chapter  6
Pages 7

Study of the region presents particular problems. Whereas with the house and city (and perhaps even the district or neighbourhood) boundaries are relatively clearly demarcated, such physical manifestations of boundaries are relatively unlikely with larger territorial divisions. Lines on a map may differentiate administrative territories (nomes), provinces or, indeed, empires, but such lines, like those drawn between colonial territories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, need not have any particular emotive or practical force. Indeed, the ability and willingness of ancient and modern imperial states to redraw boundaries to suit changing administrative circumstances demonstrate the artificiality of such distinctions and it is only with the modern world, territorial nationalism, and the intense capitalistic exploitation of natural resources by nation states that such lines have come to be regarded as having almost spiritual significance. There are, however, ways of differentiating territories other than by polity. Economic systems bring people together. People move to trade, either from local villages to the city or from city to city. Outside the walls of ancient cities were farms and the exploitation of the land created a territory that formed part of the spatial context of the city. Institutions also had a territoriality, whether they be traditional temples, theatres, games (which may have drawn audiences from some distance) or Christian shrines. Institutional, economic and administrative networks connect settlements into systems and it is these systems on which this chapter concentrates. As a result, much of this chapter attempts to differentiate the role of the city within the system from those roles played by other settlements and, almost by accident, we deal with a further problem and one which, perhaps contentiously, this book has so far ignored: the definition of a city.1