Ancient gateway built at site of Roman invasion

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Ancient gateway built at site of Roman invasion

An 8 metre-high rampart and gateway built almost 2,000 years ago at the site where Roman forces invaded Britain has been reconstructed for 21st century visitors.

The original structure was built to allow soldiers a clear view of any threat to the military base they created at Richborough in Kent, the main entrance point to Britain from mainland Europe and often referred to as the gateway to Britannia built by English Heritage, the charity that looks after more than 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites.

They include a 2,000 year-old cup made from blown glass from the Middle East, and women's hairpins, introduced by the Romans as a fashion item.

In England in AD 43, a Roman army of about 40,000 troops landed and established control of the south-east of the country.

Richborough was a site on a small island in the Wantsum Channel, a stretch of water that separated Kent from Thanet. The Roman troops constructed fortifications at Richborough to protect Roman ships in the Channel. The Romans built the first Roman road, which ran from Richborough to north Wales.

When the Romans arrived in Britain, Richborough, known as Rutupiae, became a thriving port town where goods from across the empire entered the new Roman province of Britannia. The site contains hundreds of brooches and thousands of coins.

The amphitheatre was filled with up to 5,000 people for gladiatorial contests and occasional executions.

The entrance has been reconstructed in oak, using Roman dovetail, lap and scarf joints. A tower above it was where soldiers and supplies were gathered.

The reconstruction was a historic moment, said Paul Pattison, English Heritage's senior property historian. In order to restore a structure as accurately as possible, and one that stands on the exact spot of the original in Richborough almost 2,000 years ago, it is remarkable.

The Roman invasion was a significant accomplishment in our history. We know that Richborough experienced over 360 years of Roman rule from the very beginning to the bitter end, but standing atop this 8-metre-high bridge, looking out and imagining what the first Romans might have seen, is quite an experience. The first of the treasures on display for the first time are a trader s weight in the shape of Harpocrates, the God of Silence, the only one of its kind in Britain and statuettes of Roman deities that would have been presented as gifts in shrines.