Prof Simon Esmonde Cleary BA, DPhil, FSA

Prof Simon Esmonde Cleary

Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Emeritus Professor of Roman Archaeology

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a specialist in Roman archaeology with interests centring on Roman Britain and on Roman France Germany and Spain and Portugal, with a particular interest in Late Antiquity.


I hold a BA from the University of London, a DPhil from the University of Oxford and am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.


I have been employed at the University of Birmingham since 1979. In 2005 I held a post as Professeur Étranger (Visiting Professor) as the University of Toulouse II-le Mirail. Having directed the excavation of a number of sites in Britain, including Rocester (Staffs) and Wroxeter (Salop), from 1994-2005, I worked in south-western France, in the region of Midi- Pyrénées. From 1994-2000 I directed (with Mick Jones [City of Lincoln] and Jason Wood [Heritage Consultancy Services]) the project of architectural analysis and archaeological excavation on the late Roman walls of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (Haute-Garonne). This has resulted in the publication of a full report (in French) (2006) as well as a book by me ‘Rome in the Pyrenees’ (2008) discussing the development of Saint-Bertrand from the C1 BC to the C7 AD. From 2000-05 I directed a Franco-British research excavation project (with Jean- Luc Boudartchouk [INRAP]) on the centre of the Roman town and later provincial capital of Elusa, the predecessor to modern Eauze (Gers), the aim of the project being to excavate in its entirety a large courtyard house visible on aerial photographs, in order to examine its development through the first half of the first millennium A.D.


My main research interests lie in the archaeology of the Roman period, more particularly in the western provinces. Though covering all Roman the period, my principal focus is on the period of Late Antiquity (ca. A.D.300-700). My current research concerns the transition from Roman to post-Roman over much of the western part of the empire, both as regards the nature of the archaeological record and as regards the changes in economy society, religion and mentalities which that record embodies and has resulted in a substantial monograph ‘The Roman West AD 200-500: an archaeological study’ published in 2013. Also published in 2013 was my book 'Chedworth: life ina  Roman villa', arising our of my long-term collaboration with The National Trust on the re-display and re-interpretation of the well-know Romano-British villa at Chedworth in the Cotswolds near Cirencester.I have previously worked and published on the Roman period in Britain, again with an emphasis on the later Roman period and the Roman to post-Roman transition. I also have a particular interest in urban archaeology both as a sub-discipline within field archaeology and as an approach to understanding the distinctiveness of towns and of urbanised societies, and collaborated with my colleagues Ray Laurence and Gareth Sears in writing a major work ‘The City in the Roman West c.250 BC – AD 250’ (2011). In addition I have an interest in Roman period numismatics, particularly the identification and interpretation of site-finds.

Other activities

From 2004-09 I was editor of Britannia, the leading journal on Roman Britain. I am currently Chair of the Editorial Committee of the Roman Society, responsible for the Society’s two journals, Britannia and Journal of Roman Studies. I am also a member of the comité scientifique (editorial committee) of Gallia, the major academic journal dealing with Roman Gaul. I also sit on the editorial group for the journal Antiquité Tardive, based in Paris.

Apart from speaking in Britain, in the last couple of years I have been invited to give lectures or seminars in Aarhus, Brussels, Paris, and given papers to conferences in Ann Arbor, Barcelona and Lugo.

I have held a wide range of administrative roles within the University of Birmingham. In 2010-11 I was on Study Leave. This has been partly financed by the National Trust in order to prepare a definitive publication on Chedworth (Glos), one of the few in Britain open to the public, but never properly written up.

I have acted as external examiner (under- and post-graduate) at universities in Britain and France and as consultant to a number of archaeological and related bodies



  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: The Roman West AD 200-500: an archaeological study, Cambridge, 2013, pp. xv + 533, illus. 100
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Chedworth, life in a Roman villa, Stroud, 2013, pp. 192, illus. 99
  • R.Laurence, A.S.Esmonde Cleary, G.M.Sears : The City in the Roman west c.250 BC – AD 250, Cambridge 2011, pp. xiv + 355, illus. 90
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Rome in the Pyrenees: Lugdunum and the Convenae from the first century B.C. to the seventh century A.D., Routledge, London 2007, pp.ix + 171, illus. 41
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary & J.Wood: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges III: Le Rempart de l’Antiquité Tardive de la Ville Haute, Études d’Archéologie Urbaine, Bordeaux 2006, pp. 340, figs. 300, tables 43, fold-outs in separate pocket 8

Papers in refereed journals

  • Fortificación en la Britannia Romana: ¿defensa militar o monumento cívico?, in A.Rodríguez Colmenero & I. Rodá de Llanza eds.: Murallas de Ciudades en el Occidente del Impero Romano: Lucus Augusti como Paradigma, Diputación Provincial de Lugo, Lugo 2007, 155-65
  • R.Sablayrolles, A.S.Esmonde Cleary, J.Wood: Convenae et Consoranni: varies ou fausses jumelles des Pyrénées?, in A.Rodríguez Colmenero & I. Rodá de Llanza eds.: Murallas de Ciudades en el Occidente del Impero Romano: Lucus Augusti como Paradigma, Diputación Provincial de Lugo, Lugo 2007, 169-82
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary & J.Wood: Le Rempart Antique de Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (Haute-Garonne), Gallia 63 (2006), 81-84 Contributions to edited works
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Beating the Bounds: ritual and the articulation of urban space in Roman Britain, in A.MacMahon and J.Price eds.: Roman working Lives and Urban Living, Oxbow Books, Oxford 2005, 1-17
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: The Civitas Capitals of Novempopulana, in A.Ferdière ed.: Capitales Éphémères: des capitales de cités qui perdent leur statut dans l’antiquité tardive, 25e supplément à la Revue Archéologique du Centre de la France, Tours 2004, 183-89 (also Atlas entries on Éauze, Lescar, Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Saint-Girons)
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Britain in the Fourth Century, in M.Todd ed.: A Companion to Roman Britain, Blackwell, Oxford 2003
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Civil Defences in the West under the High Empire, in P.Wilson ed: The Archaeology of Roman Towns: studies in honour of John Wacher, Oxford 2003, 72-85
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Catholic but not Orthodox, Britannia XXXIII (2002), 379-82 Papers in refereed conference proceedings
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary & J.Wood: Le rempart de la “ville haute”, in R.Sablayrolles ed.: Lugdunum des Convènes (Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges/Valcabrère, Haute Garonne): acquis récents de la recherche (1992-2002), Aquitania XVIII (2002), 65-74
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: The Roman Coins, in P.Leach and J.Evans: Excavation of a Romano-British Roadside Settlement in Somerset: Fosse Lane, Shepton Mallet, London 2001, 211-24
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: The countryside of Britain in the fourth and fifth centuries: an archaeology, in P.Ouzoulias et all. Eds.: Les Campagnes de la Gaule a la fin de l'Antiquite, Antibes 2001, 23-43
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Putting the dead in their place: burial location in Roman Britain, in J.Pearce, M.Millett, M.Struck eds.: Burial, Society and Context in the Roman World, Oxford 2001, 127-42 
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: The Roman to Medieval Transition, in S.James and M.Millett eds.: Britons and Romans: advancing an archaeological agenda, Council for British Archaeology Research Report 125, London 2001, 90-97
  • A.S.Esmonde Cleary: Summing Up, in A.Wilmott and P.R.Wilson eds.: The Late Roman Transition in the North, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 299, Oxford 2000, 89-94 


  • Maps Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, Princeton 2001, Map 8 (Britannia Superior) and Map 9 (Britannia Inferior) Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain, 5th edn., London 2001, text, also member of advisory committee
  • Round-Ups

Dictionary/encyclopedia entries

  • Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England
  • Hutchinson Illustrated Encyclopedia of British History
  • Oxford Classical Dictionary/Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization
  • Oxford Companion to British History
  • Coin Reports

Identifications and specialist reports for the following sites:

  • Meole Brace (Salop.)
  • Orton Hall Farm (Cambs.)
  • Rocester (Staffs.)
  • Silchester (Hants.)
  • Wharram Percy (Yorks.)

Exhibition catalogue

  • Co-author: Résidences des Villes et des Campagnes du Gers Antique: domus et villa dans la cite élusate, 2005, 47pp.



  • American Journal of Archaeology
  • Antiquaries Journal
  • Antiquity
  • Bonner Jahrbuch
  • Britannia
  • Classical Review
  • Germania
  • Journal of the British Archaeological Association
  • Journal of Roman Archaeology
  • Journal of Roman Studies
  • Medieval Archaeology

View all publications in research portal