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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 11:03 GMT
Romans blamed for congestion charge
Roman soldiers
What did the Romans do for us?
The Romans' flair for building roads may have been responsible for the London congestion charge, an academic has claimed.

The Romans built most of their roads in to and out of the capital, setting the scene for traffic overload in London, it is suggested.

The common belief they civilised ancient Britons is also a misconception, according to Dr Francis Pryor, president of the Council for British Archaeology.

He believes they made the road system worse and stifled Celtic art with their militaristic culture.

"I don't like the Romans. They were a bunch of militaristic thugs I suppose you could say," said Dr Pryor.

All roads in Britain lead to London and that's one of the problems we have got
Dr Francis Pryor, Council for British Archaeology
Talking down the Romans' achievements, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think a lot of the problems we have now are due to the Romans. Dare I say the congestion charge?

"All roads in Britain lead to London and that's one of the problems we have got.

"The Romans gave us that form of organisation and we are paying the price today."

He went on to suggest the Romans' impact on Britain had been over estimated.

He said: "We were, technologically, amazingly advanced. Our metal working was stunning.

"We had a perfectly good road system.

"And we had agriculture - we had fields that had been in existence for 2,000 years before the Romans turned up."

Professor Norman Davies, who has written books on the history of the British Isles, does not agree.

He told the BBC: "The Romans had very little to do with what came afterwards.

"The Romans occupied less than half of the British isles and yet the English view is that Roman Britannia is a predecessor of later English society and achievements, and that's clearly mythological."



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