Rediscovering Roman Malta: Field Report 2023 from the Melite Civitas Romana Project at the Domvs Romana of Rabat (Malta) (20 min)


Davide Tanasi, University of South Florida; David Cardona, Heritage Malta, Malta; Benedict Lowe, University of North Alabama; Robert Brown, Intercontinental Archaeology; and Andrew Wilkinson, Intercontinental Archaeology


In 218 B.C.E. Malta officially enters Roman history after six centuries of absolute Phoenicio-Punic occupation. At the outbreak of the Second Punic War, consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus secures the obedience of the inhabitants of the island. It is in the late Republican period that in the major city of Melite (modern Rabat and Mdina), the most emblematic example of Romanitas emerges, exemplified by the construction of the so-called Domvs Romana; a luxuriously decorated mansion likely connected with a Roman of high rank. The complex and hectic urban development of Melite-Rabat from the postclassical to the contemporary period obliterated or, at best, covered the ruins of the Roman city. Its early phases are essentially represented by the Domvs Romana and its immediate environs, which have been subject to isolated investigations and limited contexts. The importance of the Domvs has become critical for evaluating the impact of Roman culture in the formative period of the newly annexed territory. Since 2019, the site has been at the center of the international collaborative project Melite Civitas Romana, which is reassessing all the evidence related to the site using modern technologies and conducting new archaeological excavations. The 2023 campaign continued excavation in the four areas around the Domvs complex, identified by geophysical prospection and the preliminary investigations of 2019 and 2022. The fieldwork shed new light on the excavations carried out by Themistocles Zammit in 1920–1925 and has provided new preliminary data on the spatial configuration of the urban fabric of Melite, where the Domvs was located, and on the postclassical occupation of this area. The examination of baulks and stratigraphic sections from Zammit’s time, and the discovery of new imposing structures alongside new and untouched contexts has, for the first time, offered a new perspective on the Roman and late Roman history of Melite.