Looking back on the field trip through Italy, back in June, one thought that remains, is how small many of the Roman cities of Italy appear to have been. I mean, there are exceptions, of course, especially in the coastal plains, and some sites are excavated in a way that induces visitors to underestimate their size, but the general impression left by two weeks of professional sightseeing is that of a peninsula dotted with a near endless quantity of small towns and village-sized settlements that were equipped with town-like monumental architecture.
I mean, take the town Saepinum, with its walled circuit, its monumental forum, and its oddly oversized monumental theatre: it cannot have been a community of more than a thousand souls. Juvanum may have been smaller still, and then, below that, there was yet another category of ‘urban’ settlements, best exemplified by the mysterious non-town of Fagifulae in the hills above the Biferno valley, where a small medieval church and some twenty-four inscriptions attest the existence, in Roman times, of a place deemed worthy enough of a basilica equipped with a portico – and thus, probably, of a forum. Continue reading Micro-urbanism? On the towns of Roman Italy