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This is the first book to arise from an
interdisciplinary initiative, the Roman
Mediterranean Ports project, which seeks a holistic
understanding of early Imperial ports by addressing
a range of key questions relating to their
character, organization and roles.1 The
geographical centrality of the Mediterranean to the
Roman Empire, which was without precedent and has
not been matched subsequently, helped enable its
political integrity for well over 400 years. By the
early first century AD, Rome had come to dominate
all of the shores surrounding the Mediterranean,
transforming its constituent seas into a unique
maritime space. Interconnected commercial networks
criss-crossed its many islands and micro-regions,
enabling provincial communities to maintain intense
commercial relationships with Rome at the centre of
the mare nostrum,
although debates continue to rage over their scale
and the nature of their
In this book, an international team of experts draws upon a rich range of Latin and Greek texts to explore the roles played by individuals at ports in activities and institutions that were central to the maritime commerce of the Roman Mediterranean. In particular, they focus upon some of the interpretative issues that arise in dealing with this kind of epigraphic evidence, the archaeological contexts of the texts, social institutions and social groups in ports, legal issues relating to harbours, case studies relating to specific ports, and mercantile connections and shippers. While much attention is inevitably focused upon the richer epigraphic collections of Ostia and Ephesos, the papers draw upon inscriptions from a very wide range of ports across the Mediterranean. The volume will be invaluable for all scholars and students of Roman history.
One question that arises from a study of ports is
whether or not there existed a pattern of port
societies. A Roman port society means the
individuals and groups who together with various
levels of administration made port life real, as
well as their relationships and the rules of the
social game. Using the plural presupposes that these
could vary through time and space. Ports were not
simply an administrative machine whose details still
puzzle us. They were also cosmopolitan places
devoted to profit that involved a complex set of
professions and people of various origins and social
status, with various patterns of organization and
networking (citizenship, language, religion, guilds,
personal patronage, family in its wider sense), who
were able to combine in a great variety of ways. At
this point one wonders whether there was a pattern
of society that was common to ports across the
Empire as a whole. Were there several patterns that
could help us better understand or identify port
hierarchies and the organization and layout of
The ‘Portus Project’ investigates the social and economic contexts of the maritime port of Imperial Rome. This article presents the results of analysis of plant, animal and human remains from the site, and evaluates their significance for the reconstruction of the diets and geographic origins of its inhabitants between the second and sixth centuries AD. Integrating this evidence with other material from the recent excavations, including ceramic data, the authors identify clear diachronic shifts in imported foods and diet that relate to the commercial and political changes following the breakdown of Roman control of the Mediterranean.
This gazette presents to the reader outside Rome news of recent archaeological activity (primarily in 2017, but also in the first half of 2018) gleaned from public lectures, conferences, exhibitions and newspaper reports.