Quick Takes: Rome was always a city of brick?

I find Diane Favro’s work really interesting. Her reconstruction of the Roman Forum as it changed from the Republic to Late Antiquity has made an appearance in my classes and in conference presentations, and certainly has sparked a lot of thought. So I was really excited to see her new work show up in my Twitter feed.

This new project is a reconstruction of Rome (the whole city) from Caesar’s death to Augustus’ death, with an emphasis on testing Suetonius’ report (Aug. 29) that Augustus claimed to have found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble. Favro’s research suggests that actually, based on the buildings we know Augustus reconstructed, this simply wasn’t the case. 

On the one hand — yes, obviously. Augustus focused on the public areas of Forum-Palatine-Capitol and the Campus Martius; we’ve known that for a long time. He didn’t pave the Subura with marble bricks, and his close friends were responsible for developing other areas of the city (for example, Maecenas’ gardens on the Esquiline). The new model shows this really well, as far as I can see, with a few tightly-nucleated white areas surrounded by a mass of red brick.

On the other hand — look at all the gray! These gray blocks represent buildings whose material we simply don’t know. They’re filler. And I can’t help but wonder what the picture would look like if we

  • got rid of the gray buildings entirely and left them as open space
  • turned them all white
  • turned them all red
  • turned them a mixture of white and red

I really hope that this will be possible on the full version of the model (it didn’t seem to be on the report I saw). We should be able to experiment with different possibilities for the vast areas of unknown Rome. Favro has proven in the past that she’s able to reconceptualize how we view the city in a variety of ways. I’d like to be able to broaden the field of questions.


(H/T to the Rogue Classicist for this one!)



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Quick Takes: Rome was always a city of brick? by https://libraryofantiquity.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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