Henry Hurst

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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  • Classical Studies
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology
  • Ancient Roman History


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The idea of classifying archaeology as a ‘tool’ alongside prosopography, metre, and numismatics, while ‘culture change’, ‘urbanism’, and ‘fall and transitions’ are classified under ‘history’, is provocative to any archaeologist. Romanisation – a topic that has been prominent in the English-speaking literature of the last two decades – seems to involve an implicit rather than an explicit synthesis of archaeology and history. An archaeology of urbanism in the Roman Empire will highlight the hugely varied nature of what we might class as Roman cities and bring us up against problems of functional definition, and it will document the dynamism of life in these places in all its varied forms and illuminate accompanying phenomena in vivid detail. It will also give us images of living and dead city inhabitants and their lifestyles; it will tell us about both poor and rich – in an unstructured way. An archaeology of urbanism will produce a great deal of information that reflects at one remove social structures and social organisation, while yielding little statistical information which can be converted straightforwardly into sociological data.

Keywords: Roman Empire; archaeology; history; urbanism; Romanisation; dynamism; social structures; social organisation

Article.  6705 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Greek and Roman Archaeology ; Ancient Roman History

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