Anna Walas
Journal of Roman Archaeology 33
Publication year: 2020

More than 3000km of Rome’s borders spanned across arid environments of North Africa, having produced some of the best preserved military sites and frontier epigraphy from anywhere within the Empire. Roman frontiers in Africa, while providing fascinating archaeological material, are also a challenging area of research due to lack of recent fieldwork as a result of modern conflict, destruction of sites and inaccessibility of finds material. Consequently, majority of recent literature on the nature and function of Roman frontiers tends to stem from work on the European provinces, particularly Britain, Germany and the Netherlands as countries with well-established research infrastructure. This was visible during the 2018 Limes Congress, the biggest gathering of scholars of Rome’s frontiers taking place every three years, with few Roman military sites from the African continent, with the exception of Egypt discussed. This difference in research coverage poses an issue in achieving a balanced understanding of the entirety of Roman frontiers. Rome’s European frontiers extended mostly either along man made defences; Hadrian’s Wall, Antonine Wall, the Raetian Limes, or along rivers, like Rhine and Danube and so they have traditionally lent themselves to being imagined as lines on the map[1]. In contrast, both in the Asian and African provinces, the remains of the frontiers do not always conform easily to a linear vision and the frontiers faced very different geographic and social challenges to those encountered in Europe. With an increased emphasis in public discourse on control of borders and migration to Europe, Rome’s relationship with its North African frontier is of renewed interest to academic community, inviting to reassess traditional approaches to the frontiers of the region.


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