I was in Cirencester again the other week, showing off this lovely market town to family - as you do! An important ancient Roman settlement in the rolling Cotswold Hills of conquered England, Cirencester sat at an important intersection of painstakingly constructed, long distance Roman roads.What we noticed was that hares abounded - literally - in classy shop windows and in sophisticated courtyards. These hares were big - about 5 feet high - and beautifully decorated in a variety of styles to complement the elegant model. I remembered that other hares, now missing, had been much in evidence on a previous visit Easter to Cirencester, part of a town-wide charitable sponsorship event.
But why hares you may ask? Well several important mosaics have been unearthed within the remains of excavated Roman villas, municipal bath houses and the like in Cirencester’s environs. One of the most impressive mosaics, discovered during town centre redevelopment in the 1970s, features a lovely hare. I think therefore we have the answer to our hare question.
|The Corinium Hare, a Roman mosaic|
|MedievalMorsels models one inch scale dolls house miniatures|
|12th scale rabbits on butcher's block|
Pre-dating the Romans, Greek hunters on the island of Crete trained fast, slender greyhounds to hunt their hares. Apparently the Greeks enjoyed hare plainly spit-roasted. Back in 350 BC Archestratus, the Greco-Sicilian father of gastronomy and author of one of the world’s first cookbooks, stated “the true gourmet is he who is not disgusted by an undercooked hare”. Sounds like a dish that would divide opinion even today!