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An Island Economy

Hellenistic and Roman Pottery from Hierapytna, Crete


Scott Gallimore

This book offers the first presentation of Hellenistic and Roman period ceramic assemblages from the city of Hierapytna, located on the southeast coast of Crete. Recovered from three rescue excavations in the heart of the ancient city, this pottery records a diachronic history of Hierapytna from the third century B.C. to the seventh century A.D. Through meticulous analysis of these assemblages, including a detailed catalogue of all of the major ceramic categories encountered on Greco-Roman sites and an exhaustive economic synthesis that places Hierapytna in regional and international contexts, Scott Gallimore documents the growth and decline of this ancient city. An evolving role in numerous exchange networks enabled Hierapytna to grow from a promising Hellenistic center into a major Roman metropolis before it succumbed to pressures that led to a steady decline throughout the Late Roman period. An Island Economy outlines the historical trajectory of an eastern polis and demonstrates that its rise and fall are connected to pan-Mediterranean exchange networks, a subject that will be of great interest to archaeologists, ceramicists, economic historians, and students of the Greco-Roman world.
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Chapter One: Introduction


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For Classical Archaeologists, the island of Crete has always been a haven for Bronze Age and Iron Age scholars, with the Hellenistic and Roman periods serving as minor backdrops to a more illustrious past. Scholars have begun to show more interest in these later periods, although their emphasis has been on only a small number of sites. One settlement that deserves far more attention is the city of Hierapytna. Located at the southern end of the Isthmus of Ierapetra along the southeastern coast of the island, Hierapytna was an important polis during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Its position along the coast suggests that much of its prosperity must have derived from economic connections. The site remains understudied, however, and fundamental issues, such as when it was founded, its size and topography, when and why it rose to prominence, and when it began to decline, are rarely, if ever, addressed. While this study of Hierapytna, which examines pottery from three rescue excavations carried out from 1998 to 2001, cannot fill in all of these lacunae, it should provide an important step toward an improved understanding of the site and of the Hellenistic and Roman periods on Crete.

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