Book Review: Frontiers in the Roman World

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by Olivier Hekster & Ted Kaizer, editors

Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2011. Pp. xii, 378. Illus., tables, notes, index. $177.00. ISBN: 900420119X

The relatively new discipline of frontier studies is one of the more vibrant scholarly fields, and this volume in the Brill series “Impact of Empire” embodies the proceedings of a 2009 conference on the Roman frontier, the ninth in an ongoing series on the subject.

The score of essays, in several languages, by scholars from three continents explore various aspects of the Roman concept of the “limites.”  This has traditionally been translated as “frontier” or “boundary,” reflecting modern precision over territorial limits.  To the Romans, however, “fines” was the word used for “boundary,” such as the border between two provinces.  The term “limites” had a different meaning.  Limites implied a zone of decreasing Roman influence that separated clearly controlled areas from those in which the empire chose to not to exercise authority.  This zone of influence reflected “ground truth,” the limits of territory profitable or useful to the empire, beyond which there was an area in which the empire had some interest, if only for trade and as a buffer zone, and then beyond that regions in which the empire had little interest. 

The range of topics covered in the work, which illustrate the very broad important of the frontiers, can be seen in the titles of some of the essays, “Fines Provinciae,” “Drawing the Line: An Archaeological Methodology for Detecting Roman Provincial Borders,” “Recherche sur les frontieres de l’afrique romaine,” “On the Fringe: Trade and Taxation in the Egyptian Eastern Desert,” “Contextualizing Hadrian’s Wall,” “The Frontiers of Graeco-Roman Religions,”  “The New Frontiers of Late Antiquity in the Near East,” and “The Practice of Hospitium on the Roman Frontier.”

Frontiers in the Roman World is a valuable work for the serious student of the Roman world.

Note: Frontiers in the Roman World is also available in e-book format, ISBN: 978-9-0042-1503-0

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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