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The project

Under the Republic, the integration of conquered lands into the imperium Romanum generally followed one of two approaches. In the West (Italy, southern Gaul, Spain) existing towns were integrated as self-governing units and colonies of Roman citizens founded at key points. In the Hellenised East, new cities were not founded on any significant scale; instead, existing poleis continued to administer their territories on behalf of their new masters.

The inland districts of the conquered Mithradatic kingdom were unlike any that Rome had previously annexed, and unsuitable for either method. The victorious general Pompey the Great made a radical new departure in the history of Roman imperialism by creating an urban network from scratch: seven poleis, spaced to control the maximum of territory with a minimum of resources. Two of these were Pompeiopolis (mod. Taşköprü) to the west of the Halys and Neapolis (later Neoklaudiopolis, mod. Vezirköprü) to the east of the great river. Part of Pompey's work was undone by Mark Antony (39-31 BC), but when Augustus reintegrated Paphlagonia and inland Pontos into the imperium Romanum, the Pompeian structures were reinstated.

Though the importance of the Roman city as an instrument of domination is universally acknowledged among modern scholars, and a number of important studies dedicated to central and northern Roman Anatolia have appeared in the last two decades, the genesis and function of the city and its role in the process of provincialisation has not been explored in full detail. The aim of this project is to investigate the processes of urbanisation, provincialisation and cultural interaction in the lands beyond the Halys: the means by which a polycultural society combining Phrygian, Iranian, and Hellenic elements was absorbed into the Roman Empire.

Since a similar organisational model was applied in the Syrian Decapolis by Pompey, in Spain by Augustus and in central and western Gaul by Agrippa, studying the urbanisation and provincialisation of inland Pontos will not only shed new light on the history of northern Anatolia, but on the broader questions of Roman imperialism. Given that its point of departure is a Roman general (Pompey) imposing a Greek model of spatial organisation (the polis) on the conquered territories, this study will also challenge the well-worn analytical concept of 'Romanisation' and the Orientalist conception of Rome's Asian provinces as fundamentally different from those in the West. Finally, but not less importantly, we shall strive to increase awareness among the local population and local authorities of the region's Hellenistic and Roman history, and to halt the ongoing destruction – mostly through ignorance or accident – of ancient monuments and remains.

We intend to study the changes taking place in Pontos at three spatial levels: (1) the local (the development of cities and their urban institutions), (2) the regional (especially the institutions of the koinon and the imperial cult), (3) the imperial level (Pontic perceptions of the Roman empire and careers in the imperial service).

For some years, a group of researchers from the Free University of Berlin led by Dr Jörg Klinger and Dr Rainer Czichon, have been studying the history and archaeology of the region in the second millennium BC with a special focus on the important settlement at Oymaağaç a short distance nothe of Vezirköprü. Our project extends the time frame of the Oymaağaç-Nerik project into the first millennium AD, and the combined results of the two projects will enable researchers to trace evolving patterns of settlement and domination in the region over a longue durée of more than twenty centuries. Researchers from the two projects will work closely together and the fieldwork for this project will take place within the organisational framework of the Oymaağaç-Nerik project.