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Bill Thayer
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Britannia

The LacusCurtius Resources on Roman Britain

A wooden column capital depicting two affronted peacocks in a setting of luxurious stylized foliage. It is a sixth-century capital from Sicily.

A sixth-century wooden capital from Sicily, in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
(I realize this is a curious choice for a header picture. Wait 'til I go back to the UK.)

To provide a framework, a good general summary of the Romans in Britain written for the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica by F. J. Haverfield, the author of The Romanization of Roman Britain.

Link to a page of Codrington's Roman Roads in Britain

[ 1/4/99: the entire text (380pp of print) except the index;
2 maps ]

Roman Roads in Britain, by Thomas Codrington: published in 1903, this authoritative classic is now in the public domain. Not only does it provide an enormous amount of information about its specific topic, but it offers many insights into the basic tools and methods available to the student of Roman roads. For example, the introduction includes a general discussion of study methodology and of road construction techniques, plus the 15 British itinera of the Antonine Itinerary.

[ 280 print pages, 9 photographs,
52 drawings, 32 plans and maps ]

In 1911 the archaeologist John Ward wrote a one-volume survey of The Roman Era in Britain incorporating information from much of the then latest excavations. After a general introduction, about a third of the book covers roads and buildings of all kinds, and fully half of it with pottery, glassware, and the so‑called instrumentum domesticumobjects of all kinds: coins, jewelry, lamps, tools, padlocks, oculists' stamps, strigils, shoes, knitting needles, you name it; the remainder of the book deals with tombs and religion.

[ 312 print pages, 9 photographs,
23 drawings, 49 plans and maps ]

1911 was a busy year for Prof. Ward; his companion volume to the preceding also appeared: Romano-British Buildings and Earthworks covers the architecture of Roman Britain based on all the same latest excavations. Though inevitably dated, the book contains a wealth of material; the section on Roman camps and fortifications is particularly good.

[ 238 print pages,
26 drawings, 9 plans and maps ]

Nora Kershaw Chadwick's Celtic Britain (1963) is obviously misplaced here — and will eventually migrate to another page once I have further related material to join it — since after an initial chapter covering the end of Roman Britain, it then deals with the brief period of Celtic independence before the advent of the Saxons. The Celts, their kingdoms in Scotland and Wales, their institutions, their art and literature: a general survey by an expert in Celtic literature.

A single webpage, but useful for some: an English translation of the chapter on Britain of the Geography of Claudius Ptolemy, including a complete map of Britain drawn from his coördinates: ancient geography in modern clothes, as it were.

Regional and Local Works

George Witts's Archaeological Handbook of the County of Gloucester covers ancient British and Roman camps, Roman villas, long and round barrows, and ancient roads: "The object of this work is rather to call attention to those objects of antiquarian interest scattered far and wide throughout our county, and very little known to the majority of readers, than to dwell on the oft-told narrative of Roman remains in Corinium and Glevum."

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Thomas Wright was the 19c scholar who excavated the Roman town of Viroconium just outside the modern Wroxeter. His final summary of his excavations there was written up as a complete book in 1872; here we have a brief interim report from 1863, "Objects Illustrative of Roman Professions and Trades, Discovered in the Excavations at Wroxeter": it's actually rather interesting.


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Site updated: 25 Jul 11