Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Alexander A. Bauer

Subject Categories

Classical Archaeology and Art History


Romanization, Semiotics, Early Rome, Terracotta, Latium


Romanization became a popular academic topic after its initial proposal in 1915 by Francis Haverfield. Even today, it is maintained as a popular theory to explain how Rome came to dominate everything from the Italian peninsula to Roman Britain. Traditionally, Romanization has been framed using a theoretical framework of dominance through cultural diffusion. Several authors have challenged this dynamic, but have not framed this discussion within contexts of pre-Republican Roman expansion. This paper challenges the traditional framework and suggests utilizing a comparative and semiotic approach to evaluate early Roman expansion and Romanization. The paper also challenges the traditional definition of Romanization, suggesting that small elements of Rome, such as the technique used for creating decorative architectural tiles, helped contribute to her overall regional power and identity. The methods applied are comparative, in that they strive to understand the origin of styles by comparing similar finds to one another. They are also semiotic, in that meaning is drawn from material remains based upon their symbolic meaning within the communities that interacted with them. The study compares architecture, layout, and archaeological remains, primarily from town centers or fora, between early Rome, five neighbor settlements (Crustumerium, Veii, Gabii, Praeneste, Falerii) within 50 km of the city, and five Roman colonies. Focused analysis of architectural terracotta from these sites provides evidence for an impact of Rome and its artisans on Latium and surrounding areas by the early 6th century in the form of modes of production, materials, and designs linked to competition among cities via impressive, publicly located, decorated buildings. Initial influences were small, such as on figural design or mould choice, but changes accumulated over time, with some ‘spurts’ that represent the spread of advancements, in the case of moulds and clay mixtures, or political change in the region, such as the wave of colonization after the Latin War. The collective analysis indicates that the Romans were transforming sites, even at a very early period, through artistic advancements and trade as well as traditional conquest. This suggests Rome’s early cultural development was formative to her later rise to dominance and should not be forgotten in conversations about her history.