Today we went to Roman Days, a living history demonstration run by a group calling themselves Legio XX (the 20th Legion). Our friend Bill was there in a Senatorial toga, hearing cases as a magistrate when he wasn’t showing us around.
Alex’s best friend showed up in a tunica, and awesomely enough, with an extra tunica for Alex and a big white T-shirt for Colin to wear. The girls had a wonderful time racing around the site checking out the various encampments and playing some Roman game of their own. They got to help grind spelt into flour, learned how to twist yarn on a spindle, and explored various Roman foods. (Alex is still using the spindle in the foods picture, because she loved it.)
But the real fun came when they were recruited into the legion. They were lined up, issued scuta (shields), and taught to drill. In Latin. Across the field, you could hear the legion of re-enactors being given the same Latin commands the kids were being taught to follow – authentic drills from a 5th century Roman training manual.
I was tickled to discover that a Roman recruit didn’t need to know his right from his left. Instead, they were commanded to turn ad scutum (towards the shield) or ad gladius (towards the sword). The kids practiced a lot of turns, marching and stopping, bunching up and spreading out, and switching from one long line to two rows, all to Latin commands. I was amazed that Colin stuck with it. Their instructor was a genius with kids, chivvying them in a good-humored way that they all really seemed to like. They finished their training with a charge against the legionaries.
After lunch, we followed Roman Days with our third Park Quest, at Seneca Creek State Park. This was a pretty sedate and cerebral Quest involving tree identification. We had to find twelve labeled trees in a relatively small area and match them up with drawings and descriptions of their characteristics. Some of them were common, like white pine and dogwood, and others were much less familiar, like osage orange and the Kentucky coffee tree. After we identified each tree we read a paragraph about its history and uses and answered a question. Particular letters in the answers were then unscrambled to help fill in missing words in a pledge to help care for trees.
The Quest was interesting and enjoyable, but I’m glad we tacked it on to another trip instead of driving all the way down to Gaithersburg just to complete it. It didn’t feel like as much of an “event” as the other two did. And Colin slept through almost the whole thing.