In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Frontiers of the Roman Empire

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Congress of Roman Frontiers Proceedings
  • Frontier Concepts
  • Roman Frontier Strategy
  • Frontier Theory and Methodology
  • Frontier Comparison

Classics Frontiers of the Roman Empire
Richard Hingley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 May 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0237


To simplify the list of sources, all accounts postdate 1985, apart from a few key earlier works. The Roman frontiers are often referred to in the German literature as the limes. It is not practical to include specific accounts of particular sites and monuments, since there are thousands of relevant sites. The focus of the works in this list is upon the period from 1st to early 5th CE, and the list does not address the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire. The works are divided into themes that address the history of research, the meaning of frontiers, the physical character of these works, the complex nature of the populations living along and beyond their lines, late Roman frontiers, and the 21st-century move to develop approaches to the heritage of the Roman frontiers. This list deliberately emphasizes works that aim to bring a broader range of interpretations that move beyond the dominant focus of Roman frontier studies on the material remains of the Roman military units.

General Overviews

There are a number of general accounts of the Roman frontiers but no single substantial and authoritative account. The best overall summary is Breeze 2011, while Breeze, et al. 2005 also provides a concise and well-illustrated study. Wells 1995 is one of the few general accounts of the Roman Empire that explores the frontier regions. Other books in this list provide articles that discuss specific topics or sections of the frontier, including Breeze, et al. 2015 and Hanson 2009. Moschek 2011 and Klose and Nünnerich-Asmus 2005 provide well-informed summaries in German. Whittaker 1994 is a highly important study of the social and economic function of the Roman frontier. Heckster and Kaizer 2011 and Hoyos 2013 contain collections of papers relating to frontiers and borders.

  • Breeze, David J. 2011. The frontiers of Imperial Rome. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword.

    An excellent short introduction to the monument written by the leading expert, with sections on the archaeological remains and the strategy of the Roman army. This book also has a useful bibliography of relevant works, including a variety of additional sources to those listed here for the limes in Germany.

  • Breeze, David J., Sonja Jilek, and Andreas Thiel. 2005. Frontiers of the Roman Empire. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

    A short general book that introduced the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site initiative and gives a general description of the archaeological and historical sources, with text in English, German, French, and Arabic.

  • Breeze, David J., Rebecca H. Jones, and Ioana A. Oltean, eds. 2015. Understanding Roman frontiers: A celebration for Professor Bill Hanson. Edinburgh: John Donald.

    This book focuses on how to understand the operation and functioning of Roman frontiers and the impact of these frontiers on the people who lived along their lines.

  • Hanson, William S., ed. 2009. The army and frontiers of Rome: Papers offered to David J. Breeze on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday. Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 74. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology.

    A collection of twenty-two papers presented to the preeminent Roman frontier scholar, including papers on army organization, frontiers, military history, military and logistic supply, and Roman and “native” interaction.

  • Heckster, Olivier, and Ted Kaizer, eds. 2011. Frontiers in the Roman world: Proceedings of the Ninth Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire (Durham, 16–19 April 2009). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    A wide-ranging series of articles arising from a conference held in Durham, UK, in 2009, addressing ancient historical and archaeological accounts of Roman frontiers and frontier societies.

  • Hoyos, Dexter, ed. 2013. A companion to Roman imperialism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    An edited book containing a number of articles on imperialism, frontiers, and Roman contacts with frontier peoples.

  • Klose, Gerhild, and Annette Nünnerich-Asmus, eds. 2005. Grenzen des römischen Imperiums. Mainz am Rhein, Germany: Verlag Phillip von Labern.

    A colorful and authoritative book with a range of papers by academic experts on the limits (or frontiers) of the Roman Empire. The text is in German, and there is no comparable volume currently published in English.

  • Moschek, Wolfgang. 2011. Der Römische Limes: Eine Kultur- und Mentalitätsgeschichte. Speyer, Germany: Kartoffeldruck-Verlag.

    A thoughtful account of the Roman frontiers that explores their character and the historical context in which knowledge has developed.

  • Wells, Colin. 1995. The Roman empire. 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Written by a scholar who is both a historian of Rome and an archaeologist whose own research focused in part on the imperial Roman frontiers and who covers the frontiers in greater detail than most accounts of the Roman Empire.

  • Whittaker, Charles R. 1994. Frontiers of the Roman Empire: A social and economic study. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    An important account of the social and economic landscapes created at the frontier of Roman imperial control, which remains required reading.

  • Woolf, Greg. 2012. Rome: An empire’s story. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An accessible introduction to the Roman Empire but with rather limited discussion of the frontiers. Accounts of the Roman frontiers perhaps need to be integrated more fully into general works that address the Roman Empire.

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