Tag Archives: urbanization

Urban Heterogeneity and Technological Innovation in the Roman Empire (2023)

How are we to understand technological innovation in the Roman Empire? In which way did the Roman Empire transform or even enhance (ongoing) processes of technological innovation in the ancient Mediterranean? This article explores the relation between imperial hegemony, social heterogeneity, and technological change. The abundance of archaeological and epigraphic evidence makes it possible to both reconstruct a historical geography of urban heterogeneity on the global scale, and to explore its impact at the level of individual regions and cities. This article argues that urban heterogeneity became unequally distributed over the Roman Empire, peaking in the core of the empire in central Italy. Emerging heterogeneity created ideal circumstances for technological innovation, and several key innovations from the Roman period can not only be associated with these extremely heterogeneous micro-regions, but also seem to be facilitated by their very heterogeneity. This perspective adds a new dimension to debates about technological innovation in the Roman Empire that moves beyond the opposition between optimists and pessimists that has long dominated scholarship.

Bibliographical details


Article in peer-reviewed journal, 2023. Publication of a June 2022 conference on Urban Heterogeneity in Copenhagen, where I gave an invited talk.


Flohr, M. (2023). ‘Urban Heterogeneity and Technological Innovation in the Roman Empire’. Journal of Urban Archaeology 8: 127–145.

Open Access

The chapter was published in open access (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1484/J.JUA.5.135662).

Miko Flohr, 22/12/2023

Information Landscapes and Economic Practice in the Roman World (2021)

How did the Roman Empire transform the way in which people involved in longer-distance trade could get their information about local markets? How did economic information circulate within and between cities? What did the ‘information landscapes’ look like with which traders would have to familiarize themselves? This chapter was published in a 2021 volume on Managing Information in the Roman Economy, edited by Cristina Rosillo-López and Marta García Morcillo. It explores the reality of asymmetric information in Roman economic practice by analyzing the historical development of ‘information landscapes’ in the Roman world, and by assessing what these imply for the contexts in which asymmetric information could play a role in everyday transactions.

I started from the idea that space remains an underexplored issue in approaches to economic practice in the ancient world, even though it is clear that, particularly in the Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire, the nature and the dynamics of space change drastically, within regions, they change as a consequence of political unification, economic integration, and urbanization and, within cities, they change because of developments in architectural practice and increasing monumentalization. The chapter discusses the nature and impact of these developments both at the regional level and the urban level.

On the regional level, it observes the emergence, within the Roman Empire, of a limited number of clusters with a rather dense pattern of urbanization, implying strongly integrated regional information networks, and large areas were cities were fewer and further in between, suggesting more dispersed information networks, and a less natural circulation of information. These differences matter for economic actors operating at a supra-local level, and they have implications for the information strategies they can and cannot develop.

Within cities, there is an increasing development toward the construction of permanently accessible public facilities in and around the urban center which suggests a more predictable communication landscape, and therefore a more stable circulation of information, while the increasing amounts of shops along urban thoroughfares particularly in Roman Italy increased the density of urban information landscapes. This means that more, and better information was available to more people. The final section of the chapter explores what this means for information asymmetries, contending that this transformed the role that information assymetries played in everyday economic praxis.

Bibliographical details


Chapter in edited volume, 2021. Peer reviewed. Publication of a 2018 conference organized in Sevilla, where I gave an invited talk.


Flohr, M. (2021). ‘Information landscapes and economic practice in the Roman World’, in C. Rosillo López and M. Garcia Morcillo (eds), Managing Information in the Roman Economy. Palgrave Studies in Ancient Economies. London: Palgrave, 205–228. ISBN: 9783030540999

Open Access

A PDF of this publication is available in Open Access via Leiden University (https://hdl.handle.net/1887/3216895).


Featured Image

This map of the Roman world shows the spread of evidence for urban culture in the Roman world. It combines epigraphic evidence – inscriptions referring to key urban processes – with architectural remains of public buildings such as baths, theatres and amphitheatres, and it is color-coded to highlight the regional density of this evidence.

Miko Flohr, 26/01/2021