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Late Roman Spain and Its Cities

Michael Kulikowski

Publication Year: 2010

The history of Spain in late antiquity offers important insights into the dissolution of the western Roman empire and the emergence of medieval Europe. Nonetheless, scholarship on Spain in this period has lagged behind that on other Roman provinces. Michael Kulikowski draws on the most recent archeological and literary evidence to integrate late antique Spain into the broader history of the Roman empire, providing a definitive narrative and analytical account of the Iberian peninsula from A.D. 300 to 600. Kulikowski begins with a concise introduction to the early history of Roman Spain, and then turns to the Diocletianic reforms of 293 and their long-term implications for Roman administration and the political ambitions of post-Roman contenders. He goes on to examine the settlement of barbarian peoples in Spain, the end of Roman rule, and the imposition of Gothic power in the fifth and sixth centuries. In parallel to this narrative account, Kulikowski offers a wide-ranging thematic history, focusing on political power, Christianity, and urbanism. Kulikowski's portrait of late Roman Spain offers some surprising conclusions. With new archeological evidence and a fresh interpretation of well-known literary sources, Kulikowski contradicts earlier assertions of a catastrophic decline of urbanism, finding that the physical and social world of the Roman city continued well into the sixth century despite the decline of Roman power. This groundbreaking study will prompt further reassessments of the other Roman provinces and of medieval Spanish history.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Ancient Society and History


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pp. xi-xii | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2975


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pp. xiii-xiv | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2976

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pp. xv-xviii | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2977

This book begins from three propositions. First, the political narratives and institutional history of many late antique provinces must be revisited in light of recent advances in source criticism. Many basic sources for the period have now appeared in new, improved editions and in some cases—that of Hydatius, for instance—the new edition has...

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One: The Creation of Roman Spain

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pp. 1-16 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2978

Roman Spain was a world full of cities, shaped by its hundreds of urban territories. This was every bit as much the case in late antiquity as it had been during the high imperial period. Students of late antiquity tend to lump Spain together with Gaul or Britain, as part of the western provinces...

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Two: Urban Institutions in the Principate

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pp. 17-38 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2979

Once it had taken root in the various parts of the peninsula, urban living had a dynamic of its own and came very rapidly to seem not only normal, but normative. By the end of the Flavian era, with the peninsula structured around its three hundred or four hundred civitates, every Spaniard lived within the territorium of one city or another...

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Three: Urban Institutions in the Third and Fourth Centuries

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pp. 39-64 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2980

Whatever its explanation, the third-century decline of the epigraphic habit among Hispano-Roman elites is a historical reality. It cannot have helped but change the means by which these elites interacted and reckoned their status relative to one another. On the other hand, the decline of the epigraphic habit serves to disguise the fact...

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Four: Diocletian and the Spanish Fourth Century

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pp. 65-84 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2981

The reforms of Diocletian created the administrative boundaries that shaped Spain’s late Roman history and outlived the imperial government there. These Spanish reforms were not unique, but rather one small part of an empire-wide reorganization that Diocletian undertook in an attempt to deal with the instability endemic to third-century government. For fifty years after the extinction of the Severan dynasty...

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Five: Change in the Spanish City

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pp. 85-129 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2982

The third and fourth centuries brought very substantial changes to the physical landscape of Spain, certainly as much as they did to the peninsula’s social landscape. A few small cities shrank dramatically or disappeared altogether, while the largest cities grew substantially. By the end of the second century, new works of monumental public architecture had largely ceased to be put up in the cities, but throughout the peninsula...

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Six: Town and Country

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pp. 130-150 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2983

In some ways, the rural environment of Roman Spain is more accessible to us than is the urban, because continuous habitation has rarely obscured rural remains in the way modern cities sit atop their Roman forebears. To be sure, the study of rural sites is complicated by the shortcomings of older site reports and by the reflexive dating of signs of destruction to the supposed invasions...

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Seven: Imperial Crisis and Recovery

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pp. 151-175 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2984

We can begin to study the historical narrative of Roman Spain only as the superstructure of imperial government begins to break down in the peninsula. During the four peaceful centuries that followed Augustus’s organization of the Spanish provinces, only a handful of events are known to us. But beginning in the years of civil war at the start of the fifth century, Spain’s history becomes traceable...

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Eight: The End of Roman Spain

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pp. 176-196 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2985

Castinus’s defeat did not mean the cession of Spain to the barbarians, but it opened another period of imperial disengagement that made later attempts at restoration more difficult. The problem, as so often during the reign of Honorius, came from Spain’s position on the imperial periphery: within a year of his defeat...

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Nine: The Aftermath of Empire

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pp. 197-214 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2986

Our scraps of evidence for the half century after the departure of Majorian from Spain record unconnected details that it is impossible to subsume within a single linear account. They show us a politically fragmented world, in which fundamentally local leaders—Hispano- Roman aristocrats, Suevic chieftains, or Gothic kings and their generals—might sometimes attempt to impose...

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Ten: The Impact of Christianity in the Fifth Century

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pp. 215-255 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2987

Perhaps the most revelatory consequence of treating the archaeological record as an autonomous source of evidence comes in our understanding of Spanish Christianity. If we take the literary evidence as normative, Spain appears to have been dominated by Christianity and its controversies from the very start of the fourth century. The tiny corpus of Hispano- Roman authors demands that inference and scholars have long...

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Eleven: The Earlier Sixth Century and the Goths in Spain

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pp. 256-286 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2988

The growing Christianization of the physical and social world of the fifth and sixth centuries is undoubtedly their most significant feature, with church power extending into the void left by the decay of older forms of urban authority. The old municipal institutions did not simply disappear. Some continue to be attested...

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Twelve: The New World of the Sixth Century

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pp. 287-309 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2989

The social and physical landscape of the Spain that Leovigild drew together under his rule is obscure, much more so than that of earlier periods. The literary evidence, almost entirely ecclesiastical, allows certain inferences about the life of a few specific places, chiefly M

Appendix 1: The Epistula Honorii

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pp. 311-312 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2990

Appendix 2: Magistrates of Late Roman Spain

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pp. 313-315 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2991


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pp. 317-416 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2992


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pp. 417-473 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2993


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pp. 475-489 | DOI: 10.1353/chapter.2994

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899492
E-ISBN-10: 0801899494
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801898327
Print-ISBN-10: 0801898323

Page Count: 510
Illustrations: 8 halftones, 14 line drawings
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Ancient Society and History