The Roman Invasion of Britain, Archaeology versus History

B1880

Given the volume of written material surviving from the Roman Empire, there is a popular belief that this provides a full historical account of people, places and events from the period, and that the integrity of the information is high. That is always a mistake when the individuals recording history may have done so at some distance in miles and time from the events they recorded. There was also a frequent distortion of the accounts because the writers were either attempting to paint themselves favourably or hoping to gain favour with a patron. This new book contrasts archaeology with history and comes to some contentious conclusions, but with the probability of proof in favour of archaeology.

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NAME: The Roman Invasion of Britain, Archaeology versus History
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 021113
FILE: R1880
AUTHOR: Birgitta Hoffmann
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 222
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Roman Empire, Julius Caesar, Claudius, British Isles, Roman roads, Roman forts, archaeological prove, biased history, Roman Navy, Legions
ISBN: 978-1-84884-097-7
IMAGE: B1880.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/npmnuki
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: Given the volume of written material surviving from the Roman Empire, there is a popular belief that this provides a full historical account of people, places and events from the period, and that the integrity of the information is high. That is always a mistake when the individuals recording history may have done so at some distance in miles and time from the events they recorded. There was also a frequent distortion of the accounts because the writers were either attempting to paint themselves favourably or hoping to gain favour with a patron. This new book contrasts archaeology with history and comes to some contentious conclusions, but with the probability of proof in favour of archaeology.

The accepted wisdom is that Roman Empire ended at Hadrian’s Wall, ignoring the significant remains North of the Wall in the form of other defensive barriers, roads, and forts. Historians have always faced a challenge because their upbringing is based on the ascendancy of written records. That has always resulted in oral history being ignored and regarded as highly suspect or totally irrelevant. Some Viking sagas passed down through families as educational information are frequently at odds with accepted historical wisdom simply because they are not recorded in ink. In reality, archaeological discovery has often supported these sagas against established wisdom and there is a relationship to this book in that one or more sagas refer to a large Roman fortress that may well lie several miles off the current coast of Eastern England. The author has dealt with a series of aspects of Roman history in the British Isles, drawing from archaeological evidence. This evidence is from archaeological sites on land. As technology improves the prospects of underwater discovery, future archaeologists may well make a number of discoveries in coastal waters that further question some established views of Roman history.

The Romans were very effective soldiers but not as distinguished in their marine activity. They should have been able to build ocean-going ships with good sea-keeping qualities and armament. They may well have been more accomplished than accepted history grants them. Certainly there is some evidence that they used mechanical computers and were equipped with other navigational aids that have not survived or been adequately recorded. They managed to move relatively large forces across the English Channel and the North (or German) Sea, but their footprint is strongly in roads and buildings, military and civil. In Scotland, Roman roads and forts stretched up the East Coast to modern Aberdeen, and up the West Coast through modern Dumfries and Galloway. There was also a substantial defensive line, the Antonine Wall, that stretched across from the Clyde to the Firth of Forth. Roman expeditions went out from these fortifications into the Highlands, but in Roman terms, the area North of Hadrian’s Wall did not offer the same attractions as the lands to the South.

Part of the challenge is that archaeologists have an enormous number of sites still to investigate and there must be some major discoveries still to be made. From what the author has already set out from sites that have been relatively well researched, we must seriously question a number of views that have become established of Roman Britain.

The book is nicely written and well illustrated with photographs and maps. The general reader will find this a most rewarding book, but students and teachers will find it indispensable.

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