David J. Breeze, Roman Frontiers in Britain. Classical World Series. London: Bristol Classical Press / Duckworth, 2007. Pp. 103, incl. 25 black-and- white illustrations. ISBN 978-1-85399-698-6. UK£11.99.
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Professor Breeze has long been at the forefront of Roman frontier studies. He is always a leading figure at the triennial International Limes or Roman Frontiers Congresses. He has now written, in an easy, pleasant style, a succinct account of the frontiers in Britain for the Classical World Series, which is intended for senior school and beginning university students of Classical Civilization.
The booklet has clear illustrations, sketches, and maps, and suggests sites to visit (p. 89), gives suggestions for further study (p. 93), suggestions for further reading (p.95) and a full index (pp. 101-3). In the preface Breeze succinctly contextualizes the place of the British Walls in the Roman defensive system in general.
There are eight chapters. Chapter 1, ‘The Sources’ (pp. 11-21), gives the meagre literary evidence, discusses the inscriptions (including TVindol) and the results of archaeology, with a useful note on the antiquarians. Chapter 2 (pp. 22-28) lists the main features of the Roman army and describes its forts (together with useful plans). Chapter 3 (pp. 29-36) discusses the Romans in Britain before the erection of Hadrian's Wall. (More might perhaps have been said about the Gask Ridge, but D. Woolliscroft and B. Hofmann's book on it[] had probably not appeared at the time of writing.) Chapter 4 (pp. 37-50) is a detailed description of Hadrian's Wall. Breeze interestingly suggests that, as Hadrian's Wall was the first such structure to be built in the empire, the early changes in its design may have been caused by experimentation during its actual construction. He also suggests that the initial purpose of the structure was frontier control, but that later defence became more important. Chapter 5 (pp. 51-63) is on the Antonine Wall. Chapter 6 (pp. 64-73) deals with the re-occupation of Hadrian's Wall after the abandonment of the Antonine Wall. Chapter 7 (pp. 74-85) deals with life on the frontiers, both for soldiers in the army and for civilians in the settlements that grew up beside the forts. Finally, Chapter 8 (pp. 86-88), tells of the end of the walls.[]
Professor Breeze gives an excellent assessment of the characters of the frontiers in Britain and makes many fresh and illuminating suggestions, though always with due caution.
[] D. Woolliscroft and B. Hofmann, Rome's First Frontier: The Roman Occupation of Northern Scotland (Stroud 2006).
[] I noted only two small typographical errors, ‘Notita’ for ‘Notitia’ (p. 13) and ‘advisor’ for ‘adviser’ (p. 63). The referencing leaves something to be desired. RIB numbers for inscriptions are sometimes given, often not. Few will recognise Pseudo-Hyginus' ‘MunCastr’ in the (unauthored) ‘De Metatione Castrorum’ (19); on 65 after ‘Dio ... 72’ add ‘8’; on 67 after Dio ‘ch. 75’ should read ‘Bk. 75 ch. 5’.