The Ermine Street Guard


The Return of the Romans

In a blaze of colour, with sunlight bouncing off their gleaming armour, the Roman Army swept back into Colchester over the weekend of 10th and 11th June, dominating Britannia’s tribal capital once again, nearly 2000 years after they first conquered the local tribes, when the Emperor Claudius himself came here with his battle elephants to take their surrender.

This time around, the natives were more welcoming, and a large crowd followed the soldiers through the town and up to the Roman Circus, where the legionaries and their commanders camped for the weekend, entertaining the crowds with their drills, displays and artillery.

The Ermine Street Guard is a Roman re-enactment society, dedicated to researching and reproducing the armour and equipment used by the invaders of this island in AD43. Using archaeological evidence they have built up a formidable knowledge.  Their displays bring the spectators as close as possible to the real thing, both historically and physically: being charged by a large group of soldiers with swords raised and voices raised in a blood-curdling scream was particularly unnerving!

The Legion’s nemesis also attended on Saturday, in the shape of Boudica, whose army put paid to the 9th Legion on her way to sack Colchester in AD61.  This time, the encounter was much more friendly, and old enmities were forgotten in the glorious sunshine.

The event was enjoyed by over 400 people over the weekend. Organised by the Friends of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, it aimed to not only raise the profile of the Roman Circus Centre, but also to give something back to the members of the Friends, as well as celebrate Colchester’s rich heritage.

Its success paves the way for more heritage events at the Centre in the coming years, and it’s likely that the Ermine Street Guard will be planning to invade us again in the not too distant future, although we will have to wait and see if they will be bringing elephants next time…………..


All photos shown are by Chris Farndell, unless otherwise stated.