An Archaeology of Identity: Soldiers and Society in Late Roman Britain

Overview

What happened to Roman soldiers in Britain during the decline of the empire in the 4th and 5th centuries? Did they withdraw, defect, or go native? More than a question of military history, this is the starting point for Andrew Gardner’s incisive exploration of social identity in Roman Britain, in the Roman Empire, and in ancient society. Drawing on the sociological theories of Anthony Giddens and others, Gardner shapes an approach that focuses on the central role of practice in the creation and maintenance of ...

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Overview

What happened to Roman soldiers in Britain during the decline of the empire in the 4th and 5th centuries? Did they withdraw, defect, or go native? More than a question of military history, this is the starting point for Andrew Gardner’s incisive exploration of social identity in Roman Britain, in the Roman Empire, and in ancient society. Drawing on the sociological theories of Anthony Giddens and others, Gardner shapes an approach that focuses on the central role of practice in the creation and maintenance of identities—nationalist, gendered, class, and ethnic. This theory is then tested against the material remains of Roman soldiers in Britain to show how patterning of stratigraphy, architecture, and artifacts supports his theoretical construct. The result is a retelling of the story of late Roman Britain sharply at odds with the traditional text-driven histories and a theory of human action that offers much to current debates across the social sciences.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Identity in Roman Britain was not simple and it was not set in stone. One notable example was that of the Roman soldier during the decline of the Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. As lines of authority collapsed and he became less and less relevant, the Roman solider had a number of available options, including withdrawing, defecting to another armed force, or going native. Gardner (archaeology of the Roman Empire, University College, London) makes good use of the theories of Giddens and others to examine how people create and maintain their identities in terms of nationality, gender, class and ethnicity. He then compares these theories to practice as expressed by portable and architectural material culture and texts. The result is quite different than we expected about the fates of these complex identities and serves as a model for more comparisons of identity with artifacts." —Book News, Inc.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Andrew Gardner is Lecturer in the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. He has worked previously at the University of Reading, the University of Leicester, and Cardiff University. His publications include the edited volume Agency Uncovered: Archaeological Perspectives on Social Agency, Power and Being Human (Left Coast Press), and his research interests center upon the social dynamics of Roman imperialism, the role of material culture in the expression of cultural identity, and the ways in which people in different societies understand time.

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     9
Preface     13
Acknowledgements     14
Introduction: the Roman Empire in the 21st century     15
An archaeology of identity     15
Particular studies and general problems     20
The development of Roman studies     24
21st century agendas     31
The practice of identity     35
Texts and theory in a historical discipline     35
Agency, structure, and practice     39
4th century problems     51
The material dimensions of 4th century life: objects and spaces     63
Studying materiality     63
Portable material culture     67
Architectural material culture     97
Texts as objects     122
Material practices and identity     128
The temporal dimensions of 4th century life: traditions and change     133
Studying temporality     133
Biographies of assemblages     139
Biographies of places     166
Writing Roman history     186
Tradition, transformation, and structuration     191
The social dimensions of 4th century life: interactions and identities     197
Studying sociality     197
From practices to identities     203
The social world in late Roman Britain     217
A topography of 4th century identities     239
Conclusion: Roman Britain in the 4th century     243
The dynamics of identification in late Roman Britain     243
Late Roman Britain and the late Roman Empire     258
The archaeology of complex identities     261
An empire for the 21st century?     264
Bibliography     267
Index     303
About the Author     312
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