Insight: Barbarians at the Gate
Volume 53 Number 6, November/December 2000
by James Wiseman
Roman frontiers from Britain to Arabia
||One of the best preserved forts in the eastern Roman Empire, Qasr Bashir stands on a low hill surrounded by sand, rocks, and its own debris. (Courtesy James Wiseman) [LARGER IMAGE]
When I visited the Roman fort of Qasr Bashir in Jordan, I was struck both by
the desolation of the outpost, and by the sharp contrast of the desert
setting with the northern sectors of the Roman Danube frontier, for example,
where forts rose at the edge of vast and fertile plains or densely wooded
mountains. I found myself musing also about the perceptions of the "other,"
both by Romans and by the diverse cultural groups they encountered on vastly
different frontiers. The story of Roman forts, as of the frontiers
themselves, is ultimately intertwined with the story of the peoples of the
James Wiseman is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY and is professor of archaeology, art history, and classics at Boston University. The author thanks Pierre Bikai for an unforgettable visit to the Jordanian desert.
© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America