"Road Networks and Human Settlements in the Roman World. Some ideas" by Arnaldo Marcone
Roman roads were so well-engineered and well-executed that they were extremely long-lasting as well as highly resistant to environmental hazards such as floods. It is common in Italy and around Europe to have the ancient Roman road at some point under the modern road, smooth stone and hard concrete still well preserved. The road system was not only composed of state of the art roads themselves. The apparatus of additional services and features attached to it created an unmatched network of transportation, economic activity, social life, and innovation. The relation between Roman roads and geography may provide important information on why Roman roads are located in given areas and not in others, and on whether and how geography ruled the Roman road network. Following this line of reasoning, note that 35 percent of the Italian territory is made up of mountains, 42 percent of hills and 23 percent of plains. Also, Italy was the first region where the Romans built roads, adopting their primordial engineering techniques, hence the focus on the Italian territory is particularly suitable. Starting from the city of Rome, the expansion of the road network covered six centuries and three continents (Europe, Africa, Asia), including at its peak the territories of almost forty of today’s nations.
Prof. Arnaldo Marcone is Full Professor of Roman History at the University Roma Tre of Rome and a specialist of Late Antiquity and the history of modern historiography on the ancient world. He studied at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and the University of Pisa. He was a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and Full Professor of Roman History at the University of Udine. He is president of the “Centro Studi Sallustiani” and director of the “Rivista Storica Italiana”.
Tied by People: Modeling Islamic Urban Networks from Biographical Data (ca. 600-1300 CE) by Maxim Romanov
With at least 500,000 biographical records, Arabic biographical collections jointly offer a significant amount of data that can be used for modeling a wide variety of historical processes that shaped the premodern Islamic world. For example, most biographies have at least some geographical data—toponymic descriptive names (nisbaŧs) and toponyms—from which one can construct a geographical network of almost any given biographee. Individual geographical networks are not particularly interesting. However, combined into more complex data objects, this data can open valuable perspectives on cities, regions, as well as the entirety of the Islamic world. The analysis of such networks can show us which cities were connected and how these connections changed over time. By re-grouping this data, we can model connections among provinces, revealing their "orientations". Through community detection algorithms, we can also discover more organically connected regions of the Islamic world. The presentation will explain the methodological approach, overview some of the current results and near-future prospects, and address major historiographical and methodological issues of this approach.
Dr. Maxim Romanov is Junior Research Group Leader at Asien-Afrika-Institut of the University of Hamburg. His research focuses on the social history of the premodern Islamic world, the history of the Arabic written tradition, and computational methods and approaches relevant for Islamicate studies. Until 2021, he held a joint position as a senior research fellow at the KITAB Project (AKU-ISMC, London) and as a Universitätsassistent of Digital Humanities (University of Vienna). Since 2021, at the University of Hamburg, he is leading a DFG-funded Emmy Noether project titled “The Evolution of Islamic Societies (c.600-1600 CE): Algorithmic Analysis into Social History” (EIS1600), which employs a series of advanced computational methods of text analysis and data modeling to study all available biographical and historical texts with a holistic approach.