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Urban Centers and Rural Contexts in Late Antiquity

Urban Centers and Rural Contexts in Late Antiquity

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 365
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  • Book Info
    Urban Centers and Rural Contexts in Late Antiquity
    Book Description:

    Recent publications on urbanism and the rural environment in Late Antiquity, most of which explore a single region or narrow chronological niche, have emphasized either textual or archeological evidence. None has attempted the more ambitious task of bringing together the full range of such evidence within a multiregional perspective and around common themes.Urban Centers and Rural Contextsseeks to redress this omission.While ancient literature and the physical remains of cities attest to the power that urban values held over the lives of their inhabitants, the rural areas in which the majority of imperial citizens lived have not been well served by the historical record. Only recently have archeological excavations and integrated field surveys sufficiently enhanced our knowledge of the rural contexts to demonstrate the continuing interdependence of urban centers and rural communities in Late Antiquity. These new data call into question the conventional view that this interdependence progressively declined as a result of governmental crises, invasions, economic dislocation, and the success of Christianization.The essays in this volume require us to abandon the search for a single model of urban and rural change; to reevaluate the cities and towns of the Empire as centers of habitation, rather than archeological museums; and to reconsider the evidence of continuous and pervasive cultural change across the countryside. Deploying a wide range of material as well as literary evidence, the authors provide access not only into the world of élites, but also to the scarcely known lives of those without a voice in the literature, those men and women who worked in the shops, labored in the fields, and humbled themselves before their gods. They bring us closer to the complexity of life in late ancient communities and, in consequence, closer to both urban and rural citizens.

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-898-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Editors and Contributors
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Preface
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. XI-XXVIII)

    AT THE DAWN OF THE GREEK POLIS, THE POET ALCAEUS REMINDED HIS AUDIENCE that cities were “neither made of carefully hewn wood nor of finely dressed stone walls” but of men living inside them free to explore their horizons and defend their values. In late antiquity despite many changes in their physical appearance the heart of every city remained those men and women who lived there. Throughout antiquity especially creative individuals congregated in urban centers, while ordinary people too sought to better their lives in towns. The amenities of the great cities, particularly Rome and other very large urban centers...


    • Difficillima Tempora: Urban Life, Inscriptions, and Mentality in Late Antique Rome
      (pp. 3-24)

      IN HIS FAMOUS DESCRIPTIONS OF ROME WRITTEN IN THE LATE FOURTH CENTURY, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus presented a highly negative picture of the City in his age. He pointed out the decadence of both the senatorial aristocracy and the common people and closed by stating that due to immoral conduct nothing either memorable or serious came to pass at Rome.¹ Some decades later, Salvianus of Massilia could only bear witness to the tragical indifference of the Roman society in face of the danger of a total collapse: “Even in fear of captivity, we play games; frightened of death, we laugh....

    • Autun and the Civitas Aeduorum: Maintaining and Transforming a Regional Identity in Late Antiquity
      (pp. 25-46)

      ONE DAY IN A.D. 312, PERHAPS 31 MARCH, A PROFESSIONAL ORATOR SPEAKING before the Imperial court in Trier, evoked the glorious past and difficult present of his home town, Augustodunum.¹ “Is there anywhere in the whole universe a people more strongly attached to the name of Rome than the Aeduens?” he asks, reminding the Emperor Constantine how in the days of Cicero the Aeduans had been called brothers of the Roman people, how Julius Caesar had first marched into Gaul at their appeal. In the more recent, past the town had paid a bitter price for supporting the legitimate Roman...

    • Alexandria and the Mareotis Region
      (pp. 47-62)

      ON THE 13TH OF JULY, 494, TWO WEALTHY ALEXANDRIANS PAID OFF PART OF A DEBT they owed to a certain Flavius Maximus,scholasticusand advocate in the court ofpraefectus Augustalis.The two debtors were themselves wealthy and powerful men in the city. Flavius Olympiodorus was, like Maximus, an advocate andscholasticus.The other debtor, Flavius Julianus, was anotarius sacri palatiiand held the rank ofclarissimus.The two men lived in different parts of the city: Olympiodorus dwelt near the Great Tetrapylon in the city center, while Julianus’s home was near the former Serapeum. Their debt amounted to...

    • The Case of Late Antique Berytus: Urban Wealth and Rural Sustenance—A Different Economic Dynamic
      (pp. 63-76)

      THE TRADITIONAL VIEW OF THE LATE ROMAN ECONOMY HAS BEEN THAT WEALTH and prestige in Late Antique cities accrued primarily to “leading citizens” who drew on income from agriculture.¹ Jones, Finley, and their successors such as Hopkins and Garnsey,² have asserted that social prestige in the cities was linked to wealth based on the productivity of the land. However, Pleket, in a series of articles, has suggested, ever more strongly, that in certain coastal cities, such as Tyre and Berytus, merchants and artisans dealing in luxury textiles and dyes rose to prominence in the conduct of affairs in theircivitates.³...

    • Urban Space in Caesarea Maritima, Israel
      (pp. 77-110)

      CAESAREA MARITIMA WAS FOUNDED BY HEROD, KING OF JUDAEA, IN 22-10/9 B.C.E. on the site of a deserted Hellenistic coastal town called Straton’s Tower. According to Josephus (War1.408-15;Antiquities15.331-41), Herod founded there an elaborate harbor called Sebastos, and a city with streets laid in a grid pattern. The city, like the harbor, was named after emperor Caesar Augustus, Herod's patron in Rome. In the city Herod erected a temple, which he dedicated to Rome and Augustus, a theater and an amphitheater, a royal palace, market places, dwellings, and an underground sewer system.

      Caesarea served as the main harbor...

    • Byzantine Petra—A Reassessment
      (pp. 111-132)

      The ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan is associated with the Nabataean Arab population that built and inhabited the city. The importance of the city between the second century B.C. and the third century A.D. is attributed to the economics of long distance trade in spices and aromatics between the East and the West, in which the Nabataeans achieved a manifest success. The economic growth in the area and a need for trade-related infrastructure and protection triggered the rise of the Nabataean Kingdom in the first century B.C., with the attendant political and administrative centralization, as well as the...


    • Women and Horses and Power and War
      (pp. 135-146)

      This article was inspired by Hagith Sivan’s evocative reconstruction of the warm relationship between Ausonius and his pupil, Paulinus of Nola, in those convivial days before the latter devoted himself to Christian asceticism. She pictures them both, resident in their country villas, reveling in their mutual correspondence:

      One can nearly visualize these two men lounging in their beautiful gardens on a pleasant evening, eating delicacies, drinking Bordeaux wine and reading aloud poetry.¹

      I have to admit that I found this image at first appealing, but then appalling, as it struck me what an extraordinarily precious pair these two must have...

    • The Interdependence of Town and Country in Late Antique Spain
      (pp. 147-162)

      IN SPEAKING ABOUT TOWN AND COUNTRY IN ROMAN SPAIN, THE TEMPTATION TO descend into polemic is built right into the framework of discussion. The assumption that town and country are perfect opposites is commonplace and instantly polarizes the discourse. Another assumption—that growth in the country of necessity implies decline in the town—has shaped our entire understanding of late Roman Spain. It is nearly impossible to find a study of Spain in late antiquity that is not couched in terms ofruralización,a word that in itself embodies a whole set of assumptions about social decay from a high...

    • Towns, Vici and Villae: Late Roman Military Society on the Frontiers of the Province Valeria
      (pp. 163-184)
      ZS. VISY

      DIOCLETIAN REORGANIZED THE PROVINCES OF THE ENTIRE ROMAN EMPIRE AND their administration: their number increased to almost one hundred and their governmental structure was divided into military and civilian spheres. Out of the two Pannoniae he created four provinces, and his colleague Galerius named the northeastern one after his wife, the daughter of Diocletian, Valeria. The province of Valeria corresponded to what is now the eastern half of the Hungarian territory west of the Danube, its eastern boundary, but its exact western boundary with the province Pannonia Prima is still a matter of discussion. To its the south lay the...

    • Archaeological Perspectives on Rural Settlement in Late Antiquity in the Rhine and Danube Area
      (pp. 185-198)

      THE REGIONS I WANT TO DEAL WITH LIE ALONG THE RHINE-DANUBE LINE AND include the Roman provinces of Germania Inferior and Superior, eastern Belgica, Raetia, and Noricum and the late Roman provinces of Germania Prima and Secunda, Belgica Prima, Maxima Sequanorum, Raetia Prima and Secunda, Noricum Ripense and Mediterraneum respectively.

      Whereas the borders of these provinces were without natural barriers to the west and south-west in the direction of inner Gaul and eastward toward Pannonia, the central and eastern Alps made up a natural border toward south and south-east. The geographic conditions are extraordinarily different in climate, in soil conditions...

    • Peasants as “Makeshift Soldiers for the Occasion”: Sixth-Century Settlement Patterns in the Balkans
      (pp. 199-218)

      THE STUDY OF LATE ANTIQUE CITIES IN THE BALKANS TYPICALLY IS FOCUSED either on textual evidence of public institutional change or on the archaeology of early Christian monuments. The crucial issue of how the urban life ended in the Balkans has often been approached from a rather narrow perspective, in an attempt to link archaeologically observable phenomena with historical narratives, with particular barbarian raids or earthquakes. Historians and archaeologists alike have examined the sixth-century Balkans for evidence confirming or contradicting Procopius’ description of Justinian’s building program (BuildingsIV). Beyond individual cities and forts, however, little attention has been paid to...

    • Town and Countryside in Roman Arabia during Late Antiquity
      (pp. 219-240)

      AS ELSEWHERE IN THE ROMAN WORLD, THE COUNTRYSIDE OF ARABIA HAS BEEN neglected by archaeological enterprises until recently.¹ The former fascination here as elsewhere was with excavations of urban complexes such as the Decapolis cities in the north—Jerash (Gerasa), Philadelphia (Amman), Pella, Umm Qeis (Gadara)—and Petra, Udhruh, Humayma, and ‘Aqaba (Aila) in the south. Civic architecture, temples, churches, and forts have been the priority, despite the fact that Arabia was for all essential purposes a world of villages. This urban myopia has been particularly unfortunate for studies of late antiquity, where it is generally believed there was urban...

    • Rural Society and Economy in Late Roman Cyprus
      (pp. 241-262)

      THE COMPLEX AND VARIED INTERRELATIONS OF TOWN AND COUNTRY ASSUME AN additional dynamic among the islands ofmare nostrum.Physical insularity presents any society with distinct challenges and advantages, which are conditioned by internal resources and locational proximities. Environmental factors, for example, acquire special importance within a confined space, and brief topographic spans can belie vast cultural differences. In the case of Cyprus, the third largest island of the Mediterranean, which lies less than 100 km from the Cilician and Syro-Palestinian coasts, the sea offers both barrier and bridge to contact with the mainland. Despite its geographical diversity, Cyprus today...


    • Pastoral Care: Town and Country in Late-Antique Preaching
      (pp. 265-284)
      E. G. CLARK

      “LET IT BE SAID IN WHAT PLACES THESE PRECEPTS OF GODS WHO TEACH WERE habitually read out and often heard by the people who worship them, in the same way that we point to churches built for that purpose, wherever the Christian religion spreads.”¹

      Augustine, arguing inCity of Godagainst the claim that the gods of Rome had especially blessed the city, pointed to the absence of moral instruction in traditional Roman religion. Mystery cults might teach initiates, but why make morality a mystery? Philosophers did their best, but are only human; and, he could have added, philosophy also...

    • The Continuity of Paganism between the Cities and Countryside of Late Roman Africa
      (pp. 285-300)

      THE IMPETUS FOR THIS ARTICLE IS MY FRUSTRATION WITH THE CONVENTIONAL representation of pagan religion, which continues to inform so many accounts of Christianization in the Roman world. Namely, that “paganism was a mosaic of established religions linked to the political order” which “could be suitably practiced only within the framework of the State, municipal or imperial.”¹ It logically follows from this view, of course, that once the emperors had severed pagan religion from its political context, it was no longer a force to be reckoned with, and as a consequence scholars either ignore or marginalize any “unofficial” expressions of...

    • From Pagan to Christian in Cities of Roman Anatolia during the Fourth and Fifth Centuries
      (pp. 301-322)

      THE SHIFTING RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPES IN ROMAN ANATOLIA DURING THE FOURTH and fifth centuries are but part of a wider story of the Christianization of Asia Minor. I must request the indulgence of archaeologists, as I, a historian and numismatist, shall offer observations on how public buildings, street plans, and shrines were transformed between the first and sixth centuries A.D. A review of the current archaeological record raises significant questions as to changing relationship between cities and their countrysides (the chora), and so the issue as to when and how Christianity might have been received in villages and townships of Anatolia....

    • “. . . Nec sedere in villani.”: Villa-Churches, Rural Piety and the Priscillianist Controversy
      (pp. 323-348)

      WHAT WAS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PRISCILUANISM AND VIILAS? DID PRIS cillianists meet and worship in villas? Archaeologists and historians have both made this suggestion more than once, although never in a rigorous manner, l and perhaps now is the time for a real appraisal of the evidence.

      First, it must be stated that archaeologically, this may be an unanswerable, and indeed, moot question. For how can archaeology uncover heresy? Do certain ceramic profiles or stratigraphic sections reek of heterodoxy? In fact, of Priscillian or Priscillianists, archaeology can tell us nothing. However, recent inquiry has turned to the motivations of Priscillian’s...

    • Christianizing the Syrian Countryside: An Archaeological and Architectural Approach
      (pp. 349-379)

      RECENTLY FRANK TROMBLEY HAS ARGUED THAT “THE CHRLSTLANIZATION OF THE Syrian countryside is of archetypal significance for understanding that process elsewhere,” in part because of “abundantly detailed narrative sources and numerous dated inscriptions which permit analysis down to the village level.”¹ In this article I wish to both endorse and expand upon Trombley’s point by arguing that the process so richly documented in textual and epigraphic sources needs to be supplemented by a careful examination of the extensive standing remains of the region since the built environment of the Syrian countryside is an equally rich and revealing but surprisingly neglected...

  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 380-380)