chapter  1
Vrbes Extinctae: Archaeologies of and Approaches to Abandoned Classical Cities
Pages 44

Ostia, Paestum, Wroxeter, Tiermes, Conimbriga, Gorsium, Narona, Olbia, Timgad, Palmyra, Ephesus, Apameia, Amorion… ese are all important sites, well known to many archaeologists and ancient historians, which all played signicant roles in the political, economic and religious lives of the provinces in which they lay within the classical and late classical world. eir monuments, inscriptions, streets, tombs, coins and ceramics all help tell stories of urban origins, growth, prosperity, populations, hardships, and decay. ey are all, however, ‘lost’ sites in the sense of now being abandoned ruins, devoid of a major modern successor, even if now ‘found’ by archaeologists and tourists alike. To the general visitor these are of course also the ‘classic’ sites, places where imagination can be released and where one can better grasp what it may have been like to live in such a city or town of stone, brick and marble many centuries

past; monumental buildings like public baths and theatres may seem both alien and familiar, but being able to walk into rooms, courtyards and gardens helps populate such spaces with people like ourselves. Roman Pompeii encapsulates so much of this, since the scale of preservation there and its ‘frozen’ state (even if the eruption of Vesuvius and the subsequent traumas of ash, pumice, heat and dust, were anything but cold) make it somehow more ‘real’. Similar are the less well known but equally inspiring abandoned Byzantine ‘villages’ and small towns in Syria, such as Serjilla, Schinschara and Dehes, with various ne stone-built public and private structures preserved to roof and pediment level, scattered among gardens and elds, and quitted seemingly at pace in the sixth or seventh centuries (Tchalenko 1953-58; Sodini et al. 1980; cf. Dalrymple 1998, 177-84. Stunning aerial photos are presented in Gerster and Wartke 2003, 48-51).