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The City in Roman Palestine$
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Daniel Sperber

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098822

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195098822.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

Archeology and the City

Archeology and the City

(p.149) 10 Archeology and the City
The City in Roman Palestine

Joshua J. Schwartz

Oxford University Press

The complexities of city life in the Roman period and the rich varieties of urban existence during that time have not always been revealed by the spade of the archeologist. Much mentioned in the literary sources of the time has not been uncovered in archeological excavations and even when perchance it has been, it has not always been correctly identified. In any case, the limitations of present-day research often make such identification all but impossible. For example, literary sources, both Jewish and non-Jewish, mention buildings or monuments in Late Roman period Caesarea. We know, however, very little about what this city or the buildings in it looked like. Moreover, there are dozens of unidentified “public buildings” that have been uncovered in the course of archeological excavations that await some shred of additional information or keen analysis to determine or to corroborate their purpose or function. Thus, it would be the lucky archeologist who would discover and excavate a tavern (kapelia) or a prison, for instance, in one of the Roman-period cities of the Land of Israel. And even if by chance he did discover a structure that fulfilled one of these functions, it is doubtful that he would ever really be able to prove it. Moreover, Roman-period cities were built to accentuate the public aspects of city life, and this type of building did not always tell the full story of urban life. Interurban competition and the occasional economic windfall often resulted in spurts of public building activity of a monumental and elaborate nature. There was often more form than substance behind this type of building, and occasionally this form was more vain, sterile, and ostentatious than the actual life of the city. The archeologist by nature, however, gravitates toward excavation of the grand. It is the public life of cities that archeologists try to reveal, and even this might be more fleeting than they are willing to admit. The more private aspects of urban existence often remain hidden or within the realm of the historian, not the archeologist.

Keywords:   Agora, Bathhouses, Cemeteries, Defense, Entertainments, Forum, Gladiators, Harbors, Industry, Kore

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