Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.06.13 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.06.13

Branka Migotti (ed.), The Archaeology of Roman Southern Pannonia: The State of Research and Selected Problems in the Croatian Part of the Roman Province of Pannonia. BAR International Series, S2393, 2012.   Oxford:  Archaeopress, 2012.  Pp. xii, 439.  ISBN 9781407309859.  £60.00.  

Reviewed by Mariana Egri, Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai Cluj-Napoca (


This book on the Romanisation and subsequent Christianisation of a part of southern Pannonia corresponding to modern Croatia is more than welcome as over 30 years have passed since the publication of the last book that presented the archaeology of the entire province.1 In spite of a wealth of archaeological data, mostly recovered during the last two decades, the southern part of the Roman province of Pannonia (with the notable exception of the area corresponding to modern Slovenia) remains significantly less well known in comparison with the northern part or the frontier zone. Furthermore the region and its various communities are seldom included in the current debates regarding the appearance, evolution and characteristics of provincial societies, in spite of their interesting ethnic, demographic, economic and political-administrative particularities.2

The book consists of a short foreword and 15 chapters, each with different authors and focusing on particular themes. The first chapter (p. 1-27) belongs to the editor B. Migotti, who presents the geographic and chronological settings of the project, a brief history of research, and the most important issues of the local provincial archaeology in the past and current scientific contexts. She also discusses the contributions within wider theoretical and historiographic frameworks, noting the slight methodological unevenness of their approach and the absence of a proper economic chapter. She also provides a series of arguments for the choice of the modern northern borders of Croatia. However, her choice is problematic since all of southern Pannonia is a distinct entity due to its geography, landscape, Late Iron Age background, early provincial development and administrative integration. Despite of the limitations, many essays in this book cover sites and other archaeological evidence from the southwesternmost and southeastern Pannonia, belonging to modern Slovenia and Serbia respectively (see also the maps on pages 3 and 30).

The first contribution (p. 29-69), by A. Domić Kunić, is a thorough analysis of the ancient literary sources describing places and events related to southern Pannonia, with an appendix of Greek and Latin texts and English translations. Her contribution is a very useful instrument for further research, also providing brief comments regarding the Greek and Roman misconceptions and literary stereotypes about the Pannonian geography, populations and economic potential

The following chapter (p. 71-92), by M. Sardelić, analyses the later Roman sources, although the rich literary evidence regarding the early Christianity in southern Pannonia is rather briefly presented. The text is again accompanied by a similar bilingual appendix. The chapter’s short concluding part refer to both Sardelić’s and Domić Kunić’s contributions, underlining the significant frequency of misleading ethnonyms, place-names and locations, the emphasis on military events and the quite stereotypical descriptions of local people and lands in the mentioned sources.

The chapter by D. Dzino and A. Domić Kunić (p. 93-115) is an excellent example of a comprehensive analysis of the relevant ancient literary sources collected in the two aforementioned contributions. The authors also present the evolution of modern historiographic and archaeological concepts regarding Pannonian ethnic identities. Their analysis focuses on the Roman perception of the local ethnic entities, and on the creation, transformation and manipulation of various regional, collective and individual narratives of identity in different social-political settings.

The following chapter (p. 117-136), by M. Dizdar, brings archaeological evidence to bear on the construction and manifestation of local identities during the Late Iron Age and in the first century of the Roman province. He focuses on the regional variability and transformation of the identity narratives associated with the local warlike elites before and after the conquest, in which ethnicity seems to have played a rather minor role. Local and regional networks of communication and exchange influenced the manner in which Late Iron Age groups and individuals expressed their identity. He also discusses the impact of the Roman structures of power and control during the first decades of the province, pointing to the selective adoption of only certain foreign goods and practices amongst the local elites, for example fine bronze and glass tableware, Italic wine, oil lamps or inscribed tombstones.

In “A review of South-Pannonian indigenous anthroponymy” (p. 137-158), I. Radman-Livaja and H. Ivezić present the presumed location of local tribes based on ancient literature and epigraphic evidence. The authors underline the problems of assuming that the frequency of names in an area points to the location of an ethnic entity, given that the demography of many areas in Pannonia was affected by population movements, and the epigraphic habit was not widespread. The authors consider the names inscribed on lead tags from Siscia, which draw a picture in which individuals of various ethnic and social-economic extractions are present.

In the next chapter (p. 159-189), I. Radman-Livaja discusses the provincial military and its impact on local communities. This is itself a vast and at times complicated topic but the author manages to present the most important aspects, without pretending that he can decisively solve certain problems related to garrison locations or local recruitment.

T. Lolić and Z. Wiewegh (p. 191-224) cover the development of the provincial road structure and urbanization of southern Pannonia, with consideration of military activities and garrison locations. The main characteristics of public and private architectural structures from different types of settlements are analysed, although the initial phases frequently built in timber are elusive. The authors underline that the layout of the urban centres (based on archaeological investigations) depended on local geographic and economic circumstances, and had limited connections, if any, with the juridical-administrative status.

I. Knezović (p. 225-249) continues the previous chapter in dealing with the sources and characteristics of the Late Iron Age and Roman provincial construction materials and techniques used in various types of civilian and military structures and roads. The analysis also attempts to identify the chronological construction phases of the main sites, but these are quite wide and more likely related to the general chronological framework of the province and less to specific archaeological evidence.

In the following chapter (p. 251-278) Z. Mráv analyses the epigraphic evidence of the munificence of Septimius Severus and his family towards southern Pannonian towns and the relationship between Severan provincial initiatives and urban development throughout Pannonia.

A long chapter (p. 279-311) by T. Leleković and A. Rendić-Miočević is dedicated to the development of rural sites (villae, villages, partially investigated and unexcavated settlements). Insufficient archaeological evidence hampers the identification of their structural characteristics and economic functions. Their analysis continues with a presentation of some of the better known rural sites and a discussion regarding their distribution in relation to the main urban and military centres and the road network. The identification of some farms and villages specialised in certain economic activities, for example animal husbandry, is notable.

T. Leleković (p. 313-357) focuses on funerary contexts from southern Pannonia, which are discussed chronologically and according to their ritual. The author also attempts to identify the origin of certain types of burials, but unfortunately very little is said about the Late Iron Age funerary practices and their survival and subsequent evolution in the early provincial times, although he acknowledges the existence of different local funerary traditions. He correctly dismisses exclusive attribution of cremation to the first two centuries and inhumation to the subsequent centuries by providing clearly dated counter-examples. Analysis is dedicated to the layout of urban and rural cemeteries in relation to the settlements’ development and road network.

T. Bilić (p. 359-388) discusses coin circulation between the 3rd century BC and the end of the 2nd century AD, a curious chronological framework given the topic of the book. The author presents each type of foreign coinage, its distribution and the means by which it reached southern Pannonia, as well as indigenous coinage and its distribution. The impact of the gradual administrative and economic integration into the Roman state on the local coin circulation is also discussed, albeit the analysis is mainly based on the finds from the Archaeological Museum of Zagreb; Siscia being chosen as a case-study.

The remaining three and a half centuries of coinage are discussed by M. Nađ (p. 389-414). In this case the analysis focuses on circulation, comprising the finds from a selection of relevant urban and military sites. Several particular and general trends are noted, and are further compared with the situations identified in other contemporaneous sites from Pannonia. The final part of the chapter is dedicated to an analysis of the hoards from all of southern Pannonia.

A. Rapan Papeša (p. 415-439) focuses on the Barbarian finds from late Roman southern Pannonia. The analysis makes a distinction between the so-called late Roman provincial artefacts and those attributed to different migrating populations, although functionally the large majority of the finds are common (jewellery, toiletries and garment accessories) and the means through which such objects circulated, as well as the ethnic identity of the owners cannot be easily interpreted due to the lack of clear archaeological contexts. Furthermore, the frequent population movements that characterised this period and the heterogeneous ethnic composition of these groups must be considered. The author correctly notes that the period is not one of social and economic collapse, since archaeological evidence points to a continuation of communal life, albeit in different forms and influenced by migration of populations.

The book is thoroughly illustrated with numerous maps, graphs, drawings and photographs. There is a curious lack of cross-referencing, which causes occasional overlaps, e.g., the repeated introductions to politics, administration, and the military. A common set of general maps serving all of the relevant contributions would have been helpful. There are several typos and translation errors, among them, Dunav instead of Danube (p. 2), Scrodisci instead of Scordisci (p. 127), Variciani instead of Varciani (p. 193), corpses instead of corps (p. 273), Poetinger instead of Peutinger (p. 330), Nyon is in Switzerland not in France (p. 196).

Nonetheless, the book represents an interesting and very useful contribution to the study of Roman Danubian provinces, bringing into scientific debate a wealth of archaeological evidence regarding various aspects of the construction and evolution of provincial communities from a less known region, thus enabling further in-depth thematic investigations.


1.   A. Lengyel and G. T. B. Radan (eds.), The archaeology of Roman Pannonia, Budapest, 1980, Akadémiai Kiadó.
2.   An important step forward, albeit mainly based on ancient written sources and epigraphic evidence, has been made by the publication of D. Dzino, Illyricum in Roman politics 229 BC – AD 68, Cambridge, 2010, Cambridge University Press.

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