Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.01.20

Lothar Wierschowski, Die regionale Mobilität in Gallien nach den Inschriften des 1. bis 3. Jahrhunderts n. Chr.: Quantitative Studien zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte der westlichen Provinzen des römischen Reiches. Historia Einzelschriften 91.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995.  Pp. 400.  ISBN 3-515-06720-5.  DM 144.  

Reviewed by Hans-Friedrich Mueller, The Florida State University (
Word count: 2817 words

"Are you a merchant or a pirate?" People have indeed been on the move for along time, and it is hardly surprising that migration should prove an attractive topic in our own century of dislocation and global trade. W. places his book squarely in the context of such concerns, specifically in Germany where the Stuttgarter Arbeitskreis Historische Migrationsforschung has set itself the task of investigating human migration worldwide from antiquity to the present. The intellectual climate in which this work was composed contributes to its language, which is neither that of the literary critic nor that of the historian, but rather that of the social scientist writing in German. The style remains, despite such dangers, clear and readily comprehensible. W. wishes to be understood, strives to help his readers, and he succeeds admirably. At the center of this book stand 640 inscriptions that (according to W.) document migration to, from, and within Gaul from the first through third centuries AD. These inscriptions stand as an article of faith: either 640 inscriptions constitute a sufficient sample for statistically meaningful analysis or they do not. W. believes that they do, and, although he refrains from going into detail, he does address this doctrinal issue by way of introduction and citation to the arguments of others (see especially p. 108 n. 297). Having taken, then, a duly considered leap of faith, W. proceeds to a statistical analysis that extracts every last possible quantitative detail from the available data, seeking always to "control" his data with (that is, place them in the context of) surviving literary sources and archaeological evidence. In addition to thorough discussions of the material evidence, W. includes 51 tables and 11 graphs that are designed to, and do indeed, compel the data to yield rather efficiently answers to questions posed. As W. puts it, his goal was to make the data "as transparent as possible" (p. 13). This study, despite its considerable length, is an abridged version of an habilitation defended successfully in 1993 at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany. Its 400 pages present only the main results of W.'s investigations; W. cites individual inscriptions but does not quote their texts. A promised second volume will provide these texts with extensive commentary. Subsidiary questions the author leaves to subsequent monographs.

So much for general background. Let us examine what the book has to say in its nine chapters and three appendices as well as the arguments adduced. The study commences from the premise that Gaul constituted a relatively self-contained economic market. In particular, the study sets itself the task of investigating how, on the one hand, this market was separate from the area that was constituted by Rome and Italy and how, on the other, within the newly arisen inner "structure" of the province people traveled ("communicated"), as well as between which cities exchanges may be recognized, and what factors determined the formation of these relations. Following Strabo's observation (4.1.12) that the number of strangers in a town indicates how active trade is (trade was something merchants generally had to conduct in person), W. concludes that migration into and from a town will provide some indication of a town's economic attractiveness or lack thereof, which in turn will help in the reconstruction of trade patterns and related questions. W. investigates all inscriptions that show migration into Gaul (Narbonensis, Aquitania, Lugdunensis, and Belgica) and all inscriptions from elsewhere in the empire that demonstrate emigration from Gaul. The 640 inscriptions that meet these criteria document 659 people and 680 instances of migration. These 659 individuals may be put into the perspective of the some 13,000 individuals whose names survive in inscriptions from Gaul. On the other hand, because a move from one city to another within Gaul can also involve moving from one region to another, W. registers total moves at 940. Taking, then, the 680 instances of migration by 659 persons, W. seeks to investigate individual mobility, family mobility, mobility according to status, class, and occupation, as well as economic ties between various cities and regions as documented by the transfer of people.

W. establishes thirteen criteria according to which inscriptions can yield clues regarding the mobility of the individuals named in them. These criteria include, inter alia, the identification of ethnic appellations (e.g. Batavus), implicit indications of foreign extraction from words such as incola, phraseology more at home in Italy or Spain (e.g. sit tibi terra levis), the use of languages other than Latin, notice of foreign cult-practices, notice of magistracies held in various places, the interpretation of the names that appear themselves. W. is well aware of the dangers that overinterpretation of Roman names in the context of ancient Gaul present and discusses potential pitfalls at length. W. is both thorough and careful.

After laying out the sources of evidence and investigative criteria, W. turns to outlining the early history of Roman contact with and immigration into Gaul, especially focusing on the merchants whose activities expanded rapidly in the wake of Roman conquests and who used Narbo as an initial base, occasioning not only its rapid Romanization but also its subsequent role as a source of Roman cultural influence. This fascinating account, based on literary sources (especially Cicero), provides the background for an overview of mobility from the first through third centuries AD according to the inscriptional evidence (when literary sources become more reticent). Inscriptional evidence, not coincidentally, increases with Romanization.

The heart of the book and its argumentation is its tabulation of inscriptional evidence. A look at the tables and (in no few cases) their mathematical errors will provide a useful synopsis of both method and range. The first two tables (found in the introduction) present an overview of W.'s subject. Table 1 (p. 35) records total "mobility" (i.e. moves) to and within the four regions of Gaul. Unfortunately, it incorrectly reports the total instances of emigration from Belgica to other regions of Gaul as 30/1 (number of inscriptions/number of documented moves, one presumes). The correct sum of the numbers that appear in the table is 31/2. Table 2 (p. 36) records emigration from the Gauls. Here the sum of documented instances of emigration from Aquitania is inconsistently reported as 30 rather than 29/30. Despite these mathematical errors, the tables do efficiently provide the conspectus promised.

The second chapter and tables 3-12 are devoted to Narbonensis. Table 3 (p. 39) records emigration from 29 cities in this province to points within and beyond the Gauls. It incorrectly lists, however, total emigration to Hispania as 28 and to miscellaneous destinations as 57. The correct sums (as always, of the numbers that appear in the chart!) are 26 and 56 respectively. Total documented instances of Narbonese emigration must thus be corrected from 283 to 281/5. Table 4 (p. 40) illustrates Narbonese "mobility" over time. It also incorrectly records total instances of moves during the first century AD as 130. The correct sum is 128/32. Total Narbonese moves for the first through third centuries AD must accordingly be adjusted from 283 to 281/285. These mathematical dangers are avoided in table 5 (p. 42), which illustrates the origins of immigrants to Narbonensis from other provinces, and table 6 (p. 51), which illustrates the destinations within Narbonensis of these same immigrants. Numbers are provided for places of origin and destinations, but totals are not provided.

Table 7 stretches over five pages (pp. 67-71), and documents all known cases of emigration from one city to another within the province of Narbonensis from the first through third centuries AD. The city of Narbonne received 71/5 immigrants over 300 years and lost 12 emigrants. Toulouse, on the other hand, presents no documented immigrants and 6 emigrants. Unfortunately, the numbers recorded for other cities are similarly low. Aix received 7 immigrants and lost 16 emigrants, Arles 24 and 7, Béziers 7 and 1, Die 4 and 5, Fréjus 8 and 7, Grenoble 2 and 10, Marseille 20 and 4, miscellaneous Narbonensis 0 and 22 (this figure should actually be 21; see below), Nimes and environs 52 and 22, Riez 3 and 10, Vaison and environs 8 (this figure should actually be 7; see below) and 18, Valence 10 and 1, and Vienne 27 and 29 respectively. My numbers actually appear inflated, however, in comparison with W.'s table, because I combine here the subdivided categories of intraprovincial and extraprovincial moves within each category as well as numbers distributed over three centuries.

These numbers, representing some 300 years of evidence, are not large. What does emerge, however, is that these data correspond to Strabo's observation that southern Gaul was more Romanized and more attractive than the North, but that, according to the inscriptions, on the other hand, the North became more attractive (and thus economically active) in the second and third centuries AD. Here also addition fails. The correct total of extraprovincial emigration recorded for miscellaneous Narbonensis is 15 (9+0+4+0+2), not 16. The correct sum of immigration to Vaison and its environs is 4 instances (1+1+0+0+2), not 5. In discussing this table, W. pays homage to Ludwig Friedländer whose analysis of the literary evidence in his Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms, according to W., perspicaciously arrived at conclusions congruent with his, despite the fact that Friedländer wrote at a time "in der 'moderne' Kommunikations- und Nachrichtentechniken weitgehend unbekannt waren" (p. 80 n. 188). We too shall take note of antiquarian approaches in the conclusion to this review.

Table 8 (pp. 90-95), which records emigration from the cities of Narbonensis according to date and destination, is indeed useful and noteworthy for citing inscriptions individually and for listing the occupation or status, when indicated, for each emigrant. Tables 9-11 (pp. 96-97) compare migration to and from Narbonensis over the first through third centuries. Table 12 (pp. 102-103), which records intraprovincial and cross-border emigration from select Narbonese cities, also displays surprising, but by now not unexpected, failures in addition. It would be otiose to continue correcting such mathematical gaffes. Let us turn rather to W.'s interpretation of table and statistics for Narbonensis. Here praise is due. W. places his statistical analysis firmly in the context of the literary sources, arguing that because both types of evidence agree here, where we have both types, that we should accept the evidence of quantified inscriptions elsewhere in Gaul without the corroborative testimony of literary sources. An admirable feature of W.'s entire work is indeed his unstinting labor to make his reasoning clear.

Chapters three (Aquitania), four (Lugdunensis), and five (Belgica) are less richly endowed in tables and detail than chapter two (Narbonensis). In chapter three (Aquitania), in addition to exploring evidence for economic activity through migration, a new kind of visual aid appears, graph 1 (p. 114 n. 6), which represents in bar graph format, the relative proportions of Roman, Greek, native, and other kinds of names over time that are represented in Aquitanian inscriptions, and which thereby purports to document the persistence of native traditions in this province. A pie chart, graph 2 (p. 122), similarly gives visual representation to the extraprovincial origin of 56 documented immigrants to Aquitania during the second and third centuries AD. Do, however, three immigrants from Italy, two from Numidia, one from Britain, etc., over two centuries deserve their own slices of the pie when the category "other" receives a total of four? The pie chart is pleasingly precise, but what kind of evidence is this? From this evidence, W. interprets what sorts of relations Aquitania had with coastal as opposed to inland regions as well as every other kind of geographical relationship one might construe. W. is, as always, thorough. We may note here too that Lugdunensis receives two such pie charts (graph 3, p. 161, which represents the places of origin of Lugdunese immigrants, and graph 5, p. 184, which shows the destinations of emigrants). Why, one might ask, do Narbonensis and Belgica not merit such charts? (Belgica's pie chart, graph 7, p. 205, illustrates emigrants according to tribe). The tables in chapters three through five are similar in nature to those of chapter two. Again, especially interesting because we actually glimpse some of the inscriptions themselves are table 16 (p. 124), table 18 (pp. 139-141), table 22 (pp. 173-174), table 23 (pp. 177-180), table 24 (p. 181), and table 27 (pp. 195-198), which cite inscriptions fully and document social occupations and status of the immigrants and emigrants of the three Gauls beyond Narbonensis.

Chapter six on the social status of migrants, because it works with W.'s whole corpus of inscriptions, is the most compelling. Table 28 (pp. 210-219) lays out the evidence in detail, and the details of social status and occupation are fascinating. They include, inter alia, equites Romani, decuriones, liberti and libertae, servi and servae, also an argentarius, an artis grammaticae doctor, a causidicus, a copo, a curator coloniae and curator sevirorum, a dictator, a diffusor olearius, a dispensator, an emboliaria, fabri, flaminicae, gladiatores, grammatici, histriones, an inaurator, lapidarii, a lictor, a lintiarius (sic), magistri larum, a manupretiarius, marmorarii, a mater sacrorum, medici, a mirmillo (sic) veteranus, nautae, navicularii, many and varied negotiatores, a nummularius, an opifex artis vitriae, a pictor, a pistor, praefecti fabrum, a propola, a purpurarius, sagarii, various sacerdotes, a scriba, various seviri, a tector, a tribunus militum, an unguentarius, utricularii, a venaliciarius, a vestiarius, and veterani. A wide range of people were on the move, and this list, while not exhaustive, should prove sufficient to demonstrate the interesting wealth of suggestive detail held (I am tempted to say captive) in tabular and quantitative form. The analysis of relative mobility according to social status and occupation is thorough and is placed in the corroborative context of the literary sources. As one might expect, the upper classes were, at least according to the inscriptions, more mobile than the lower.

The final three chapters (chapters seven through nine) offer further general pictures of Gallic mobility. Chapter seven examines mobility according to ethnicity. Those with Roman names, according to the assembled evidence, represented by far the greater proportion of the total mobile population in the first century AD. Their share sank, however, during the second and third centuries AD as the proportion of those bearing native names increased. Chapter eight examines the mobility of women, concluding that they were less mobile than men, but doing so with a wealth of statistics. Chapter nine serves as the book's conclusion, and reviews mobility in Gaul as a whole. Appendix one lists instances of migration according to province and region (all inscriptions are individually cited), appendix two lists inscriptions pertaining to women by province, and appendix three lists inscriptions and the gentile names of manumitted Gallic natives. Extensive bibliography and four indices (an index locorum in two parts, by author and by inscription; an index nominum in two parts, by gentilicia and by cognomina; a geographical index, and a general index) combine to increase the value of a work that strives throughout to be as useful as possible to its reader.

Despite his unstinting efforts on his readers' behalf, I am compelled to confess that W. has missed a great opportunity to invite a wider audience of more literary inclination to the attractions and uses of words carved in stone. W. states very clearly what might stand as a motto for the whole work: "In der Analyse geht es nicht darum, einzelne Zeugnisse zu interpretieren und auszuwerten, sondern eine Gesamtperspektive zu vermitteln" (p. 74). The tables, graphs, and charts do indeed provide many an overview and suggest many patterns of "communication." Eschewed details, however, can be interesting in themselves as well as made to yield up evidence and history. Here, though, a reviewer runs the risk of straying into matters of personal taste. For some history lies in statistics, for others in anecdotes and details. The former is indeed more modern, the latter antiquated in various senses of that word. We come then, finally, to an obstacle we addressed at the beginning of this review, namely, the paucity of the evidence upon which W.'s statistical analysis is based. Every reader of W.'s book will have to confront fundamental issues of belief and faith. For those willing to take that leap of faith, his book will provide many satisfying charts and interpretive commentaries. Sceptics might look instead upon a work that appears as a monument to incredible industry, but full of seductive conclusions founded upon too little evidence. All believers and non-believers alike, however, with an interest in the social history of Gaul and in questions of migration will want to consult this book for its admirable collection of the evidence and its clear and elegant presentation of that evidence in the context of current scholarship. W. has written a valuable contribution to the study of Gaul and produced a useful experiment in the application of modern methods of statistical analysis to ancient inscriptional evidence. He has written an important book.

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