An ancient presence in our land.
It was the ‘60s a new decade. Two men had left their weary horses grazing nearby while they sat warming themselves in the glow of firelight, the dampness had permeated into their bones and they were anticipating the heartening meal while they sipped their wine. In their makeshift overnight camp on the slopes of a hill covered with golden gorse they glimpsed the sun disappearing over the sea as it dipped dramatically behind the great rocky headland. Their work here was done for the day and now a tantalising aroma drifted towards them while their British slave, Quintus (as they had named him,) busied himself serving them with roasted rabbit, honeyed and basted with herbs.
He had prepared the creatures and roasted them over the campfire. Already he had decanted their wine brought from Italy in an amphora into terracotta goblets. Although the vineyards had been cultivated here in the south of Britain the wine was not as good, not with this unforgiving climate, no sunshine, harsh winters, dampness. These soldiers, Marcus and Lucius had brought Quintus their slave from his homelands in the south, and given him his Roman name. Their conversation turned to their journey from Deva, a two day march, and their arrival in this area where they had been investigating. They discussed the copper mines which they knew lay under the Orme, excavations riddled into a complex warren, where men women and children had already worked for thousands of years, and which had been known to supply metal to all of the continent for ornament and armament. The Great Orme mines would be of primary importance in the founding of the Caerhun Roman auxiliary fort, and during the building of Kanovium.
The fictional camp described in the ‘ Bay Youth’ section was situated near a channel where Sempronius’ with his Roman legions had marched towards Anglesey to meet his death, and where in the 20th century the A55 would be built. The valley would always keep the name ‘Nant Sempyr’, which was taken to mean ‘The Valley of Sempronius’ The story was that the Roman column had been ambushed while it passed through a narrow dale formed between the hill and the high ground just to the east. Where the railway and the A55 to Holyhead eventually lay, local legend described visions of terrifying woad-painted Celtic warriors of the Deceangli tribe, screaming bloodcurdling cries as they charged through the woods to overpower and defeat the Romans.
In later centuries many a roman coin had been discovered in this area and even on this hillside coloured with the golden gorse bushes which had given it the name ‘golden hill’. One of the amphorae, perhaps once used for transporting oil or wine for the legions had lain undiscovered and unrecognised for centuries in a place where in later eras every nature enthusiast and dog walker alike had passed close by, unaware of the dramatic and violent past. The hill was rich in flora and fauna, and became a designated conservation area. Centuries later families, picnickers and young lovers hand in hand were well used to wandering here, when in peacetime and clement weather they were blissfully unaware of the past tragedies and dramas played out.
Suetonius Paullinus was second in command of the XIV Gemina division. They looked at Wales and in particular at Anglesey, which was centre of Druidism, grain store for the mainland with its rich copper mines for metalwork and weapons, it was a strategic target that they planned to capture and garrison. By doing so they knew that Rome would be able to control Wales and thus annexe even more of Britain to the Emperor. But they had to pass by Nant Sempyr to get there.
Link below to see the Roman coins found in our area.