Academic Year April 2022 - March 2023
The third year will be dedicated to the imperial culture’s imprints on society, social structures, and economic relations, and its effects on urban organization. Research will focus on the transformation of urban structures against the background of changes in empires and concepts of religion. The study of antiquity registers the strength and significance of cities as the basis for political rule, unbroken from the 4th to the 9th centuries. Military-political events such as the “crisis of the 3rd century” or the attack of the Vandals appear to have had little more than a tangential effect on the lives of cities. Rather than decline, their urbanism was a decided transformation; continuity, rather than change, characterized the functions their social elites fulfilled. The intention of the “barbarians” was by no means the destruction of the cities, institutions, and society in this prosperous region; they were far more concerned with long-term integration. They settled in this territory and attempted to profit from advantages that the autonomously operating and economically self-sufficient municipality offered them. As such, activity remained – as studies of urbanism and trade connections show – cum grano salis, largely the same. Recent studies show a significant time delay in the “building boom” of the imperial era. While urban construction in the Spanish provinces reached a zenith from the mid-first into the beginning of the second century CE, little evidence of such activity is seen for North African provinces until the Antoninian and Severan periods, towards the end of the second or beginning of the third century. This appears to establish the foundation for a non-synchronicity of municipal development in Late Antiquity, a hypothesis that remains to be tested. This questions the postulate of current research that the years between 300 and 800 were characterized by continuity.
Brands (2003) presents a model of the development of eastern cities throughout Christianity. If this model is transferable then its placement must be undertaken with extreme care, since in paradigmatic regions such as Syria and Palestine factors such as the Justinian Plague and natural phenomena such as earthquakes played an important role. In general Muslim conquerors preferred – as the ruling centers of Qayrawān und Córdoba show – their own garrisoned cities or city quarters. The construction of residence towns such as Madīnat al-Zahrāʾ are clearly related to the practice in Iraq, where early caliphs up to the Caliph al-Mutawakkil built their own palaces and residence cities. This also is reflected in the Idrīsid city of Volubilis/Walīlah, which lay outside the Islamic Empire and the sovereignty of the Aghlabids, where Muslim quarters were separated from the classical city. Through formal or informal integration in the Islamic Empire, the distribution of settlement centers in the region changed. In the hinterland of towns in North Africa large villa estates were replaced by ribāts; the precise function of these fortified country estate has yet to be sufficiently researched . Avni’s major work (2014) on Palestine and Jordan shows how far the development of cities depended on regional circumstances and long-term agricultural and mercantile structures, as well as on ecological factors.