Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Rebecca J. Sweetman (ed.), Roman Colonies in the First Century of their Foundation. Oxford; Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2011. Pp. vii, 159. ISBN 9781842179741. $70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Christopher J. Dart, The University of Melbourne (cdart@unimelb.edu.au)

Version at BMCR home site

The volume, deriving from a conference held at the University of St. Andrews in September of 2007, approaches the topic of "Romanization" from the perspective of the colony rather than from the "top-down," investigating questions of identity and the relationships that individual Roman colonies had with both their surrounding communities and the broader empire. It consists of eight central chapters (2 to 9) examining the development of Roman colonies over a period of a century or more after their foundation. Both the scope of the individual chapters and the approaches employed are quite diverse; some looking at particular classes of evidence or very specific topics, others more generally studying the development of colonies in a particular region. Most of the chapters include illustrations, photographs and/or maps that are well-chosen and enhance the text. These chapters are supplemented by an introductory study to the volume by editor, Rebecca Sweetman (chapter 1), which identifies a number of historical problems and common themes that run throughout the chapters, and a concluding discussion by Greg Woolf (chapter 10), which more broadly discusses the nature of Roman colonisation.

In chapter 2 Kalle Korhonen surveys the epigraphic landscape of a number of communities in Sicily, not all of them colonies; in particular the cities of Panormus (Palermo), Catina (Catania), Thermae (Termini), Tyndaris (Tindari) and Syracusae (Siracusa) as well as communities such as Messana and Lipari. The chapter draws on several centuries of epigraphic material, from the later part of the first century BCE when colonies were established by the Romans at a number of these sites through to the second and third centuries CE. While arguing for what is termed "fairly stable and widespread bilingualism" (p. 21) in Sicily, it presents convincing evidence for different linguistic realities from one colony to the next, with much wider continued use of Greek than Latin in some.

A distinctly different approach is employed in chapter 3 by Jonathon Edmondson, who investigates the settlement of Augusta Emerita in Lusitania in detail. As its name betrays, the community was a veteran colony, established under Augustus following the campaigns which he oversaw on the Iberian Peninsula in the 20s BCE. The chapter traces the impact of the colony on its surrounding region up until the end of the first century CE, and uses the neighbouring pre-existing colonies of Norba Caesarina (70 km to the north) and Metellinum (30km up river to the east) as exemplars. Edmondson illustrates the ways in which Emerita developed as a regional capital and as a focal point for local elites in surrounding communities.

In chapter 4 Alicia Jiménez and José Carrillo investigate the colony of Corduba (later re-founded as Colonia Patricia). The exact circumstances and date of the colony's first foundation are uncertain, although it is likely to have been established in the first half of the second century BCE. Similarly, its civic status is debatable. Jiménez and Carrillo discuss the extent to which colonies and in particular, those set-up to act as regional/provincial capitals, were overt emulations of the city of Rome. The authors find that Corduba/Colonia Patricia is an example of "both state planning and a long term process carried out by its inhabitants" (p. 67).

Paul Scotton in chapter 5 investigates building activity in the Roman forum at Corinth and the development of the imperial cult in the city. The chapter tracks the progressive reconstruction of the city's agora as a forum, which occurred only several decades after colonisation. Scotton uses this as a mark of local identity and argues that the very visible construction in the area of the forum late in the Augustan era was connected with the city courting imperial favour and the return of the Isthmian Games to Corinthian control.

In chapter 6, Inge Hansen studies the interesting example of Buthrotum (Butrint) in Epirus. The colony is particularly notable for its two foundations, once around 44 BCE and a second under Augustus, and for the prominent patrons of the city. Hansen uses numismatic evidence to argue that the re-foundation of the colony under Augustus and subsequent investment in local infrastructure created new opportunities for patronage.

William Bowden in chapter 7 investigates the colonies of Epirus, surveying and comparing the colony at Buthrotum and the Augustan foundation of Nikopolis. Here, the different origins of these cities (one imposed upon an existing community, the other a newly created community) are found to result, in many respects, in similar outcomes (p. 110-113); in particular, the impact upon the social and economic basis of both regions caused by changes in local land ownership, land division and re- distribution is highlighted.

Martha Baldwin Bowsky in chapter 8 investigates Roman Knossos and the cities of Crete. As with many of the other colonies discussed in the volume, Knossos was established as a colony around 27 BCE. The chapter uses as its primary focus stamped Italian sigillata as a measure of identity that "like language choice, give voice to an otherwise silent century, during which residents of the colony set the table like Romans, even if they did not speak Latin at the dinner table" (p. 117). She finds that the island's position on the Mediterranean trade routes (and not ties that the island had with Campania) explain the early popularity of Italian wares after colonisation, and indeed, suggests that the island underwent what the chapter terms 'normalisation' over time, as distinct from 'Romanisation'.

In chapter 9, Andrea De Giorgi studies the colonies of Pisidia. Here a more general discussion of the nature of the colonies and their relationship with the region is possible, in part due to the richness of evidence, particularly for Pisidian Antioch (pp.137f). As with both chapters 3 and 4 the study of the colony becomes a means for viewing its broader impact upon the entire region. De Giorgi references several centuries of the history of the colonies in question, as their role within the broader region changed. The colonies merging with existing Greek and also Phrygian communities, is a consistent theme here, in the process finding comparable phenomena to those identified in other chapters (particularly 2 and 8).

In the concluding chapter Greg Wolff seeks to contextualise the process of Roman colonisation, discussing both the specific case studies presented in the volume and other papers presented at the same 2007 conference. The chapter also surveys patterns of colonisation in the Roman world. In so doing, Woolf both concludes the volume and highlights the diversity of other issues outside the focus of the central chapters.

The overarching concept of the volume is well conceived and offers valuable conclusions. An obvious limitation of this volume, however, is the range of colonies investigated. Though they were established in different contexts and for a range of purposes, they are located in a particular part of the Empire, primarily in regions that became public provinces under Augustus. Large sections of the Roman world are not covered by any of the chapters (conspicuously the colonies in Gaul or North Africa) whilst colonies founded before or after Augustus' lifetime are also in the main left undiscussed.

These issues aside, the volume possesses many commendable features. The chapters employ distinctly different approaches, utilise different types of evidence, and discuss different means of communities expressing identity. The authors acknowledge each Roman colony as a unique community and many of the chapters elegantly illustrate, within the restrictions imposed by their evidence, the differences and similarities in the evolution of colonies.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: 100 years of Solitude: Colonies in the first century of their foundation (R. Sweetman)
2. Language and Identity in the Roman Colonies of Sicily (K. Korhonen)
3. "A Tale of Two Colonies: Augusta Emerita (Mérida) and Metellinum (Medellín) in Roman Lusitania" (J. Edmonson)
4. Corduba/Colonia Patricia: the colony that was founded twice (A. Jiménez and J. Carrillo)
5. Imperial cult and imperial reconciliation (P. Scotton)
6. Between Atticus and Aeneas: the making of a colonial elite at Roman Butrint (I. Hansen)
7. "Alien settlers consisting of Romans": identity and built environment in the Julio-Claudian foundations of Epirus in the century after Actium (W. Bowden)
8. Colonia Iulia Nobilis Cnosus, the first 100 years: the evidence of Italian sigillata stamps (M. Baldwin Bowsky)
9. Colonial space and the city: Augustus' geopolitics in Pisidia (A. De Giorgi)
10. Afterword: catastrophe and aftermath (G. Woolf)

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