1. I, Claudius (Robert Graves)
I, Claudius (and it’s sequel) are easily the best way to understand the early empire. By presenting the Julio-Claudian dynasty of the early Roman empire by presenting the key players as real people, rather than simply a series of emotion less actions, biographies and laws. Adding a bit of speculation, which gives the book it’s great range of background characters. This set me firmly on the path to the classical world. In essence a novel to enjoy lounging in the luxuriant sun.
2. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon)
Again this is not strictly archaeological, but it’s an amazing study given it’s publication date (1788). Ultimately the study of the late empire would be made a lot harder without it, and I personally believe more modern ideas of late antiquity would simply not occur to anyone without earlier, more unilateral Gibbon’s ideas, to oppose. I suppose my opinion of Rome was formed from the ideas of Gibbon, who set it out in all it’s glory and realised what a truly universal set back for civilisation it’s decline and fall was. In essence a reason to strive to improve my conditions in this exile of mine.
3. Men from the Ministry (Simon Thurley)
A really interesting study of the preservation of heritage in England, and the creation of what we now know as English Heritage. Most archaeologists focus entirely on heritage, sites and artefacts. When we try to try the history of the heritage profession either the focus is on the most noteworthy theoretical academics, or a very niche interest. Men from the Ministry instead tells us about the people in the shadows, and reminds me that in order to study heritage we must be careful to preserve the matter of our study, and that even away from the field anyone can make a sigificant difference to the preservation of historical sites. A good motivation to catalogue sites on the island, and get that first publication (even if I have to write it into the bedrock).
4. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (Renfrew and Bahn)
The timeless reference book for archaeological methodology, Refrew and Bahn created this resource to show the sheer range there is to archaeology, and it seems to be the perfect handbook to understand the unknown archaeology of my little island, even useful ideas for research questions.
5. Any good archaeological atlas
Because maps are just great, aren’t they? In order to understand archaeology I always think a good knowledge of geography, and territorial control. Although all the facts may already published, a map can give you a better idea of any area, be it the biggest empire or the smallest site. Also if times get rough I could always remember things could be worse, I could be on a less equatorial island.
Otis Roger Gilbert
Level 2 Classical and Historical Archaeology student at the University of Sheffield
Student’s Union Archaeology Councillor, Arcsoc Academic Officer (and course rep) and committed Classical archaeologist