Globalisation and the Roman World

Martin Pitts
Classics Department, University of Exeter
Associate Member, Centre for Imperial & Global History

pittscoverGlobalisation and the Roman World (2014), edited by myself and Miguel John Versluys (Leiden University), is a new book that examines the case for understanding the ancient Roman world as one of the earliest examples of globalisation. This is a controversial project, not least because many Roman historians and archaeologists feel that the word globalisation is inappropriate to use when discussing the ancient world. In their view, Rome was a completely different beast to the image of western capitalism which is frequently conflated with globalisation, and of course, the Roman world was never global in a literal sense.

Despite this reluctance to engage with globalisation, a group of archaeologists and historians feel there is sufficient mileage to explore the application of the concept to the Roman world in more detail, having for themselves overcome the initial objections of the critics. For these Romanists, a major impetus is to critically examine the possibilities of a new explanatory framework based on increasingly popular notions of connectivity and networks. Likewise, many felt dissatisfied with a state of affairs in which older ideas of Romanisation and imperialism had been deconstructed, but not adequately replaced with something better. At the same time, from the perspective of those contributors coming from outside the discipline, the exploration was overdue since ideas of Rome have long been (mis)appropriated in modern writings on globalisation. Continue reading “Globalisation and the Roman World”