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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Melania, it’s wonderful you can join us. Amata and I haven’t seen any of our sister-wives in some time. Yes. The troubles have put an end to our gatherings. At least we still have wine. But will we have enough for when Count Theodosius and his retinue arrive? No. Unfortunately, the last cask has been opened. So once this has been drunk, there will be no more wine until more normal trade supply resumes. I do miss my friends. I haven’t heard one thing from Gaul since the Troubles broke out. Not from the empress. or anyone of any import. Yes, it would be nice to know is going on south of us.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds Still, we should have some news in a couple of days when Count Theodosius arrives. But will it be good news? What do you mean? Well, Sebastianus, the young man that Count Theodosius sent as his emissary. He’s saying that he’s calling the recent Troubles the Barbarian Conspiracy. Barbarian conspiracy? As if they could be responsible for organising something of such scale. I would not dismiss the barbarians, dear sister. Ursus is certainly a rather formidable man, and he has been warning us about Picts and unrest to the north for years now. For all the good it has done. He’s a barbarian and he’s one of their princes. Ursus has worked very hard for the Empire. Don’t forget, he’s a scout for Rome.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds Caelestis has shared Ursus’s reports with me, and he’s done a fine job despite the complexities of this position. Complexities! He rides around the northern wastelands, informing on who’s doing what. It is not that simple, dear sister. Ursus must be both a prince to his people and an officer for Rome. That is fine with the Voltadini, but think about the tribes that are not so friendly with Rome. Ursus must bring us reports on our friends and enemies. And he says that his people have been fighting hard for their own lands this past year. Ursus says. Ursus says. Ursus seems to tell you quite a bit, Melania. there’s no question that Ursus has done a fine job with the arcani.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 seconds But I worry that his contribution will not be recognised. It would be easy to simply blame our allies or suggest a betrayal somewhere, now that we know it’s being called the Barbarian Conspiracy. But again, Barbarian Conspiracy implies that there’s someone else at work here. Who else could it be? We’ve had almost no news since the Troubles started. But Caelestis says that the dux’s been protecting the frontier from the barbarians that are invading up through Britannia. Word from Luguvalium suggests the Scots have attacked across from the sea, too. Still no word from Gaul. If I had had one letter from my friend, surely we would know what’s going on. But the fact that we’ve gotten no news? It’s grave.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds And we must be careful when Count Theodosius arrives, so that he sees that our husbands have not been negligent in their duties. Otherwise, I fear what may happen to some of us.

Episode 3: Wives' reception

The characters appearing in this video are:

  • Renata Serena, Gallic-born wife of Caelestis (commander of Numerus Barcariorum Tigrisiensium at Arbeia), hostess
  • Modesta Amata, Gallic-born wife of Victor (commander of cohors I Cornoviorum at Pons Aelius).
  • Desiderata Melania, Pannonian-born wife of Frigidianus (commander of ala II Asturum at Cilurnum), distantly related to the Emperors Valentinian and Valens.


Serena, wife of Caelestis, graciously hosts Amata and Melania, the wives of the visiting officers. Serena is using this reception to try to build a unified front by broaching the topic of political fallout. Amata is not particularly interested and expresses her greater interest in news from further away. Melania turns the conversation towards one of the other visitors to Arbeia, a man called Ursus, son of the chief of the Votadini and to the sensitive information-gathering role of the areani.

  • What does the conversation reveal of the wives’ fears?

All characters played by students from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University. They aren’t actors, so please be nice.

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Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

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