chapter  5
30 Pages

Silchester

Silchester may not share the same international fame as the sites of Pompeii or Ostia, but it is still one of the very important sites for the study of Roman urbanism as it is one of the few completely excavated and fully documented cities in the Roman world. Between 1889 and 1909 W. St. John Hope and G. Fox excavated the city and published nearly annual reports on the progress of their work. Whereas their excavation techniques may be rightly criticized, St. John Hope and Fox were very good at recognizing and recording masonry architecture built primarily during the third and fourth centuries. The following generations of excavators at the site have reinterpreted their plans in light of more recent fi nds at Silchester and other sites and supplemented them through the use of aerial photography. Re-excavations of some parts of the site have provided a treasure trove of information missed by the original excavators. As a result, we have a better understanding of the Roman city at Silchester in its entirety than we have of most other Roman cities and the picture that arises is decidedly different from those cities. Silchester was more of a farm town than any of the others we have looked at so far, providing a base for the agricultural exploitation of the surrounding countryside. The site is much smaller than Pompeii or Ostia. It was also a central place for the administration of government and was a node in the regional transportation network. All these factors conspired to make a very different Roman town well worth contrasting with its more famous Italian sister cities.