Roman City Planning
The design and structure of a city is as important as the people who dwell within her walls. The placement of streets and the structures built there are carefully plotted for optimal use. Foot and cart traffic, fire hazard, and access to water were all key factors in city planning. Eventually the Romans had fine tuned their design principals in such an advantageous way that they molded all of their city states similarly.
Rome developed from the combination of small farming communities around a hilltop fortification. The city, which was founded before regularized city planning, consisted of a confusing maze of crooked and gnarled streets. The focal point of which was the city's forum, the main meeting place and site of the many religious and civic buildings such as the Senate house, records office, and basilica. (Rich, 20) Augustan Rome, with a population estimated at between 700,000 and one million, was the only megalopolis in the West. Rome's street plan, which at its greatest extent had 85 km of road, was an irregular maze. Most streets Zito 2
were footpaths or could accommodate only one cart at a time. The central city had only two viea (streets on which two carts could pass each other), on opposing sides of the main forum. (Nicholas, 6) A law passed under Julius Caesar, which was still in force well after his death, stated that carriages were forbidden to use these streets by day, since it was found that there was not room in them both for wheeled vehicles and pedestrians. Public streets would be decorated with marble and stone, some houses, as they decayed, have revealed alleyways and passages that existed before reconstruction. (Bowra, 34) Main streets were often designed carefully to accentuate the housing and monuments that would appear on any given street. Side streets would often be no more than passages, with flights of steps, and sometimes scarcely broad enough for two people to pass in comfort. Many streets were colonnaded; a Roman technique intended to bring shape to shadow and direct light through the streets. Earlier centuries used the stoa, or free-standing portico, to give effects of light and shade to their constructions. It is suggested that the colonnaded street developed out of the stoa; and partly also, Zito 3
perhaps, out of the thrifty use of available space, with the upper stories of houses jutting forward, supported on columns or pillars to make a walkway beneath. It is also likely that the colonnaded street, backed by shops, took over from the market square for shopping. (Owens, 154) Towards the city's heavily trafficked center the Roman Forum was constructed for convenient easy access of all the citizens. The foreground of the forum was occupied by a paved square with monuments to famous citizens. The temple to the Divine Julius, dedicated in 29 BCE to the deified Caesar, built in a Hellenistic style, is located in the background on the left; to the right is the temple of Vesta and the house of the Vestal Virgins, guardians of the everlasting flame; further to the right is the temple of the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux dedicated in 6 CE Here the office of weights and measures was situated. The podiums of the temples of Caesar and the Dioscuri were often used as orators' platforms and it is in this part of the Forum that the meetings of the comitia took place. On the far right is the Basilica Julia built by Caesar. Its long façade occupies the entire south side of the Forum. (Owens, 154) Semi- Zito 4
circular in plan and having consisted of a tall stage building, theaters were a semi-circular orchestra and tiered seating area. Unlike Greek theatres, which were built on natural slopes, they were supported by their own framework of piers and vaults and so could be built anywhere and not where nature dictated. Amphitheatres (literally, double theatres') were elliptical in plan; with a central areana. (Bowra, 38) The city's main temple, the...
Cited: Bowra, Maurice Et. Al. Golden Ages of the Great Cities. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1951.
Morris, AE. History of Urban Form. London, England: George Godwin LTD, 1972
Nicholas, David. The Growth of Medieval City: From late Antiquity to Early Fourteenth Century. New York, NY: Longman Publishing, 1997.
Owens, E. J. The City in the Greek and Roman World. London, England: Routledge Publishing, 1991.
Rich, John & Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew. City and the Country in the Ancient World. London, England: Routledge Publishing, 1991.
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