Journal of Ancient Topography

n. IV 1994


JAT  IV (1994)


CLAUDE NICOLET, The Mediterranean «Megapolis».

The «megapolis», characterized by exceptionally high urban density, has been a specific feature of the countries surrounding the.Mediterranean since Antiquity. From Ancient Rome to Istanbul and modern Cairo, via Alexandria, Carthage or Athens and a few others, these selfcontained or giant cities have fascinated contemporaries and historians. What features do they share? What new functional forms have they invented? Beyond historical flux and civilization contrasts («western» or «MusIim» cities etc.), is there something specifical1y Mediterranean about them? This has been the object of an interdisciplinary research programme largely carried out at the Ecole Française de Rome between 1993 and 1996, which will conclude with an international conference in 1996 (whose proceedings will be published by the School), followed, at a reasonable distance, by a comparative atlas.

NEREO ALFIERI, Ancient Literary Sources.

The importance of literary sources for the interdisciplinary reconstruction of the ancient world is highlighted. This is also true of topography, provided that a critical relationship with ground work is maintained. The topographical value of individual literary and historical sources varies, however. A number of examples are presented. In the case of the discrepancies between the descriptions of the Po delta in Polybius and Strabo, on the one hand, and Pliny the Elder, on the other, the conclusion is reached that they can be reconciled, if due consideration is given to chronological differences (two centuries, from the second half of the 2nd. century B.C. to the first half of the 1st. century A.D.) and the geomorphological evolution of the natural landscape over the period. Thus, for the explanation of the name of Ancona, there is a preliminary archaic view linked to Greek navigation in the Adriatic and a later one connected with local topography. There are various topographical references in Martial: that of Vercellae Padanae is examined, in its connection with the Voghenza inscription of the «saltus Vercellensium» in the territory of Ravenna (CIL V 2385) and the recollections by Dante of the «dolce piano che da Vercelli a Marcabò dichina» (Inf XXVIII 75), already reexamined by G. Uggeri. Finally, Caesar's ability to immediately realize the strategical value of certain positions, as in the ease of Auximum (Osimo), is underlined.

GIOVAN BATTISTA PELLEGRINI, The Contribution of  the Study of Place-Names to Topographical and Archaeological Research.

The author highlights the importance of the study of place-names in topographical and archaeological research, in order to trace the meaning of place-names and therefore recognize the historical situation or function behind their origin. However, he issues a warning against identification of ancient localities on the basis of simple assonances, without respecting phonetic evolution. Examples are provided by types: praedial, gromaticus (centuriation and landsurveying), monuments, milestones, itineraries, borders, river meeting points and ports of call.

CESARE MARANGIO, Epigraphy in Topographical Research: religious buildings and sacred areas in the regio secunda.

The author shows that epigraphy is one of the fundamental sources for the study of ancient topography. In the field of Roman epigraphy, he draws attention to evidence from the Augustan regio secunda. After a brief overview of some of the many relevant correlations for this region, detailed attention is devoted to epigraphical references to religious buildings and sacred areas and their specific connection with topographical research. Following the topographical order of CIL, even references outside any archaeological context (which is a direct stimulus to researeh, for this very reason) are dealt with. With regard to ancient Calabria, reference is made to finds at Leuca and Torre dell'Orso, which allowed identification of religious buildings connected with navigation rites, at least in the Roman period. Equally significant evidence from Taranto follows, includinig an important donum to Minerva, closely connected with a religious building in the ancient city. Richer documentation is available from Apulia,where frequent correlation between epigraphy and archaeological evidence has contributed to interesting topographical and urban findings. The Gnathia inscription is particularly important. It allowed identification of an ancient temple dedicated to Cybete and Syria. The Canosa donum to Minerva is equally important, as it restored the name of the god to which the re1igious building found under the Christian Basilica of S. Leucio was dedicated. The same is true of the Bantia cippi, which were decisive for the identification of an Auguraculum datable to the first half of the 1st. century B.C. Further mention is made of other evidence, which though not directly connected to archaeological finds, suggests the presence of religious buildings, thus providing a stimulus to topographical research, as in the cases of Venusia, of its ager municipalis, and of Luceria. From Apulia we pass on to that part of Irpinia inc1uded in the Augustan regio secunda Apulia et Calabria. The most important documentation comes from Beneventum, though there are few obvious archaeological connections in the city, inscriptions do recall numerous important religious buildings, especially the temples of Isis and Minerva Berecynthia, which are of considerable cultural importance for the city, especially in the reign of Diocletian. In conclusion, the author considers the chronology attributed to the inscriptions studied, also making wider historical observations and methodological proposals for topographical and urban research in the regio secunda.

PIER LUIGI DALL'AGLIO, Ancient Topography and Geomorphology.

The landscape we live in is the result of continuous interaction between physical geography and man's activity. Man has, and continues to transform the physiographical situation, though being, to a greater or lesser degree, conditioned by it. Thus, studying the history of the occupation of an area means reconstructing the vicissitudes of this continual, complex re1ationship between man and his environment. The consequence is that historical-topographical analysis must be integrated with geomorphological analysis, so as to identify those physiographical features which have predominantly influenced the evolution of the landscape. It is only through such an interdisciplinary analysis that one can understand the reasons behind population settlements, choices of particular road routes, and centuriation planning. Here geomorphological research will also better clarify why there are conservation differences in centuriation networks, even inside specific grids. The identification of the relationship between geomorphological units and settlement preferences allows one to point to so-called «archaeologically sensitive areas », i.e. the areas that, though not having yet provided finds, are likely to have been settled in antiquity, owing to their environmental characteristics. Geomorphology, then, is to be rightfully included among the sources avaiIabIe to the scholar studying ancient topography. It is also true that scholars studying geomorphoIogy cannot overlook the historical investigation of their area, if they wish to reach a better understanding of the mechanisms behind particular transformations, and place them in an accurate chronological context.


This article deals with the problems faced during about ten years'application of the intensive, systematic method in the archaeological survey. This method has proved to be of particular value for the study of settlement patterns in the Mediterranean area in the Classical period, both with true coverage of land surface and, for areas greater than 50-100 sq. km, sample strategies, mostly using transects placed at regular intervals, which have proved to be most useful in speciIic kinds of environment, such as river valleys. The central concept of most of these investigations has been that of «site»; only rarely have the methods of off-site archaeology been used. This does not mean that traces of human activity outside sites should be neglected, since our ain should not be the search for sites (understood as permanent settlements, or definable areas) but for traces of activity. Survey intensity is of particular importance and must be closely linked to the investigation's ultimate aims. These should be clearly stated in publications, because only thus can the results of more than one investigation be compared. Preparation of maps of visibiIity of the area studied can help to solve the problem. Prospecting intensity can be increased in cases of low visibilità by means of specific underground investigation techniques, such as phosphate content analysis, or search for metals and also geophysical techniques. However, the problem remains of the relationship between surface distribution of finds and underground distribution. An attempt has been made to understand find behaviour after ploughing and to improve techniques so as to obtain a non selective sample of finds. However the problems of data interpretation should not be underestimated. The collection of environmental evidence allows us to pass from settlement to landscape archaeology. Though, in many investigations, a satisfactory level of integration has been attained between topography, archaeology, geomorphology, physiography and pedology, more detailed work is needed. Research needs to be carried out along the following lines: a) historical reconstruction of vegetation; b) study of the micromorphology and pedology of soils; c) palinological analyses; d) remote-sensing techniques.

CAIROU FULVIO GIULIANI, Survey and Technical Analysis of Monuments and Chronological Definition of Walls.

The superficial approach sometimes to be found in work on ancient topography by amateurs largely depends on our failure to provide necessary theoretical methodologies. A fundamental aspect of topography is the study of existing structures, especially due to the inclination to collect features for absolute dating from formal characteristics. Walls are too often only dated on the basis of their formal appearance. The failure of this method is due to the fact that appearance hardly ever depends on historicaI events, but especially on static requirements or even particular economic situations. This is why it is necessary to study ancient buildings by way of their structural build up so as to approach as near as possible their original plan, even using three dimensionaI computerized models, but always after detailed direct examination.

GIOVANNI UGGERI, Methodology for the Reconstruction of  Roman Road Networks.

The reconstruction of a Roman road network is the result of interdisciplinary research, which can be schematically presented as foIlows: Use of written sources, either direct (especially inscriptions, with special reference to milestones), or indirect (traditional classicaI texts, and especially technical ones, such as itineraries; saints' lives, medieval documents and chronicles); use of cartography, both old and recent, and especially thematic maps (such as various archaeological maps); interpretation of air photographs and satellite images; use of place-names, thug with the necessary caution; Geomorphological analysis of the environment supposedly crossed by the road and reconstruction of its transformations so as to identify its natural condition at the time of buiIding, a particularly useful preliminary operation on low lying territory undergoing more rapid evolution; Topographical surveys along the supposed route followed by the road to understand possible natural difficulties or advantages for the road builders and identify road artefacts or traces of human presence and chronological clues. Certain planning characteristics of Roman roads are underlined, as are the lack of fixed building rules, to the advantage to on the spot technological decisions, and the general long lasting nature of artefacts.

GIOVANNA BONORA, Centuriation. Methodological Observations.

The author underlines the complex problems of ancient land surveyor sources (gromatici) and the varying research situation in different regions. For reconstruction purposes, the author emphasizes the usefulnessof old cartography, air photography, place-names, hydrography of the settlement. Notice is taken of different orientations between adjoining colonies, the extension of land division to non-colonial territories, multiple land divisions of the same city. It is sometimes possible to recognize property and crop cultivation boundaries, drainage and irrigation canals. The first certain centuriation is that of Terracina (329 B.C.), but the practice continued to late antiquity and the high functional level lies behind the surprising survivaIs.

EMILIO RODRlGUEZ-ALMEIDA, The Reconstruction of the Marble Forma Urbis: some methodological suggestions.

The author complains about the lack of planning and adequate technical tools in the study of the Forma Urbis. In 1987 a new cataIogue of the fragments was compiled and made ready for computerization. The author here proposes new approaches and tools to facilitate the recomposition of the marble slabs, of which copies should be made, and a new numbering for their identification, following their originaI placing in the map of Rome.

ANGELA GALLOTTINI, Prints as a Source for Ancient Topography.

The study of art graphics can contribute to the progress of archaeological research in general, and, in particular, to topography and ancient town planning. Prints, either maps or views, offer very useful information for detailed analysis. Comparison between a number of engravings of the same monument, for example, provides information on its history, on its state of repair in different periods, or even its appearance when it no longer stands today or is badly damaged. Nevertheless, special art historical methods need to be applied, seeing that graphics is a specialized artistic genre. A print will thus not be seen as an isolated document, but within the wider context of an artist's complete work. This will allow the identification of specific stylemes. Comparison of the work of different engravers on the same subject allow the vicissitudes of an area or monument to be reconstructed. In conclusion, a brief example of the method is provided, applied to some ancient monuments in the Flegrean Fields.

ARMANDO CHERICI, The Archaeological Map: some methodological notes for Arezzo and its territory.

The author discusses his experience as a scholar working on the topography of the territory of Arezzo, attempting to outline a possible methodology. The area has been studied over a long period, which suggests that the best way for the individual researcher to proceed is by carrying out on the spot surveys, so as to check the data supplied by variuous sources. The first essential step is historical study of scholarship, covering both published and incompletely published material. Archives are of prime interest, special attention needing to be devoted to those belonging to individuals and bodies unconnected with central government institutions. Church, family and local authority archives are often rich in unpublished, exact information. Popular traditions also provide important material: legends, folk tales, as well as interviews with country people, hunters, wild mushroom pickers and technical staff from local bodies. The author presents a number of clues supplied by such sources, emphasizing how many data can be thus obtained.

STELLA PATITUCCI, Giorgio Merula on the 500th. Anniversary of his Death.

Giorgio Merlano, known as Merula in Humanist circles (born, Alessandria c. 1430, died Milan 1494), was a discoverer, editor, commentator an translator of classical texts, but in his historical work (Antiquitatum Vicecomitum libri) he dealt with topographical descriptions, using Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy. He recognized the fossilized remains of the Via Aemilia Scauri between Acquae Statiellae and Dertona on the embankment known locally as 'Levata', to the south east of Alessandria.

GIOVANNI UGGERI, Francesco Maurolico on the 500th. Anniversary of his Birth.

Francesco Maurolico (Messina 1494-1575), known as Marulle was a great mathematician and translator of Greek mathematical treatises. He decided to write a Sicanicarum rerum compendium (Messanae 1562), a history of Sicily reacting against that by Tommaso Fazello (De rebus Siculis, Panorrni 1558). He wrote clearly and used new Greek sources (Pindar, Appian, Eusebius, Stephen of Byzantium., Suidas) for topographical research.

MARIA MILVIA MORCIANO, The Interpretation of the Walls of  Faesulae.

The author presents a new interpretation of the fortifications of Faesulae, as an example of dry built large stone walls. Historical considerations date the walls within the period 1st. half 4th. - early 3rd. century B. C. Geomorphological analysis aided by stereoscopic observation of air photographs and detailed surveys highlight the factors affecting the contours, which also allows the remains not belonging to defences to be identified. Scientific analysis of the stone used has proved essential. The sandstone used for the walls of Fiesole has specific characteristics influencing the end product. Different working of material can be a sign of an earlier date for parts of the walls considered of a later date, as is the case with the restoration of S. Gerolamo. Subsequent re-uses and restorations can also be revealed by technical study of stone quarrying, transport, use in building, tools used, and work on stone surfaces. Lack of precise stratigraphical data and application being limited to the outer walls require methodologies which go beyond mere formal typological analysis. Detailed observation of the position of individual stones in the walls has allowed subsequent phases to be identified and a new history of functional interventions and changes to be written, though no absolute chronology can be supplied.

ANNAPAOLA MOSCA, Problems  with Roman Roads in Etruria.

Problems encountered when studying Roman roads in Etruria are discussed: comparisons with ancient cartography, relationships to previous roads, historical and economic reasons for road construction. Evidence from literary sources, inscriptions, itineraries, place-names related to routes of road building materials is analyzed. Repeated fìeld work was devoted to the routes followed by the three roads analyzed: Cassia, Quinctia and Faventina. Lack of remains of road surfaces in the northern part of the area was the cause of reliance on the poor remaining monumental evidence (bridges, funerary monuments, baths), to be found along the route, where it is possible to establish this. Air photography proved invaluable for certain areas, especially where the territory has changed radically, e.g. in the Val di Chiana for the Via Cassia, and in the Arno valley for the Via Quinctia.

MARCO BUONOCORE, Between Topography and Epigraphy: the aqueduct at Amiternum.

A new reading and interpretation is presentedto Latin inscription CIL I2  1853, dating from the middle of the Ist century B.C., concerning the purgatio of an aqueduct. The various stretches of the aqueduct from castellum to castellum, purgati by the castellarii are identified. Thus light is shed on the course of the ancient Roman aqueduct serving the town of Amiternum near L'Aquila (regio IV, Sabini). Beginning at an altitude of 706 m., it decreased to 661.5 m., over a distance of 6,450 romàn ft. (= 2,562 m.), its average gradient thus being 1.73%, which fits well what is known about other courses.

MARCO AGOSTINO AMUCANO, The Roman Theatre in Nora: a new architectural and urban interpretation.

The Roman theatre in Nora was thoroughly excavated in 1952 by Gennaro Pesce. It is unique of its kind in Sardinia. It still needs a detailed analysis of the specific architectural and technical aspects. This study in one of a series devoted to various new analyses of visible remains after those carried out by Pesce, who did no more than describe the theatre, which had been badly excavated. Through architectural analysis of the ruins and wall strata, the author provides a new analysis, with a two order cavea, which is supported by plans drawn by Count A. Ferrero Della Marmora, a famous 19th. century scholar and traveller in Sardinia, ignored by most scholars who have studied the theatre. New stages are suggested, dating from the Augustan era, on the basis of epigraphical data and wall strata, following a time sequence which takes into account the recent proposals by G. Beyor. On the basis of a rather haphazard astronomical orientation, the extravagance of certain aspects of building, and the specific tecnica «bilingualism», the author provides a number of hypotheses on urban and especially ideological constraints, for which the previous PhoenicianPumc town plan had been responsible in the planning stage. One of the results of this analysis is the identification of the sacred nature of the nearby «hill of Tanit», exploitation of whose slopes in the building of the theatre could have saved money and time. The fact that it was not incorporated inta a building such as a theatre, which was an important factor in Romanization, could confirm the thesis concerning pre-existing Semitic religious buildings on the bili, though not all scholars would agree.