Work Package 1

Networks of land and sea routes

The intense fragmentation of the Greek hinterland to an assemblage of more or less isolated areas, together with the maritime and insular geography of the Aegean and the Ionian areas imposed the growth of dense communication networks, and enabled the development of economic and cultural centers of local or broader importance. The studies in this work package aim at the documentation and mapping of specific land and sea routes in diverse time periods, from the Bronze Age to the 19th century. Particular emphasis is placed on the differentiations that emerge during each period, with a view to tracing the communication axes as well as the centers that developed along their confluences, highlighting their importance for the growth of trade, markets, and societies. Most information derives from primary sources, namely textual (published and unpublished) and archaeological.

The land communication network was formed mostly during Roman times. The Romans, focusing on operative (military) efficiency and economic activity, exploited pre-existing routes that traditionally served local needs, and created one of the most efficient land-route networks that covered almost 80.000 kilometers throughout the territory under their control. Although designed to serve war operations and thus Roman expansion, these roads boosted trade, travel and communications, together with the sea routes that continued to be the main route of trade. The organization and maintenance of the road network was nevertheless a significant factor for the Romanization of the areas it crossed, since colonies, outposts, or camps were established along the roman roads, the arteries of roman power. This network was the basis of the land communication system during the Byzantine and Ottoman years. Maritime interconnections originally constituted local, limited-scale networks. Most sea connections were limited—their range did not go beyond nearby shores, or neighboring economic, administrative, or worship centers—and mostly aimed at securing sufficiency on a local scale. However, local small-scale networking came across larger seas and land routes and adhered to them. Hence, a broad nexus of connections was formed based on economy that gradually affected a wide spectrum of activities.

Land and sea route networks in the Greek areas follow or overlap each other, their nodal points change with the passing of centuries and the succession of cultures. They serve local needs, yet their connection to grand-scale route networks keeps this space connected to numerous centers in the Mediterranean, central Europe, Asia, and beyond.