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On the Move: Migrants and Mobility in the Roman Empire

October 26, 2023 @ 7:00 pm CDT

Helge Center Multipurpose Room, Valparaiso University
1509 Chapel Drive
Valparaiso, IN 46383 United States

AIA Society: Valparaiso

Lecturer: Lindsey Mazurek

Historian Edward Gibbons, who wrote History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, famously listed migration as one of main reasons for Rome’s fall. But, as Emma Dench argues, migration is at the heart of Rome’s own origin story, appearing as a key theme in myths like the story of Romulus and Remus and the rape of the Sabine women. Historical and archaeological studies also provide ample evidence that the Empire’s population was highly mobile: people traveled to seek education, visit famous sites, go to court, and most frequently, buy and sell goods, even as we struggle to identify individual migrants and their stories. How, then, do we find the people who moved across the Empire? In this talk, I examine the evidence for migrants and migration at two key ports in the Roman Empire: Delos and Ostia. During the Roman Republic, the Greek island of Delos drew traders from all over the Mediterranean world who established small resident communities alongside each other. From Syrians to Italians to Egyptians, these communities developed customs and cults that affirmed their origins while living and working in the city’s cosmopolitan Greek-speaking community. At Ostia, which served as Rome’s main port during the 1st-3rd centuries CE, we can observe similar group experiences in the commercial realm while religious spaces integrated more freely. I conclude with examples of forced migration, such as slavery and warfare, which also drove mass movements of people across the Empire. This overview highlights the importance of migration to our understanding of the Roman Empire and the many impacts, both positive and negative, that migrations had on everyday people in the ancient Mediterranean.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader): (“Memorializing Connectivity: Ostia Antica’s Piazza delle Corporazioni” )

Tsakirgis Lecture

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October 26, 2023
7:00 pm CDT
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Helge Center Multipurpose Room, Valparaiso University
1509 Chapel Drive
Valparaiso, IN 46383 United States
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