Population decline and wine industry: societal transformation on Late Antique Delos (Greece)

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The island of Delos had a lengthy settlement history and was of great importance throughout antiquity; intermittently, it was a major religious, commercial and political centre within the Mediterranean. These periods of prosperity and growth (namely, the Hellenistic and early Roman eras) were the focus of increasingly interdisciplinary Delian studies for over two centuries; until recently, little research was completed regarding the later history and archaeology of Delos. Studies over the past 20 years confirm that Delos did experience contraction and deterioration after its Hellenistic peak, but, almost certainly, not to the extent once thought. The investigations of the present author affirm that a sizeable, albeit reduced, population remained on Delos even into Late Antiquity linked directly to a prosperous, contemporary wine industry. This illustrates the resilience and persistence of the post-Hellenistic population and elucidates the potential fate of such islands in antiquity, where, rather than collapse, they underwent some form of societal transformation more difficult to recognise through the archaeological record. Reasons for such a sequence of events are explored, linked to the discussions of Horden, Purcell, Bevan and Conolly, centred around theories of island interconnectivity and the formation of specialised, agriculturally productive niches. With these considerations in mind, Delos presents and exceptional case study to observe an influential and significant ancient city that underwent extreme change - Hellenistic prosperity to Late Antique 'decline' - but maintained notable features often associated with cities of higher-level population and prosperity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe resilience of the Roman Empire
Subtitle of host publicationregional case studies on the relationship between population and food resources
EditorsDimitri Van Limbergen, Sadi Maréchal, Wim De Clercq
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherBAR Publishing
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781407356952
ISBN (Print)9781407356945, 9781407357706
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameBritish Archaeological Reports International Series


  • archaeology
  • Roman history
  • Greek history
  • population studies
  • ancient history
  • classics
  • viticulture
  • wine
  • agriculture
  • ancient technology
  • Delos
  • Greece
  • presses
  • islands


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