Alex performing Petronius Arbiter’s quote

On Monday, the Norwich Pit Stop History Health Walks group had our first site visit of the year. On a windy, but – mercifully! – dry day members gathered to explore the site of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum (present-day, Caistor St Edmund). Other than the huge earthworks and ruined walls, there isn’t anything above-ground to indicate that this was once a thriving Roman settlement. However, largely due to the extensive archaeological work done on the site over the years, it is a place full of stories and interest. Among other things, we learned about a Roman curse and I showed the group some of the Roman material I have collected whilst walking the site, such as pottery and misfired mosaic ‘tesserae’.

We were lucky to have horticulturist, Nik Thomson (who looks after our Common Plot Pit Stop allotment project), join us and, among other things, he regaled us with stories about Roman cucumbers and African Land Snails. Towards the end, we gathered in the church where group member and actor, Alex (pictured above), performed some readings, including one from Sir Thomas Browne about burial urns. Alex finished with a quote attributed to the Roman, Petronius Arbiter, that seems remarkably modern to anyone who has experienced a workplace ‘reorganisation’, and which I quote here:

“It seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation.’

All in all, an excellent visit – and one that really enhanced our wellbeing!


Please note: the site is managed by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and there are excellent interpretive boards on site that help us to understand its rich past, so well worth a visit.

Petronius Arbiter