Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.8.16

Andrew T. Fear, Rome and Baetica: Urbanization in Southern Spain c. 50 BC-AD 150. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. 292. $70.00. ISBN 0-19-81-5027-X.

Reviewed by Robert C. Knapp, Classics, University of California, Berkeley,

This work, a revision of Fear's Oxford dissertation of 1991, takes on the daunting task of synthesizing work on the Romanization of southern Spain and fitting it into a methodological framework which makes it understandable. The approach is therefore twofold: first, F. develops an overall model regarding the process of Romanization; then, he amasses archaeological and text-based material to support his model. Since urbanization was recognized by ancients as well as moderns as the basic marker of civilization, it is the development of towns and town-based life that F. has determined to be the venue in which to measure and assess the cultural change he is concerned with, that from native or Punic-based ways of life to Roman.

The model which inspires F. comes from anthropological studies of cultural transmission and assimilation. Horvath is discussed early on as a modeler who breaks down the process into a six-fold description.1 He thinks in terms of an outside power taking over an area and then engaging it with settlement (which he calls "colonialism") or simple domination (which he calls "imperialism"); within each of these categories are sub-categories which assume extermination, assimilation, or equilibrium with the conquered people (p. 3-4). While F. sets out doubts about the over-all applicability of this model to southern Spain in Roman times, he refers frequently to the model throughout the book. His main doubts involve the overly "simplistic" nature of the model: whatever assimilation takes place, it is going to be mediated by such variables as geographical exigencies, the spectrum of response to the ruling power by various racial and social groups, and the economic potential of those groups. In discussions which follow this nuancing is always present, warning us to beware of over-arching explanations and broadly generalized theses. What emerges (and what is emphasized numerous times in the course of the study) is that southern Spain is not unitary racially, socially, economically, ethically, religiously, geographically, or in any way at all, and that all these variables act differently in different time periods. Therefore, the analysis always breaks down into discussion of how certain groups or areas were affected by the Roman presence at certain times. In its most recurring mode, this analysis breaks the area into three geographical parts: the uplands north of the Baetis (Guadalquivir) river, the riverine areas of the Baetis and its major tributary, and the uplands south of the Baetis extending to the Mediterranean coast. It also breaks the area into three indigenous (or at any rate, pre-Roman) cultural (i.e., racial/ethnic/linguistic/religious) areas which roughly correspond to these geographical areas: Celts in the north, Iberians in the riverine, descendants of the Phoenician settlers (Blastophoenicians) in the south. Political and economic state follows the paradigm as well: the northern and southern uplands peoples are at a lower level of urban and agrico-exploitative development, while the riverine and coastal areas have customs more like those of Roman Italy. As this division is referred to again and again to describe the differing response to the Roman presence, F. uses it to emphasize how disparate the response was, and so how difficult it is to fit that response into Horvath's model. In the course of the discourse, F. proposes an alternative to Horvath's model. This is what Galsterer2 calls interpretatio peregrina (a term adopted widely by F.) and Ortiz3 calls "transculturation." The basic concept is that only a model which sees indigenous-Roman contact in a dynamic, give-and-take perspective can provide anything like full understanding of the widely varying response to the Roman presence. According to this view, indigenous peoples faced with the fact of the Roman presence were adoptive of Roman ways and retentive of their own at the same time, according to economic ability, previous social and political development, etc. The result is a blend of foreign and native, local and exotic into a new synthesis (summation, p. 275-276).

F. pours extensive energy into the development of this model of transculturation. The bulk of the work (chapters 3-7, p. 31-226) deals with the analysis of the text-based and physical record in a way which supports his model. He takes as his chronological framework the end of the Republic to the end of the Flavian period, very roughly 50 BC to 100 AD. His chapter titles tell the tale: 3. The State of Southern Spain in c. 50 BC; 4. The Coloniae of Baetica; 5. From Caesar to Vespasian: Problems of City Status; 6. The Flavian Municipal Law; 7. The Physical Remains of Baetican Towns and their Interpretation. Bracketing these are chapters 1. Introduction; 2. Urbanization and Rome: An Overview; 8. The Survival of Non-Roman Cultural Forms in Baetica; and 9. Conclusions. I would like to discuss the model, the evidence, and, finally, technical aspects of the book.

The originality of F.'s thesis depends upon his premise that the communis opinio regarding Romanization is a model of Rome imposing her way of life on conquered peoples with intentionality and a clearly stated ideological buttressing: this is the opponent he has chosen to tilt against. In the extensive discussions of specific evidence F. never denies that pre-existing peoples took over Roman ways even though the degree and speed with which this happened varied greatly from place to place and time to time. The element of the equation which is scrutinized in case after case is whether the Romans overtly intended to convert the natives; the answer is always a "no" (e.g., F. explicitly refers to the nineteenth century imperial habit of imposing "civilization" on the natives as a paradigm the Romans did not follow [p. 13 ff.]). The picture of acculturation which emerges is, then, one of non-overtly coerced adjustment to Roman ways on the part of the natives. In support of the idea that the current model is, in effect, the model of nineteenth century British imperialism, F. can cite few examples: he notes E.J. Owens (1989)4 who indeed, in a passing remark, implies without discussion the assumption that Romans overtly founded towns to assist Romanization, but other examples are sparse. The next most recent (and perhaps only other) cited is Harmand in 1960 (p. 13);5 Owens and Harmand are taken to be representative of a communis opinio that Romans overtly encouraged Romanization in a manner familiar from nineteenth century imperialism (p. 14). While this picture of Romans directing natives to throw off the rags of savagery and assume the mantle of civilization may still exist in the popular mind and popular press (and even that is doubtful), certainly much scholarship has for quite some time not taken this approach to Roman-native interaction. Veyne's recent treatment of humanitas, while perhaps too recent to be included in F.'s thinking, is illustrative: "The central power did not seek to Romanize: even if it had wanted to do so, how could it have gone about it? The provincials spontaneously Romanized themselves, and the central power applauded the process and gave its juridical sanction to the formation of new towns. The city had always been considered the natural setting for civilized living.... The civilization in question ... penetrated with varying degrees of depth according to the region and social class..."6 In English language treatments, Keay in 19887 and Curchin in 19918 both assert the thesis F. treats as new; even Haverfield in 1926,9 in a generally "nineteenth century" approach, notes many of the same themes. In short, although examples can be found of scholars assuming intentionality and ideology behind active Romanization of provincials, that is not the model generally assumed as correct today, or even for most of the century. What F. does do is to show in varied detail that the assumption is correct in the specific case of southern Spain and with specific reference to a major component of Romanization, urbanization. He also adopts for the process a useful name, "transculturation," by which we can easily encapsulate the communis opinio.

However, the dichotomy of "intentionality" and "non-intentionality" to which F. refers frequently is perhaps drawn too strongly; e.g., at p. 21 it seems that only if Roman town foundation/encouragement can be shown to be the main goal of the Romans, not just one goal, can intentionality be confirmed. For example, he recognizes bringing peace to subjected peoples is the Roman ideology "rather than bringing civilization," but admits that this peace made "creation of towns easier," while it is "very much left to the 'pacified' themselves" (p. 21). But, would towns have developed as they did in the absence of the Roman peace? Was not the connection between the Roman presence concomitant with that peace the catalyst? Did not the Roman peace create the environment which made the choice of urbanization easy and natural, at least in geographical areas suited to it? Overt intentionality is indeed lacking -- but implicitly surely everything about the Roman presence in Baetica urged the existing population to move towards its established ideas of humanitas. Postmodern thought has taught us to be suspect of dismissing as unimportant what is not overtly intentional in human actions; results often occur that can be seen as "intentional," but without the conscious statement of that intention by the doer. Given the basic approach of the Romans, which F. subscribes to -- i.e., conquest, pacification, collection of tribute, and demand for adherence to Roman desiderata -- and the fact that cooperation with the Romans was self-evidently in the best interests of the conquered once aspirations to libertas were once and for all dead and buried, what other direction lay open to the non-urbanized, but potentially urbanizable, areas of the Empire? Roman "intention" was to maintain their (conquerors') position; from that all else flows. Indeed, F. recognizes the strong impetus for natives to adopt Romans ways: fiscal demands of the state; personal benefits for aping Romans (p. 28).

F. also engages in special pleading to dismiss statements in Tacitus, Dio (p. 22), and Strabo (p. 36) that at least some viewed Roman actions as overtly thought of as at least partially intended to Romanize natives; the one case, Pliny, which cannot be argued away is simply dismissed as aberrant (p. 22-23). Again, the problem is not that the basic thesis is incorrect (surely most Romans took it for granted that natives would want to ape their ways, so no consciously intentional conversion was necessary); it is just that the dichotomy is drawn too narrowly. The notice of F. (p. 28) is salutary: "It is not clear whether these benefits were held out as such by Rome, or were just seen, or merely perceived, to exist by potential urbanizers." This is precisely correct, and why a strict dichotomy between "intentionality" and laissez faire is not terribly fruitful.

The material which F. assembles is indeed impressive. He has combed the evidence and assembled it in a very systematic and easily understood manner. I will offer specific thoughts on some individual points in a moment; for now it is important to note that the one flaw in F.'s treatment is that it is not very up-to-date. While this may not affect the use of text-based evidence so much, it is a serious problem when it comes to the archaeological evidence. In the chapter on physical remains, especially, there are less than a dozen references to material published between 1985 and 1991, and only a half-dozen items since 1987 (many unrelated to archaeological finds in Spain per se), the account does not take into consideration the considerable results of a much more organized attempt on the part of the Junta de Andalucía to accumulate archaeological data, and the ever accelerating pace of publication of that data. There are many other examples of recent discoveries which provide similarly useful material, but in the notes and bibliography there is little indication that systematic use has been made of epigraphic discoveries, for instance: almost all epigraphic citations are to the standard collections of CIL (1892) and ILER (1971) and do not seem to take much into account all the publications of new material (except the town charters) which has taken place in the last decade or so. This situation is presumably the result of turning a dissertation submitted in 1991 into a book in 1996, but still an opportunity to present more complete material to an English-speaking audience has been missed.

I offer some specific comments on details which may be skipped by all but the few souls deeply interested in Romans in southern Spain:

front: Map 2 is from L.A. Curchin's dissertation (Ottawa 1981), but the publication of that thesis, revised, as The Local Magistrates of Republican Spain (Toronto, 1990) is not noted in the bibliography, although it is very important for the understanding of the Romanization of the élite.

p. 4. F. dates Punic settlement from the period of Barcid "rule"; later (p. 228) he cites Appian Ib. 56 as evidence that 30,000 Africans were settled by the Barcids in Spain. Ib. 56 makes no mention of such a number, and I am otherwise unfamiliar with it. The more usual interpretation of Punic influence is that settlement itself was limited to a few towns on the coast, and that other influence was cultural, not settlemental.

p. 24. Information on Asturica Augusta is substantially more in support of the urbs magnifica than indicated here.10

p. 38 and passim: the discussion of Corduba (in which I have, admittedly, a somewhat personal interest) neglects some important possibilities, such as that it was a Latin colony at its foundation (cf. Carteia, founded only a decade earlier). The presence of two tribes, the Sergia and the Galeria, is not here or elsewhere addressed as evidence for change of status. The temple on the avenue Claudio Marcello is erroneously placed outside the walls. Recent archaeology by Marcos, Vicent, Ventura Villanuerva, and epigraphic and synthesizing work by Stylow are not noted, although they may have been consulted.

p. 39: The location of Brutobriga seems generally agreed to have been at the Ermita de Nuestra Senora de Bótoa, near Badajoz.11

p. 39, 70: The debate about the foundation of Illiturgi is elided. Wiegels' work12 strongly questions the genuineness of the deductor inscription upon which foundation by Ti. Sempronius Gracchus is based. Indeed, the word deductor, which F. then uses as a general term, is apparently not classical at all.

p. 54-55: The arguments against significant immigration to Spain by Romans/Italians for business, mining, or agricultural reasons are perhaps overstated. Here, e.g., F. makes the case against the "draw" of Spanish land for agrarian immigration, but on p. 80 he notes (surely correctly) that "much of the land was extremely fertile and hence ideal for settlement."

p. 57: The idea that Iberian denarii were minted to be handed over to Roman troops is far from certain, despite the imprimatur of Crawford, which F. accepts without discussion of alternative explanations.

The explanation of why the bronze of the south were minted (p. 60) seems implausible to me. The whole discussion of the native coinages needs to be used with caution.

p. 73-75: The topic of centuriation in the south is much discussed. In general, there is little agreement on specific examples, although no one doubts that it must have been extensive. In particular, the work of Corzo (not cited by F.) is highly suspect in this regard, but even the centuriations supposed by Sillières and Ponsich have not gained anything like universal assent. Unfortunately, centuriation is all to often in the eye of the beholder. See now E. Haley, "The Land as Map: Problems of Land Division in Baetica" (1996) for a useful summary of the state of the issues and evidence, and previous bibliography.13

p. 104: Tarraco is treated as a "Roman" name as opposed to the native town, Salduba. Although Tarraco was a Roman town, the name itself is surely as non-native as is Salduba.

p. 164: F. offers an elaborate description of interpretatio peregrina as it affected the implementation of the Flavian charters. He holds that more isolated towns would just carry on, no matter what was in the Flavian charters. I find this dubious. What, for example, happens when appeal is made to a higher authority if Roman procedures have not been followed? As F. sees it, these would have to be conducted by Roman law. F.'s whole construct, while possibly correct, does not have any explicit evidence from antiquity to support it, that I can see, except perhaps the conubium letter appended to the lex irnitana (p. 165). It seems just as likely that the ruling class saw a new source of power in controlling the necessary knowledge of Roman law and procedures, and moved quickly to implement it.

p. 170-212: This catalogue of archaeological material is thorough and sound, but dated, and without sufficient bibliographic citation to allow an interested scholar to follow up on material presented. It should not be used (and presumably was not intended) as a definitive treatment of the state of the archaeology of the province.

p. 229: F. seems unaware that there is no evidence for a Greek settlement at Malaca. The recent work by Rouillard14 might be consulted.

p. 238: The evidence of Avienus, which must be used with extreme caution, is accepted without comment.

All this is not to say that F. does not offer much solid information and interpretations. The summary of material from the town charters is thorough and insightful (p. 105-169); there is a nice discussion of incolae (p. 93-94), and the treatment of Punic material, showing widespread remnants, is exemplary (p. 228-250). The treatment of different geographical areas as different culturally is also salutary. Finally, the emphasis that acculturation is a complex process, and a "two-way street", emphasizes a very generally useful approach for adding to our understanding of the interaction of natives and Romans in southern Spain.

With regard to technical aspects of the book, several deficiencies might to be pointed out. First and foremost, the Spanish bibliography is filled with errors of accentuation; at times, names of Spanish scholars (e.g., Presedo Vela, not Presado Vela) are misspelled. These deficiencies extend throughout the book: text, footnotes, and bibliography. There are also names of books left unitalicized (e.g., p. 69 n. 33), English words wrongly italicized (p. 271); and typos (e.g., insciption p. 108; Ceán Bermúdez 1932 p. 183 n. 43 -- correctly as 1832 p. 261 n. 188). While this might be understandable in some venues, in a book published by Oxford University Press it seems a bit surprising. Also, the selection made in the bibliography is quite lacunar. Under "general works," for example, the work by Syme, Badian, Dyson and Knapp15 on the interpretation of prosopography for cultural and political purposes is missing. In the "works on the Iberian Peninsula" section much is absent: Evan Haley's book on alieni in Spain,16 Weinrib on Spaniards in Rome,17 etc., in English; Ponsich, Le Roux, Sillières, and Rouillard on Belo and larger issues;18 Stylow's extensive publications of inscriptions;19 Rodríguez Neila on municipal life,20 Chic García's more recent work on amphorae and trade, Caballos Rufino on Romanization -- many more could be listed.21 In the entire bibliography, although the most recent item is 1995, there is only one item from that year and only two from 1993-1994; a very high proportion is, in fact, before 1990.

In sum, F. has produced an impressive compilation of material and has marshaled it to support and illustrate in detail a thesis of non-intentionality in the Romanization process in southern Spain. While the thesis is not novel, the assemblage of evidence, even though somewhat dated, shows us very well how it played itself out in southern Spain, and certainly must convince us that it is, broadly speaking, true.


1. R.J. Horvath, "A Definition of Colonialism," Current Anthropology 13 (1972), 45ff.

2. H. Galsterer, Untersuchungen zum römischen Städtewesen auf der iberischen Halbinsel, suppl. Madrider Mitteilungen (Berlin, 1971).

3. F. Ortiz, Contrapunteo cubano entre tabaco y el azúcar (1963), not cited in the bibliography and first referred to p. 250 n. 129.

4. E.J. Owens, "Roman Town Planning," in I.M. Barton (ed.), Roman Public Buildings (Exeter, 1989): 7-30, p. 7.

5. L. Harmand, L'Occident romain (Paris, 1960).

6. Paul Veyne, "Humanitas: Romans and Non-Romans," in A. Giardina, ed., The Romans (Chicago, 1993; originally published in Italian, 1989), p. 365.

7. S. J. Keay, Roman Spain (Berkeley & London, 1988), e.g., p. 72: "The inhabitants of pre-Roman Spain and Portugal had their own beliefs and customs; Rome never sought to impose her own values on these peoples. Hispano-Roman society was, in many ways, the result of a self-generated fusion of Roman and native. It came about, above all, through the involvement of the native landed aristocracy in the Roman system of self-government in the towns and their eventual participation in all the other social and political opportunities which the empire offered. This was not, however, an even process..."; this might serve as a summary of F.'s conclusions.

8. L.R. Curchin, Roman Spain: Conquest and Assimilation (London, 1991), e.g., p. 55: "Assimilation, acculturation, romanisation... Though different historians have their own preferred word (and may pretend, by using one in preference to another, that their approach has greater sociological or anthropological validity), all these expressions refer to the same process, whereby the behavior, customs and lifestyles of the conquered population gradually became compatible with and, in the ideal model, indistinguishable from those of the conqueror. None of these terms necessarily implies that this metamorphosis was, on the one hand, part of a deliberate policy of the conqueror, or, on the other, a voluntary imitation of a more advanced culture by a less sophisticated one, though 'romanisation' is used by some writers in the former sense. In reality, the process, by whatever name we call it, requires the participation of both conqueror and conquered, though the proportion and results of their involvement may vary. The degree of variation is most evident in the different regional 'patterns' of romanisation found in the Iberian peninsula."

9. Romanization of Roman Britain (4th ed. 1926; second ed. 1912; I did not check to see the phraseology of the first edition here) p. 14: "The advance of this Romanization followed manifold lines. Much was due to official encouragement by statesmen who cherished the ideal of assimilating the provinces or who recognized more cynically that civilized men are easier ruled than savages [here F. would see the model he opposes]. More, perhaps, was spontaneous. The definite and coherent culture of Rome took hold on uncivilized but intelligent provincials and planted in them the wish to learn its language and share its benefits. And this was all the keener since Roman tolerance drove no one into uniformity. The compulsion to accept another speech and another nationality ... was no part of Roman policy. Rome made her culture more attractive by not thrusting it upon her subjects."

10. C. Fernández Ochoa, "The Hispano-Roman Town in the Northern Territories of the Iberian Peninsula," in M. Bendala Galán, ed., The Hispano-Roman Town (Madrid, 1993?) p. 227-231. This collection of summaries includes up-to-date bibliographies on many sites.

11. A. Tovar 1974 222; see now the Tabula Imperii Romani sheet J-29 (Madrid 1996) s.v.

12. R. Wiegels, "Iliturgi und der 'deductor' Ti. Sempronius Gracchus," Madrider Mitteilungen 23 (1982): 152-211.

13. E. W. Haley, "The Land as Map: Problems of Roman Land Division in Baetica," in R.C. Knapp, ed., Mapping Ancient Iberia: Progress and Perspectives, The Classical Bulletin 72 (1996): 19-28 and bibliography p. 59-64.

14. P. Rouillard, Les Grecs et la péninsule ibérique du VIIIe au IVe siècle avant Jésus-Christ (Paris, 1991).

15. R.C. Knapp, "The Origins of Provincial Prosopography in the West, "Ancient Society 9 (1978): 187-222 and S.L. Dyson, "The Distribution of Roman Republican Family Names in the Iberian Peninsula," Ancient Society 11-12 (1980-81): 257-299, both with previous bibliography.

16. E. W. Haley, Migration and Economy in Roman Imperial Spain (Barcelona, 1991).

17. E.J. Weinrib, The Spaniards in Rome: from Marius to Domitian (New York, 1990).

18. Especially, but probably too late for F.'s consideration, P. Le Roux, Romains d'Espagne: Cités & politiques dans les province, IIe siècle av. J.-C. - IIIe siècle ap. J.-C. (Paris, 1995).

19. Now summarized and referred to in the re-edition of volume two of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum for the coventus Cordubensis (conventus Astigitanus to appear very soon).

20. J.F. Rodríguez Neila, e.g., Sociedad y administración local en la Bética romana (Córdoba 1981).

21. Recent work including A. Caballos Rufino, Los senadores hispanorromanos y la romanización de Hispania (siglos I-III) (Ecija 1990), G. Chic García, Epigrafía anfórica de la Bética (Ecija, 1988), and other works by these scholars.