ABSTRACT

If there is one thing that ignites Roman archaeologists it is the subject of cultural change, or what has become known as ‘Romanization’. It owes its origin to Francis Haverfield’s book The Romanization of Roman Britain published in 1906, a book that owes its inspiration to Theodor Mommsen and historical scholarship from the 19th century (Freeman 2007). For Roman historians delving into Roman archaeology, there is a need to step carefully when it comes to discussing Romanization. It is a topic that will produce strong opinions, groans of depression and frustration, and an understanding that draws on Roman historical research but sets itself apart from it. This chapter seeks to set out some (but certainly not all) of the key areas of debate regarding Romanization and to relate these to the concerns and conceptions of historians. It should be noted at the very outset that this is a two-way street – archaeologists are deeply influenced by the work of ancient historians and may implicitly or explicitly reproduce concepts developed by ancient historians. In fact, in this chapter, I would suggest that the work of Moses Finley, setting out an economy at diametric odds to the work of Michael Rostovtzeff (discussed in the previous chapter), underpins the modern conception of Romanization (seeGreene 1986 for a view of Finley’s work from within archaeology prior to 1990, and Greene 2000 for a view ten years on from the publication of Millett’s 1990a The Romanization of Britain). In discussing archaeologists’ debates over the nature of cultural change,

the focus will be on the discussion of Roman Britain, a province on the periphery of the Roman Empire but at the very centre of the debate over the nature of Romanization. Not all positions, nor every reference to the debate, can be encapsulated within this chapter (see Revell 2009 for an alternative view from within the discipline of archaeology). What is included here is an overview of conceptions and an analysis of the relationship of these positions to debates within Roman history. I see the articulation of the modes of explanation put forward over the last 20 years or so to be embedded in the debate from the 1970s over the nature of the ancient

economy, which was very much part of the undergraduate curriculum in Roman archaeology in the 1980s and can be identified in various edited volumes published as British Archaeological Reports (BARs) over the course of the late 1970s and 1980s (for example, Miles 1982), as well as in Kevin Greene’s (1986: 14-16) textbook The Archaeology of the Roman Economy. I am not suggesting that 1990 marks a sea-change in the study of cultural change, but instead wish to suggest that the articulation of that subject in Martin Millett’s The Romanization of Britain draws together earlier themes and provides a text for the discussion of the subject matter, both in the teaching of undergraduates and at conferences, for the next decade and continues to define discussion implicitly if not explicitly. What is less well understood and seldom discussed is the convergence of Millett’s (1990a) discussion with Finley’s conception of the ancient economy.