Cities of the Ancient Mediterranean

Robin Osborne and Andrew Wallace‐Hadrill

in The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199589531
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Cities of the Ancient Mediterranean


This article shows that many different ways of inhabiting the city were already developed in antiquity and uncovers some of the basic tensions between (economic and other) dependence and independence that meant that cities always required, but often also disowned, broader networks. It begins with a discussion of the peculiar character of the ancient Mediterranean city. It then shows how the history of the Mediterranean city in antiquity is a history of the formation and exploitation of networks of cities, and of competition between differently organized networks. It explores something of the variety of different cities that are developed to play specialist parts within these networks. While acknowledging that relatively densely populated and large communities always demand some political organization and depend upon a larger economic network, it emphasizes that neither politics nor the economy are necessarily the primary motivations for urbanization. It identifies ways in which cities are used by groups with very limited political or economic power.

Keywords: ancient Mediterranean cities; ancient cities; antiquity; economic network; political organization; urbanization

Article.  8505 words. 

Subjects: History ; World History

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