Rome was connected to its Mediterranean provinces by commercial routes articulated through networks of ports acting as poly-functional nodes. Ships, people and goods moved along these, drawing the micro-regions of the Mediterranean into closer economic and commercial relationships with the City. Central to the success of these networks were the major ports through which were channelled major commercial flows moving between Rome and its maritime hub at Portus, and its Mediterranean provinces, and their relationships to lesser regional and anchorages. All of them can be described in terms of loosely configured “port-systems” that ensured the movement of ships and their cargoes around the Mediterranean. Some of these, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean, can be traced back to the Hellenistic or earlier periods. ROMP will address specific questions relating to the capacities of and inter-connections between a range of 30 ports in ways that will allow us to better understand their role in helping ensure the cohesion and integrity of the Roman Mediterranean during the imperial era. These concern (1) the layout of Roman ports, (2) the organization of commercial activity focused at them, (3) hierarchies of ports, and (4) pan-Mediterranean commercial and social connections between ports. In addressing them, the project will apply suites of existing techniques in archaeology, ancient history and palaeo-environmental studies to a range of ports. It is an approach that builds upon the PI's belief in the value of integrating archaeological techniques and historical approaches to the study of the past, and the interpretation of individual port sites within a broader Mediterranean context. In so doing, the project moves beyond the state of the art in port studies, and raises issues that are key to better understanding the unprecedented degree of economic, social and political convergence that was achieved by the Roman empire during the imperial era.
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