Northern Italy in the Roman World: From the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity

By Moralee, Jason | The Historian, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Northern Italy in the Roman World: From the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity


Moralee, Jason, The Historian


Northern Italy in the Roman World: From the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity. By Carolynn E. Roncaglia. (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018. Pp. xxi, 232. $44.95.)

Most would agree, these days, with the statement that nations are invented. They are not naturally birthed into the world, a primordial spirit carried by pure-blooded races which waits only to be reawakened and reinvigorated by ideologues, intellectuals, and politicians at the right moment. Instead, Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson and many others have taught us that nations are built upon invented traditions, carefully curated memories, and scientific racism. Still, most would also agree that within nations there are regional identities. If we can agree nations are inventions that subsume a host of regional identities, are these regional identities somehow more natural and real than the nations to which they belong?

This book addresses this question with respect to "northern Italy" in the Roman period, from Roman colonization in the third century BCE to the troubles of the third century CE, with probes into the longer history of this region in the Bronze Age and the Early Middle Ages. The author traces how the modern administrative regions of the Valle d'Aosta, Piemonte, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, as well as parts of Slovenia and Croatia, became, by stages, absorbed into the Roman state, and how the inhabitants of these regions began talking of themselves as Romans--never "northern Italians." She is quick to emphasize that the process of making these diverse regions, ecologies, and cityscapes into a Roman political, economic, and cultural entity resulted in an "artificial creation."

The author proceeds, sensibly, with a mixture of large-scale surveys of the peoples, places, and events that characterized "northern Italy" from pre-Roman to post-Roman times, with more detailed case studies of some of the most important, and best attested, sites. …

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