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Who do you think you are?

19 November 2012

Dr Peter Guest
Dr Peter Guest on site at the excavations in Caerleon.

Were the Romans merely bit-part players in Welsh history or did Ancient Rome help shape the identity of Wales as we know it today? Most people have heard of Caratacus and Boudicca, but how many know of Julius Frontinus, Gnaeus Agricola or Magnus Maximus?

In a public lecture at the University, Dr Peter Guest, of the School of History, Archaeology and Religion will present some of the fascinating new results from his excavations on the site of the Roman fortress at Caerleon, before exploring how history and archaeology have been used, and misused, to create the heroes and villains we know so well.

Dr Guest said: "The past is fundamental to how people see themselves - who we think we are depends on where we have come from and who our ancestors were. It has always been this way and today many in Wales have a very strong sense of their Celtic heritage that connects them with, yet also divides them from, other peoples in the British Isles. But the Romans were in Wales for as long as they were in England, so it is interesting that the Welsh look back to prehistory for their heroes, while the Romans are often portrayed as villains in the nation's history.

"As an archaeologist who digs on such a significant Roman site as Caerleon, it is clear that the question of identity was as important 2,000 years ago as it is today. 'Who were the Romans?' and 'who were the Britons?' are questions that we continually try to understand through their archaeological remains. In this lecture to commemorate Professor John Percival, I'll be looking at how Welsh (and English) identities have changed over the centuries and thinking about how one person's rebel can be another's freedom-fighter, and how easy it is to be transformed from a hero to a villain in the history books."