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Abstract

Because fortifications and sieges form an important part of the literary narrative for early Roman history, the ambiguous picture offered by the archaeology for early Roman fortifications is intriguing. While limited fortifications, typically of the agger and fossa variety, have been found in central Italy dating back to the early Iron Age, full circuit walls seem to have been a relatively late phenomenon, generally appearing in the late fifth, fourth, and third centuries BC—and well after the development of large, wealthy, and vibrant urban centres. This disjunction between the size and wealth of communities and the development of fortifications has long been seen as problematic—as demonstrated by the modern debate around it. If early fortifications were indeed as limited and ‘piecemeal’ as they appear in the archaeological record, their function is unclear. They would have not offered the sort of continuous and defining civic boundary which Livy and other late republican historians seem to have envisaged, nor would they have represented a significant hurdle to an army attempting a determined siege or assault. Additionally, we are also left to wonder what prompted the shift to the massive, stone-built, full circuit walls in late fifth and early fourth centuries BC. Taking a holistic view of Roman society and warfare during the archaic period, this chapter argues that limited fortifications may actually make sense and can be correlated to social changes amongst Rome’s elite. Although Livy may have been anachronistic in pushing Rome’s great walls and siege warfare back into the regal period, his interpretation of their function and importance for the city—as a symbol of social cohesion—may have been correct. This cohesion merely occurred much later in Rome’s development than he (and many modern scholars) thought.

In: Brill's Companion to Sieges in the Ancient Mediterranean
In: Rituals of Triumph in the Mediterranean World
In: Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare
In: Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare
In: Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare
In: Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare
In: Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare
Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare presents a thematic approach to current directions in ancient military studies with case studies on topics including the economics of warfare, military cohesion, military authority, irregular warfare, and sieges. Bringing together research on cultures from across the Mediterranean world, ranging from Pharaonic Egypt to Late Antique Europe and from Punic Spain to Persian Anatolia, the collection demonstrates both the breadth of the current field and a surprising number of synergies.
In: Brill's Companion to Sieges in the Ancient Mediterranean
In: Rituals of Triumph in the Mediterranean World