Shrewsbury School

Life as a legionnaire

Thursday 28 June 2018

Best-selling Author Ben Kane’s talk to the Third Form Latinists.

The Roman Empire’s infrastructure may have relied heavily on those famously straight roads (they weren’t all straight, actually), but it was the toughened soldiers of the legions marching on them that provided the iron-edged backbone. Ask any Roman general of the time - you could get further in those days with a smile and a heavily armed legion, than you could with just a smile.

But what was life in the army really like? Only one way to find out...

This week to mark their final Latin lesson of the academic year, the Third Form were treated to a whirlwind tour of life in the legions by best-selling author Ben Kane, suitably dressed in accurately researched and painstakingly recreated uniform.

Not only has Ben written more than a dozen novels based in the ancient world, but he has also walked the walk, as well as talked the talk. Back in 2014, he and two colleagues spent seven days in full Roman legionary kit marching 130 miles along the Via Appia Antica from Capua to the Colosseum in Rome. If anyone knows what it feels like to carry around 45kgs of kit on your back, Ben does.

Third Formers heard about the brutal punishment in store for any soldier who deserted his duty: death by being beaten by your comrades. And thank the stars for toilet tissue! The legionaries were known to use stones when it came to using the toilet on campaigns. How do we know? Archaeology - with microscopic remnants of evidence still on the stones.

Thirty-five minutes of rapid-fire facts complemented by excellent pictures and five minutes of Q & A was a fun and fitting ending to a classical year. Thank you, Ben!

Mr Fitzgerald, Head of Classics

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