Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Circumcester is perhaps the final evolution of the Roman walled town. The town lies entirely within the hollow circuit of its massive ramparts. Within that curved and marble cold thoroughfare, drains and hypocasts run down its v inclined pavements, and the citizens make their abodes carved into the tile-lined masonry of the interior walls.

Climbing ladders to the trapdoors that give egress to the walltops - around which twenty chariots can drive abreast - the city-dwellers have two views to peruse, outwardly they face the barbarians, and inward, still, the barbarians. For the interior of Cirecumcester is an ampitheatre of traps, and the spiral road from the great gate, that is the negative sister of the true street within the walls, serves to deliver victims to its maw.

Along that curved conch-shell road, spears and swords on cunning springs lie flat, grey and unperceived against the stonework, but once past they spring upward and form a thorn-hedge against which no outward progress is possible. Thus delivered to the eyes of the city, and the howl of its wall mounted spectators, the hordes of conquerors who elsewhere ended Rome's dominion, can only fight and die for the trickles of water and food the city-men dribble down the shear wall-faces and toss in black-thorn baskets onto the blood stained sand.

The official God of the city is Janus, the two faced god of doorways whose temple fills the lintel-space above the great gate, but it is rumoured that another older god holds sway at certain times. At the calends of July, wan maidens with sea-fret stained robes are driven along the spiral death-lanes, and a ship with useless and tattered black sails and oars that strike the air departs like a memory, driven only by the convictions of its ghosts. At those times the cry of a Bull, is heard in the backs of the hollow houses, from the chambers that in legend lie between the habitations of men and the blood of the arena.

1 comment:

Philip said...

Hi -- I've just spotted your comment on Peculiar Lives. If you want to register as an author on Blind Atlas, the site recommends you email and "if you’re known to any of the inhabitants here, you’ll be welcomed in." Just say I recommended you, and I'm sure Andrew will add you. (Possibly I could just do it myself, but currently I'm not at all sure how.)