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Roman City Planning

Essay by   •  October 28, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,665 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,536 Views

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Roman City PlanningÐ'...

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

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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,

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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 faÐ"§ade occupies the entire south side of the Forum. (Owens, 154) Semi-

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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, Ð''double theatres') were elliptical in plan; with a central areana. (Bowra, 38)

The city's main temple, the capitolium, was built at the end of the forum. The standard temple was rectangular with a gabled roof, a deep porch with free-standing columns, and a frontal staircase. Roman temples were not only built in the forum, but throughout the city and countryside too. The placement of temples were many times left open to the whims of the wealthy financier. (Nicholas, 9)

In Rome, the majority of citizens lived in insulae, street-front shops and workshops with living quarters behind and above them, which together comprised a city block encasing an open courtyard. These crudely constructed dwellings were often part of densely populated neighborhood just outside the city's center and many times

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lacked sanitary basics such as running water, lavatories, or heat, and were dangerously constructed of wood and brick Ð'-- making them vulnerable to fire, and liable to collapse. (Discovery Channel) Augustus limited the height of insulae to no more than five stories. Later, Nero imposed fire regulations because of their penchant for facilitating the spread of flame due to their close proximity to one another across roads. At the time Rome's fire fighters employed a chain of men passing buckets of water to deliver onto the fire. (Morris, 44)

Nero, after a large fire in 64 AD, tried to rebuild the city in a more planned manner. However, Even the disastrous fire had not given the town-planners space enough to provide their Metropolis with the regularity and ease of communications which the city so desperately needed. The fire had left only four of Rome's regions untouched; three had been completely obliterated and seven others hopelessly damaged. Premeditated or not, this fire was needed to remove the worst excesses of high density, shoddy building and grossly inadequate streets, in order to give an opportunity for comprehensive rebuilding which the Romans would not otherwise have accepted.

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(Morris, 44)

The wealthier citizens, who often financed the construction of public buildings in exchange for honors and political favors, were afforded better

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