Quo Vadis: Where are you going?
The question asked by the risen Jesus of Peter as the future rock scuttled away from Rome along the Appian Way. Jesus was heading to Rome to be re-crucified at which point Peter decided to turn about and take up permanent residence on Vatican Hill.
In February 2018 I was fortunate to take a visit to the eternal city. Our itinerary was to be the icons; Forum, Colosseum and said Vatican. If you ever find yourself going to Rome, also be sure to check out Revealed Rome by Amanda Ruggeri.
But what has this to do with Real London Walks? Because it’s fun to find out about the SPQR!
Having returned on a high it was time to explore a little bit of Londinium. To my mind, London was founded by General Aulus Plautius (check out the rather esoteric credits for the TV series Britannia) given that his Legion crossed the Tamesis (Thames) somewhere around AD43, fortified themselves on Cornhill and Ludgate whilst waiting for Emperor Claudius and his elephants to catch up.
As an aside, I love it that the meaning of Tamesis is in the first line of the best London song ever, Waterloo Sunset:
Dirty old river, must you keep rolling Flowing into the night? People so busy, make me feel dizzy Taxi light shines so bright But I don't need no friends As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise
Back to Londinium. and first up is the Mithras Temple at Bloomberg Space Walbrook. A light, sound, and artefact experience into the mysteries of this cult from Persia.
Numa, Numa is the incantation as you descend to the depths below. Mithras was to be an intermediary between gods and man. Oh, and Mithras was born 25th December, died and rose again after 3 days. Sounds familiar?
Also visit the Guildhall Art Gallery because what lies beneath is the Roman Amphitheatre that held about 7,000 spectators. Are you not entertained!
Roman London erupts from beneath your feet at many a varied location, from segments of the London Wall at Tower Hill, to Billingsgate Roman baths (complete with Roman dog paw imprint) to being able to walk on a real Roman floor at All Hallows by the Tower.
That is not to say that the locals completely bought into the Pax Romana. The 60AD uprising led by Boudicca killed about 30,000 Romano-Londoners and burned the city to the ground.
Still the Romans had come, saw, and conquered, and stuck around until their own reverse version of Brexit in 410 AD.
The Romans were really into a fish sauce called Garam to be found across the Empire. You were truly Romano-civilised if you slopped this gloop over just about everything you ate.
Indeed products such as Garum are the reason for the London Wall. The Romans had been in charge 150 years before building the wall, with its distinctive red bonding tiles. As a port, produce entered and exited via the gates making collecting tariffs easy.
The Romans also went in for beautiful patterned mosaics in a big way and this led to a visit to the Mosaic Workshop and a lovely addition of a mosaic top to a table acquired in a charity shop.
Talking mosaics, hidden away, lining the walls of Carlisle Lane, Virgil Street and Centaur Street are a modern gorgeous collection commissioned by Southbank Mosaics. A real hidden treasure it’s amazing what you can find under London’s railway arches. It’s a large mosaic gallery inspired by the works of William Blake near the site of his former home on Hercules Road.
Quo Vadis? From Rome to Lambeth, calling at Walbrook , Guidlhall , Tower Hill , Norwood Junction and Southbank.