Remodelling urban landscapes: the Christian and Muslim impact on the cities of Syria-Palestine

Alan Walmsley

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


The Diocletianic translation on what constituted a Roman Empire from a political and cultural perspective had a deep impact on the organization and appearance of urban infrastructures in the East Mediterranean (Fig. 1). The embellishment of towns, troop relocations, and new foundations changed established settlement profiles while expanding an imperial landscape focused on settlement prominence and land routes. A new administrative structure was created in support of a reinvented Roman East, providing a cohesive and binding infrastructure that was to last beyond late antiquity into Islamic times; of the handful of Roman administrations that moulded the Eastern Mediterranean during antiquity, that of Diocletian was to leave a lasting legacy that can be chased with little effort through the decades of the Umayyad caliphate (660–750 CE) and beyond, into ‘Abbasid times. This paper focuses on the dynamic half millennium from ca. 300 to 800 CE, and necessarily deals with the twin events of the adoption of Christianity and the arrival of Islam. It looks at the various ways these events – simultaneously similar while being, at times, deliberately different – gradually altered the outlook of sometimes diverse communities in towns and the countryside, and how these changes found manifestation in the urban environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe "dead cities" of Northern Syria and their demise
EditorsThomas Riis
Place of PublicationKiel
PublisherVerlag Ludwig
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9783869352596
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Danish Institute in Damascus


  • late antiquity
  • Rural settlements dynamics
  • Early Islamic Period
  • settlement archaeology
  • cultural adaptation
  • Change analysis

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