ABSTRACT

Looking over the literature produced at the interface between the disciplines of archaeology and ancient history, there lies a preoccupation with the subject of ‘the city and the country’. Often these are seen as almost discrete entities interacting with each other, but that are fundamentally separate. Michael Rostovtzeff, as a Russian exile, saw this as a dichotomy that made sense of his homeland in the early 20th century, but it is also a dominant mode of discourse within European culture. It is a discourse that is implicit in the model of the consumer city familiar to ancient historians from the work of Moses Finley and a generation of scholarship that includes both Wim Jongman’s discussion of Pompeii and Neville Morley’s discussion of Rome and its hinterland (Morley 1996), while also encapsulating perspectives of towns and the countryside in Roman Britain (for example, Rivet 1964 or papers in Miles 1982). The centrality of the relationship of the city and countryside was established in the first ever social and economic history of the Roman Empire, which was written by Rostovtzeff originally in the 1920s and then re-issued through to the end of the 1950s. At the heart of the discussion lie two paradigms: one a conception of history based on the experience of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and second, the use of archaeological evidence. The latter had been a feature of Tenney Frank’s earlier work, in which ‘large-scale factory methods’ and ‘industrial capital’ were incorporated into the interpretation of garum and textile production in Pompeii (Frank 1918: 233-34) and a comparison between the Eumachia building and the Blackwell Hall in medieval London with an associated cross-comparison of the collegia of Pompeii with the guilds of the Middle Ages – a subject that was duly developed by Moeller (1976) more than half a century later – a study anticipated by Rostovtzeff (1926: 514-15). Rostovtzeff’s conception of the economy involved a rise of a bourgeoisie

that underpinned a form of city-capitalism in the manner of an urban middle class in opposition to the peasants of the countryside, who suffered a

‘rapid decline in material wealth’ and a decline in their ‘purchasing power’ that resulted in the stagnation of the economy under the emperors (Rostovtzeff 1926: xi-xii and set out 125-79). Underpinning the development of this model was a conception of the development of capitalism in Italy with the spread of slave production in the 2nd century BC, and the development of new markets for goods in Gaul, Spain and Africa (Rostovtzeff 1926: 21), a view substantiated by the spread of Roman material culture. In Italy, the owners of production (big capitalists and the rich municipal bourgeoisie) were located in the villas that had been excavated in the vicinity of Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum (Rostovtzeff 1926: 31). Prosperity under Augustus could be evaluated with reference to the ruins of cities in Umbria (Rostovtzeff 1926: 59). Literary evidence is also used: Horace’s references to his Sabine farm run by a slave-manager, vilicus, locates Horace as an example of the urban population exploiting the countryside for profit that becomes ‘a characteristic feature of Central Italy’ (Rostovtzeff 1926: 61). However, it is the exchange of manufactured goods as exemplified by finds in the archaeological record that prevails across the text and creates the visual imagery found in museums, such as that in Aquileia, on which Rostovtzeff’s model of the economy is based (Rostovtzeff 1926: 71). Importantly, he rejected the use of literary evidence to characterize the city and the country and instead looked to archaeology for elucidation of the problem that he saw as vital for the understanding of social and economic history (Rostovtzeff 1926: 180-305). He surveys the evidence province by province over the course of more than a 100 pages to try to elucidate what the relationship was between the minority living in towns and the majority of the population living in the countryside and involved in agricultural production. What writers in the early 20th century saw was a resolution of a contemporary debate over the nature of the Roman economy as either fundamentally undeveloped or characterized by the language of the ‘intricate industrial system of modern times’ (Frank 1927: 219). Part of the problem of the nature of this debate was a lack of data and a reliance on literary sources. The proponents for resolution staunchly advocated the use of archaeological evidence, particularly that from Pompeii, the only excavated city with adequate remains if poorly published data. The power of the arguments developed at the beginning of the 20th century based on archaeology would create an orthodoxy of a capitalist Roman Empire that would survive until it was challenged by Moses Finley in the 1970s with the development of the new orthodoxy of the ancient economy. What this material reveals is how Roman historians have manipulated the archaeological record to produce conclusions that are often a reflection of their own ideological positions in the present. Following on from this discussion, the chapter moves on to recent excavations of

villas within the vicinity of Rome and discusses how the evidence has been interpreted and how it might engage with current debates over the nature of the city and the landscape that borders the city.