Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain

Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain

Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain

Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain

Synopsis

This book deals with Britain in the centuries immediately before the Roman conquest: a period when the first individuals appeared in British history, and when a series of dynasties emerged to take control of much of Southern Britain. Combining archaeological, literary and numismatic evidence, it paints a vivid picture of how people in Late Iron Age Britain reacted to the changing world around them, and how rulers bolstered their power through use of imagery on coins, myths, language, and material culture. It includes illustrations of 246 Iron Age coins and a separate coin index.

Excerpt

Many years ago I saw a production of Shakespeare's play Cymbeline set in Britain shortly before Britain was invaded by the Claudian Legions. The British court was filled with Roman officials, British princes travelled to and from Rome, and even the British soothsayer at the end had a vision of the Roman god Jupiter in his sleep instead of an ethereal Celtic deity. All of this jarred with the image of Late Iron Age Britain I had grown up with, where Caesar's conquest of 55/54 BC was but a sham. The Britons might have been beaten, but unlike the Gauls they soon stopped paying their tribute to Rome and a further century had to pass until the Emperor Claudius invaded and Britain finally fell under Roman dominion. Now I am not so sure. I think Shakespeare was right, I think the British court was probably riddled with Romans and I think Cunobelin probably did worship Roman gods. In this book I set out to explain why.

I began to write this book with a number of clear aims and values. First, I wanted to write a positive work of synthesis, not something which simply attacked and deconstructed the work of previous generations. Second, I believed that in this period where prehistory met history, the work had to be thoroughly interdisciplinary, combining the best of archaeological, historical and numismatic research. Finally, my interest in the past has derived from wondering what it was actually like to live then, to experience a very different world around oneself. That being the case, this book moves away from the discussion of 'economy and society'; it avoids detailed discussions of pot typologies or settlement forms; instead it tries to look at the past from the point of view of the impact upon the individual. How was imagery seen and interpreted, how did people use language and speak to each other in a multi-lingual world? How did people use myths and stories to explain and legitimate the changes that were taking place in the world around them? In a recent book on the transformation of Gaul from the Late Iron Age into the Early Roman period, Greg Wolf described the Roman Empire as 'a world of cities and of friends'. As readers of this book will discover, I certainly believe that Late Iron Age Britain cannot be understood without appreciating the networks of friendship within Britain and beyond at that time.

Much within the book comprises solid argument presenting a very different view of this period to that commonly given; but in certain areas I have also used informed and sometimes relatively free speculation to imagine things for which we have very limited evidence. I hope I have Xagged these clearly enough so that the reader will be able to clearly distinguish between the two. I hope readers will also appreciate the . . .

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