8. Home away from home

8. Home away from home. Roman frontiers as movers and mixers of people
Monday, 22 August 2022, Red Room

Session Chairs: Tatiana Ivleva, Stijn Heeren & Pete Wilson
Affiliation: Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Affiliation co-organiser: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Affiliation second co-organiser: Rarey Archaeology, United Kingdom

Session Abstract: Migration is often treated as a given in LIMES studies. It is undeniable fact that Roman army spurred a large-scale movement of people: at any military fort, be it legionary or auxiliary, soldiers of mixed descent were garrisons together and were supposedly living happily alongside side each other never to settle properly at one place. Widely accepted and often explored is the theme of the movement of peoples and artefacts both into and out of the Roman Empire across its frontiers. Sessions dealing with interfrontier interaction between Roman soldiers and ‘barbarians’, and alongside frontier between soldiers and natives, as well as sessions devoted to the topic of units’ movements and their mixed composition have become a regular feature at LIMES Congresses.

Yet, migration as such was and still is an often-contested issue in archaeology in general. As a discipline it has moved a long way from drawing arrows on maps based on material culture styles in the 19th and early 20th century, with the later 20th century seeing a retreat from migrationism. With the advent of the third science revolution in the recent decades, the ban on migration in archaeology was lifted: strontium isotope studies and aDNA made the identification of migrants easier. Spectacular results were obtained for prehistory and also much work has been invested on the Early Medieval period. Roman provincial archaeology is not far behind these developments with several scientific studies finding evidence for medium and long-distance mobility. However, can the same be said for the Roman frontier studies?

This session invites case-based study papers that focus on method and manifestation: how to recognise and define migration and mobility in a frontier setting. At the same time, we welcome case-based papers that address impact: what was happening on the frontiers when so many people of various origins from places far and near cohabit together? For the latter, we ask potential speakers to consider the following questions: can we detect evidence of clashes, exclusion, and marginalization within the garrisons, or can the example of three-nations series of inscriptions from Birrens (RIB 2100, 2107 and 2108) be extrapolated to the other frontiers? Apart from gathering the evidence for the multi-cultural make-up of the frontiers, the session also aims to move the discussion on and invites papers that explore transgression of personal and social identities within such multicultural milieu. Is there evidence that supports the deliberate construction of ‘home away from home’? Or can we talk of transcultural frontier environment where new norms were produced and curated, not specific to any entity?


Time Presenter (s) Presentation
09.00 Introduction
09.20 Christina Crizbasan I am going on a trip, what am I going to pack? A comparative approach to the pottery of Batavians at home and abroad.
09.40 Trudi Buck Evidence for child migration and early death at Vindolanda on the northern frontier of Roman Britain
10.00 Stijn Heeren An archaeological and quantitative isotope study of population dynamics in the Late Roman Lower Rhine borderscape
10.50 Michael Klein Mainz-Mogontiacum: an ethnic melting pot on the Rhine frontier in the 1st century AD
11.10 Julia Kopf Soldiers, slaves, priests, administrative servants(?): persons with Greek/oriental names in Rhaetia
11.30 Eduard Nemeth Ex toto Orbe Romano – ethnical diversity at the western frontier of Roman Dacia
11.50 Kai Juntunen The retirement of the Roman auxiliary soldiers as seen in the light of discharge diploma discoveries

This paper examines the phenomenon of third century CE object selection in funerary contexts from cemeteries associated with military bases and those from adjacent civilian areas from a transect of territory from NW Britain to SW Germany. Drawing an expansive later Roman database of over 4000 grave assemblages, I wish to draw specific attention to patterns from the third century CE, which has often proven challenging to pinpoint chronologically in the archaeological record. The paper builds on recent work by the author that re-assesses the ceramic evidence for N. African migrants associated with military communities elsewhere in northern Britain in the early third century CE (Pitts 2021). How exceptional were such occurrences in a wider northwest provincial setting, and indeed, what do wider patterns of funerary consumption reveal about the extent of cultural diversity and unity within and beyond the military sphere in this little-understood period of societal transformation? Pitts, M. 2021.  York’s ‘African-style’ Severan Pottery Reconsidered. Britannia 52.Funerary objectscapes on Rome’s third century CE northwest frontier: moving people and things?
Martin Pitts, University of Exeter

I am going on a trip, what am I going to pack? A comparative approach to the pottery of Batavians at home and abroad
Cristina Crizbasan, University of Exeter, Roderick Geerts, Leiden University

The military environment has been known as one of the primary driving sources of mobility across the Roman Empire. The auxilia alone contributed to the enrolment of over two million men during the imperial period, enhancing the migration rate as new recruits would have been transferred across the Empire. When garrisoned abroad, they would have faced the challenge of assessing the functionally and socially meaningful items to pack for their trip or to replicate upon their arrival. This paper aims to explore whether Batavian presence can be attested in other provinces through the study of material culture, specifically pottery. Ceramic assemblages from the Netherlands and Britain will be compared in order to identify similar morphological and typological patterns, which could reveal the ways Batavians constructed their identities abroad. First, a scrutinising assessment of pottery assemblages at home will be undertaken, in order to establish the trending vessel selections in Civitas Batavorum and to build a referencing point for the material abroad. Previous research has highlighted the distinct character of these ceramic assemblages which, when considered as a whole, set them apart from the adjacent civitates. Secondly, the ceramic material from abroad at Vindolanda in Britain will be assessed in relation to the Dutch material, in order to understand the extent to which the mobility of these military communities affected their way of constructing identities across time and space. In short, through the study of material culture, the identity of the owner could be discerned, as artefacts are rarely created in a vacuum. They incorporate ideas, expectations and needs of the individual and society, communicating their identities and revealing the Batavian presence in the archaeological record.

Evidence for child migration and early death at Vindolanda on the northern frontier of Roman Britain
Trudi Buck, Durham University

Epigraphy and material culture attest to migration of military personal on the northern frontier of Roman Britain. Evidence for civilian migration and mobility is less well known, particularly for children. The study of human remains can assist in the understanding of the past beyond mere description of the skeletons themselves, and the unexpected discovery of a child buried covertly beneath the floor of a third century barrack building at the fort of Vindolanda allows for the discussion of childhood migration. Stable isotope analysis of a developing permanent molar reveals that the child had lived in a much warmer climate than that of northern Britain, until at least about the age of seven years. Analysis of the dental and osteological developmental stage of the child shows that they were around the age of 8 – 10 years of age when they died. An osteobiographical approach to an individual skeleton can work as a microhistory, providing information from the small-scale microhistory to more large-scale phenomena such as migration. Using the study of an individual case creates a narrative that incorporates textual, archaeological and osteological data to recreate the life history of that individual and also inform on wider macroscale archaeological themes. This paper will consider the case of this specific child who spent their early years living around the Mediterranean region but who died shortly after migrating to northern Britain and was buried in a clandestine grave. Consideration will be given to who the child was and how they ended their short life within an auxiliary fort on the northern frontier of Roman Britain.

An archaeological and quantitative isotope study of population dynamics in the Late Roman Lower Rhine borderscape
Stijn Heeren, Lisette Kootker, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

This presentation deals with two isotope studies in which the burial record of the late 3rd to 5th century is analysed, in the limes zone as well as the regions north and south of it. Some Early medieval burials are also included, because they offer a stark contrast to those of the 5th century. Together they have provided a first-ever insight in to palaeomobility patterns in a more quantitative way. Apart from the results concerning the local and non-local origin of the deceased, methodological steps forward are also discussed. For the earlier part of the period discussed (the 3rd century), results of cremation burials are also included, while until now, only inhumation burials were targeted.

Mainz-Mogontiacum: an ethnic melting pot on the Rhine frontier in the 1st century AD
Michael Johannes Klein, ex Landesmuseum Mainz

A number of approximately 250 stone inscriptions provides information about the origin of persons living in Mogontiacum and surroundings in the 1st century AD and hence reveals that Mogontiacum was in the Julio-Claudian and Flavian periods a real ethnic melting pot. We know about numerous legionaries, auxiliaries and civilians from foreign regions of the Roman Empire who encountered there indigenous tribes, like Treveri, Aresaces, Caeracates and Mattiaci, living on either bank of the Rhine. The bulk of Roman legionaries who were garrisoned in Mogontiacum until the early Claudian period, came from Northern Italy, but some also from Middle Italy and the provincia Narbonensis. In the Claudian-Neronian period, numerous legionaries still were of Italian descent, but the number of soldiers coming from the Narbonensis, Lugdunensis, Hispania and from Noricum considerably increased. In the Flavian period, the number of inscriptions about the origin of legionaries diminished, but there are many from new regions, like Germania inferior, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Pannonia and Thracia. Regarding the auxiliaries, there are many inscriptions set up in the Augustan-Tiberian period by soldiers from Syria, like Ituraei, from Raetia, like Regi, Focunates, Runicates, and by soldiers from Aquitania, like Petrucorii and Nitiobroces. In the Claudian-Neronian period, soldiers from Hispania and various tribes of Dalmatia, like Daverzei, Ditiones, Maezei, and from Thracia, like Bessi, Dansala and Breuci, were present in Mainz. The Flavian period sees, apart from some Thracians, soldiers from Gaul and the Germanies, like Treveri, Betasii, Helvetii and Sequani. Among the civilian people immigrating to Mainz, there are many local cives Romani and members of indigenous tribes, as well as immigrants from Italy, Hispania, Gaul and Dalmatia. With regard to all the above-mentioned people, the population of Mogontiacum developed in the course of the 1st century AD into a new provincial society of multi-ethnic descent.

Soldiers, slaves, priests, administrative servants(?): persons with Greek/oriental names in Rhaetia
Julia Kopf, Universität Wien

Based on small inscriptions with a cluster of Greek names from Brigantium/Bregenz (A), the aim of this paper is to overview the so far known written records of people with Greek respectively oriental names from the province of Rhaetia. Moreover, the social and professional background of the mentioned persons shall be examined, provided that the records themselves or their find context offer hints. Regarding statements about the provenance of the persons in question we have to be cautious: the hitherto known written records do not explicitly mention that and Greek respectively oriental names were also popular for slaves and gladiators of other geographical origin and have to be interpreted as fashionable name-giving in some other cases. In a frontier province as Rhaetia, the most reasonable explanation for (supposed) non-local people is immigration in the course of deployments of troops, bringing soldiers and their entourage (in our case especially slaves and freedmen of high-ranking military personnel) to a foreign region. An example therefor is Septimius Chaerea, a centurion of the legio III italica. On the other hand, for persons with Greek names testified by graffiti found in the so-called Monumentalbau in Heidenheim (D) an interpretation as servants of the provincial administration is proposed. In the case of the members of the “Greek community” in Bregenz, living in a period when the Roman frontier had already been transferred to the Danube, another profession has to be assumed. At least for some of them, the small inscriptions themselves as well as their find context provide arguments for an identification as priests. A parallel for that is already known within the province, namely the funerary inscription from Augsburg (D) of the negotiator artis purpurariae and sevir Augustalis Tiberius Claudius Euphras.

Ex toto Orbe Romano – ethnical diversity at the western frontier of Roman Dacia
Eduard Nemeth, Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The western frontier of Roman Dacia was at the same time an external frontier sector of the Roman Empire. This border was watched by quite many auxiliary units recruited in provinces and territories of the Roman West as well as of the East. In some places we see two and even three different units stationed together, either in the same fort or in forts located in the immediate proximity to each other (e.g. Porolissum, Bologa, Micia, Tibiscum). These situations engendered a quite rich ethnical diversity of the soldiers at this frontier. This paper aims to establish the ethnical and/or geographical origins of these soldiers and, where possible, of their families and the possible reasons why units of certain origins have been stationed at this frontier stretch and not in other parts of the province. I will also try and see if there are any hints at the interactions among these soldiers, between them and the civilian population in the vicinity of the forts and the relations to the neighboring peoples.

Life after service: The retirement of the Roman auxiliary soldiers as seen in the light of discharge diploma discoveries
Kai Juntunen, University of Helsinki

The study examines the known discovery locations of discharge diplomas given for Roman auxiliary soldiers in relation to the information they contain. Even though portable items can move over time, it can be assumed that the discovery locations of diplomas usually indicate the rough area (province) where the soldiers had settled down as the diplomas would have been prized possessions of the veterans and kept safe through their lifetimes. Thus, the study attempts to bring some clarity to the question where the Roman auxiliary soldiers settled for retirement upon discharge; did they choose to stay in the vicinity of their service region, or did they opt to return to their home region in case they had been recruited from further away. The circumstances surrounding the auxiliary recruits which could have influenced their willingness to uproot themselves and create new lives in distant parts of the Roman Empire are examined, as are also the instances when service appears to have been just a means to an end – such as earning the Roman citizenship – which was followed by return to the point of origin. Whether there were temporal or regional differences to these settlement patterns is explored, as are also other aspects that could have influenced the decision of the discharged soldiers, such as ethnicity of the recruits or their marital status upon discharge. The emerging settlement patterns can give us some indication of the level of impact the Roman auxiliary soldiers had on the frontiers, whether it was permanent or more minimalistic, lasting only the duration of the twenty-five years of service.