Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns

Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns

Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns

Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns

Synopsis

This study explains the Greco-Roman urban form as it relates to the geological basis at selected sites in the Mediterranean basin. Each of the sites--Argos, Delphi, Ephesus, and Syracuse among them--has manifested in its physical form the geology on which it stood and from which it was made. "By demonstrating the dependence of a group of cities on its geological base," the author writes, "the study forces us to examine more closely the ecology of human settlement, not as a set of theories but as a set of practical constraints..." Exacting attention will be given to local geology (types of building stones, natural springs, effect of earthquakes, silting, etc.) The findings are based on site publications, visits to the sites, and the most recent archaeological plans. The book is illustrated with original photographs and geological maps indicating the known Greco-Roman features--the first such maps published for any of the sites. Sequel to Water Management in Ancient Greek Cities, now available by Publication on Demand

Excerpt

The water supply and engineering questions I asked earlier (Crouch 1993), with the geology questions of this book, shed new light on Greco-Roman cities. By reflecting upon data and insights from additional disciplines, we have a larger matrix for ancient cities than when archaeology alone deals with explication of a site. Old methods can offer archaeological evidence of Greek walls to contain the river at Argos, or historical documents such as lists of all earthquakes in western Turkey since Roman times, with dates and description of perceived severity (Earthquake Catalogue), to make dating more manageable. Checking each site for geological evidence of datable events has improved the comparisons we make. By comparing ten cities we introduce generalization, revealing more than would any one individual case history (Finley 1977: 314). At Argos, for instance, there is dramatic evidence of flooding in the hinterland as well as in the agora at the center of the city, whereas at Miletus the very process of modern excavation has had to be timed with the annual flooding pattern in mind.

When the right kinds of questions are asked, there is an abundance of material for answers, even allowing for our tendencies to apply our classifications onto the ancient world (Gordon 1979). Inferred parallels from insufficient data are likely to be closer to the truth than wild guesses based on what we think ought to have been the case. The specificity of the geological settings and elements of water systems in these ancient cities is gratifying to me as one who bases history on tangible objects, and dear to me because I am “allergic or totally deaf to ideal types” (Finley 1977: 316). That tangibility helps to avoid some of the “elusiveness of truth” confronting those—deconstructionists and others—who deal with text and context at the verbal level (Galloway ca. 1992).

Rigid boundaries between disciplines—seismologists not knowing the ancient literature and the results of modern archaeology, or archaeologists barely acquainted with geomophology, seismology, and other scientific disciplines—interfere with team work. This work cannot be expected to be smooth and easy, although we can achieve illumination through discussion of “facts,” methods, and . . .

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