BMCR 2016.01.11

Mura di legno, mura di terra, mura di pietra: fortificazioni nel Mediterraneo antico. Atti del convegno internazionale, Sapienza Università di Roma, 7-9 maggio 2012. Scienze dell’antichità, 19.2/3 – 2013

, , Mura di legno, mura di terra, mura di pietra: fortificazioni nel Mediterraneo antico. Atti del convegno internazionale, Sapienza Università di Roma, 7-9 maggio 2012. Scienze dell'antichità, 19.2/3 - 2013. Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2013. 694. ISBN 9788871405605. €85.00 (pb).

Conference Poster and Volume Contents

City walls are impressive regardless of location or material. It is therefore not surprising that the topics of these papers and postersrepresent a wide selection of sites, technology, and history pertaining to walls and fortifications throughout the Mediterranean are represented in this volume.

Because of the number of printed papers as well as of the posters available online (see url above), I have opted to focus on some of the major topics covered as a guide for readers with different interests. Due to the range times and places covered, the sites covered tend raise a variety of questions while at the same time representing similar methodologies and approaches.

Two sections of papers (I and II; four papers in each section) address topics from the Bronze Age in Italy and the Near East, followed by three regional sections on Greece, pre-Roman Italy, and Rome (III, IV, and V; with five, eight, and six papers respectively), and a final section on the Middle Ages (VI; six papers). The posters mostly deal with individual sites. Plans and photos, abstracts and extensive bibliographies accompany both the papers and the posters.

In her introduction, Bartoloni mentions the revised date of the fortifications at Piazza d’Armi, Veii, now considered medieval rather than ancient, the non-existence of the mud-brick walls at Roselle, and the new chronology for the walls at Populonia, moving from the fifth century B.C. to the second. Also, while the main purpose of fortifications may be military defense, they also form part of the urban pattern and landscape in which they appear; they provide visual boundaries and points of passage from within to the outside, from the familiar to the unknown.

While most of the papers are strictly archaeological and deal with excavated remains of walls, moats, and ramparts, others focus on general aspects of walls in ancient and modern literature, and historical or legal texts. Thus Schnapp discusses the phenomenon of the wall in China and the works of Kafka and Borges, whereas Lentini focuses on the walls as described in the Iliad. Smith and Tassi Scandone analyze texts which refer to the legal aspects of city walls, and Gregori and Nonnis present epigraphical texts for the study of Republican walls in Italy. In addition to a discussion on foundation rituals in Latin literature by Piras, D’Alessio presents archaeological evidence from ancient Rome, and Michetti discusses votive material from sites in Etruria. Guizzi focuses on Homeric and other texts referring to the city of Gortyna on Crete, Stasolla compares the text of Procopius of Caesarea with walls and city plans from Constantinople, Thessaloniki, and other sites, and Garbini introduces medieval Latin texts that deal with the subject of siege of cities, for example, Lisbon and Ancona. The paper by Caliò deals with the art of war and Greek cities and the role of city walls for status of the ‘polis’ in the Greek world, and that by Jaia on the function of the Roman coloniae maritimae with examples from Ardea and Lavinium.

The purpose of the conference was to include all of the Mediterranean to provide a balance between the specific interests of the universities and other institutions that participated and the field as a whole. For readers familiar with ongoing research in Italy, the papers and posters represent the major sites (Cumae [d’Agostino], Populonia [Cambi et al.; Mascione et al.; Chiesa et al.], Rome [Ceccherelli et al.; Cifani], Roselle [Agricoli et al.], Tarquinia [Bagnasco Gianni; Bortolotto et al.; Garzulino et al.; Marzullo], Veii [Biagi et al.; Boitani et al.; Cerasuolo and Pulcinelli; Jaia and Cella], Vulci [Fontaine]), as well as smaller communities or areas (Colle Rotondo [Cifani et al.; Guidi and Nomi], Cori [Palombi et al.], Egnazia [Campese et al.; Randino], Gabii [Helas], Lavinium [Fenelli], Monte Cimino [di Gennaro and Trucco; Barbaro et al.], Monte dei Ferrari [Angle and Rolfo], Monte Primo di Pioraco [Ritrecina], Monte Spazzavento [Bonamici et al.], Pyrgi [Belelli Marchesini], Rofalco [Cerasuolo and Pulcinelli], S. Rosa di Poviglio [Cremaschi and Pizzi]). Papers on sites from other areas include Motya on Sicily [Spagnoli], Moncodogno on the east side of the Adriatic [Mihovilić et al.], Athens [Theocharaki], and Elaiussa Sebaste in Cilicia [Tempesta], as well as sites in the Near East (Byblos [Nigro; Sala], Jericho [Fiaccavento et al.; Gallo; Ripepi], Jerusalem [Fiaccavento], Khirbet Al-Batrawy [Sala], and Sāmarrā’ [Fontana]).

Papers that discuss larger areas include Central Europe (Buko), Cyrenaica (Somma), Italy (Cardarelli; Cazzella and Recchia; Fontaine; Nuzzo), Mesopotamia (Pinnock), Sardinia (Vanzetti et al.), and Syria (Matthiae), ranging from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages. Although separated in time and place, there are similarities in use of nuraghi on Sardinia, fortified centers in the Samnite territory in Italy, and the Slavic strongholds of Central Europe, both in terms of planning and construction and in how they related to military needs of the time.

In addition to specific analyses of individual walls and fortification systems, there are many common trends that apply to the sites and areas discussed. These include the presence and absence of walls and fortifications (Bagnasco Gianni; Guizzi), the use of natural defense in conjunction with walls made of stone, wood, or other materials (di Gennaro and Trucco), and the impact of a defense system for the political status and power of smaller or larger communities as perceived by their immediate neighbors as well as potential political enemies (Caliò; Fontaine; Nuzzo; Pinnock).

The methodology of discussing and analyzing walls focuses on the settlements protected by walls, as well as the walls themselves as features of defense within the landscape. From the point of view of combining traditional archaeological exploration with modern technology such as LiDAR, the results of research at Tarquinia are represented in this volume with a paper presented by Bagnasco Gianni, and three posters by Bortolotto et al., Garzulino et al., and Marzullo.

Understandably, the purpose of these and other conference proceedings is to present new and interesting material rather than attempting to provide overviews and far-reaching conclusions. Examined together, the papers and posters represent a lively and innovative interaction between scholars with different backgrounds and interests. Detailed descriptions of wall constructions are paired with the latest scientific analysis, and the reader cannot but be swept away by the enthusiasm displayed by the authors. Walls are part of the urban fabric as well as of the landscape itself, and we here have the tools with which to proceed.