4. Methodology

4.1 Geographical and temporal parameters of the study

Archive: An archaeological database of higher-order settlements on the Italian peninsula (350 BCE to 300 CE)

The study area comprises peninsular Italy south of the River Po, excluding all islands. The Po was chosen for its convenience as a physical boundary rather than for any historical significance: it defines an area to the south that could be comprehensively studied within the duration of the project. This choice means that more than 40 Roman towns between the Po and the Alps are omitted from the study. The start date of 350 BCE was chosen because the Roman conquest entered a new intensive phase during the second half of the 4th century BCE. This signifies, however, that all settlements abandoned prior to 350 BCE are excluded from the study, unless they were reoccupied after 350 BCE. Otherwise, all known dates of abandonment that pre-date the beginning of the medieval period (nominally 500 CE) have been documented for each settlement, but the dynamic processes affecting urban centres in late antiquity (after 300 CE) have been omitted, such as physical contraction and fortification building. As reflected in the research questions, the project is primarily concerned with the periods of the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. The dynamism of Roman urbanism slowed after the early imperial period. Only two new centres are recorded in the database as having been founded after the Augustan period, and by the 3rd century CE, evidence for major urban construction projects is greatly reduced. The database incorporates material relevant to the period 100-300 CE precisely to document this diminution of activity and hence to contextualise and define the floruit of urbanisation during the late Republic and early Empire.