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Bill Thayer

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John Ward:
Romano-British Buildings and Earthworks

Roman Britain cannot fail to call to the English-speaking student of antiquity, and as a result the province is far better represented in modern works than its proportional importance would warrant. Another reason is more interesting, however: Britain's sharp insular definition, the lateness of the Roman conquest, the rocky soil of many parts of the island which have conduced to better preservation of roads and forts, a number of factors have converged to document the gradual Romanization — and despite current revisionist trends, that means the gradual civilization — of a barbarian people and land better than that of any other. Britain, in sum, is an excellent case study.

Thus, dated as it is — one of the unexpected consequences of copyright law is that in the early 21c we have a resurgence of classics from 75 years earlier — this work should still be of interest to the modern student, containing much that is still valid on Roman architecture in Britain: buildings, ornamentation, and construction methods; and Ward's numerous plans are particularly clear.

Finally, though the author never says as much, this book is in fact a companion volume to another work of his published in the same year, which I've also put onsite: The Roman Era in Britain. The works overlap a bit, sharing 18 illustrations and a very occasional paragraph of text, but are otherwise completely different; and together they give the layperson a readable and comprehensive view of Roman Britain.

I know nothing about the author beyond the little he himself tells us in this book: that he was an archaeologist who among other places excavated the Roman settlement at Gellygaer; what appears to have been his first book is an accounting of those excavations, The Roman Fort of Gellygaer, 1903. (He is not to be confused with the later and currently better-known archaeologist John Ward-Perkins.)

For technical details on how the site is laid out, see below; here then is the complete work:

 p. v 

It was originally intended that this should be a general work on Roman Britain, but it was soon evident that it was impossible to compress so large a subject into a volume of this size, and at the same time do reasonable justice to that phase of it — the towns, forts, houses, and other structural remains — which in so marked a manner has been enlarged and modified by the systematic use of the spade during the last quarter of a century. I was on the point of abandoning it, when I chanced to meet the late Mr. George E. Fox, F.S.A., in whose death archaeology has received a severe blow, and, mentioning the circumstance, he suggested that I should confine myself to the architectural side of the subject, as such a work was urgently needed. This was a scattering of seed upon congenial ground, for it was precisely the 'major monuments' of Roman Britain which especially interested me.

The aim of the book is twofold: it describes the remains that come within its scope, and it essays the more difficult task of their interpretation. But it is inevitable that with the present pace of archaeological research many of the conclusions here set forth will have to be modified in the course of very few years.

The work is mainly a compilation — how otherwise could it be? But here and there it will be found that I have reason to modify the conclusions of others or to differ from them. And  p. vi if considerable space has been given to the discoveries at Silchester, this is inevitable, for no archaeological research has thrown greater light on Roman Britain than the twenty-seven diggings on the site of Calleva.

The plans are in most instances simplified from the originals by the omission of minor details and confusing structural alterations and additions, in order to present their salient features; and as far as possible the buildings of different kinds are shown to common scales so as to render their comparative study easy.

I am indebted to many for various services which have contributed to the usefulness of this work: to Dr. Joseph Anderson, F.S.A.; Prof. R. C. Bosanquet; Dr. F. Haverfield; Mr. J. P. Gibson; the late Mr. G. E. Fox, M.A.; Mr. F. A. Bruton, F.S.A.; Mr. James Curle, F.S.A.; Mr. James Barbour, F.S.A.Scot.; Mr. A. E. Hudd, F.S.A.; Dr. T. Ashby, F.S.A., Rome; Mr. Frank King; Mr. F. Gerald Simpson; Mr. St. George Gray, F.S.A.; Dr. George Macdonald; Rev. Dr. Cox, F.S.A.; Mr. W. H. Knowles, F.S.A.; Col. C. E. Ruck, F.S.A.Scot.; Mr. Thomas May, F.S.A.Scot.; Mr. Charles Bathurst, M.P., Lydney; Mr. W. Clarke, Llandaff; Mr. L. P. Salmann; Mr. Mill Stevenson, F.S.A.; Mr. W. St. John Hope, M.A.; and to others whose names are referred to in the body of the book. Also to an old friend, Mr. J. W. Stenson, for reading the proof sheets.




Camps — The Camps of Classical Writers and British Examples

Forts and Fortified Towns — Their General Characteristics

Forts and Fortified Towns — Their Fortifications

Forts and Fortified Towns — Their Internal Buildings and 'Suburbs'

The Northern Frontiers — The Walls of Antoninus and Hadrian

Houses of the Ordinary or 'Corridor" Type

Houses of the 'Basilical' Type — Cottages

Baths: Domestic and Public

Forums, Basilicas, and Other Public Structures

Temples, Shrines, and Churches

Construction — Walls, Roofs, Floors, Doors, and Windows, Heating of Rooms, Water-Supply, and Treatment of Internal Walls

Decorated Mosaic Pavements

List of Illustrations

Technical Details

Edition Used

An edition, bearing the indication "First Published in 1911" but no other date, Methuen & Co. Ltd., 36 Essex Street W. C., London. It is now in the public domain.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. I ran a first proofreading pass immediately after entering each chapter; then a second proofreading, detailed and meant to be final: in the table of contents above, the chapters are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe them to be completely errorfree; any red backgrounds would mean that the chapter has not received that second final proofreading. The header bar at the top of each chapter page will remind you with the same color scheme.

Inevitably, though the print edition seems to have been well proofread, I've still caught a few errors in it, not all of them even strictly typographical. Those I could fix, I did, marking the correction each time with one of these: º. If for some reason I could not fix the error, I marked it º: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles. Very occasionally, also, I use this blue circle to make some brief comment.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been corrected to the author's usual style, in a slightly different color — barely noticeable on the page, but it shows up in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">. Finally, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, apparently duplicated citations, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have the printed edition in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is indicated by local links in the sourcecode and made apparent in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line p57 ). Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

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