FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Atlas of Late Roman Cities of the Southern Iberian Peninsula and North Africa (3rd-8th centuries) – ATLAS

Submission summary

The research of the last three decades has fundamentally modified our image of the cities of Spain and North Africa: From the perspective of classical studies, the cities’ strength and significance as ruling entities remained unbroken between 300 and 800 A.D. Military-political events such as the “crisis of the 3rd century” or the invasion of the Vandals seem to have barely touched the urban worlds. It is not downfall but transformation that characterises their urbanism, not change but continuity that describes the functions their social elites fulfilled. This communis opinio is grounded in an astonishingly slim material basis. The aim of the ATLAS project is therefore to create an atlas (WebGIS in Open Access) that records selected cities in the former Roman provinces Baetica (Andalusia) and Africa Proconsularis (Tunisia) – two economically flourishing regions, who thanks to their high levels of urbanism may be taken as paradigmatic for questions of urban studies. This atlas will be the first
to encompass all transmitted records necessary for research into Late Antique urban histories within the context of “micro-regions” – not just material remains, but also epigraphic monuments and the entire spectrum of literary evidence. Here, we concentrate our research on the period between 3rd and 8th century. The selection of case studies from two historical landscapes offers a methodological first: A comparison on the basis of these structurally designed case studies enables insight into conformities or discrepancies, leading to productive conclusions for the evaluation of the regional situation as a whole. This comparative urban research is only possible because ATLAS combines German research’s focus on the subjects of ancient
history and epigraphy on the Iberian Peninsula with the French focus on the subject of archaeology in both Spain and North Africa. The compilation and analysis of the transmitted records is to serve as the basis of a new narrative of Late Antiquity, which does not – as in previous works on urbanism in this period – rest on analogical conclusions and therefore skew towards generalisations. Moreover, the detailed examination of all types of sources and a methodically clear comparison is aimed at differentiating within the six centuries under investigation. This is aided by visualization of the historical developments in form of thematic maps. ATLAS therefore offers a contribution to urban research and so to the social history of power in the context of the developmentally open and dynamic research field
between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. To make this work available to a broader public as well, the project will also be virtualized with the most modern technology, which enables users to individually experience urban history in the context of a travelling exhibition.

Project coordinator

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


UHH Universität Hamburg
LIENSs Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés
CVZ Casa de Velazquez

Help of the ANR 309,462 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2021 - 36 Months

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