Books

I have written well over thirty books for a variety of publishers. Every book was written and submitted well in advance of the contracted submission date. I've written about Roman Britain, the Roman Empire, and also published several books on the writings and correspondence of the celebrated seventeenth-century English diarists Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. To see my current books (and some of those from longer ago), go to to my Amazon page

If you'd like to get in touch with me about writing for you then please go to the Contact page website or contact me through my Twitter page: Guy de la Bedoyere's Twitter page

Lectures

I have lectured to archaeological and historical societies in Britain, including the Gloucester History Festival, the Historical Association and many others. I have also lectured in Australia, including to the Roman Archaeology Group in Perth. All my lectures are illustrated, delivered without notes and last for 45 minutes to one hour. You can hear one here: Real Lives of Roman Britain

If you help run a local Arts Society and want to book me for an Arts Society lecture, go to The Arts Society. If you are involved with another type of society please go to the Contact page website or contact me through my Twitter page: Guy de la Bedoyere's Twitter page

Lectures

I have lectured to archaeological and historical societies in Britain, including the Gloucester History Festival, the Historical Association and many others. I have also lectured in Australia, including to the Roman Archaeology Group in Perth. All my lectures are illustrated, delivered without notes and last for 45 minutes to one hour. You can hear one here: Real Lives of Roman Britain

If you help run a local Arts Society and want to book me for an Arts Society lecture, go to The Arts Society. If you are involved with another type of society please go to the Contact page website or contact me through my Twitter page: Guy de la Bedoyere's Twitter page

Lectures

These lectures are the main titles I have on offer:

New lecture:

21. What did the Romans really do for Britain?

On the face of it the Roman legacy in Britain ought to be very straightforward to identify. After all, we all know the Monty Python exposition of how the Romans seem to have been responsible for every conceivable aspect of civilization from law and order to fresh water. In fact, the closer you look it’s a lot harder to see precisely what the Romans left in Britain. After all, there isn’t a single functioning Roman construction left, including aqueducts and sewers. The truth is subtler. The Romans created the basic infrastructure of modern England, including roads and towns, and they also created the notion and image of ‘Britannia’. They also brought the idea of realistic art, rather than the abstract styles of the Iron Age, and literacy. But the influence of the Roman world also found other ways into modern Britain through the Romanesque architecture of the Normans, and the Renaissance classical revival that reached England in the days of the Tudors. This lecture draws together all these and other strands to show how important a role the Roman world has played in modern Britain’s culture and identity.

Other lectures

  1. Flaunting Wealth with Art in Pompeii and Herculaneum: social status.

This lecture looks at the various social classes in Pompeii and Herculaneum used art, sculpture and architecture to advertise their social status. Roman society was very hierarchical but there was also great social mobility. Slaves could be freed and as freedmen they were keen to use business to acquire wealth which would buy political careers for their sons. They invested some of that wealth in showcase houses and tombs. The upper classes endowed the cities with public buildings and expected to be honoured by the community with monuments and votes in elections. This lecture explores some of Pompeii and Herculaneum’s remains in the context of those social classes and the history of the cities.

 

  1. The Roman Domus: the art and architecture of houses at Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia

The Roman townhouse was both a public and private space. This was where men of substance presided over their families (which included the slaves) and greeted their political and business cronies. The astonishing preservation of houses at Pompeii and Herculaneum provides us with a unique glimpse of the sort of image these men (and their wives) wanted to present, and how they tried to create imposing public spaces alongside their more intimate and convivial private quarters. The lecture looks at some key examples of the Roman Domus and how the houses evolved into the state they were in by the eruption of AD 79.

 

  1. The image of Augustus: how Augustus created a whole new imperial image for the Roman Empire, combining tradition and innovation in classical art

Augustus Caesar was the first Roman emperor but he was committed to pretending that he had restored the Republic. He had to draw a veil over the fact that he had won his power by force and could only keep it by force. He manufactured an image of himself in art, coins and sculpture as a man of peace and religious dignity with a unique personal authority that made him ‘first citizen’. He created a whole new vision of the Pax Romana with him and his family at the centre. He associated the imperial family with a mythological descent from Venus and encouraged the Roman people to see his regime as the path to a new morality and dignity. Yet this masked a reality of military power, hypocrisy and dynastic ambitions. This lecture looks at the world of Augustus and the truth behind the image.

 

  1. Domina: the imperial women of the Julio-Claudian era in ancient Rome – their images in art, sculpture and coins, and their influence, power, and fates

One of the most extraordinary facts about the Roman Empire is that the first five emperors were members of the same family but not one was the son of his predecessor. In reality the bloodline passed down through the female line. Descent from Augustus’ sister Octavia, his wife Livia’s sons by her previous husband, and Augustus’ daughter Julia, turned out to be the only way Rome’s first and longest-lasting dynasty existed at all. Alongside such famous emperors as Caligula, Claudius and Nero were the women of the Julio-Claudians whose dynastic significant conferred on them exceptional power. Some almost ruled in their own right, challenging the customs and traditions of the male-centric Roman world to the core. This lecture looks at these women through the art and sculpture of the time and later centuries, and also on coins, telling their remarkable stories.

 

  1. The Praetorian Guard: the evidence of art and literature for the Roman imperial bodyguard and their influence on 19th century artists’ perceptions of doomed empires

Rome’s Praetorian Guard, the imperial bodyguard, was the real power behind the imperial throne. Created by Augustus to protect him and his family the Guard were overpaid, pampered and privileged thugs. They gradually came to realize that they were the ones who could change history and they did, making Claudius emperor in 41. When they abandoned Nero he gave up and committed suicide. The Praetorians filled power vacuums when emperors turned out to be not up to the job. By 193 they were arrogant, lazy and greedy. Their loyalty could always be bought. So when Commodus was assassinated they auctioned off the Empire which set in train a terrible century when soldiers determined who ruled Rome time after time. Their role in Roman history inspired artists in the 19th century too. This lecture tells the story of the Praetorians through the art of ancient times and also more recent centuries.

 

  1. The coinage of the Julio-Claudian emperors (Augustus to Nero): the evolution of a brilliant era in numismatic art

Roman coins were far more than everyday units of exchange. They were used as the principal means for the state to publicize its image. This is how the faces of the emperors entered every household, and how the state could communicate its aspirations, identity and achievements. Coins had intrinsic value. They were literally worth their weight in the metals they were made of and as such were synonymous with the credibility and stability of the state. In the first century of Roman emperors from Augustus’ accession in 27 BC to the death of Nero in 68 the Roman state had to experiment with how to depict rulers after centuries of a Republic. These reigns show a gradually increasing sense of how to depict realistic portraits and information. This was done with imaginative brilliance that reached a climax in the last four years of Nero’s reign. His coins, celebrated in the Renaissance, have the power to shock even now with the extraordinary brutal realism of Nero’s magnificent portraits and reverse designs. This lecture looks at Roman coins of the period and their legacy right down to our own times.

 

  1. Real lives of Roman Britain/Elusive Celts: the evidence for real individuals in the art and archaeology of Roman Britain

Roman Britain was a remarkable period in British history. This is the time of the first recorded individuals from soldiers to slaves. Tombstones bring us the first recognizable faces and their inscriptions the first personal details of ordinary people. The story starts with a centurion whose tombstone was found at Colchester. His is the first carved realistic portrait in British history. We can trace the history of the province through these remarkable monuments while at the same time realizing that it is only through the mechanisms of classical culture that we are in a position to access the period. Why is that? The answer lies in the fact that we are ourselves members of a classicized society, educated from birth to have certain expectations about the way art and language represents life. The lecture explores the record and explains why it is so biased.

 

  1. Religion in Roman Britain: the evidence from art for classical, native and exotic cults

Roman Britain’s religion is by far and away the most fertile source of art in the whole 360 years of the province. This was a world of official state cults of classical deities and emperors. It also led to the Romans giving names and forms to native cults, like the water nymph Coventina. The Romans combined some native cults with their own, created the conflated cults of which the most famous is Sulis-Minerva in Bath. This led to the creation of a whole type of hybrid art known as Romano-Celtic. Rome also brought exotic cults from the East, resulting in temples of Mithras, and Christian iconography appearing in among traditional pagan motifs. This lecture explores Roman Britain’s rich religious heritage and the unique monuments found here from the magnificent temple pediment at Bath to the great mosaics of Hinton and Lullingstone with their Christian and allegorical images.

 

  1. Villas in Roman Britain: the architecture and art of a remote Roman province and their origins in classical Roman tradition

The villas of Roman Britain exist in their hundreds but only a very few are visible today. Recorded and excavated from places as far apart as Devon and county Durham, these country houses range from modest farmhouses to palaces. Within a small number of exceptions most reached their largest extents and greatest level of decoration in the late third and fourth centuries. The villas were where the wealthiest displayed their status by investing in extravagant mosaics that depicted mythological and religious scenes alongside abstract motifs. Here they held court at the heart of their rural estates, capitalizing on their control of local politics and economies. This lecture looks at these monuments from a variety of angles and can usually be tailored to a particular region or locality.

 

  1. Women of Roman Britain from the evidence of frescoes, mosaics, sculpture, and artefacts

In the Roman era of Britain’s history we have our evidence for the first individual women in our recorded history. They range from the wife of a governor to a slave girl sold in Roman London. Others include soldiers’ wives, bereaved mothers, and native women. The evidence has come down us in an astonishingly different number of ways, such as tombstones, writing tablets, and artefacts, as well as the physical remains. Some of these women lived long lives, others short and brutal ones. They bear witness to the Roman period in Britain as a far broader experience than the traditional one centred on soldiers and traders. This lecture takes a narrative view of the period ranging from the great cities and villas of the south to the forts and frontier towns of the north. This enables the lecture usually to be adapted to items of particular local interest.

 

  1. Britannia: the image of Britannia from the coins and sculpture of the Roman era right through to modern times

When the Romans came to Britain in 43 and invaded permanently they brought with them their idea of Britannia as a form of divine personification. In an island that until then had been made up of numerous tribes engaged in endless territorial disputes this was a wholly new idea. Under Claudius the first images of Britannia as a person began to appear. Within a century Britannia was on the coins, a seated warlike figure representing Rome’s most troublesome province. She remained in this form for decades but fell out of use after the end of the second century. It was Charles II’s mint workers who brought Britannia back in 1667 on a magnificent medal. Within a few years she had been placed on the new halfpennies and farthings. She stayed for almost 350 years on Britain’s coins taking on various forms and marking all sorts of points in our history such as the defaced coins created by the suffragettes and propaganda posters of the Great War. Now she resides on silver bullion coins. This lecture looks at the history of Britannia in all her forms.

 

  1. The Graeco-Roman Golden Mummies of the Bahariya Oasis: the art, design and history of late Egyptian funerary practices

In the last few centuries of ancient Egypt’s history this once magnificent nation was in decline, ever more dominated by the new Mediterranean powers of Persia, then Macedonia, and finally Rome. It is a remarkable fact that the majority of the most impressive monuments of Egypt, such as the temples at Philae and Denderah, belong to this last phase. The strange thing about Egypt’s invaders and immigrants is that they went ‘native’. They built temples in traditional styles and opted for mummification. But they created a bizarre hybrid version of Egyptian culture which appears in an astonishing form in the Western Desert, scarcely visited by tourists and even less now. This is where the Golden Mummies of Bahariya were found a number of years ago. Strange papier mache and gold leaf versions of the great royal mummies of a remoter past preserve the remains of people of Greek and Roman origin. This lecture places these remarkable remains in context and tells the story of their discovery.

 

  1. Wall painting in the Greek Bronze Age at Mycenae and other sites

The Greek Bronze Age in the middle of the second millennium BC was marked by the great citadels of Mycenae, Tiryns, and Pylos (and others), with close links to the Minoan culture found in Thera and Crete. This was the world Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey harked back to with his tales of a warrior culture in an age when kings built their prestige around the pursuit of heroic warfare. It is the archaeological remains of these citadels and tombs that bear witness to the truth of Homer’s stories and within them it is the wall-painting that provides some of the greatest visual evidence for Greek Bronze Age culture. This is where we find evidence for leadership, trade, warfare, dress, religion and the remarkable status women appear to have held.

 

  1. Trade and commerce in the Greek Bronze Age from the art and other evidence

This lecture takes a sharper focus on one of the sub-topics described under Lecture 13 and can be chosen instead of the more general over-view. The beginning part of the lecture, however, is the same as no. 13.

 

  1. Dressed to kill: the evidence of art for soldiers and war in the Greek Bronze Age

This lecture takes a sharper focus on one of the sub-topics described under Lecture 13 and can be chosen instead of the more general over-view. The beginning part of the lecture, however, is the same as no. 13.

 

  1. Religion in the Greek Bronze Age: the evidence from art

This lecture takes a sharper focus on one of the sub-topics described under Lecture 13 and can be chosen instead of the more general over-view. The beginning part of the lecture, however, is the same as no. 13.

 

  1. The Life and Times of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys through their letters and diaries

John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys are two of the most famous figures of the 17th century. They were excellent friends and correspondents, members of the Royal Society, connoisseurs of art, numismatics and music. Evelyn designed gardens and famously showed Pepys round his own at Sayes Court in Deptford. Their friendship lasted from the 1660s right through to Pepys’s death in 1703 while they had ringside seats to the great events of English history such as the Restoration, the Great Fire of London, the Dutch Wars of the 1660s and 70s, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This lecture looks at their life and times through their words and lives as well as art, architecture and numismatics of the period. Evelyn in particular produced books on all three topics, playing an influential part in pioneering new academic studies.

 

  1. The strange story of Peter Paul Rubens, a magnificent late Roman cameo, and the wreck of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia in 1629.

The wreck of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia on islands near the west coast of Australia is one of the most notorious shipwreck stories of all time though it remains little known in Europe. The catastrophe involved a vicious mutiny that resulted in over one hundred survivors being systematically massacred on the islands off the Australian coast where Geraldton is now while they waited for help to arrive. The ship was carrying treasure, 16000 daalder coins, but also a magnificent late Roman cameo, destined to be sold to the Mogul of India – or that had been the plan. The cameo dates from the fourth century AD and the court of Constantine the Great. Amazingly, the cameo was to survive the ghastly disaster and is today in Holland, while the wreck of the ship that carried it to Australia is now in the Shipwreck Museum at Fremantle. This lecture tells the ship’s story, and traces the cameo’s journey through these epic events looking at why it was there and who took it.

 

  1. It is usually possible to tailor a lecture about the Roman period in Britain to a particular location or region. If a society, for example in a Roman town like Cirencester or Exeter, would like a lecture on the general topic of Roman towns in Britain but with a special focus on their own town or that area, they are invited to contact this lecturer to discuss the possibilities.

 

  1. The Wars of the Roses: tracing the personalities of this dramatic period in English history from the art, architecture and other monuments of the period 1455-1485.

The Wars of the Roses is the umbrella term applied to a dynastic conflict among the descendants of Edward III (1327-99) between the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 and the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The origins lay in the disastrous reign of Richard II (1377-99) and his usurpation by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke. As Henry IV he established the Lancastrian line but his grandson Henry VI was desperately inadequate. The scene was set for the Yorkist challenge led by Richard, Duke of York. For all the powerfully vivid tales of battles and the hugely important female protagonists, including Margaret of Anjou, the Wars of the Roses are surprisingly elusive in the artistic and architectural record. But with a little teasing much can be brought to life along with the realization that this period, which laid the foundations for the Tudor period, is all around us. Not least is the revelation that anyone of indigenous English origin born in 1947 or later has on average only 0.5% chance of not being descended from Edward III!

Bespoke lectures

I am always willing to tailor lectures to your part of the world, whether that's in Britain or the Southern Hemisphere. For example, a lecture on any aspect of life in Roman Britain can always be modified to take a special focus on important Roman discoveries in your area. My Real Lives of Roman Britain talk includes a version that looks closely also at the parallels with an imperial culture imposing itself on indigenous society in Australia.

Speaking at your society

If you help run a local Arts Society and want to book me for an Arts Society lecture, go to The Arts Society. If you are involved with another type of society please go to the Contact page website or contact me through my Twitter page: Guy de la Bedoyere's Twitter page