Euro 2020: Roman Britons vs Dacians – Rome, Saturday 3 July, 2021

Euro 2020 is well underway – and much to everyone’s surprise, the Roman Britons have defeated Germania. The Roman Empire never actually managed to conquer what we now know as Germany – and as far as football is concerned, it has been pretty much the same for Britannia ever since.

But now the Three Lions are on their way back home to their ancestral home, Rome, to face another ancient adversary, the Dacians.

Dacia was what we now know as Ukraine – as well as a long list of other modern-day countries bounded by the River Danube and the Black Sea. Some of the other countries once part of Dacia include Romania and Moldova – and areas of Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

It is easy to find out whether you are a Roman or a Dacian: just take a look at your earlobes. Romans have long, fleshy earlobes and Dacians short, narrow earlobes. Then choose your side!

The Roman Empire extended to Africa and the Middle East and, like many Britons, you may find that you are also a direct descendant of Ancient Romans if you have African or Middle Eastern heritage, as Roman generals and governors frequently married the daughters of local leaders in the provinces they governed. This was thought to encourage social cohesion across the empire.

Roman ancestry may mean you have ancestors from Syria, France, Spain and even Ethiopia, as well as the UK and Italy. Once you have one Roman Emperor in your family tree, you may well uncover a whole roster of them seated round your family dinner table.

Emperor Septimius Severus (Image CCL Wikipedia)

There was also an African Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus.

Born in Leptis Magna – Libya – he ruled parts of the Roman Empire in Africa and the Middle East before arriving at Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, where there were already African soldiers stationed, having travelled from their homelands in the Roman Empire to the Roman outpost, Brittania. His eldest son was Emperor Caracalla – whose famous baths are in Rome. Sadly they are not in use for a post-match dip any more.

Baths of Caracalla, Rome – once the site where weary gladiators might bathe

Ancient Romans were also as keen on sports as we are today – and games were held regularly throughout the Roman Empire. The Taurian Games took place every five years between 140 AD and 160 AD. The games began in May and were held throughout June in honour of the gods of the Underworld (di inferi).

Athletics, chariots racing, gladiator fights and board games were popular among the ancient Romans. They also played a ball game called Harpastum, which involved a small ball that might be made of a pig’s bladder or even wool. Children played a ball game called battledore, which was like badminton. Sometimes a pinecone might be used like a shuttlecock.

On 22 July every year the festival of Concordia took place – a public holiday dedicated to the goddess Concordia whose temple was situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. She ruled harmony – marital, social and political.

Let’s hope harmony continues throughout our own games – and especially when the Roman Britons meet the Dacians on Saturday!

Street football in the Jewish Quarter, Rome
Colosseum interior – not suitable for football currently

All images A. Meredith unless stated

If you are off to Rome this weekend – buon viaggio e buona fortuna a tutti e due!

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