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  • Hi, I'm Fashion Historian Amber Butchart

  • Today we're here at Wroxeter Roman City, which is cared for by English Heritage

  • During the third century when

  • Britain was part of the once powerful Roman Empire, this was one of the largest

  • cities in the country. From tradespeople to trendsetters, Wroxeter was a thriving

  • metropolis of power, politics and pampering. Today we're going to be

  • exploring the Roman beauty trends that quite literally changed the face of

  • Britain. We're going to show you how you can recreate a Roman-inspired look at

  • home, and we're going to be taking a look at some makeup artefacts found right

  • here at Wroxeter.

  • So what are we waiting for? Let's explore Roman Britain

  • Rebecca, hello!

  • Hi Amber, it's nice to see you again

  • Nice to see you too. Now today is very exciting. Britain was a province of the

  • Roman Empire for around 400 years from 43 AD. Today we're here at

  • Wroxeter Roman City which was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain,

  • comparable in size to Pompeii in Italy. So it was a really busy, bustling

  • thriving place to live and work. Now what's especially exciting for us is

  • that there have been a lot of cosmetic artefacts found here on the site as well

  • so we'll be looking into those later. Now tell me about the Roman look that we're

  • going to recreate today.

  • Well we know the Roman Empire was big and it existed for a long time.

  • So we decided to take a starting point and our starting point is

  • a woman called Julia Domna. She was the wife of Emperor Septimius Severus in the

  • 3rd century AD and we're going to be creating a Roman style look on our

  • beautiful model Sarah - hello - and let's get started

  • Great

  • Now many people in Roman Britain would have known about Julia Domna due to her

  • status as the Empress, the Emperor's wife. So how are we going to bring this look to life?

  • Well we're going to start at a point that I always think of when I think of

  • the Romans and that is bathing and cleanliness

  • The Romans were famous, I guess, for their bathing process and actually it's really

  • interesting because if you've been to a spa or you've been to a hammam a lot of

  • the processes you see in spas today are really, really similar to what

  • the Romans were using. So you would have cold rooms, steam rooms, saunas, warm rooms

  • and massages and maybe some beauty therapists

  • Sounds lovely doesn't it?

  • Yeah, I'm glad I came

  • So we're going to start our

  • first step in the Roman bathing ritual by massaging Sarah's arm with a little

  • bit of oil. We're using just a cheap olive oil

  • At this stage I would like your arm please, yes

  • So oil is what helps to start the cleaning process. So we'll massage it in

  • While I'm doing this I think it's really interesting to think about how

  • important appearance was to Romans

  • Well appearance, bathing, grooming all of these

  • things are really important for Roman and Roman British identity and all

  • aspects of the way you present yourself could sort of signal things like gender,

  • maybe your rank if you were in the military, amulets might be worn for

  • protection so a variety of different things

  • Now also something that really shows the importance of grooming is toilette sets

  • that have been found including things like tweezers and nail cleaners as well

  • which people might wear on their person. So it just really shows the importance of

  • keeping a clean body

  • Yeah it's really interesting that tools for beauty seem

  • to be really important part of the Roman process and there's one tool that I'm

  • excited to be using

  • On me?

  • Yeah, on you!

  • This is a strigil and this was used by slaves in the baths to clean the skin

  • So once you've massage oil into the skin, maybe then you'd go off and do some more

  • bathing or some exercise or some swimming, and then your slave would take

  • the strigil and they run it down the skin and this removes the oil and the grease

  • and the dirt. Oil is a really effective cleanser we still use it today

  • and most modern skincare line-ups have an oil cleanser because oil is lipophilic

  • and that means it attracts like, it attracts itself and it tracks dirt so

  • it's super, super effective way of cleansing and also exfoliating the skin

  • So in the age before YouTube and Instagram and magazines how did the

  • Romans get their information about new trends and styles?

  • Well luckily for us we do have quite a few images of Julia Domna

  • One source in particular that

  • we can draw on is coins. Now coins were a great way for the ruling family to

  • disseminate their image, to show how they wanted to be presented to really relay

  • their power. Women on coins tended to be either goddesses or empresses like Julia

  • But what's particularly useful for us is that it also shows us what

  • hairstyles were current as well

  • Well, we'll do the next step in our Roman

  • skincare regime and I'm going to moisturise your skin using something

  • which we know as lanolin. Now lanolin is the grease from sheep's wool which

  • sounds a bit disgusting, but it's an incredibly effective moisturiser it's

  • really, really emollient and you can feel it's really quite heavy and sticky but

  • it actually contains a lot of ingredients that in modern day skincare

  • we really look out for. So it's got a AHAs and BHAs - alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids

  • These are incredible for your skin, so your skin will feel

  • fantastic. But it might be a little bit smelly

  • A couple of writers in Rome complained about the smell of their wives and

  • girlfriends using lanolin on their skin

  • But you might be pleased to know that this

  • is not the smelliest or weirdest ingredient that we could have used on

  • you today. In some parts of the Roman Empire there was an ingredient

  • called 'crocodilea' that was used. Reports vary as to whether that's the

  • intestines of a crocodile

  • or the dung of a crocodile - oh no! - that you would spread on your face

  • I don't want to be a Roman

  • But it would tighten and tone your skin, interested yet?

  • No!

  • Ok!

  • Now one thing we should keep in mind is that as with today women in Roman Britain do not form

  • a homogeneous group. The Roman Empire is huge geographically and there's a lot of

  • movement within it as well. So we've got people coming here from the

  • Mediterranean, from the Middle East like Julia Domna from Syria and from North Africa

  • as well. And that's on top of the groups who are here already when

  • the Romans arrived like the Cornovii tribe who were living around the area of Wroxeter

  • The Roman Empire was really international wasn't it?

  • It really was and we see that in some of the textile fragments that remain as well

  • For example we see Chinese silks or silks made with Chinese yarns that have been

  • found on sites in Colchester, just incredible. And it's thought that

  • cosmetics could have been imported from as far away as Egypt which was also a

  • Roman province at the time as well. So travel and trade was really, really

  • extensive at this point

  • It's incredible how far things could travel within the

  • Empire. But there's something that we have that I think is really exciting that is

  • we think exclusive to Britain. It's a Roman cosmetics grinder. This is a replica.

  • It's so fascinating! So you would take your mortar and into your mortar

  • you'd put a piece of charcoal or perhaps antimony or maybe even soot, which is

  • what some Romans use to create an eyeliner or a kohl. And then you would

  • take your pestle and you'd grind it up to make a powder,

  • you'd perhaps put a drop of oil or fat into there, and then this grinder is so

  • specially shaped that it fits on the eye so you can use this actually as your

  • makeup applicator

  • Now this look in particular that we associate with Julia Domna;

  • the dark eyes, the dark brows, we see this in depictions of women in

  • the later Roman era as well throughout the empire, so it was clearly very popular

  • Well I'm going to leave you getting to grips with that, and I'm going

  • to go and find out more about the cosmetic artefacts that have been found

  • here at Wroxeter so I will see you later

  • Have fun!

  • Cameron tell me about your work as a Curator with English Heritage

  • I'm the Curator of Collections for the West Midlands. I look after the things that

  • are on display at the sites in the various site museums and for the large

  • collection of material that is held in warehouses across the country

  • Now you've done some work specifically looking at Roman cosmetics that have been found

  • here at Wroxeter. Tell me how that came about

  • The first proper excavations took place here in the 1910s and the 1920s, and that material hadn't really

  • been re-examined for a long time. And when I recently came back to go

  • through those collections, I found three items that had previously been described as 'lunate pendants',

  • the kind of thing that would hang from a necklace

  • And now we know that those are actually little cosmetic sets, grinding

  • sets that were used for eye makeup in the Roman period

  • Amazing and are they specific to Britain?

  • They are specific to Britain, yes, and you start to see

  • them in the 1st century AD and they do seem to be a response within this

  • country to the import of cosmetics and ideas about personal beauty that

  • coming here from the Mediterranean

  • I'm really excited to see some of these

  • objects, what have you brought with you today?

  • Well here are two components of two different cosmetic grinder sets they

  • come in little sets but you tend to find them individually because people take

  • them apart from each other to use them

  • What other cosmetic items do we have?

  • We have a surprising number of cosmetic items. We have nail cleaners, a wide

  • variety of nail cleaners; we have tweezers, depilation was a big thing

  • hairlessness was was very attractive and one of my personal favourites is this

  • little perfume bottle, we have loads of perfume bottles

  • What else do these discoveries tell us about Roman life?

  • I think they really tell us that Roman life was urban life

  • and that when the Romans came they brought with them this

  • whole range of new influences and new materials and new consumer goods that

  • simply did not exist before in this country

  • Cameron thank you so much

  • We're midway through our transformation so I'm going go and see how they're getting on

  • Thank you

  • Bye

  • Oh wow! Look at that, it's so bright

  • I love it!

  • We're finally using some colour, I'm very excited

  • We've got some written evidence that suggests that Roman women would use

  • ground-up precious stones or minerals to create eyeshadows,

  • so maybe using lapis lazuli or malachite

  • or azulite, sometimes even saffron as well, ground-up maybe with a touch of

  • oil to create you know an eyeshadow

  • Now I did do some grinding. I ground some lapis lazuli

  • and this is what you get. It's a really, really beautiful color

  • But I'm not actually using it on Sarah because I didn't actually want to put granules of rock on

  • her eyes because my grinding skills are not the best, so I'm using a modern

  • equivalent which is a brightly coloured pigment powder

  • So gorgeous!

  • And it looks amazing

  • I'm applying it with my finger and I also mocked up a bit of speculation as to

  • what a Roman eyeshadow blender might look like. This is bit of lamb's wool

  • with some wool lashed onto a stick - lovely! - for blending out the edges

  • Incredible! Well the Roman world would have been a really vibrant place. We tend to think of

  • people as just wearing white at this time and I think there are a couple of

  • reasons behind this. Firstly it's because of statues which now are white, but at

  • the time would mostly have been painted in quite bright colors but this has kind

  • of tainted our idea of what the ancient world looked like. In fact we have

  • writing from Ovid in 'The Art of Love' and he talks about woolen clothes in a

  • number of different colours; saffron, amethyst, green, sky blue, watercolor which

  • sounds lovely, chestnut, almond - it really would have

  • been a rainbow, bright, vibrant place to live

  • Let's finish this look off with

  • some lips and cheeks and I'm adding a small amount of colour

  • This is modern, safe version of vermillion, mixed with goose fat and beeswax

  • So hairstyles were a really important aspect of display in the Roman world

  • What are you going to do to Sarah's hair today?

  • We're going to be using a wig

  • today and it's not necessarily the case that every single woman would have used

  • a wig to get these elaborate styles, but wigs were used in the Roman Empire

  • Well hairstyles were clearly very important in Roman Britain because hair pins are

  • one of the most common sight finds that we find around the country and this

  • actually started to die out towards the end of the 4th century and

  • it's been suggested that that could be because it was at this period where

  • Christianity began to become quite widespread so ideas around modesty and

  • display change and it's thought that women maybe started covering their heads

  • so there are fewer of these very elaborate hairstyles. While you work your

  • magic I'm going to go and find out more about Wroxeter as a Roman city. See you later!

  • Andrew, tell me about your work as an English Heritage Historian

  • Well I'm a Properties Historian at English Heritage and I have a special interest in Roman sites

  • which are spread across the country, and my job is to research the history of our

  • sites and help present them to the public

  • Now we're standing among these

  • Roman ruins but it would have been a really bustling, thriving, busy place to

  • live and work. Can you paint a picture of what it would have been like here in the 3rd century?

  • Wroxeter was founded as an army fortress on land taken from

  • the Cornovii tribe as part of the conquest of the North-West of Britain

  • By the 3rd century it's developed into a thriving city and much like any other city in the

  • Roman Empire you would have a whole range of different people from across

  • the Roman world some would be of very high status so the rich men that served

  • on city council, others might be craftspeople or traders, farmers and of

  • course slaves they did a lot of the unseen hard work

  • Where exactly are we right now?

  • Right now we're standing in Wroxeter's famous

  • public bathhouse. 1800 years ago you would be able to smell the fires burning in the furnaces

  • that heated the baths, you'd be able to

  • hear the chattering of the bathers and perhaps the cries of the vendors

  • selling their wares in the marketplace next door