The Roman towns of the Balkan and Danube provinces have rarely been studied as parts of wider urban networks. This paper attempts to identify the principle features of these urban systems and their implications for the economy of the provinces at the time of the Severan dynasty, through the prism of the top-ranking towns in the provincial urban hierarchies. The focus will be on the size of the first-ranking settlements in relation to the size of the lower-ranking towns, their location and the agricultural riches of their hinterlands. One of the main conclusions of this study is that, from an economic perspective, the region under study was a peripheral part of the Roman Empire. Its main assets were its timber, wool, metallic ores and labour force. This is reflected in the basic geographic parameters of the first-ranking settlements: their relatively humble size, their peripheral locations and militaristic nature.