Landscapes of Early Roman Colonization

This project examines the role of Roman non-urban settlements in the formative phase of the Roman empire (c.4th-1st centuries BC).

Both ancient and modern viewers have portrayed Roman colonies as key-factors in the spread of the urban model and are sharply contrasted with the non-urban settlement organization that prevailed in the conquered native areas.Several aspects of this urban, Roman model have been attacked by recent studies however, and it now becomes clear that non-urban settlements and institutions must have played an important role in early Roman expansion and colonization. Understanding how this non-urban settlement organization functioned is a key step for advancing the field.

The projects aim is to contribute to this debate by focusing on clustered rural settlements. To this end, use will be made of the efficient and non-intrusive techniques of intensive field survey, remote sensing and geophysical prospection. The aim is to develop a new conception of early Roman colonization that is not based on the urban model, but on a distinct “multiple-core” settlement organization. This model could shed a different light on the traditional notion of Roman colonies as key-factors in the urbanization and “romanization” of the conquered territories. In particular, it presupposes different mechanisms of cultural change by fragmenting the traditional monolithic city-state model and de-centering urban centers as loci of cultural development.

The proposed model not only breaks down the present dichotomy between “Roman-urban” and “native-non-urban” models, but by suggesting a different trajectory of Roman expansion it may ultimately stimulate us to rethink the common association of Roman imperial success with urbanism.

Research team:
Tesse Stek, Leiden University – Project director
Jeremia Pelgrom, KNIR – Project director
Emily Modrall,  Leiden University – postdoc
Gianluca Cantoro, Leiden University – postdoc
Anita Casarotto, Leiden University – Phd candidate
Rogier Kalkers, Leiden University – research assistant

Affiliated researchers:
Sheila Cherubini, Università degli Studi di Roma ‘La Sapienza’
Helga di Guiseppe, casa editrice Scienze e Lettere
Lucia Lecce, scuola di Specializzazione in Archeologia di Matera
Maria Luisa Marchi, Università degli Studi di Foggia
Jitte Waagen, Amsterdam University

Funding and involved institutes:
NWO (Free Competition Humanities)
Leiden University
Archaeological Service of Molise
Archaeological Service of Basilicata
Università Foggia