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Pastoral Landscapes in Myth and Reality

Barbro Santillo Frizell

Blera: får

A pastoral landscape is not just a romantic shepherd’s idyll with small white lambs and pretty shepherdesses on an oil painting but instead a very evident reality. In the root, ‘pa-‘, is the key notion of pasturage and fodder, which we find in many concepts and ideas. The shepherd god, Pan’s name derives from this word as well as the word, pastor. It is an ancient Indo-European root, which has presumably moved westward at the same rate as the domesticated sheep and goats, from the mountain regions of Northern Iraq and Iran, to the Mediterranean area.
The technical term, pastoralism, entails an economy based on a specialised animal husbandry of cattle, sheep and goats. In areas such as the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where the natural prerequisites allowed livestock to remain outdoors all year, livestock were traditionally not put in stables during the winter but instead changed pasture according to the season, so called transhumance. This demanded a mobility of flocks and shepherds, covering vast areas, and during some historical periods this type of animal husbandry was so extensive that we can speak of economy on a major scale.
The transhumance system created an urban network of nodes and places and inter-regional spaces which crossed geographical and tribal boundaries. The grazing animals created a pastoral landscape which still constitutes an important cultural element, not only as a physical environment but also as a mental framework. The drove roads were projected according to an inherent logic, based on decisions which organized space and evaluated certain features in the landscape, such as fords for crossing the river, water supply, access to pasture. These choices, mainly based on economic requirements, have greatly influenced socio-political development and ideological attitudes, reflected in visible structures like markets and sanctuaries, city gates and roads, which in the end also came to serve other purposes.
The pastoral lifestyle has, in an astounding way, satisfied not only mankind’s material needs but also the yearning for legends and a spiritual dimension in life. One goal of this study has therefore been to shed light on the interaction between these elementary human needs and attempt to understand why this particular cultural expression has become so important in our culture. The area studied is ancient Greece and Rome and the subject matter is delimited by the pastoral life forms that have arisen from an animal husbandry based, above all, on sheep and goats, man’s oldest domestic animals (with the exception of dogs) and the domestic animals that have meant the most for societal development in the Mediterranean area.

International conferences

The Pastoral Landscape – Rural versus Urban in session  Liminal landscapes, EAA seminar in Cork September 2005 (see bibliography)

Pastoralism and landscape, Landscape and rural heritage. Sixth meeting of the Workshops of the Council of Europe for the Implementation of the European Landscape Convention. Sibiu, Romania, 20-21 September 2000 (see bibliography)

Memory and the loss of memory – giving meaning to historical landscapes in Theme 1; How did landscape change? 1st Landscape Archaeology Conference: LAC2010, 26-28 January 2010, VU University Amsterdam

Pastoral lifestyle & urban mentality, Living Landscape. The European Landscape Convention in research perspective, 18-19 October 2010, University of Florence

Poster     Poster

Il paesaggio pastorale italiano. Un patrimonio culturale d'Europa. Nell'ambito delle GIORNATE EUROPEE DEL PATROIMONIO, Viterbo - Rocca Albornoz, 28 September 2012.


Per itinera callium. Report on pilot project, Opuscula Romana 21, 1996, 57-81

Pecus, pecunia, pastor: om får och herdeliv i antikens Italien, Medusa 2-3, 1998, 32-41

Det pastorala landskapet. En medelhavshistoria bortom tiden. Tvärsnitt 1, 1999, 41-49

Att utforska det pastorala landskapet, Romhorisont 41, 2001, 15-18

Då var djurtransporter inga problem, Forskning och framsteg 6, 2002, 38-40

Sal, sulphur, saltus. Tre landskap – en historia, in Humanist vid Medelhavet, Stockholm 2002, 76-87

Svavelbad i antik djurhållning, Svensk veterinärtidning 55, 2003, 29-35

Curing the flock. The use of mineral waters in Roman pastoral economy”, in  PECUS. Man and animal in antiquity. Proceedings of the conference at the Swedish Institute in Rome, September 9-12, 2002. Ed. Barbro Santillo Frizell. Rome 2004

Pastorala landskap. Myt och verklighet, Stockholm 2006
(for reviews see below)

Sheep, shrine, sulphur. Via Tiburtina and the urban pastoral landscape, Via Tiburtina. Space, movement and artefacts in the urban landscape, ed. H. Bjur & B. Santillo Frizell (The Swedish Institute in Rome. Projects and Seminars, 4:1), Rome 2005

Landskapet i vägen – Via Tiburtina under 3000 år, Tvärsnitt 3:05 (in collaboration with Hans Bjur) 

Displaying Via Tecta, (in collaboration with J. Westin). Rome 2006

Människor och landskap i Blera, Riksantikvarieämbetet, 2008

Changing pastures in  Via Tiburtina. Space, movement and artefacts in the urban landscape. (eds. H. Bjur& B. Santillo Frizell) Stockholm 2009, 39-59

Displaying Via Tecta. Visualisation and communication (in collaboration with J.Westin) in Via Tiburtina. Space, movement and artefacts in the urban landscape, eds. H. Bjur & B. Santillo Frizell, Stockholm 2009, 219-230

Arkadien: Mythos und Wirklichkeit, Köln 2009
(for reviews see below)

The Pastoral Landscape – Rural versus Urban, in I. Holm, K. Stene, E. Svensson (eds.), Liminal landscapes: beyond the concepts of “marginality” and “periphery”, Oslo 2009, 169-182

Pastoralism and landscape, in Landscape and rural heritage. Sixth meeting of the Workshops of the Council of Europe for the Implementation of the European Landscape Convention. Sibiu, Romania, 20-21 September 2007 (European spatial planning and landscape, 88), Strasbourg Cedex 2009, 229-236

Lana, cane, latte. Paesaggi pastorali tra mito e realtà. Firenze 2010
(for reviews see below)



Anna Lena Persson, I antikens Rom hölls djuren väl, Svenska Dagbladet 16 juli 2002

Håkan Bergström, Med känsla för det öppna landskapet, Hallands Nyheter, 17 juli 2006

Kerstin Wallin, Hon trivs bäst i öppna landskap, Göteborgsposten, 27 augusti 2006

Maria Luisa Forenza, A colloquio con Barbro Santillo Frizell, EstArea 7, 2010


Bok Pastorala lanskap - omslagPastorala landskap. Myt och verklighet

Ingrid Börge, Transhumans med hjälp av lastbilar, Göteborgsposten, mars 2006 

Pan har alltid haft vipkort, TCO-Tidningen, 6 maj 2006

Jan Sandström, Pastorala landskap – myt och verklighet,Värmlandsbygden, 11 maj 2006

Olav Wiström om Barbro Santillo Frizells studie om samspelet mellan djur och människor i det antika Italien fram till dagens industrialiserade djurhållning, Sveriges Radio, P1, OBS kultur och idédebatt, 19 maj 2006

Stig Strömholm, Försvinnande självklarheter, Uppsala Nya Tidning, 32, Kultur, 31 maj 2006

Ann-Cathrin Vestermark,  Pastorala landskap. Myt och verklighet, SWEA Colosseum, Nr. 2 årgång 13, juni 2006

Bengt Rosén, En episk saga om våra rötter i tid och rum, Nerikes Allehanda, 17 juli 2006 

Marie Louise Ramnefalk , Lammkött bevarar den pastorala livsformen, Svenska Dagbladet, 3 oktober 2006

Birgitta Gustafson, Pastorala Landskap. Myt och verklighet, Populär Arkeologi, 3/2006.

Kristina Jennbert, Kulturresa genom den pastorala idyllen, Populär Historia, okt/2006.

bok Arkadien - omslagArkadien. Mythos und Wirklichkeit

Thomas Poiss, Überraschungen für Italienfahrer. Barbro Santillo Frizell stellt den Mythos von Arkadien auf seine agrarische Basis, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/9 2009.

Henny Sundar, Bulletin des Schweizer Altphilologenverbands, April 2010.

Christian Heitz, H-Soz-u-Kult, May 2011 (http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2011-2-106)

Hans Kloft, Museum Helveticum, vol. 67, Dez. 2010.

Bok Lana Carne Latte - omslagLana, carne, latte. Paesaggi pastorali tra mito e realtà

Carlo Vulpio, Miti, mercati, alimentazione: la storia dell’uomo è quella della pecora, Corriere della Sera 19/7 2010.

Maria Luisa Forenza, La transumanza: antica pratica di salute, Artemedica 18, 2010.

Luciano Santella, Barbro e il paesaggio pastorale, La Torretta, Nuova Serie n. 2, 2010.

Stefano Mammini, Archeo, November 2010.

Archeologia viva, March-April 2011.

Bruno Ronchi, Il significato della transumanza e le prospettive della pastorizia, in www.centroluigiforenza.org.

Luciano Santella, Opuscula. Annual of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome, 4, 2011.

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