Conference Report: Constructing City Walls in Late Antiquity

Constructing city walls in Late Antiquity: an empire-wide perspective, 20-21 June 2018

The conference was held at the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome and the British School at Rome on 20th–21th June 2018. Scope of the event was to look at city walls by overcoming the traditional local/regional approach and explore if broader links across the empire can be made. The event proved to be a rare moment of exchange between scholars working on city walls in different corners of the empire and, therefore, was helpful to break the scholarly divide between East and West. The result was a refreshing collection of papers discussing case studies from modern-day Portugal to the central Syrian steppe.

The empire-wide approach to the topic was fittingly coupled by the presence of international speakers at the conference. After short opening remarks by the organizing committee and the Director of the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies, Kristian Göransson, the first day of the event continued at this institution with talks by Jim Crow (University of Edinburgh), Christopher Courault (University of Geneve), Emanuele Intagliata (UrbNet, Aarhus University), Adrian De Maan (United Arab Emirates University), Catharine Hof (Technische Universität Berlin), Peter de Staebler (Pratt Institute, New York), Christiane Brasse (Universitäten Tübingen) and Cristina-Georgeta Alexandrescu (Institutul de Arheologie “Vasile Parvan”, Romania). The second day of the conference, which was held at the British School at Rome, saw opening remarks by Thomas-Leo True (Assistant Director of the BSR) and talks by Francesco Cifarelli (Sovrintendenza di Roma Capitale) and Federica Colaiacomo, (Museo Archeologico Comunale di Segni), Simon Esmonde Cleary (University of Birmingham), Marc Heijmans (French National Centre for Scientific Research, Centre Camille Jullian), Mathieu Ribolet (Université de Bourgogne), Simon Barker (Norwegian Institute in Rome), Hendrik Dey (Hunter College, New York) and Jon M. Frey, (Michigan State University).

Although a local or regional approach remains essential to the study of city walls, many papers have concluded that it is possible to look at this class of monument in a different, broader way, whether through the study of relatively “micro” features (e.g. comparison of building techniques) or “macro” phenomena (e.g. the adoption of spolia and their meaning in the structure of a wall). In many papers, however, the latter seems to have been the preferred solution to the main theme of the conference and the initial questions posed by its organisers. We consider this event as a first important step to cast more light on the topic and we are very grateful to the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies for making this happen.

Emanuele E. Intagliata
Assistant Professor
Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)
Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society