England was conquered by the Romans in A.D. 43. Signs of the Roman invasion remain in many places. Near where my mom lives in Kent, there is a place called Reculver. At one time, the entire area was the island of Thanet, surrounded by sea. The Romans built a fort on headlands overlooking the water around A.D. 300. It is believed a harbor existed there and the area required defense from the Celts, who itched to overthrow their foreign lords. Below-ground evidence exists of a fort, barracks, a bath and a headquarters building. All that remains visible of the Roman works is the southern wall of the fort, standing as high as nine feet in some places.
Constructed of locally made concrete and once faced with stone, the wall is now greatly eroded and slowly falling back into the earth. I collected this sample of Roman made concrete from the ground at the base of the wall. Its composition perfectly matches the standing rampart and I could even find the spot in the wall where it broke away. This concrete is a fascinating mix of sand, small stones and shells held together with limestone adhesive.
Today the place is quite lonely and always windswept. The harbor and channels that separated Thanet from the mainland have all silted in. The violent Atlantic slowly works away at the cliffs beneath the ruins. One day it will all be gone. The most arresting monument there today is the remains of a 12th century church built on the site. Two tall, square towers dominate the landscape and can be seen from many miles away along the coast. The church and the even earlier monastery that existed there after the Romans left are now all ruins as well.
Still, I enjoy visiting there, imagining life as an Italian far from a sunny home, garrisoned on a hostile shore. Holding the bits of crumbling concrete, I think of the hands that nearly two thousand years ago smoothed this liquid concretion into place. All slowly falls to dust and wild rabbits make warrens where once Roman soldiers tramped.