Between the Danube and the Mediterranean. Exploring the role of Roman military in the mobility of people and goods in Croatia during the Roman Era (RoMiCRO) – Croatian Science Foundation, project no. 6505
– Name of the Principal Investigator (PI): Professor Mirjana Sanader, PhD
– Name of the PI’s host institution for the project: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Croatia
– Project title: Between the Danube and the Mediterranean. Exploring the role of Roman military in the mobility of people and goods in Croatia during the Roman Era
– Project duration: 2014-2018
The objective of the proposed project is to investigate and extend scientific information to aid in solving as yet unanswered questions about the significance of the Roman army in changes that occurred in the period from the first contacts with Rome (229 BC) to the end of the Marcomannic Wars (AD 180) on the territory of what is now the Republic of Croatia. The geopolitical strategy of Rome in newly conquered regions was to encourage the process of integration, where the Roman army gave their contribution.
Archaeological data testify that the indigenous communities of Illyricum reacted differently to the process of integration. Some were highly willing to accept Roman heritage (e.g. Liburni), while others (e.g. Delmatae) were providing active resistance. The degree of readiness to accept Roman achievements is directly related to the integration and interaction of Roman and indigenous elements in the process of acculturation. Given previous research today we have a number of valuable studies dealing with certain aspects of Roman domination. However, they are primarily focused either on the ancient written sources or the archaeological material of the Roman Dalmatia and Pannonia. In contrast, this research of the integration process would scientifically cover for the first time the whole area of Croatia that was located on the former part of the Illyricum, i.e. Roman provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia.
Such research will involve the collection, examination, comparison and evaluation of all available data, both archaeological and ancient sources. As such an investigation has never been carried out in this region, either at international or local level, this project can be characterized as pioneering research work.
Through successful implementation of the project, information will be obtained about various aspects of the integration of the autochthonous population into the Roman world and the impact of the specific geographic position extending from the Mediterranean to the Danube
In the process of evolving from an Apennine to a Mediterranean power, Rome gradually spread its influence into the area of present-day Croatia. One of the components that guided the course of historical events in the region of Croatia and the development of Roman culture is its unique geographical position between the Mediterranean and the Danube. The specific and unique nature of such a location is characterized by four significant geographic features: the Adriatic Sea, the Dinarides Mountains, the Pannonian Plain, and the Danube River.
Modern archaeological science emphasizes geographic location, and experts stress how much geography can affect historical events
Research into historical events is primarily carried out by classical historians, who depend on the records of ancient writers, whose views of various events remain the subject of numerous discussions. Among other things, this suggests that although the literary records are of immeasurable use, they should be approached with a certain amount of caution, as the classical authors made their observations from the point of view of the conqueror and a subjective approach cannot be avoided. Hence various archaeological methods are utilized in order to comprehend the historical events objectively. To ensure the scientific results of the best quality and to gain as much scientific data as possible, this research project suggests using two confirmed and successful archaeological methods: 1) archaeological survey, and 2) the classification of existing archaeological data using the variable of geographic origin. The collected information would be used to set up computer databases and archaeological archives. Only with the input of new information it would be possible to offer answers to the questions of the actual role of the Roman military in the changes that occurred. It would then also be possible to determine whether the specific geographical location played a role in these changes, and also in various aspects of the integration of the autochthonous population into the Roman world.
Through implementation of the project objectives, Croatian and international archaeological science would finally have at its disposal valid scientific results about the role of Roman military in the mobility of people, goods, and ideas manifested at the time of the Roman penetration from the Mediterranean (Adriatic) coast to the Danube. The obtained data would be stored on a computer database and the web page of the project that would serve interested scientists in their research.
The lengthy and successful research to the present carried out by the project leader and her research associates testifies to their complete competence, which is reflected not merely in their regular scientific publications, presentations at relevant international meetings, but also the extant infrastructure for performing the research.
Rationale and background
The classical literary sources were and remain of immeasurable value in reconstructing important historical events. The Roman conquest of the area between the Mediterranean and the Danube, now the Republic of Croatia, has been (and still is) discussed primarily in reference to the Roman literary sources. The numerous works of classical historians are invaluable for knowledge of the Roman history of these regions, which at first were a part of the province of Illyricum. Later, the area contained parts of regio X and the provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia. The integration of prehistoric societies into the Roman world was and remains an important scientific topic. The autochthonous communities, starting with those on the Apennine peninsula, came into contact with the Roman conquerors, starting a dynamic interaction of civilians and military. The new government led to the establishment of a civilian infrastructure, the introduction of administration, the beginnings of urbanization, and the construction of military installations. The new mobility did not merely restructure the lives of the local inhabitants, but also changes the landscape and environment. The legions, the auxiliary units, the sailors and the immigrant civilians all needed accommodation, food, and various goods and services. Such new requirements led to changes in the regional economies, the social structure, and culture. The manner in which the changes, modifications, or even rejections of previous political and economic, as well cultural and religious legacies occurred differed between the provinces, and similarly within each province. Research to the present has indicated the impact of soldiers on the changes that occurred in the newly conquered regions.
The military camps in certain provinces were systematically planned and placed strategically, so as to enable faster logistics and communication. In line with these aims, the Romans built two legionary fortresses near the Adriatic coast: Burnum and Tilurium. Between them they also erected several forts for auxiliaries. At one moment 15000 soldiers were located in the area between the Krka and Cetina Rivers, whose functioning required water, food, equipment, speedy communications, and entertainment.
On the borders of the Empire on the Rhine and Danube, the concentration of soldiers was also considerable. The Croatian part of the Roman Limes on the Danube is 188 km long. It was composed of the river and military fortifications from Batina to Ilok.
The inscriptions from the studied military sites in Pannonia and Dalmatia will be analysed in order to obtain useful information that will enhance project results. The epigraphic analysis covers onomastics, origin, age, years of military service, military ranks and positions and the familiar relationships. This analysis will provide the data on the soldiers’ families as well as the impact of soldiers on the non-military population living in the vicinity of military sites. Also, all the soldiers of the Pannonian and Dalmatian origin who were recruited into the Roman army and sent outside their home provinces will be listed. In this way, we will be able to study the impact of indigenous peoples in the Roman military. It will also give an insight into the problem of displacement of the local people from their home area in purpose of the successful integration of conquered areas in the Roman world.
The project aim is to investigate the extent of impact of the military crews, camps, and harbours on the civilian population and their settlements, local trade, and the economy as a whole. The implementation of archaeological data in congruence with literary sources has shown that a more balanced view can be achieved. It has been shown that such a methodological approach can result in more extensive information about questions to which the sources cannot give answers. Thanks to archaeological data, it has been established that no overreaching conclusions can be made about integration, as it depended on factors that played different roles in different milieus. Such investigation has never been undertaken in Croatia, and the results of this research would fill the informational gaps that exist for this region of the Empire through the analysis of the largest possible amount of information about the life and activities of Roman military.
The project leader is the tenured Professor and Head of the Chair of Provincial Roman and Early Christian Archaeology, whose research has focused on the problems of provincial Roman archaeology. The many years of successful research on the part of the project leader and all the participants in the project guarantees the sustainability of the proposed approach and the successful implementations of the project objectives.
The proposed project aims to provide scientifically valid answers to at least four still unanswered questions related to the degree of impact by the army in the various integration processes of this region between the Mediterranean and Danube in the Roman world.
1) What role was played by the Roman military in the political, social, cultural, and religious changes in the population and the environment?
2) What military influence from indigenous people was accepted by the Romans in Illyricum?
3) What was the degree of the economic dynamics as a direct result of all the changes triggered by the needs of the military forces?
4) Was the actual degree of integration into the Roman Empire of the region that is today the Republic of Croatia affected by its specific geographical position?
The proposed project would fill lacunae in scientific knowledge about the role of Roman military in the processes of integration into the Roman world on the territory of present-day Croatia. Competent answers to four questions can be obtained from implementation of the project objectives:
1. The actual impact of the Roman military on the changes that occurred would be investigated. So far more than 120 legionary fortresses have been noted throughout the Empire, along with several hundred forts and numerous sea and river harbours where the military were stationed. Scholars have investigated them for over a century, which has led to exceptional results. These consist of important insights, not merely about the strategy of the Roman advance and the organization of the Roman army but also their role in the conquered areas as well as their impact on local economic changes. Knowledge has been expanded about the spiritual life of soldiers, various aspects of their everyday life, and the life of civilians in military environments. This research project intends to provide answers to the question of what role the Roman military played in the region of Croatia and did it differ from the patterns known from other areas. This project will cover the area of the Delmataean limes as well as the area of the Croatian part of the Danube limes.
The Delmataean limes is a system of Roman legionary fortresses and forts found among the mountain massive of the Dalmatian coastal hinterland. Between the legionary fortresses at Burnum and Tilurium the Romans raised several forts: Promona, Kadina glavica, Magnum and Andetrium. This line of defense ends with the fort at Bigestae on the river Trebižat, north-west of Narona. Both the name of this defensive line and its dating have been the subject of much debate.
The Croatian part of the Danube limes stretched from Batina Skela (Ad Militare) to Ilok (Cuccium) and it was 188 km long. It consisted of five castles: Batina (Ad Militare), Zmajevac (Ad Novas), Dalj (Teutoburgium), Sotin (Cornacum) and Ilok (Cuccium). In addition to these castles, there were several smaller strongholds that have not yet been archaeologically attested or located with certainty: Aureus Mons, Lug (Albanum?), Vardarac (Donatianae?), Kopačevo, Nemetin (Ad Labores?), Sarvaš, Bijelo Brdo and Aljmaš. Insights about these sites were provided by ancient written sources and stray finds. Archaeological survey of these sites, carried out by this project, would enable to determine the degree of integration among the local Pannonian communities. They probably came into contact with Romans during Octavian’s or Tiberius’ military campaign in Pannonia. Roman army in this area was followed by craftsmen and traders, so the obtained data could show the degree of cultural, economic and social interaction between the local population and the Romans.
2. The best example of how the indigenous population of Illyricum influenced the Roman way of warfare is liburna, a very effective warship which originated in the area where the Liburnians lived. This type of ship became the standard Roman warship used by the two most important Roman fleets, classis Ravennatium and classis Misenatium. They were founded by the Emperor Augustus, who was well aware of their effectiveness in the battle of Actium. Waging war as Roman allies the Liburnians, because of their ships and naval skills, played a key role in Octavian’s victory over Mark Antony. On the example of Liburnians and their relationship with the Romans, the duality of the romanization process can be best observed. On the one hand there are the Liburnians, who among peoples from Illyricum, accepted the Roman civilization at the most. On the other hand there are the Romans, who adopted liburnian type of ship, which served in further development of the Roman way of war, and thus the Roman conquest.
3. Croatia is the only country in Europe that is bordered by both the Danube and the Mediterranean. The specific and unique geographic position played an important role in historical events in this part of Europe, and in many ways determined the mobility of people and the movement of goods and ideas. This position is characterized by four significant geographic features. The first is the sea. The Adriatic is a large Mediterranean gulf where people and goods have circulated since prehistoric times, bringing with them the current civilizational legacy. The second is the mountain chain of the Dinarides, which extend from the eastern Alps towards the southeast in the same direction as the coastline and the islands. Thanks to the existence of only a few narrow mountain passes communication with the interior was difficult. The third characteristic of this region that extends from the Adriatic to the Danube is the exceptionally fertile Pannonian plain, surrounded by dense forests. Its resources played an important role in the chronology of settlement, and the Romans immediately exploited its economic potential upon their arrival. The fourth characteristic is the Danube River that passes through central and southern Europe and in antiquity represented the border between the Romans and the barbarians. This project wants to provide an answer to the question of how much impact the specific geographical position had on actual events.
4. The degree of integration into the Roman Empire of the region that is now the Republic of Croatia must also be sought in comparison with events in other parts of the Empire. The process of integration into the Roman world should have proceeded according to an expected pattern: the autochthonous communities come into contact with the new arrivals, in the form of the military, but also civilian settlers. This is when the dynamic interactions occur that alter the protohistoric world, landscape, and living space of the local inhabitants. This population lived in harmony with the natural and climatic conditions with only minimal interventions to the environment. This was changed dramatically with the arrival of the legions, the auxiliary units, the sailors, and the accompanying civilians, who all required dwellings, food, and various goods and services. Changes in the local economies of the Empire occurred because of this new mobility. The research carried out in the proposed project would show how all such processes occurred in this region between the Danube and the Mediterranean.
The scientific research that would be carried out as a part of the proposed project would utilize methodological procedures that are used by the archaeological profession. The results that would be gained from the proposed analyses would fill informational gaps, as such research has never been undertaken in Croatia. The obtained data would be utilized at the international level to affirm the Croatian region as a part of the Mediterranean and Danube basin.
To ensure that the scientific results of as high quality and quantity as possible, the research project will organize an archaeological database and archaeological archive that would be continuously filled through the utilization of two archaeological methods:
A. Archaeological survey, performed by gathering as much relevant information as possible:
A1: The collection of archival documentation (historical maps and plans), early archaeological publications, unpublished reports from conservation offices, old preliminary reports from excavations, reports from more recent archaeological rescue excavations, topographic maps, aerial photographs, photogrammetric images, digital terrain models (DTR), archaeological field survey, as well as searches through museum holdings.
A2: Field walking with the aid of topographic maps of the sites.
A3: The analysis and interpretation of the data obtained from the survey.
B. The classification and evaluation of the existing archaeological information with the application of the variable of geographic origin.
B1: The collection of existing archaeological data in published scientific and professional publications.
B2: The analysis of published archaeological material in the context of geographic origin.
All the information obtained by these two methods will be evaluated and interpreted, which will result in new, previously unknown information and knowledge that will enable providing answers to the questions and goals of this project.
The resultant data would be stored in a computer database that could serve interested scholars in their research. In this manner, the relevant data from Croatia would be included in future investigation at the international level.
Through the implementation of these project objectives, Croatian and international scholars would finally have at their disposal solid scientific results about the changes that occurred as a result of the Roman penetration from the Mediterranean coast to the Danube River in the period from the first contact of Illyricum with Rome until the end of the Marcomannic Wars.
The objective of the proposed project is to investigate and obtain scientific information to aid in solving as yet unanswered questions about the significance of the Roman military in changes that took place in the period from the first contacts with Rome (229 BC) to the end of the Marcomannic Wars (AD 180), as well as their impact on the local economy in what is now the Republic of Croatia. Successful implementation of the project could also provide answers about the actual impact of the specific geographic position extending from the Mediterranean to the Danube.
Project funded by Croatian Science Foundation (HRZZ-6505)