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A wall or a road? A remote sensing-based investigation of fortifications on Rome's eastern frontier

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2023


During a pioneering aerial survey of the Near East in the 1920s, Father Antoine Poidebard recorded hundreds of fortified military buildings that traced the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Based on their distribution, Poidebard proposed that these forts represented a line of defence against incursions from the east. Utilising declassified images from the CORONA and HEXAGON spy satellite programmes, the authors report on the identification of a further 396 forts widely distributed across the northern Fertile Crescent. The addition of these forts questions Poidebard's defensive frontier thesis and suggests instead that the structures played a role in facilitating the movement of people and goods across the Syrian steppe.

Research Article
Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd