School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Evan Scherer

Evan Scherer

Terrae amissae: A comparative study of Southwest Germany and Transylvania in the Third Century.

Research

What might a comparative study of frontier Roman provinces reveal about provincial collapse in the Roman World? Considered a crucial turning point, the mid-third century AD remains a poorly-understood period in Roman History.

While the Empire experienced numerous setbacks during this period, perhaps the two most detrimental were the permanent losses of Dacia Apulensis and Dacia Porolissensis in ca. AD 265-275 and the Agri Decumates in AD 254-260.

Both of these regions contained heavily-militarized frontier zones beyond the traditional fluvial borders of the Roman Empire, yet were also home to large civil settlements.

Furthermore, the loss of these regions occurred arguably under the same emperor, Gallienus. Despite the similarities between the two regions, to date no exhaustive study has been conducted to compare the processes that led to their eventual abandonment.

A comparative study of the two regions presents a prime opportunity to examine provincial collapse in the Roman World. Given the chronologic and geographic similarities, this thesis examines what a comparative study of these frontier provinces can reveal about the Crisis of the Third Century and the dynamics of frontier collapse in Antiquity.

The enigmatic nature of the third century AD is due in part to the lack of historical sources. While Late Antiquity benefits from a vast array of private letters and Imperial documents and the Principate from a plethora of historical authors, the third century suffers from a lack of both.

This is even more evident when looking at the abandonment of Dacia and the Agri Decumates in the historical sources. The loss of Dacia is mentioned a total of eight times (five in Latin and three in Greek). All of these sources date a least a century after the fact, only noting the loss of the province as an incidental.

To further confuse matters, these sources contradict one another on critical aspects. This is markedly better than historical documentation for the Agri Decumates, which is only mentioned once by Tacitus (Germ. xxix) in the early second century AD.

The dearth of historical narrative is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the loss of both regions is only briefly noted in Lukas De Blois’ (1976) exhaustive synthesis The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus. Thus, interpretation must fall to the archaeological record.

Although the similarities between Dacia and the Agri Decumates have been previously cited, to date only relatively superficial surveys have been produced that compare the abandonment of Dacia to the Agri Decumates.

Supervisors: Professor Ian Haynes, Dr James Gerrard

About me

I completed my BA at Ohio University in 2010 in Classical Studies with an emphasis on Latin and Greek language. My interest in the Roman Provinces, especially on the Middle and Lower Danube brought me to Newcastle University in 2011. After completing the Roman Frontiers programme at Newcastle, I have continued on with a PhD which has seen extended periods of time spent in Romania and Germany.

Research interests:

  • Archaeology of the Roman Provinces
  • Acculturation in the Roman World
  • Roman Frontiers
  • Provincial collapse in the Roman World

Teaching:

  • ARA 2101: Artefacts (Teaching Assistant)
  • ARA 2102: Fieldwork and Archaeological Practice (Teaching Assistant)
  • ARA 2091: Archaeologies of the Roman Empire (Native Settlement on Hadrian’s Wall, Epigraphy, Numismatics)
  • ARA 8128: Armies and Frontiers of the Roman Empire (Leading seminar discussion)
  • Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier Newcastle University Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) (Mentor)

Publications:

‘A case of mistaken identity? The Great Chesters lorica squamata’, Lucerna 44: 27-31

Education:

BA, Classical Civilisation, Ohio University, Athens, OH, USA (departmental honours, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa)
MA, Roman Frontier Studies, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, dissertation: ‘Ceramics from the demolition deposits at Salsovia within the greater context of the Lower Danube’ (distinction)

Academic related activities:

I have participated on numerous archaeological excavations and prospections in both the Hadrian’s wall region in the UK and in and around Alba Iulia in central Transylvania (Romania). These have included supervisory roles as part of the Roman Temples Project at Maryport, Cumbria (Prof. Ian Haynes and Mr. Tony Wilmott), and co-direction (with Ms. Lauren Proctor) of non-invasive survey work at Nether Denton Roman Fort on the Stanegate frontier in Cumbria.

Affiliations:

  • Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
  • Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society
  • Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

Awards/achievements:

  • DAAD Early Career UK-based Researcher Grant (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Oct.-Dec. 2014)
  • Postgraduate excellence award (2014)
  • Newcastle University International Postgraduate Scholarship (2011)
  • D.J. Evans award for excellence in Classical Scholarship (2010)
  • Ida Kincaid Latin scholarship (2009)
  • Placement within top 10% of beginning Ancient Greek students, Eta Sigma Phi Classics Honors Society (2008)