Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2018.03.04 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018.03.04

Saskia T. Roselaar (ed.), Processes of Cultural Change and Integration in the Roman World. Mnemosyne supplements. History and archaeology of classical antiquity, 382.   Leiden; Boston:  Brill, 2015.  Pp. x, 314.  ISBN 9789004294547.  €115.00.  

Reviewed by Ulrike Roth, The University of Edinburgh (

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

Processes of Cultural Change and Integration in the Roman World is the product of a conference with the same title organized at the University of Nottingham in 2013 by Saskia T. Roselaar, the volume’s editor. It is the companion to the proceedings from a 2010 conference on processes of integration in the Roman Republic, also organised and edited by Roselaar.1 The present volume offers sixteen papers, fifteen in English, one in German, on aspects of ‘integration’ in diverse geographies and chronologies, stretching from mid-Republican Italy to Spain, Britain, Greece and Asia Minor in the Roman imperial period. Some focus primarily on archaeological evidence, some entirely on texts, others on a combination of sources and source analyses; some survey well-known materials and issues, some foreground theoretical issues, some discuss newly assembled (especially archaeological, epigraphic and numismatic) materials. The majority of the chapters is written by early career researchers, including contributions that present the first fruits of doctoral research, the full publications of which promise to be interesting: a brief summary of some of these gives a good idea of the range of evidence employed, the types of questions tackled, and the geographical and chronological spans covered.

Beginning with ancient Samnium in Italy, Rafael Scopacasa (Ch. 2) employs archaeological evidence for trade and exchange – especially pottery – to elucidate the economic integration of Italian elites in the second century BC. The discussion concentrates on the site of Monte Vairano, one of the larger and better-known sites in Samnium, which has benefitted from ongoing recent excavation. Significant evidence for specialised craft production, including textile production, suggests ‘organised manufacturing activity’ at the site (p. 45), while evidence for the consumption of Greek wine from Rhodes and Cnidus shows ‘that the local aristocracies were carefully cultivating new styles of consumption’ (p. 39). Scopacasa argues for the Samnites’ ability ‘to advertise their resourcefulness and cultural credentials’ through the sourcing and consumption of foreign products (p. 39), which he sees as indicative of their competitive attitude (ultimately) vis-à-vis Rome.

Still in Italy, and roughly in the same period, Marleen Termeer (Ch. 3) analyses bronze coinage production in Campania. The chapter is concerned with ‘processes of interaction and integration between local communities in the context of Roman expansion in the third century BC’ (p. 60). Termeer first surveys the chronology, function and producers of the coinages under discussion, at ten different sites, including Neapolis – by far the largest producer of coinages in this period and geography. Termeer regards the First Punic War as an integrative force regarding coinage production, leading to greater uniformity in terms of weights and types. In the light of this growing uniformity, the discussed local coinages are seen as facilitating ‘interaction between local producers and consumers’ (p. 74), enhancing exchange between communities in central Italy.

Moving East, Aitor Blanco-Pérez (Ch. 7) takes the Roman colony at Apamea in Western Asia Minor as a case study for a discussion of the social and political interaction between Roman colonies and their environment. Founded in the second half of the first century BC, the Roman colony occupied a site with a rich history, including a claimed origin as a Greek colony (of Colophon in Ionia), and the city’s refoundation roughly 500 years later by Prusias I, king of Bythinia, after the name of his wife. The discussion includes relevant letter exchanges between Pliny and Trajan, as well as speeches by Dio Chrysostom. Particular emphasis is placed on the relationship between local and Roman citizenship. Blanco-Pérez stresses that ‘both the epigraphic evidence and literary sources suggest that local citizenships were given independently in Apamea’ (p. 146). The importance of civic elites in the colony’s integration in the Greek context of Bithynia is highlighted.

Focussed on ‘virtues’, Daniele Miano (Ch. 14) analyses the diffusion of conceptual divinities – such as Victory or Concordia – in Republican Italy. One central aim of the chapter is to establish ‘whether or not Virtues played any role in the creation of a cultural koine in Ancient Italy’ (p. 253). Miano shows that outside of Rome, epigraphic evidence for ‘virtues’ is documented in Latium as early as the fourth century BC, but that from the second century BC on, an increasingly larger number of ‘virtues’ is attested. Apart from some minor ‘exceptions’, these attestations are all in Latin, showing ‘that the diffusion of Virtues is clearly connected with the diffusion of Latin language and culture’ (p. 262). Four case studies complete the chapter, exploring the relationship between Roman political influence and Latin identity.

The question of Roman influence is also central to the contribution by Christopher Burden-Strevens (Ch. 16), focussed on the works of Cassius Dio and Arrian. The discussion concentrates on the use of the first person plural by both Cassius Dio and Arrian in relation to Romans and Roman ways. Burden-Strevens cautions that the political contexts in which these first person plurals appear ‘should be used not to state that the historian was “Romanised”, but rather to reflect on how Dio, Arrian and other Greeks of the governing class were integrated in the second and third centuries’ (p. 296). The chapter concludes with a call for further study of a similar kind to elucidate more fully the relationship between Greek culture and (the writing of) Roman history.

As these examples show, the range and type of contributions to this volume are wide and diverse. Apart from the editor’s Introduction (pp. 1-19), there are however no apparent efforts at making the different contributions speak to one another, even though obvious points of contact existed – as for instance between the discussions of divinities and their appropriation in varied contexts in two chapters (Chs. 1 and 14), or between the discussions of the role of citizenship that are central to three chapters (Chs. 5, 7, and 8) – especially since the approaches and conclusions employed in the latter three are quite different: in one, for instance, the maintenance of local citizenship in a Roman colonial context is emphasised (including discussion of the acquisition of multiple citizenships); another stresses instead the elimination of local citizenship upon the arrival of a Roman colony (cf. pp. 158-9 and pp. 146-9); both deal with the same period and the Greek East, and work with quite different colonisation models. Similarly, two chapters (Chs. 10 and 11) not only discuss mining as an economic activity with particular regard to the question of the involvement of the non-Roman populations, but also the very same mining areas in north-western Spain: the conclusion of one that ‘the agency of the locals was limited to cultural choices, rather than economic activity’ (p. 198) jars with the conclusion of the other that economic integration could ‘in some instances count on the active participation of “non-Roman” groups’ (p. 217). Naturally, contributors to conference proceedings need not hold the same opinions or employ the same concepts and models; but the lack of engagement across the various chapters is baffling in the light of the many obvious thematic, evidential and methodical overlaps. The impact of the volume on providing answers to the question of how processes of cultural change and integration came about is thus weakened.

As with many studies of this kind, the quality of the contributions is mixed. Statements of opinions regularly replace expositions of arguments; and some contributions lack due engagement with the modern debate on the wider topic. Much of the discussion focuses in effect on the activities of adult males, and on those who actively engaged with – and by all appearances benefitted from – the coming of Rome. We hear almost nothing in this volume about the bulk of the population: those engaged in agricultural labour; those generally living outside urban settings; women; children. Nevertheless, Roselaar explicitly stresses the opportunities created by Rome: ‘(m)any new cultural options were made available by the pax Romana, created by Rome’s gradual conquest of the Mediterranean, which opened new markets and introduced new crops and technologies into many parts of the Empire’ (p. 10). The result is a somewhat rosy picture of the integration of locals in the new world created by an ever more dominant power – based on a highly selective evidential basis that relegates the majorities to the side-lines.

A stronger editorial hand would have been good with regard to the English text of various contributions, many of which have a good number of typos or grammatical errors (e.g., ‘atifacts’, ‘evergetism’, ‘hinterand’, pp. 79, 80, 87). The quality of the plans, maps and images differs significantly, so much so that some could have been omitted completely (e.g., Figs. 8.4; 10.3; 10.4); images of objects that are central to the argument should without exception have been included (e.g. the coin issues discussed in Ch. 3, with Tab. 3.1).

Authors and titles

Introduction: Processes of Cultural Change and Integration in the Roman World, Saskia T. Roselaar
1. Theorizing Romanization. Cognition and Cultural Change in Roman provinces: a Case of Religious Change in Roman Dalmatia, Josipa Lulić
2. An Allied View of Integration: Samnite Elites, Consumption and Ceramic Evidence in the Second Century BC, Rafael Scopacasa
3. Minting Apart Together: Bronze Coinage Production in Campania and Beyond in the Third Century BC, Marleen Termeer
4. The Archaeology of ‘Integration’ in Western Lucania: a Review of Recent Work, Maurizio Gualtieri
5. Volaterrae and the Gens Caecina, Fiona Tweedie
6. Iniungi delectus—The Recruitment of Britons in the Roman Army during the Conquest: the Evidence from Dorset, Christopher Sparey-Green
7. Apamea and the Integration of a Roman Colony in Western Asia Minor, Aitor Blanco-Pérez
8. Integration after Death: Burial and Commemoration in the Roman Colony of Patras, Tamara Dijkstra
9. Akkulturation und Integration in der römischen Dobruscha. Das Fallbeispiel der römischen Siedlung Ibida (Slava Rusă) in Rumanien, Alexander Rubel
10. Roman Exploitation and New Road Infrastructures in Asturia Transmontana (Asturias, Spain), Patricia A. Argüelles Álvarez
11. Mines and Economic Integration of Provincial ‘Frontiers’ in the Roman Principate, Alfred Hirt
12. The ‘Opportunistic Exploitation’ of Melos: a Case Study of Economic Integration and Cultural Change in the Roman Cyclades, Enora Le Quéré
13. Roman Traders as a Factor of Romanization in Noricum and in the Eastern Transalpine Region, Leonardo Gregoratti
14. Spreading Latin Virtues. The cult of Virtues in Republican Italy, Daniele Miano
15. Literary Topoi and the Integration of Central Italy, Elisabeth Buchet
16. ‘Ein völlig romanisierter Mann’? Identity, Identification, and Integration in the Roman History of Cassius Dio and in Arrian, Christopher Burden-Strevens


1.   Saskia T. Roselaar (ed.), Processes of Integration and Identity Formation in the Roman Republic (Leiden and Boston, 2012).

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