Traditionally, the 2nd century AD in Roman Altinum (Northern Italy) has been described as a period of crisis. As a similar ‘commercial and agricultural’ setback has earlier been proposed for the whole Italian peninsula in general, this article evaluates the epistemological basis of this local variant. A historiographical research firstly contextualises the origins of the classical pan-Italic crisis idea. Starting from critiques on this influential concept,a new archaeological methodology for tracing a crisis in antiquity is proposed. Applying this approach to Altinum and the Venetia region, it can be argued that the alleged ‘2nd-century AD crisis’ for the town was not a reality but rather a mixture of historiographical determinism and archaeological scarcity.