‘But Dad, history is boring and the Romans are the most boring bit of it all.’ I may have paraphrased my son's attempted justification for not doing homework but the essence of his argument is, and was, very plain. A similar argument was deployed always when discussing going to visit one of the site museums on Hadrian's Wall; and yet a walk along the Wall where ‘British war parties’ (children), waiting in ambush for Roman supply columns (parents), were routinely ‘flushed-out’ by Roman scouts (the dog) but rallied to win the ensuing battle, were, for a time, one of the most attractive of weekend activities.
Where have we, as teachers, academics and interpreters gone so badly wrong? How have we managed to make the Romans such a hated topic? Readers may think I overreact but on a very brief and totally unsystematic survey (conducted in the last few minutes with two of my children and eight of their friends, home for lunch from school), the result was almost unanimous: the Romans are the most boring part of history — with one dissenter identifying ‘Medicine Through Time’ (although, when pressed by his peers, he acknowledged that the worst bit of this was ‘The Romans and the beginning of public health’ as there was no gruesome dissection or surgery to talk of …).