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2014-06-10
Hadrian's Wall on-line course
Here is a link to a free on-line course looking at the archaeology of Hadrian's Wall. It is being run by Newcastle University and led by my old friend Prof. Ian Haynes - you may remember that I posted a blog entry about his book The Blood of the Provinces a while ago. It s set to begin in September and run for six weeks. Ought to be good fun, especially for those of you who have not had a chance to visit the Wall or want to reminded of past trips. Hadrian's Wall course
 
2014-05-13
Appearances page
There should be some new entries on the appearances page in the next day or so with four lectures at various festivals and the annual birthday lecture at Caerleon.
 
2014-05-13
Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe
Last month I gave a talk to the cast of a new production of Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare's Globe, the marvellous reconstruction of the Elizabethan wooden theatre on the south bank of the Thames. The session was to provide them with more sense of the historical background to the story - all the more useful because Shakespeare followed Plutarch's account with considerable faith. I have done a couple of similar talks in the past, and it is always interesting to come at the history from a different angle, and think about what would be useful for an actor or actress trying to bring his or her character to life on stage. I think it should be a very good production, so well worth making an effort to see it if you can. For more details and tickets follow this link -
the Globe's website
 
2014-03-06
Blood of the provinces - an excellent new book on the Roman auxilia

For those with a serious interest in the Roman army and more widely in the impact of the Roman empire on provincial populations, I have no hesitation in recommending a book that came out late last year - Ian Haynes, The Blood of the Provinces. The Roman Auxilia and the Making of Provincial Society from Augustus to the Severans published by the OUP. As the title says, its focus is on the non citizen soldiers of the early imperial army, primarily the auxiliaries of the cavalry alae and infantry cohorts. It is not simply a study of the history and organisation of these units, but more about what the maintenance of perhaps two hundred thousand non citizen soldiers actually meant. Along the way, it examines the experience of military service, looking at everything from language to the environment, routine, ritual and religion of army bases and the wider military community.


Ian and I are very old friends, and started out doctoral research on the same day a couple of decades ago. At the time, we were the only two graduate students at Oxford working on the Roman army of the principate, and it was a great asset to have someone else with whom to bounce around ideas. Ian's book began as his D.Phil. thesis, but over the subsequent twenty-odd years has developed and grown into something far broader. It has been a great pleasure to discuss many of the ideas many times. Graduate students readily feel certain about things, but as your knowledge increases everyone tends to get less confident. Ian's ideas have been shaped by extensive reading and in particular a wide experience of archaeological excavation and investigation in a number of countries. This is an academic book, and so the more knowledge a reader has then the more he or she will be able to engage with the ideas and profit from the book. I won't try to summarise the arguments, because they cover so many different themes. Not all the questions can be answered, but simply asking them and pushing the evidence as far as it will go is highly stimulating. All in all not the first book to read on the Roman army, but for those with a fair existing knowledge I think it will prove to be one of the most rewarding.


 
2014-03-06
1914-2014
If you live in the UK you will no doubt have seen a lot of programmes and media stories marking the centenary of the First World War. I enjoyed the BBC documentaries last week presented by Max Hastings and Niall Ferguson - although I cannot say I was at all convinced by the latter's thesis, but then the impression was that none of his audience bought the idea either. One of the expert panel was Sean McKeekin and if you go to the NYMAS website you can hear a very lecture about the build-up to war in 1914 which challenges many of the simpler views. He is especially good in emphasising the chronology, the role of individuals, and also in placing each event in context - for instance dismissing the idea of a benignly peaceful Europe in the early years of the Twentieth Century.
 

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