Book Review: The Frontiers of the Roman Empire


by Hugh Elton

London / New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. x, 150. Maps, tables, diagr., appends., notes, biblio., index. $49.95 paper. ISBN: 0713473207

The Shifting Character of the Roman Imperial Frontiers

Prof. Elton (Trent University) make a valuable contribution to the unusual field of Roman frontier studies by reminding us that unlike a modern border, that is a sharply delineated line separating two states, the Roman frontier was a fuzzy zone between what was clearly Roman and what was clearly “other.”  This zone might include client states with varying degrees of Roman influence and Romanization, as well as “barbarians” peoples ranging from the friendly to the hostile.  Nor did the “frontier” always have the same character everywhere, nor even in the same place over time, as the fortunes of the Empire rose and fell.  Within this zone there could be found overlapping “boundaries”, economic, military, religious, cultural, ethnic, legal, and more. 

Elton tries, with considerable success, to explain how the “frontier” worked, how it affected the lives of those living in and near it, the influence on local economic, religious, and cultural life, and, of course, the military implications of such a zone.  Originally published by the University of Indiana Press in 1996, this is an important work now available for a wider readership.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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