Glasgow Archaeological Society is pleased to announce that the Dalrymple Lecture Series 2017/2018 will be welcoming Professor Roger Wilson, from the University of British Columbia, as this year's guest lecturer. Professor Wilson will be presenting his series of lectures on The Archaeology of Roman Sicily from Monday, November 13, 2017 through to Thursday, November 16 2017 at the Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre, University of Glasgow (corner of Gibson Street and University Avenue).

Lectures will begin at 6.30pm on Monday to Wednesday, and 7.30pm on Thursday.


About the Lecturer

Professor Roger WilsonR. J. A. Wilson is Director of the Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily at the University of British Columbia. His previous positions were as Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the same university, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham and Louis Claude Purser Associate Professor at Trinity College, University of Dublin. Recipient of the Killam Prize in 2012 at UBC for his lifetime contribution to research, he has also been Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Bonn (1987/9), Visiting Professor Classics at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) in 1998, Balsdon Senior Research Fellow at the British School of Rome (2001/02), Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America (2007), and Guest Fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2012). He is a graduate of the University of Oxford, where he also studied for his DPhil. His research concerns mainly the Roman archaeology of the central Mediterranean, with a special emphasis on Sicily, but he has also written on Roman Britain and Roman Germany. He has written over 140 papers and book chapters, and in addition is the author or editor of ten books, including Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain (1975; 1980; 1988, 2002; fifth edition in preparation), Piazza Armerina (1983) and Sicily under the Roman Empire (1990). His most recent book (2016) is Caddeddi on the Tellaro: a late Roman villa and its mosaics (2016). He is currently excavating a Roman villa at Gerace (Sicily). The last two projects will feature in two of his Dalrymple lectures.


The archaeology of Roman Sicily

General view of SicilySicily stands at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and is a palimpsest of cultures stretching over many centuries. While its Greek and Phoenician past has attracted much attention, its Roman archaeology, with one or two exceptions, is perhaps not so well known. The lectures will review a range of evidence which contributes to our knowledge of the province of Sicilia – what Cicero called ‘the first jewel in our imperial crown’ – starting with its acquisition as Rome’s earliest overseas possession in the middle of the third century BC, and closing with examination of a site of the seventh century AD, by which time the island had become part of the Byzantine Empire. Some spectacular and familiar monuments, such as the Roman theatre at Taormina with its dramatic backdrop of mount Etna and the sea, and the world-famous villa at Piazza Armerina with its stunning mosaic pavements, will be presented alongside less familiar evidence, including the results of the speaker’s own fieldwork and other recent research. We shall also be exploring the extent to which Roman culture made an impact on the essentially Greek character of this magical island.

Monday, November 13, 2017 at 6.30pm
Lecture One – Setting the scene: provincia Sicilia

Sicily became a Roman province in 241 BC and remained one until the Byzantine conquest of the island in AD 535. This introductory lecture will assess the evolving character of the island under Roman rule, so far as it is known from archaeological evidence. Changes in urban structure saw many of the hill-top towns in the interior, still flourishing under the Roman Republic, decline under the Empire, while the coastal cities expanded and flourished, as shown by impressive urban building projects. In the countryside agro-towns and village settlements sprang up in place of the old hill towns, and were joined by numerous farms and villas. The latter reached their apogee in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, when Sicily once more became an important grain supplier for Italy. We will also explore Sicily’s place in the maritime trade networks of the Roman world, including evidence for both Sicilian exports and imports, and the role of inscriptions as a monitor of the use of both Greek and Latin (and to a lesser extent Punic) in what Apuleius refers to in the second century AD as a trilingual island.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 6.30pm
Lecture Two – Living in luxury: the late Roman villa at Caddeddi on the Tellaro

The Roman villa in contrada Caddeddi on the Tellaro river, near Noto in south-east Sicily, was discovered by chance in 1970; but it was only opened to the public in 2008 and remains little known. The villa dates to the second half of the fourth century AD, and so belongs a generation or more later than the famous villa of Casale near Piazza Armerina. This talk will look at what is known about this élite Sicilian residence of a late Roman aristocrat, and will consider in detail the three figured mosaics, setting them in context by comparing them with parallels elsewhere. It seems very probable that all the floors were laid by itinerant African craftsmen based at Carthage, working at Caddeddi on an overseas contract. Particularly impressive is the dazzling polychromy of these pavements and the wide range of incidental detail that they contain about the late Roman world, both civilian and military.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 6.30pm
Lecture Three – Philippianus and his rural estate: recent excavations at Gerace near Enna

Excavations at Punta SeccaGerace is a Roman estate centre in the heart of Sicily which the speaker has been excavating since 2013. A substantial estate granary, built c. AD 325/350 but violently destroyed, probably by earthquake, was succeeded by a compact Roman villa in the late fourth century, which had been equipped with some mosaic pavements but appears unfinished. Ubiquitous tile-stamps recording the name of Philippianus indicate the estate owner at that time. Further up the hill a more substantial bath-house, built perhaps c. AD 400, was found in 2016, decorated with polychrome marble on the walls and geometric mosaics on the floors, but this structure was systematically stripped of its building materials (and the floors smashed) when the baths were decommissioned in the fifth century – an interesting example of Roman recycling. Whether the baths were part of another villa or an independent structure is currently unknown. A small low-status village replaced the élite villa in the early Byzantine period.

Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 7.30pm
Lecture Four – Dining with the dead: life and death in an early Byzantine village at Punta Secca near Ragusa

Punta Secca (RG), known to millions of Italians as the home of TV cop, Salvo Montalbano, lies on the south coast of Sicily. Excavation in 2008–2010, directed by the speaker, in a late Roman and early Byzantine village here, examined in detail a previously unexcavated house, and revealed much about it and its commercial contacts with other parts of Sicily and the wider Mediterranean world. A big surprise was the discovery of a substantial tomb in the yard of the house, made c. AD 625/630. Who was inside the tomb? Was it a pagan or a Christian burial? What evidence was there for graveside meals, and what did they eat? And why was the tomb here, in a house, rather than in the village cemetery, or, if the deceased was Christian, in or near the village church? These and other intriguing questions will be addressed in the talk, and the discovery set in the context of what else is known about such practices in the late Roman and early Byzantine worlds.