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Research Groningen Institute of Archaeology Research The impact of Roman imperialism in the West


Our understanding of the advent and success of Roman expansion and imperialism has made important progress in the last three decades or so. A key factor in this progress has undoubtedly been the focus on regional and local contextualisation of archaeological data, which has revealed the diversity of developments and practices in different areas within the far-flung Eurasian area dominated by Rome. This diversity of the imperial process in time and space results in a much more colourful picture than the traditional, uniformised image of the Roman world. At the same time, however, the particularly rich modern political and cultural diversity within the vast study area has also led to different ways to interpret and present the archaeological and historical evidence. Using different approaches and methods, nationally or linguistically defined schools of thought have inevitably highlighted some aspects and downplayed others.

There are several sides to this situation. On the one hand, it is challenging if the ambition is to assess actual historical differences and similarities on a larger scale throughout the Roman world. In other words, are the local idiosyncrasies that have been recognized in and highlighted from archaeological data in different areas of the Roman empire historical, or are they the effect of particular research traditions, methodologies and agendas? The issue continues to hamper comparative approaches, although it has become increasingly clear that such comparative, integrative work is what is now needed to take the next step in understanding the development and functioning of Roman imperialism.

On the other hand, this diversity of perspectives and research traditions is most certainly also a strength, as it offers from the start a rich palette of possible approaches and methods that other disciplines would envy. Engagement between different schools of thought and national research traditions can help to integrate other perspectives, theories, and methods, and thus lay the groundwork for comparative work on Mediterranean- and Eurasian-wide trends on a supranational scale.

Last modified:17 November 2022 09.44 a.m.