chapter  13
CULTURE AND SOCIETY IN ROMAN BRITAIN
Pages 12

There is a school of thought that views the adoption of Roman fashion in Britain as unconvincing and shallow: a veneer applied to unreformed native culture. A distinction has therefore been proposed between a Romanised cultural superstructure and a native social substructure (Reece 1990). This permits the view that change was superficial, whilst spatial concepts remained unchanged (Hingley 1990: 139). Following from this some studies of the evidence from Roman Britain have also sought evidence for resistance, involving the cultural rejection of Roman impositions (Hingley 1997). Since power emanated from Rome and gave privilege to the owners of property, architectural design is perhaps one of the last places where we should expect to see resistance to Roman cultural patterns. The term resistance is, in any case, unhelpful. It implies a clear divide between value systems that could be either accepted or rejected. But the competing interests of class and community are invariably more complex. Neither Rome nor Britain stood as discrete concepts that could be placed in opposition. Roman hegemony inspired something approaching a global culture. Rome was so diversely interpreted and constantly evolving that it eventually survived without the benefit of Roman people, Italian territory or Latin language. On the other hand Britain had no identity and no meaning except within terms defined by Rome. Britannia appears to have been a Graeco-Roman invention used for the purposes of contrast, conquest and government. Other realities – the horizons of ownership, community and knowledge – generated more profound contrasts within Romano-British society. These different realities found expression in the architecture, and are at issue here.