BSR Online Lecture | The sustainability of cities in the Roman Mediterranean

WEDNESDAY 16 JUNE, 18.00–19.30 CET

Greg Woolf (ICS)

This event will take place via Zoom and requires advance registration. Please click here to reserve your place.

The Mediterranean environment posed severe challenges for all projects of pre-modern urbanism. Unreliable rainfall, thin soils and landscapes fragmented by mountains and seas made many of its micro regions perilous places to support concentrations of population. Maritime connectivity faced obstacles from currents, storms and winds making mass evacuations and mass relief efforts equally difficult in times of crisis. The region was also susceptible to epidemics from south of the Sahara and from Asia, to seismic catastrophes caused by the tectonic plate edges that lay beneath the Mediterranean region, and to episodes of fire, flooding and siege experienced by all ancient cities. Despite all this, a series of urban civilizations successfully established themselves during the last millennium BCE and most cities in existence by 500 BCE were still functioning a thousand years later. Indeed many survive today. I will be discussing how sustainable urbanisms were developed around the Middle Sea, and how ancient cities survived both chronic stresses and acute shocks.

Greg Woolf is an historian and archaeologist specializing in the Roman empire. He has published on various aspects of the ancient economy, on ancient literacy, on Roman religion, on late prehistoric Europe and on ancient history in the very long term. His books include Becoming Roman. The origins of provincial civilization in Gaul (1998), Et tu Bruté? The murder of Caesar and political assassination (2006), Tales of the Barbarians: Ethnography and Empire in the Roman West (2011) and Rome. An Empire’s Story (2012). The Life and Death of Ancient Cities. A Natural History was published in 2020. He has also coedited collections on ancient literacy, on the city of Rome, on ancient libraries, on encyclopaedism, on authority and expertise in ancient scientific texts, on religious dimensions of the self, and on women in the Roman city. He is currently working on mobility and migration in antiquity.

Greg Woolf has degrees from Oxford and Cambridge and between 1989 and 1998 held fellowships at various colleges in the two universities. In 1998 he became Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He has held visiting positions in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the British Academy, and a Member of Academia Europea.

Since January 2015 he has been Professor of Classics in the University of London and Director of the Institute of Classical Studies in the School of Advanced Study. He is also an Honorary Professor of Archaeology at Univerity College London. From January 2021 he will take up the Ronald Mellor Chair of Ancient History at the University of California, Los Angeles.