Review – Britannia Surveyed: new light on early Roman Britain through the work of military surveyors

1 min read

Robert Entwistle
Armatura Press, £17
IBSN 978-1910238172
Review William D Shannon

Readers of CA may recall a feature (CA 314, May 2016), entitled ‘Charting the Roads’, in which John Poulter and Rob Entwistle argued for the existence of long-distance alignments established soon after the Roman invasion, alignments which were subsequently adopted in part by the road planners. In this new work, Entwistle explores this thesis further, with numerous maps and diagrams.

He sees the alignments as having been laid out using Pythagorean Triangles (notably the 3:4:5 triangle), and suggests that initially they were perhaps for other purposes such as designating boundaries between administrations, as well as guiding strategic roads. This leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that some Roman forts are where they are because that is where the alignment passed through, not because of the local topography. Whilst there is little doubt the Romans could have laid down such lines, the bigger question is would they? Entwistle himself warns against ‘the power of coincidence’. This reviewer remains unconvinced; but there is certainly a debate to be had, and readers should make up their own minds.

This review appeared in CA 361. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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