Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.08.33

Lucietta Di Paola, Viaggi, trasporti e istituzioni.   Messina:  Dipartimento di Scienze dell' Antichitá dell' Universitá degli Studi di Messina, 1999.  Pp. 163.  ISBN 88-8268-099-1.  L. 48.000.  

Reviewed by Renate Lafer, Institut für Geschichte, Abteilung Alte Geschichte, Universität Klagenfurt, Austria
Word count: 554 words

This study about transport and the possibilities of travelling in Roman times is a good summary of this subject. It deals mainly with the cursus publicus and is limited to transport by land. Useful for the development of the present book was the fact that the author (in the following named P.) had already studied different details concerning the theme in several articles publicated in the last twenty years.1

After the preface comes an introduction (pp. 13-20) discussing the sources, the history of the current research and the intention of P. Chapter one (pp.21-31) is dedicated to the history of the cursus vehicularis, in which P. deals with the installation of the cursus publicus and its development. In the second chapter (pp. 33-40) the use of the cursus publicus by clerics is debated while in chapter three (pp.41-60) the author describes organizational problems. Unfortunately questions such as who has the duty for the provision of the horses can be asked only for late antiquity, as the sources exist only for this period. Chapter four (pp. 61-73) deals with permission for the use of the cursus publicus. The following chapters focus on more specific and concrete issues: in chapter five (pp. 74-95) the transport in the provinces Sicilia and Africa proconsularis are discussed and the sixth section (pp. 97-114) shows how the cursus publicus is described by the ancient authors Philostratos, Libanios and Cassiodorus. The last chapter (pp. 115-126) includes legends on coins, which can be connected with transport and travelling (mostly of the emperors and their wives). A summary of two pages closes the study.

Regarding the purpose of the present publication, P. states in the preface (p. 20) that she wants to address some shortcomings in the scholarship, especially the concentration on administrative and organizational questions. As the author quite rightly says, the cultural, ethnical and economical development of a country depend on the posibilities of transport. The sources, however, are problematic. Many times they do not allow conclusions as the information is rather poor. Therefore the detailed study of the two provinces Sicilia and Africa proconsularis is not really effective. Furthermore the sources which are valid for the whole Empire can be applied to these two provinces, too. The analysis of the three ancient authors in chapter six, however, is helpful, especially because there exists no publication which includes all three authors regarding this subject: whereas in the first four chapters the sources, already discussed by Seeck and Kornemann long ago,2 are rediscussed, we find new results in analysis of Philostratos, Libanios and Cassiodorus. The last section studying the legends on coins illustrating coaches in the context of an emperor or an empress, however, is less useful because it does not deliver important social and economic information: the coins are only official documents showing propagandist intentions. The consideration of the two provinces Sicilia and Africa proconsularis is not helpful either. Since the sources are few and limited to late antiquity, many repetitions occur.

The great merit of the study lies in an excellent documentation of the sources. By means of good and clear footnotes a great number of sources and secondary literature are presented. Some newer inscriptions are included, too. A detailed bibliography and clear indices as well as an informative history of recent research complete this useful but rather summary study.


1.   Compare: L. Di Paola, Per la storia delle evectiones, in: AAPel 56, 1980, 85-102. L'organizzazione del sistema dei trasporti nelle Variae di Cassiodoro: nova et vetusta, in: Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi "Dalla corte di Ravenna al Vivarium di Squillace", Squillace 25-27 ottobre 1990, Soveria Mannelli 1992, 85-96. La reparatio veredorum: il caso della Proconsulare, in: L'Africa romana, Atti dell' XI convegno di studio (a cura di M. Khanoussi, P. Ruggeri, C. Vismara), Cartagine, 15-18 dicembre 1994, Ozieri 1996, 425-435.
2.   O. Seeck, RE IV, 1901, 1846-1863, s.v. cursus publicus. E. Kornemann, RE XI,2, 1953, 988-1014, s.v. Postwesen.

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