AIA-3C: Urban Transition in the Italian peninsula and its Islands (Colloquium)

  In-Person   AIA Session   Colloquium


J. Andrew Dufton, Dickinson College; and Max Peers, Joukowsky Institute, Brown University

Overview Statement

The cities and towns of the ancient Mediterranean were not static, but always shapeshifting in response to geopolitical, social, and environmental factors. Modern urban theory has emphasized the importance of change and incompleteness in understanding the underlying dynamics driving urban developments. Unfortunately, a persistent disciplinary tendency to study Mediterranean urbanism in discrete and rigid chronological periods—Greek city-states, Roman imperial cities, Punic colonies, late antique towns—has obscured the considerable dynamism of ancient urban spaces.

This session focuses on urban transition as a lens to understanding the cities of the Italian islands and peninsula. The papers of the session engage with transitions at different spatial scales (e.g., blocks, neighborhoods, regions) and transgress fixed chronological narratives. The first two contributions, “From Hut to Elite Complex: The Transformation of the North Slope of the Palatine in Archaic Rome” and “Tracing Nonlinear Settlement Development and Urbanization in Satricum,” present material from the Archaic period and the early moments of urbanization in Italy. The use of different spatial resolutions—a single neighborhood and an entire settlement, respectively—helps to draw out common observations about this early moment of transformation. The following two papers, “Defining Terms of Culture and Chronology: The Urban Development of ‘Punic-Roman’ Tharros” and “Mechanisms of Urban Transition across Central Adriatic Italy: From Pre-Roman Hilltop Centers to Roman Small Towns,” investigate urban transitions in the Late Republican and Early Imperial periods as cities adapted to the changing needs of the Roman Mediterranean. The fifth paper “Epigraphy and Urban Transitions in Roman Sicily: The Severan Period Reconsidered” brings the discussion into the later Imperial period, questioning a traditional form of evidence for urban periodization and transition. The final paper, “Discoloring Towns: The Perception of Changes and Transformations in Urban Texture and Monumental Apparatus of Late Antique Rome,” looks at the reflection of the Roman Empire’s late antique transitions in the city of Rome itself.

Our aim is to foster dialogue between well-studied moments of change, such as the shift from Roman to late antique, and other examples of more gradual transformation, such as the introduction of new monumental forms, the early urbanization of local communities, or the creation of new colonial settlements. Ultimately, the session will reposition the discourse on cities in the central Mediterranean out of fixed temporal periods and into a framework better equipped to address urban change over the longue durée.