Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.05.17

Claude Lepelley (ed.), Rom und das Reich in der Hohen Kaiserzeit: 44 v.Chr.-260 n.Chr. Band II. Translated from the French and English by Peter Riedlberger.   München/Leipzig:  K.G. Saur, 2001.  Pp. xxv, 529.  ISBN 3-598-77449-4.  EUR 120.00.  

Contributors: Pierre Cabanes, Joseph Mélèze Modrzejewski, Daniel Nony, Marie-Thérèse Raepsaet-Charlier, Maurice Sartre, Patricia Southern, Michel Tarpin, John Wilkes.

Reviewed by Peter C. Nadig, Ancient History, RWTH-Aachen
Word count: 1772 words

The volume under review is the German translation of the French and English original1 of the sequel to the handbook on the High Roman Empire by François Jacques and John Scheid.2 While volume one deals with all the structures of the empire in general, the present book focuses on the provinces and their integration into the Roman empire. This is achieved in ten chapters written by different contributors. Within these chapters all the various aspects of these regions are summarized in usually brief and comprehensive subsections. Each of the ten chapters is followed by an extensive bibliography. Since all the small chapters make it difficult to go into detail I will basically confine myself to a summary of this book's contents.

Naturally a study on the Roman provinces starts with Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia. This first chapter is provided by M. Tarpin (1-77). After giving a definition of the name Italy and outlining its boundaries, he proceeds to the regions in the time of Augustus and explains the ius Italicum and the privileges of Italy. The homogeneity and heterogeneity of imperial Italy as well as regional differences and opposition to standardization are the topics of the extended subchapter 'Tota Italia'. In further paragraphs the author discusses the municipal autonomy and elections, the questions of 'provincialization', the imperial administration, the emperor and the cities, demography, agriculture, economy and trade. A major section is on the city of Rome itself, in which the question of its corn supply and the numerous building projects ('Die große Baustelle') have their own entries. The concluding chapters cover the provinces of Sicily and Sardinia with special focus on their Romanization.

Cl. Lepelley supplies the chapter on Roman Africa (79-120), which he divides into two parts. The larger portion is on Africa Proconsularis and Numidia, while Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Tingitana are covered only briefly. Each part starts with several subsections on the historical development. Very interesting are the passages on the economic history of that region (92-102), which flourished after the second century. Before that it was largely known for the export of grain and Numidian marble. An entire section is devoted to Afro-Roman culture (literature, art, religion).

Chapter 3 by D. Nony on the Spanish provinces (121-150) is one of the shorter entries of this volume. After a brief summary of the historical development N. explains the army, the street network, and the main elements of the economy of Spain (coinage circulation, mining, olive oil, garum, wine, pottery, and the question of production), before he gives a lengthy analysis of the demographic history of Spain and a general conclusion.

M.-Th. Raepsaet-Charlier structures her chapter on the provinces of Gallia and Germania (151-210) into six divisions: 1. Conquest and urbanization (Narbonensis, the three Gauls, the two Germanic provinces, the Alps), 2. Administration and institutions, 3. Religion, 4. Society, 5. Economy, and 6. Romanization.

The fifth chapter by P. Southern (211-245) on Roman Britain begins with a summary of the literary, epigraphical and archaeological sources (which include the Vindolanda tablets). She then proceeds with a comprehensive outlin e of this region's basically military history from Julius Caesar to the time of Carausius and Allectus. Separate parts deal with subjects such as the Boudicca revolt, Agricola and Scotland, and the Hadrian and Antonine Walls. The other main section concerns the civilian life (urban development, colonies, civitates, small towns, vici, villas) and Romanization. J. Wilkes writes about the Danube provinces in chapter 6 (247-308). After giving a geographical introduction the author outlines the time of the conquest from 10 BC until the year AD 70, before he proceeds to the structures of power in the five provinces of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Moesia, Noricum, and Thrace. The subsequent sections concern the camps of legions and auxiliary units, the Roman colonies, the military roads, and the indigenous peoples, as well as the society and economy under the Julio-Claudian emperors. The next major parts cover the Romanization under the Flavians and Antonines, the conquest of Dacia, the Danube border in the first half of the second century, and the heyday and crisis of the third century -- which include the wars of Marcus Aurelius against the Germanic and Sarmatian tribes. In each of these sections summaries on different aspects of the settlements and their impact on trade and economy, religion, and provincial culture are included. The last section sums up the barbarian invasion and the collapse of the Danube border.

Chapter 7, on Greece and the Cyrenaica (309-339), is by P. Cabanes. It begins with Macedonia, which came under Roman control in 168 BC, the situation in Greece from 146 BC until the reorganization under Augustus in 27 BC which separated Achaia from Macedonia, Cyrenaica-Crete (a joint province until the time of Diocletian), and the foundation of the province of Epeiros in AD 108. The following sections deal with the colonies and free cities, the social and economical situation, imperial policy towards the cities, the Panhellenion, and religion and the imperial cult (urban and provincial, Christianity).

The Anatolian provinces are the subject of chapter 8 (341-397) by M. Sartre. First there is an introduction to the various stages of provincialization of this region from the Battle of Actium and the integration of the satellite states during the first century AD to the reorganizations and conquests under the later emperors. Following this S. covers in five sections administration and defense, the cities and the spread of Greek culture, rural Anatolia (resources and production, property ownership, manpower and economy, village communities), trade and traffic, and culture and religion.

Also by M. Sartre is the next chapter on the Semitic Orient (399-456). The author begins with a brief introduction to the different peoples in this part of the empire, the Semites, Greeks, Romans and others, followed by sections on the stages of integration of the various vassal states, the military importance of Syria (which had one of the highest concentration of troops in the empire), and the imperial cult whose provincial roots date back to Augustus. Further sections cover the urban and rural life, commercial production and trade, the success of Greek culture, the indigenous languages, and religions. The crisis of Judaea until the revolt of Simon Bar Kosiba (Kokhba) (AD 132-135) is given its own section. This region came under Roman rule following the conquest of Pompey in 63 BC and was added to the province of Syria in AD 6. The Romans respected the religious culture of the Jews, whose daily life was dominated by the Torah. Since the various laws, dietary rules, and customs made contact of the Jews with the pagan environment difficult, they were exempted from military service. Yet their preoccupation with being studiously different than all the others caused tensions in the long run which led to several uprisings. Before writing about the region's turbulent history, S. explains the agrarian structures, the social hierarchy, and the messianism and eschatological expectations that influenced this region. A concluding entry deals with the reorganization of Judaism after the destruction of the second temple.

J. Mélèze Modrzejewski contributes the last of the ten chapters, Egypt (457-518). He starts with an explanation of the exceptional position Egypt had in contrast to all other provinces. After its conquest by Octavian in 30 BC and the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty it was made an imperial province headed by a procurator. In three sub-chapters the author summarizes the historical chronology from Augustus to Gallienus, before introducing the administrative structure of Egypt and its four Greek poleis Alexandria, Ptolemais, Naucratis, and Antinoopolis. An entire section is devoted to the conflict between the three main religious groups in Egypt, pagans, Jews, and Christians. During the principate the clergy of the Egyptian cults lost the influence it had under the Ptolemies and was thus confined to the role of keeper of the religious traditions of ancient Egypt while the temples nevertheless flourished. During this period the Egyptian Jews experienced a cultural heyday as well as a decline, which eventually culminated in the destruction of the their communities in Egypt after the revolt of 115-117. The former is evident through the work of the philosopher Philo, while the latter is not extensively treated by Flavius Josephus, as M. states, but rather traceable through papyri and ostraca. So for example, the latest extant Jewish tax receipt in Egypt dates from May 18, 116. On the other hand, the first two centuries of the Christian church in Egypt basically lie in the dark. This fact was usually explained either by Gnostic influence or by the theory of a predominantly Jewish-Christian community. After the Jewish revolt under Hadrian the church separated itself from Judaism and became more visible. The author concludes that Roman rule over Egypt never led to its full integration into the empire. It occupied a marginal position throughout, a result of the caution of the emperors regarding Egyptian wealth. Its unique constitutional, economic, and cultural status therefore allowed it to preserve its Graeco-Egyptian heritage.

The book closes with a general summary by Cl. Lepelley (519-524), where its aim is explained as a presentation of the larger regions of the Roman empire in all their diversity and different levels of integration. Here the contrast between the Romanization in the West and the smooth accommodation in the Greek world becomes apparent. All this diversity makes it all the more astonishing how the empire could survive so long. The key to the Roman success lies in the ability to integrate the most different individuals, whose submission to Roman rule was often recent, and to create an inner community spirit and identity with the empire, which was not the case under the previous imperialistic powers of the ancient world.

Rom und das Reich volume II is a very useful, practical, and well-done handbook basically aimed at students and scholars of neighboring disciplines. It provides a handy overview on all the different aspects of the provinces of the Roman Empire. References to the relevant scholarly literature (listed at the end of each chapter) are put in parenthesis within the text rather than being added as foot- or endnotes, which also makes reading easier. It is to be noted that especially in regard to controversial or different interpretations the contributors do not hesitate to introduce the reader to the relevant discussions. All the chapters are supplied with maps. There are some mistakes in the table of contents, however, where some pages are wrongly listed (off by one page). Volume one was published by Teubner at what was then a very affordable price.3 It is only to be regretted that the present volume, published now by Saur, is extremely overpriced.


1.   Rome et l'intregration de l'Empire. Tome 2. Approches régionales du Haut-Empire romain, 44 av. J.-C. - 260 ap. J.-C., Paris (Presses Universitaires de France) 1998.
2.   F. Jacques / J. Scheid, Rom und das Reich in der Hohen Kaiserzeit: 44 v. Chr. - 260 n. Chr. Band I, Stuttgart/Leipzig (B.G. Teubner) 1998; originally published in French under the title Rome et l'intregration de l'Empire. Tome I. Les structures de l'Empire romain, 44 av. J.-C. - 260 ap. J.-C., Paris (Presses Universitaires de France) 1996.
3.   Then around 78 Deutschmarks. Numerically the price is similar, it is now, however, in Euro!!!

Read Latest
Index for 2002
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:27:54, Friday, 03 April 2009