With Dr. Eireann Marshall
The backbone of the Roman empire, soldiers were central to ensuring peace and stability in the Mediterranean, just as they are at the heart of our narrative of the Roman empire. The lives of ordinary soldiers were full of contradictions. Famed for their fighting prowess, the reality is that, at the height of the empire at least, most Roman soldiers died in their beds rather than in battle. Furthermore, although they were the face of Rome throughout the empire and were instrumental in spreading Roman culture, most Roman soldiers weren’t actually from Rome or the Italian peninsula. We get glimpses of their lives through tombstones, inscriptions and, most interestingly, from the Vindolanda tablets. From these we can see that most often soldiers, far from wreaking havoc amongst local populations, were, in reality, closely involved with those living near them, often marrying local women, despite being barred from law from doing so.