From Octavian to Augustus

Bronze Augustus, National Museum, Athens © David Gill

On this day, 16 January 27 BC, Octavian was awarded the title Augustus ‘by decree of the Senate’.

This equestrian statue of Augustus was found in the sea between Ayios Evstratios and Euboea in 1979. It is now in the National Museum in Athens (inv. X 23322).

Roman inscription at Haddon Hall

Inscription at Haddon Hall © David Gill

A Roman altar is displayed in the porch of Haddon Hall, near Bakewell in Derbyshire (RIB 278). It is reported to have been found prior to 1695 (its first known mention in Camden’s Britannia) by the river in the grounds of the hall.

The altar is dedicated to Mars Braciaca by Q. Sittius Caecilianus, prefect of the First Aquitanian cohort.

The same unit is attested at Brough on Noe (Navio; near Castleton, Derbyshire) c. AD 158, during the reign of Antoninus Pius and the governorship of Iulius Verus (RIB 283). Prior to this (probably during the governorship of Sextus Iulius Severus, c. 130) the unit seems to have been located at Carrawburgh on the line of Hadrian’s Wall (RIB 1550).

Anthony Birley has suggested that the Sittii family could be from the area of Cirta in Africa, and that Caecilianus “may also be regarded as a Numidian”.

Antonine Wall: Seabegs Wood

Antonine Wall at Seabegs Wood © David Gill

One of the best preserved sections of the Roman frontier system known as the Antonine Wall can be found at Seabegs Wood (to the west of Rough Castle). This is now is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.

Palmyra 1942

Roman Ruins at Palmyra, Syrian Desert
Roman Ruins at Palmyra, Syrian Desert© IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 2351)

This ink drawing of Palmyra by Anthony Gross (1905-84) was made in 1942. He trained at the Slade School of Art.

It now forms part of the collection at the Imperial War Museum.

Roman Mines at Dolaucothi

Dolaucothi © David Gill
Dolaucothi © David Gill

Heritage sites engage with the emotions. What was it like for the original residents?

At the National Trust site of Dolaucothi you can join a guided tour, put on your hard hat and explore the workings of the Roman gold mine. And on some of the trips you can slide into some of the shallower workings to experience what it must have been like to extract the ore underground. Some of the workings may in fact go back into the pre-Roman period.

It is also possible to trace the line of the aqueduct bringing water to the ore processing areas.

Ancient Monuments: Scotland


Regional guides of ancient monuments in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works started to appear in the 1930s (e.g. Wales). These in effect were a gazeteer providing visitors with information about the location and the admission arrangements. Volume VI covered Scotland (2nd ed. 1954; price 6 shillings) with introductory essays by V. Gordon Childe (The Physical Background; Prehistoric Periods; Dark Ages) and W. Douglas Simpson (The Roman Occupation; the Celtic Period; the Middle Ages). There are 24 black and white plates, and a map inserted inside the back cover.

At the back of the guide is a list of the 49 official guides for Scotland.

Guides for Chedworth Roman Villa


Chedworth Roman Villa was acquired for the National Trust in 1924. The site is located in the Cotswolds.

Sir Ian A. Richmond prepared a 15 page guide in 1966. This was revised (‘in the light of recent work on the site’) by Roger Goodburn in 1981 guide (16 pages, paper). A reconstruction was placed on the cover, and there is a double page plan of the villa in the centre showing the sequence of construction, and then a second set of plans for the bath complex in the northern range. Essentially the guide introduces the concept of the villa and then described the ‘discovery, situation and plan’ (pp. 3-4). The rest of the guide consists of a room by room guide, with a short section on the Museum (pp. 14-15).

(1979 [2002])

Goodburn prepared a more detailed illustrated guide in 1979 (my revised copy dates to 2002). This is illustrated with black and white images as well as plans. The main sections are:

  • The exploration of the site and a brief history of the villa
  • The Chedworth region in the Roman period
  • The growth of the house
  • The mosaics
  • The Museum (including a section on the coins by Richard Reece)
  • Buildings in the locality probably associated with the villa
  • The life and economy of Chedworth
  • The fate of Chedworth and its neighbours

There is a bibliography for the site.


The 2012 guide is by Simon Esmonde Cleary. It is fully illustrated in colour and has a fold out plan at the front.

The sections are:

  • Rise and fall and discovery
  • A golden age
  • The decline of the Empire
  • Springing from the earth
  • Preserved for the public
  • Landscape and layout
  • The villa’s layout
  • Life in the villa
  • Decoration
  • Religion
  • Conserving and learning
  • Open to public view
  • Concerning conservation
  • Nature conservation
  • The story so far

The rooms appear in double page spreads with plans and reconstructions, e.g. The west range, the dining room, the west bath house, the north wing, the north bath house, room for interpretation (a wonderful bit of honesty!), the south wing, the kitchen, and the latrine.

There is a section on the Museum.

There is a note about the room numbers that were assigned in the Victorian period.

I particularly like the stress on a heritage site as a home for nature conservation with lizards and a distinctive type of snail (see here).

Saxon Shore: Heritage Lecture

Professor David Gill at 2014 UCS Heritage Lecture © Caroline Gill
Professor David Gill at 2014 UCS Heritage Lecture
© Caroline Gill

I was greatly encouraged by the packed lecture theatre for the first of two UCS Heritage Lectures for the 2014 Ipswich Heritage Fortnight. We explored the development of the ‘Saxon Shore’ fort system and members of the audience shared their knowledge of what was visible of Walton Castle (near Felixstowe) at very low tides. We also considered how a number of the ‘Saxon Shore’ forts (Burgh Castle, Caister-on-Sea, Bradwell, Reculver, Richborough and possibly Walton Castle) were reused in the 7th century as monastic sites.

The lecture concluded with a suggestion that a Late Roman / Anglo-Saxon trail could be developed from Brancaster to the Blackwater, taking in a number of key sites including North Elmham, Bury St Edmunds, West Stow, Burgh Castle, Sutton Hoo, and Iken.

Ipswich Heritage Fortnight (2014)


UCS Heritage Futures is contributing two lectures for the Ipswich Heritage Fortnight in September 2014.

  • Professor David Gill on The Saxon Shore (Wednesday 17 September)
  • Dr Geraint Coles on Back on Track (Wednesday 24 September)

Further details here.

Chocolate Heritage and Keynsham Roman Villa

Keynsham Roman Villa (n.d.)
Keynsham Roman Villa (n.d.)

One of the most unusual settings for a site is the Roman villa at Kensham that was found during the construction of the Somerdale chocolate factory for J. S. Fry and Sons (between Bath and Bristol). The excavations were conducted by Dr Arthur Bulleid and Father Ethelbert Hoare from 1922 to 1924.

J.S. Fry & Sons (“Cocoa and Chocolate Manufacturers”) issued an 8 page booklet for the remains and the finds (that were housed in the on-site museum). The booklet contained a plan of the villa as well as a number of illustrations. The booklet is undated but I suspect mid-1970s.

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