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2 - Archaic Rome Between Latium and Etruria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

M. Torelli
University of Perugia
F. W. Walbank
University of Liverpool
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Rome's geographical position makes her earliest history a very special and exemplary instance of ‘frontier history’: situated on the first ford and easiest landing-place on a large river, the Tiber, which itself formed the natural boundary between ethnic groups differing from one another in language and in their level of social and economic development (the Etruscans, Faliscans, Latins, Sabines and Umbrians), the settlement of Rome was able to benefit from exceptionally easy communications, both with the hinterland and in the direction of the sea, to an extent virtually unequalled in the whole peninsula. The historical traditions concerning the asylum of Romulus, the Latin-Sabine union and the emergence of the Etruscan monarchy (pp. 57f; 91f), whose first representative was said to have had Greek ancestry, are themselves excellent evidence for the effects of this open situation, which influenced the economy, society and culture of the emerging city.

All this has been stressed repeatedly in modern historical research but it is worth noting again here in the specific context of an assessment of the evidence contributed by the archaeological data. As has already been noted (p. 15), this is in fact as scarce for Rome, with her history of successive building over a period of nearly three thousand years, as it is relatively abundant in the neighbouring cities and areas of Etruria and Latium, where it constitutes a valuable tool for reconstructing the phases of social and cultural development between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Republic. However, such a procedure requires that particular caution which is integral to the very process of historical reconstruction from archaeological evidence; for, as A. Momigliano has pointed out in connexion with E. Gjerstad's monumental work, such evidence does not always automatically reflect social structures, ethico-political forms or their various modifications.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1990

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