Oxford Roman Economy Project University of Oxford

John Hanson


2008 -

Prof. Andrew Wilson

The Urban System and Economy of the Roman Empire


Project description

The aim of my doctoral research was to re-assess the urban system of the Roman Empire between 100 B.C. and A.D. 300. While previous studies of urbanism have lacked strict definition and empirical grounding, this research aimed to catalogue Roman urbanism systematically and to interpret it through a range of methodologies and with reference to modern urban theory. The central hypothesis of this research was that although urbanism will be an important way of understanding the society and culture of the Roman Empire, it can also provide significant insight into economic scale and structure. To explore this, my research focused on the central themes of: types of urban centres; the exact quantity of urban centres; urban populations; the scale of urban centres; regional variation; the nature of urban markets; levels of interconnectivity and integration; and the roles of urban centres in the landscape. The result of this research has also been to compile a new catalogue of Roman urban centres, detailing diagnostic forms of evidence such as estimated populations, physical areas, monumentality, and civic statuses, and to plot their distribution using GIS, which are used as evidential grounding for the discussion of these themes.


I completed my D.Phil thesis in Archaeology at the University of Oxford, which was entitled ‘The Urban System and Economy of the Roman Empire’ and was under the supervision of Professor Andrew Wilson. From October 2007-June 2008 I read for a Master of Studies in Classical Archaeology at Brasenose College, Oxford, which was passed with a distinction. From October 2004- June 2007 I read for a B.A. in Classical Archaeology and Ancient at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, which was passed with first-class honours (joint-best first of the year). I currently the recipient of the AHRC BGP award (October 2009 – October 2011) and was previously the holder of the Classics Centre-Wolfson Studentship (October 2008 – October 2009). I am now part of the The Social Reactors Project at the University of Colorado Boulder.


Hanson, J. W., (2011), ‘The urban system of Roman Asia Minor and wider connectivity’, in A. Bowman and A.I. Wilson, (eds),Settlement, Urbanisation and Population (Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy), Oxford.

Webdesign, databasedesign: Miko Flohr, 2010-2018. Content: OXREP, 2005-2018.