‘The ancient city’ – new book with a Colchester connection!

A new book was published in November 2016 by the Cambridge University Press (CUP). This is called The ancient city and the author is Arjan Zuiderhoek who is an ancient historian based at the University of Ghent in Belgium. The Trust is delighted to have provided the image which is on the front cover, which is a reconstruction of Roman Colchester in about AD 250 painted for the Trust by artist Peter Froste. Peter painted a series of reconstructions of Roman Colchester, based on the evidence from Trust excavations, for publication in our popular book City of Victory, plus another reconstruction which incorporates more recent evidence including the Roman circus… The book was promoted in a Tweet on the 6th February by CUP Classics.

The later reconstruction is the image used on this front cover. It is based on the considerable and detailed evidence produced by large area excavations which the Trust has conducted in Colchester town centre since 1971, on sites at Culver Square, the Lion Walk shopping precinct, the Sixth Form College, Balkerne Hill, the Balkerne Heights residential development and the Police Station in Butt Road, and fieldwork projects within the old garrison. During these excavations and projects, we uncovered the remains of Roman houses, in the form of floors, yard surfaces, rubbish-pits, wall foundations and even stumps of walls, demolition debris, the surfaces and drainage gullies of Roman streets, and part of the foundations of a Roman theatre – as well as the site of the Roman circus! Large parts of the Roman defensive town wall are still standing, of course, including part of the Balkerne Gate.

Part of the online blurb for the book reads: ‘… Greece and Rome were quintessentially urban societies. Ancient culture, politics and society arose and developed in the context of the polis and the civitas. In modern scholarship, the ancient city has been the subject of intense debates due to the strong association in Western thought between urbanism, capitalism and modernity. In this book, Arjan Zuiderhoek provides a survey of the main issues at stake in these debates, as well as a sketch of the chief characteristics of Greek and Roman cities. He argues that the ancient Greco-Roman city was indeed a highly specific form of urbanism, but that this does not imply that the ancient city was somehow “superior” or “inferior” to forms of urbanism in other societies, just (interestingly) different. The book is aimed primarily at students of ancient history and general readers, but also at scholars working on urbanism in other periods and places …’ – at www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/classical-studies/ancient-history/ancient-city .

The Cambridge University Press is kindly providing us with two complimentary copies of The ancient city, one for the Trust’s library and one for Peter Froste. You can read some of the introduction to the book in .pdf format via the link ‘Marketing Excerpt’ at www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/classical-studies/ancient-history/ancient-city#contentsTabAnchor .

The images show the front cover of the new book and our original image (painted by Peter Froste, © the Colchester Archaeological Trust and Peter Froste). In this view of Roman Colchester, you can see the River Colne, the town wall, the Balkerne Gate, the Temple of Claudius in its large precinct, and the main street, much of the line of which the High Street now follows.


the ancient city










Colchester c AD 250 new