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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Robert Witcher

Witcher, R.E. (2013). (Sub)urban Surroundings. In The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome. Erdkamp, P. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 205-225.

Author(s) from Durham


Ancient Roman writers such as Dionysius of Halicarnassus (4.13.4-5) observed the impossibility of locating the point at which Rome ceased and the countryside began. In contrast, modern guidebooks to the remains of the ancient city have less trouble, frequently delimiting their area of interest within the impressive and largely extant Aurelianic Wall. However, this wall was not built until the late third century AD and has no relevance to the first millennium of Rome’s history. By using it to define the ancient city generally, ten centuries of suburban development is unintentionally re-designated as intramural or urban. Such an impression is reinforced by scholarly works on the ancient city which frequently neglect any consideration of the suburbs or hinterland as distinct spaces; paradoxically, this leaves the impression that Rome was the centre of an empire, but existed in splendid isolation from its immediate surroundings. This chapter aims to demonstrate the need for an integrated approach to city, suburbs and hinterland.