Perspectives on changes in early Roman Gaul

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Jan Slofstra and Greg Woolf have written very stimulating papers about the changing character of societies, and especially of their elites, in Interior Gaul and on the Rhine frontier. The contrast between these two regions provides a valuable arena for considering larger questions of change in Gaul, with emphasis on development of civic society in Central Gaul and of a militarised society on the frontier. I shall first comment on a few of the important issues that these papers raise, then suggest some additional and alternative ways of thinking about the problems. Woolf's discussion of cultural practice shows how this approach can help to focus future research on subjects related directly to the actual changes. His review of expressions of status differences in earlier circumstances, back into the early Iron Age, provides a useful long-term context for considering the changes that accompanied and followed the Roman conquest. The distinction he draws between the mainly public display of elite status in late Iron Age contexts, and more private displays in the Roman period, is important and merits further investigation. In Slofstra's paper, I find the discussion of the relationships between structure and agency very useful in this context. His emphasis on the interplay between the categories power, culture, and identity is highly pertinent. His explication of the differences in Roman policy and native reaction between pre-Augustan and post-Augustan times is instructive. The contrasting patterns he outlines between changes in Central Gaul and those on the Rhine frontier, and the three-level interpretation he presents for understanding the Batavian revolt, are valuable models for formulating future research strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-51
Number of pages5
JournalArchaeological Dialogues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2002


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