I studied it when I was fourteen, dressed in a black watch tartan tunic in one of New Zealand’s most exclusive girls’ schools. We learnt about Calleva, as we learnt about Rome, Eboracum, Carthage and Alexandria. Mythical places, they belonged to the fetid text books of a dead language.
And yet, dead or not, I loved Latin.
And I loved reading about the ostentation of the Romans, their vices painted vividly on history’s canvas, juxtaposing with the measured solidity of their architectural triumphs.
I did not ever think that one day I would live a mile from the Roman ruins of Calleva, that my daughter would wash artefacts from an archaelogical dig there, or that we would celebrate Father’s Day by walking around the ruined walls of this great fortified Roman town.
The Romans built to last. And centuries later the walls still stand, solid, resolutely refusing to crumble in the light of progress, of 21st century modernity, or even the deliberate decay of nature. Walking around the ruins, on a warm day my family and I marvelled at the ruins – the still standing stones of buildings that were built to last.