Panel abstract

To what extent were towns integral to the economic functioning of the Roman empire? How did the structures of Roman imperialism affect the processes of urbanisation and municipalisation within the Roman provinces? Can the distribution patterns of large-, medium- and small-sized towns across the western empire help us to identify the major factors determining their food supply and growth? Emphasis in the debate over the role of the town in the ancient economy has recently shifted from Max Weber and Moses Finley's ideal types to the use of urbanisation rates as proxies for economic performance. This panel intends to use a vast set of newly available data collected by researchers as part of the long-running Empire of 2000 Cities Project, hosted by the University of Leiden, to explore these questions at a broader scale of analysis than ever before. Geographically it will encompass the majority of the Latin west; the Greek-speaking regions, whose urban sites developed within the polis system, are intended to be the focus of a sister panel, which we hope will also be hosted by the 2018 ICCA . Thanks to the flexible web- and GIS-linked database produced by the Leiden Cities project, which it is hoped will eventually be free to access online, patterns in the size, monumentality and status of urban sites across a vast geographical area can now be observed. A number of regional specialists from within the project will be invited to respond to a discussion paper, outlining these broader patterns, to be circulated 6 months in advance of the conference (i.e. by October 2017). Individual speakers will be asked to comment upon how their provinces fit into or differ from the broader regional developments of the western empire and upon the significance of this for the overall functioning of the Roman economic system.