Archaeological Guide to Rome by Adriano La Regina (editor)

By Adriano La Regina (editor)

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Sometimes there is a map, with arrows, depicting Europe as a sort of allegorical St. Sebastian, an innocent and passive figure assailed by Arab, Viking, and Magyar arrows of violence, destruction, and death. In fact, however, the Arab impact on southern Italy was far more complex than any such visual aid suggests. (Ethnically, too, the Arab situation was complex; the "Arabs" were by no means all ethnic Arabs. Yet "Saracen," although often used in contemporary sources, now carries too many literary connotations.

On the other, Adriatic side of the peninsula, the Appenines open to the southeast onto the great rolling plains of Apulia, notable grain country in the later Middle Ages. Even Apulia is not without variation in altitude; here and there, the land rears up into more rugged terrain and only the heel of the boot is mostly flat. Nonetheless, Apulia does provide greater stretches of arable land than any The Beginnings 13 other section of southern Italy, and it had therefore been grain country in the Roman era as well.

Physically, one of the most pronounced features would surely have been omnipresent reminders of Roman civilization in the form of Roman buildings and monuments. The south had constituted a vitally important part of Roman Italy. Countless major figures in Roman history had come from that region or possessed estates there. Many of the most significant events in the Roman era had taken place in the south: the final defeat of Hannibal in Italy and the great slave revolt led by Spartacus, to name only two of the most dramatic.

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