons supporting this theory. Various mosaics contain scorch marks and burn marks that are likely due to the consistent use of hot braziers and ovens in industrial areas.

The site's walls provided a secure space for machinery and ovens, while its coastal location allowed for easy transportation of goods. The establishment's size was adequate for accommodating braziers and heavy machinery, although the necessity of having over one hundred rooms for this purpose is uncertain. Nonetheless, there are aspects that raise doubts regarding its use as an industrial site. It is unclear why the walls would be ornately painted and decorated or why mosaics would be installed only to be exposed to scorch marks and damage.

It is unlikely that a well-maintained garden and dining in an industrial site were necessary in Fishbourne, therefore the presence of oyster shells and piglet bones seems puzzling.

However, I believe that Fishbourne was originally constructed to serve as a magnificent palace for King Togidubnus or Cogidubnus, an affluent noble. The vast size of the building and its exquisite decoration, such as the elaborately painted plaster walls and the stunning mosaics created by skilled Italian craftsmen, lead me to this conclusion. The Romans would reward Togidubnus's assistance during invasions with lavish palaces, and that may be why Fishbourne is such a grandiose building, which even a wealthy king could not have constructed without expensive embellishments like those found at Fishbourne. Togidubnus most likely had soldiers protecting himself and his palace, which accounts for the military-style helmet and V-shaped ditches discovered there. These defensive trenches were probably located around the palace perimeter in case the Atrebates or Regni tribes attempted an attack. Despite this defensive configuration, little military presence is evident on site, which would make sense if it served primarily as a residential palace, rather than as a military camp.

Despite the numerous advantages of the mansio argument, I had to eliminate it as a possibility because it was not constructed along Staines Street, a Roman road. A mansio almost certainly had to be built on or near a Roman road. Therefore, I am left with only the industrial site and retirement home to consider. I suspect that it was not a retirement home for Emperor Vespasian since he was hesitant to leave Rome, which served as the capital of the Roman empire. Additionally, he would have been too far away from Fishbourne to respond quickly if there was any trouble or if Fishbourne was attacked, and he would have had only few soldiers

with him to defend him against an entire tribe. Consequently, only the industrial site remains as a possibility.

It appears that there was no need for gardens in the industrial site and no explanation for the di?? present. It is speculated that the site was once a palace, but after the occupants left or died, it was repurposed as an industrial site. This theory would account for the scorch marks on some of the mosaics and the presence of gardens and food remains from King Togidubnus' previous use of the site. Upon thorough investigation, it can be concluded that the site was originally a palace with some military presence from guards.

After the palace was no longer required, a different set of individuals occupied Fishbourne and utilized its shelter, walls, and ceiling as an industrial location.

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