History of Latvia between 0 AD - 399 AD
An important development in the so-called Roman Iron Age (1–400 AD) was the spread of knowledge about how to smelt and work iron. The peasant culture of the Baltic made remarkable progress. This can be partly explained by the very lively trade relations between the Baltic and centers of the Roman Empire, particularly with the Danube Basin. The Balts exported amber, which at that time was valued higher than gold, and expensive furs. In return they received Roman manufactured goods and coins. At this period the Eastern Balts began to split up into Lithuanians and Latvians, and the Finno-Ugrians into Finns and Estonians. The former began to cross the Finnish Gulf and settle down in present-day Finland.
The Roman Iron Age is remarkable because even at that time the Eastern border of the three Baltic peoples was almost identical with the later ethnic and political frontiers. Beyond this border at that time were very sparsely populated territories of Eastern Europe; this proves that these frontiers have not been established in a struggle with some other nation, but developed naturally, as the natural cultural boundaries of the Baltic nations and as the maximum reach of these civilizations.
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.