People will not exactly struggle to find reminders of our 2000-year-old Roman heritage as they look around the Falkirk area.
To say they are legion is an understatement – especially over the next few days when the annual Big Roman Week gets underway with a full garrison of great events designed to highlight the major part the Romans played in the formation of the society we live in today.
The official Latin quarter of the month begins on Saturday with some Roman-themed activities for children at Grangemouth Library in the morning and a fun family event at Callendar House in the afternoon which gives a full-on Roman experience even Gladiator star Russell Crowe would be proud of – allowing youngsters to actually become a centurion, handle actual artefacts and take part in Roman manoeuvres, as well as learning how the mighty Antonine Wall was actually built all those centuries ago.
And that’s just the first day of the festival, which is the biggest yet according to organisers.
Councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council’s cultural spokesman, said: “Big Roman Week aims to raise the profile of the Antonine Wall, the Roman frontier that was built right across Falkirk district around 142 AD and became a World Heritage Site in 2008.
“This year’s festival stretches across two weekends and runs for nine days. Some events - although not all - are free of charge, with activities taking place in Bo’ness, Grangemouth, Polmont, Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and Bonnybridge.”
The week coincides with the birthday of Emperor Antoninus Pius, who was born on September 19 in 86 AD. The Roman leader was the man who ordered the construction of the Antonine Wall from Bo’ness, right across Falkirk district, to Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow.
Walks, talks, film shows, and activities for children have all been organised to help people discover the wall and the area’s Roman past and give them an appreciation of their local history.
Guest speakers will include a chef who’s cooked Roman food for actor Robson Green and a journalist who has re-invented himself as an author of Roman historial epics.
Councillor Mahoney said: “As well as visiting experts and speakers, we’re also grateful to Geoff Bailey, the keeper of local history at Falkirk Community Trust. He’ll be running history walks and talks across the week.
“He is widely acclaimed as one of the best Roman experts in Scotland and his talks are always popular with local people. Callendar House Museum in Falkirk and Kinneil Museum in Bo’ness are also supporting the week with a variety of activities and most of the local libraries are also taking part, with great events for children on offer.
“If you’re interested in finding out more, pop along to your library for a leaflet or visit the Big Roman Week website. For some events, you have to book in advance, so check the listings to make sure you don’t miss out.
“We hope people will enjoy the festival and are encouraged to find out more about the Antonine Wall and the area’s Roman roots.”
It was the Friends of Kinneil charity which got the initial thumbs up to hold the Big Roman Week seven years ago and its been as ever present as the Antonine Wall since then.
Friends of Kinneil’s Maria Ford said: “The festival has become a regular fixture in the local calendar and hopefully it continues to be popular with local people and visitors for many years to come.
“We’re really grateful to Falkirk Community Trust, which has organised many of the events for the week and Falkirk Council for supporting it. Although the festival was born in Bo’ness, we’ve always been keen to involve people right across the district.
“Groups like Greenhill Historical Society in Bonnybridge are putting on a display in their local library. Hopefully others will be inspired and get involved in future years.”
Former Scotsman journalist Douglas Jackson is now a respected novelist who pens Roman-themed tales. The author will be giving a talk on his latest book Scourge of Rome on Tuesday.
Other highlights of the festival include walks to the sites of Carriden, Rough Castle and Castlecary Roman Forts as well as a visits to the impressive Bridgeness Slab replica and Kinneil Roman Fortlet in Bo’ness
The area’s Roman links will be revealed during a session at Larbert Library with hitoric blogger Alan Montgomery, while top Cumbrian chef John Crouch will cook up some tasty examples of Roman cuisine.
Youngsters can get in on the ancient action too with a a special screening of one of the many adventures of popular children’s cartoon character – and world renowned Roman basher - Aterix at the Hippodrome in Bo’ness.
Visit www.bigromanweek.org.uk for more information and www.fb.com/kinneil for regular updates on the festival.