Ephemeral Economies? Investigating Roman Wetland Exploitation in the Pontine Marshes (Lazio, Central Italy)

Gijs Tol*, Tymon de Haas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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This paper discusses the economic exploitation of the Pontine Marshes (Pomptinae Paludes), a former wetland in the Lazio region of Italy. Although generally considered unsuited for large-scale habitation and agricultural exploitation until the co-called bonifica integrale under the Italian fascist regime in the 1930s, documentary and archaeological evidence suggest that before these large-scale reclamations local people had adopted a wide range of both ephemeral and more substantial strategies for the exploitation of the natural resources of the wetland. Using the results of more than a decade of fieldwork by the Pontine Region Project (PRP), in our contribution we mainly focus on the evidence for human exploitation of the wetland during Roman Republican times. The area saw a period of widespread agricultural exploitation during the mid-Republican period (late fourth-third centuries BC) linked to a major reclamation project. The Late Republican landscape (second-first centuries BC) witnessed a decline in settlement, probably linked to worsening drainage conditions. However, several sites developed into larger estates that appear to have capitalized on the economic potential of the wetland through fishing, dormouse breeding, pastoralism and pottery production. It thus appears that the marsh provided an important economic asset for Roman elites.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReframing the Roman Economy
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on Habitual Economic Practices
EditorsDimitri van Limbergen, Adeline Hoffelinck, Devi Taelman
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-06281-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-06280-3
Publication statusPublished - 18-Nov-2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Ancient Economies (PASTAE)
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
ISSN (Print)2752-3292
ISSN (Electronic)2752-3306


  • roman economy
  • archaeology
  • landscape archaeology
  • land use
  • wetland exploitation


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