Exploring Southern England: a BES reflection

Stately Stowerhead

This massive neoclassical mansion is an excellent illustration of the massive wealth and use of that wealth that was present in the area in the 17th and 18th century. Crossing the threshold in each room, my breath was taken away by the ornate craftsmanship of a painting, fireplace, or other massive narrative illustrating the wealth of the former owner. Audrey Hoare still lives there as the result of an agreement that was made between the family and the National Trust when the home was given over to the preservation society in the 1960’s.

Biting it in Bath

As the swelling in my knee reduces (a weird badge of honour to remember a successful night out by, don’t you think?) I am reminded of what Marcus Aurelius is recorded as saying. He exclaimed; “what is bathing when you think about it? Oil sweat, filth, greasy water; everything loathsome.” This was not my experience while at the Roman Baths, instead, I found this lavish expanse to have a very powerful presence. The tradition held in the stones I now walked on told endless stories, which were then put into words to guide my journey through the baths.

Bath

Through the guided audio tour I was able to see and experience thousands of years of history from the teraqce. From my perch I could see the baths, which represented life 2000 years ago, the Abbey in the background, which represented the mid evil era, and people using their twenty-first century cell phones all around me to capture the beauty of this historic place.

The baths themselves are a classic and Celtic coming together in the artifacts exhibited. It was also interesting to see the illustration through narratives of how different social classes interacted within the expansive complex, which housed both a large leisure centre and religious chapel.

The temple pediment, which was a separate smaller temple on the grounds used for special ceremonies, was discovered in 1790. This large statue would have been found within the temple. The head is believed to be that of Gorgan, because of the snakes in the hair of the statue. However, the statue is of women, which seems to represent the power that the Goddess Minerva had over society at the time. Minerva was later tied closely with the Greek goddess Athena, who is the Goddess of intelligence, which coincided with Minerva’s connection to the arts in Roman beliefs.

The owl statue engraved in the corner is meant to represent knowledge. This strengthens the narrative that the Romans were passing on through their architecture which placed high importance on education and productive intelligence to improve society. The other two important symbols in this recovered piece are the helmet, which symbolizes strength in war and the dolphin, which makes a direct connection to the aquatic culture surrounding the social nature of the baths. The water in the baths was believed to have healing powers: people came from far across Roman Empire to consult the Goddess Minerva.

Strong Stonehenge

“What to say about a strategically placed pile of large rocks? This is the question I asked myself while walking across the lush field leading up to the site.In order to get a more authentic experience, I elected to walk the last half mile to the site out of a wooded area across a lush field with cows and sheep. This would have been the same path that ancient worshipers would have taken from the woods to their worship site, which now is an immensely popular tourist attraction. As I walked through the small visitor centre and out into the open courtyard with models of a village that would have been around at the time of the construction of Stonehenge, I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the structure… While it had a very simple design, the power shown over its lush green surroundings was impressive. In all, this past weekend was filled with education experiences, socializing with friends, which I came away from with a deeper understanding of the history of this great island I live on.

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