The Western Frontiers of Imperial Rome

By Steven K. Drummond; Lynn H. Nelson | Go to book overview

VI
THE TOWNS AND CITIES OF THE FRONTIER

Borrowing their early traditions from their Etruscan neighbors to the north, and greatly influenced by Greek models of eastern Mediterranean life, the Romans were overwhelmingly an urban-minded people. 1 The empire as a whole consisted of an assemblage of city-states, or civitates, each surrounded by its dependent countryside, or pagus. 2 Each city-state possessed its own council drawn from the middle class residents (curiales) of the town. The council elected its own leaders, collected local taxes, 3 and planned and supervised the construction of local public works. Local courts were held in the basilica that was constructed near the forum in the center of virtually all of these towns, and, in theory at least, all trade and commerce was conducted within the city markets, where the proper taxes could be collected and legal forms observed. Most city-states either had or aspired to have their own circuses, theaters, and stadiums, and each had a municipal temple in which an official priesthood served the state deities and the deified emperors. Some councils subsidized public teachers of Greek and Roman rhetoric and philosophy, and wealthy citizens gained prestige by underwriting plays, horse races, and gladiatorial shows for their fellow citizens. In short, each city-state aspired to be a little Rome, and many of them contrived to provide their residents with an impressive array of public amenities. The government was content to allow the middle-class councilors of these city-states to manage local affairs, and the great bulk of Roman political and public life was conducted at this local level.

Despite this well-developed tradition, the Roman government appears to have had no clear policy for the urbanization of the frontier

-127-

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The Western Frontiers of Imperial Rome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps vii
  • Preface ix
  • I- The Edge of Empire 3
  • II- The Frontier Takes Shape 13
  • Notes 35
  • III- Feeding the Army- The Agrarian Settlement 42
  • Notes 70
  • IV- Pastoral Pursuits- Ranching and Grazing on the Frontier 77
  • Notes 96
  • V- Trading on and beyond the Frontier 101
  • Notes 122
  • VI- The Towns and Cities of the Frontier 127
  • Notes 147
  • VII- The Growth of Industry 152
  • Notes 169
  • VIII- The "Romanization" of the Frontier 172
  • Notes 191
  • IX- The Gods and Goddesses of the Frontier 196
  • Notes 212
  • X- Final Thoughts 216
  • Notes 224
  • Chronology of the Roman Frontier 225
  • Glossary 235
  • Selected Bibliography 249
  • Index 267
  • About the Authors 277
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