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Francesca Fulminante: The Rise of Early Rome. Transportation Networks and Domination in Central Italy, 1050-500 BC, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2023, XV + 268 S., ISBN 978-1-316-51680-5, GBP 85,00
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Rezension von:
Arnau Lario Devesa
Departament de Prehistòria, Història Antiga i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Sabine Panzram
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Arnau Lario Devesa: Rezension von: Francesca Fulminante: The Rise of Early Rome. Transportation Networks and Domination in Central Italy, 1050-500 BC, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2023, in: sehepunkte 24 (2024), Nr. 1 [15.01.2024], URL:

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Francesca Fulminante: The Rise of Early Rome

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From the perspective of a scholar analysing (almost) any other Mediterranean area, the proto-historic Italian peninsula is a privileged case study: rich and powerful cities, a detailed written record and its integration within the victorious Roman Empire as either allies or subjects should make any research on it fairly easy. Or should it? In reality, the real situation is much more complex, and many geographical areas remain isolated, remote and devoid of any historical information. In cases such as this one, Archaeology constitutes the only tool available, and methodologies beyond the study of material culture have to be implemented in order to obtain reliable results. In this way, issues such as visibility [1], settlement organisation [2] and fortifications [3] can be researched on. Since the 2000's, and with the advent of modern computation, models have become the main tool for archaeologists studying the territories and socioeconomic dynamics of pre and protohistoric settlements. [4] Francesca Fulminante is no stranger to all this, as power dynamics and land communications have been one of her main research interests for some time [5]; the present volume can be considered, then, as a continuation on an already decade-long work.

Despite its relative brevity (130 pages), the main body of the book is firmly divided in seven sections, each one dedicated to a specific issue regarding the overall model used by the author in order to determine land communications between protohistoric settlements in central Italy. The first two are dedicated to general concepts regarding the subject in question: the debate around the nature of the "city", so relevant for settlements in that historical period, and the suitability of networks as a tool to study multi-focal processes such as transportation of persons and goods. Following the same line, the third chapter establishes the methodology used and the sources of the data (settlements represented as "nodes").

The next chapters present a varied array of methodological approaches are applied to the case study of Etruria and Latium Vetus. In the fourth section, the author uses traditional centrality indexes to compare the importance of different transportation systems and search for similarities and discordances. Efficiency indexes such as the average strength or global/local efficiency are the main focus of chapter five, which can be used, in the case of fluvial systems, to determine which one would have been chosen as the main one for inter-regional trade. Chapter six uses another widespread (and often criticised, as Fulminante herself acknowledges) method, least-cost analysis, applied as an attempt at reconstructing ancient road systems. Finally, section seven presents the result of a cooperative modelling effort, where some traditional hypotheses on the topographical and road makeup of Etruria and Latium Vetus are put into test.

The second half of the book (pages 131 to 267) is made up of appendices to some chapters from the previous half, comprised of mathematical explanations and graphic representations of aforementioned models. The logic behind this distribution is probably no other than to make the reading experience much more pleasant, and to leave further technical elaborations only to experts wishing to have a deeper understanding of the models; academic ethics surely play a part in this choice, as any model's "inner workings" must be made public in order to open it to revision from peers.

This volume is undoubtedly a great contribution to network science made by an already consolidated scholar. The brevity of the book is only a by-product of the author's condensation of many (old and new) approaches to modelling in archaeological contexts, and appeals both to the novel and the experienced readers with its sensible relocation of the bulk of the mathematics and modelling to the annexes. Despite not providing a unified discourse over the course of the book, the exhaustive collection of methodologies put to test by applying them to a particular case study makes it a complete overview for the scholar looking for the most suitable model for their particular research. "The Rise of Early Rome" is another key contribution to a discipline experiencing a growth as rapid as that of digital humanities, and the fact that it is more of a state of the art than a presentation of a new model will expand the durability of its relevance in an area of knowledge characterised by rapid technological advancement, and, thus, quick obsolescence of written works.


[1] U. Rajala: The landscapes of power: visibility, time and (dis)continuity in central Italy, in: Archeologia e Calcolatori, 15 (2004), 393-408.

[2] L. Alessandri: Hierarchical and federative polities in protohistoric Latium Vetus. An analysis of bronze age and early iron age settlement organization, in: Early states, territories and settlements in protohistoric Central Italy, Groningen 2016, 67-82.

[3] A. Cazzella & G. Recchia: Bronze Age fortified settlements in southern Italy and Sicily, in: Scienze dell'Antichità 19 (2) (2013), 47-64.

[4] A brief overview on the subject in: J. Negre / F. Muñoz / J.A. Barceló: A Cost-Based Ripley's K Function to Assess Social Strategies in Settlement Patterning in: Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 25 (2018), 777-794.

[5] F. Fulminante: The urbanisation of Rome and Latium Vetus from the Bronze Age to the Archaic Era, Cambridge 2014; L. Prignano / I. Morer / F. Fulminante / S. Lozano: Modelling terrestrial route networks to understand inter-polity interactions (southern Etruria, 950-500 BC), in: Journal of Archaeological Science 105 (2019), 46-58.

Arnau Lario Devesa