19th July 2014
The Roman Empire ruled most of Europe, as well as bits of Africa and the Middle East, for over 500 years. At its peak, around a quarter of the world’s population lived within its borders. Even today, everything from our languages to our legal systems are influenced by the legacy of that mighty empire. Our Roman History Day is always one of the highlights of our (Roman) calendar as we take our campers to the nearby ruined Roman settlement at Martigny for a hands-on look at the roots of our civilization.
Located in the Valais canton of Switzerland, on the border between Italy and France, Martigny sits on a historically important crossing point for the Alps. Back in Julius Caesar’s day, Martigny was known as Octodurus and was the capital of local Gaulish tribe, the Veragri. The Romans conquered the settlement in 57BC and it was occupied by Roman general Servius Galba with Caesar’s own Twelfth Legion. Galba began fortifying the settlement with a wall and ditch but, before they were finished, he and his troops were attacked by 30,000 Gaulish warriors! The ensuing fight, known as the Battle of Octodurus, was a decisive victory for the Romans and the settlement became an important trading post for them.
Today, Martigny is full of well-preserved ruins, giving a real sense of what it might have been like to live there 2000 years ago. There is a monument commemorating Julius Caesar’s link with the town, which is mentioned in his famous book Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Notebooks about the Gallic Wars). Campers will also get to see into the underground ruins of a temple dedicated to the ancient god Mithras, who was a favourite of Roman soldiers.
The town boasts the remains of an insulae (the Roman answer to the apartment block), public baths and workshops, as well as the ruins of an important official’s house, giving an insight into how the Roman elite would have lived.
However, the true high point of the trip is visiting the preserved amphitheatre on the edge of the town. Here the spirit of ancient gladiatorial combat is brought back to life as two of the group leaders take up (cardboard) swords and shields and fight it out for the campers’ entertainment.
The whole day is highly informative and a great opportunity to learn all about the Romans in an entertaining, informal and really engaging way. Roman History Day is always a treat for everyone involved, so we hope you can join us this year and be part of the action. Roman history day is just one of the many activities and excursions we offer at Camp Suisse, so don’t forget to check out our activities page! And if there’s anything else you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to contact us on + 44 845 5191 031 as we’d love to hear from you.