Review – Performing the Sacra: priestly roles and their organisation in Roman Britain

1 min read
Alessandra Esposito
Archaeopress, £34
ISBN 978-1789690972
Review Edward Biddulph

Priests in Roman Britain are a mysterious bunch. How were they organised? What do their regalia tell us about their roles? What do the contexts in which priestly objects were found reveal about priests’ activities? These are the questions that Alessandra Esposito seeks to address.

The dataset of priestly objects is larger than one might think. There are headdresses, of which there are several types – chain-headdresses, crowns, and diadems (the last, with their adjustable headbands, offer a surprisingly modern nod to comfort). Then there are sceptre shafts and terminals, divination devices, and other oddities like dodecahedra.

Making sense of the usually fragmented and ambiguous material is no small task, and presenting such a comprehensive dataset is achievement enough. But the author goes further, highlighting remarkable continuity between the Iron Age and Roman period, and assessing the pattern of deposition as well as use. It is a pity, though, that the book’s dry, academic-ese robs such fascinating material of its vitality. And grammarians beware! The frequent use of the word ‘however’ as a conjunction will irritate.

This article appeared in CA 354.

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