london underground

Today, I actually ran my hands over a chunk of the London Wall, by the
City of London museum. The same wall that surrounded the Roman fort. The same wall that exists in chunks, twenty feet below what is now
London. And that was what I came here to see – the living
history, the ancient city beneath the glass of the City. I came here
to see the crumbling bricks of the thriving market town that was
Londinium.

This city has seen so many cycles. It was the gathering place of the
villages of the Britons before the Romans showed up. It was the Roman
city after Claudius conquered Britainnia (and I, Claudius is
one of my favorite books ever.) It was abandoned when Rome could no
longer support it – actually abandoned. It was reclaimed by
the Normans after the Danelaw ended, the Viking rule that came down
when the Norse took over the city of Lundenberg that grew up to the
west, where Westminster is now. And after 1066, it grew back out,
shrunk from plague, thrived in the Elizabethan era, burned down in
1666 (I listened to a narration of Pepys diary entry about the fire at
the museum – Pepys, one of history’s great bloggers, if you will) and
grew back to the city it is now from there.

London has arisen from itself so many times. And the Roman roads and
ports still define it. The bridge hasn’t moved around much in two
thousand years – the London Bridge, that is, at the Tower site. And
the roads are still here: the Strand, the borders of Hyde Park.

And that is what I wanted to see in England. Roman Britain has
filtered down through British legend, and is so much a part of
Englishness. Part of that is the resurrection and faddishness of
neo-classisism in the 18th century, but I think part of it is just
that Britain never forgot Rome. Britain, in its way, was the British
Columbia of the Roman Empire, on the far western reaches of a world
empire.

I’m out of time, so I have to stop history nerding out.

But tomorrow is Paris – and THAT I am so excited for, I can’t begin to
express it.

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