chapter  8
A MATTER OF PERSONAL PREFERENCE?
The relevance of different territories and types of evidence for Roman history
ByEberhard W. Sauer
Pages 20

No other state has ever controlled all of the Mediterranean for a single day; the Roman Empire did so for almost 400 years, from the first to the early fifth century AD. Yet, while many classical scholars and university departments define their study area as the Mediterranean, or parts thereof, the Roman Empire stretched far beyond areas of Mediterranean climate and vegetation; namely, to the Iberian and Gallic Atlantic coast, to Britain, to the Rhine and Danube (and for about two centuries substantially beyond these rivers), to eastern Anatolia, the Syrian desert and southern Egypt and there and elsewhere in Africa into the Sahara.2 During the early and high Empire members of the senatorial class (and often also those of equestrian rank) who pursued a career appropriate to their status normally held a range of offices, often in several different frontier and core provinces far apart from each other. They experienced personally the vastness of the Empire and its astonishing cultural diversity. They owned houses decorated with fashionable interior design, including wall paintings and mosaic floors, they were familiar with some classical authors, but they frequently also spent years of their lives in military bases at the very margins of Empire and saw with their own eyes rural dwellings of indigenous type in the frontier zone.