The Roman Empire had a rich and multifaceted visual culture, which was often variegated due to the sprawling geography of its provinces. In this remarkable work of scholarship, a group of international scholars has come together to find alternative ways to discuss the nature and development of the art and archaeology of the Roman provinces. The result is a collection of nineteen compelling essays—accompanied by carefully curated visual documentation, seven detailed maps, and an extensive bibliography—organized around the four major themes of provincial contexts, tradition and innovation, networks and movements, and local accents in an imperial context. Easy assumptions about provincial dependence on metropolitian models give way to more complicated stories. Similarities and divergences in local and regional responses to Rome appear, but not always in predictable places and in far from predictable patterns.
The authors dismiss entrenched barriers between art and archaeology, center and provinces, even “good art” and “bad art,” extending their observations well beyond the empire’s boundaries, and examining phenomena, sites, and monuments not often found in books about Roman art history or archaeology. The book thus functions to encourage continued critical engagement with how scholars study the material past of the Roman Empire and, indeed, of imperial systems in general.
Susan E. Alcock is professor of classical archaeology and classics, as well as special counsel for institutional outreach and engagement, Office of the President, at the University of Michigan. Mariana Egri is associate professor of archaeology at the Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania. James F. D. Frakes is associate professor of art history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte..