Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Insight: Barbarians at the Gate Volume 53 Number 6, November/December 2000
by James Wiseman

Roman frontiers from Britain to Arabia

[image] 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 Empire.

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