From Mycenae to Constantinople: The Evolution of the Ancient City

From Mycenae to Constantinople: The Evolution of the Ancient City

From Mycenae to Constantinople: The Evolution of the Ancient City

From Mycenae to Constantinople: The Evolution of the Ancient City

Synopsis

Richard A. Tomlinson analyzes the development of the city by examining the architectural remains of urban centers in the Greek and Roman world. He shows how the city is an architectural response to the social organization and varying political systems of its inhabitants. Tomlinson shows how cities served as a base for imperial authority and discusses the circumstances surrounding the creation of a New-Rome for the Christian Empire at Constantinople.

Excerpt

The world of Greece and Rome was essentially a world of cities. At times, the countryside attracted, and poets might sing of rural delights, but more usually the countryside was a place of menace and danger; people were more secure in the towns and, often, behind town walls with gates that could be shut at night. the cities were not necessarily large; of those in this book only Alexandria and Rome approached in the numbers of their inhabitants the cities of the present day, and even here the total absence of mechanised transport prevented them from becoming formless urban sprawls of the type which so disfigures the modern world. Many cities, of course, were much smaller, and some of those included in this book had populations which at the present day would hardly qualify them for a status grander than that of a village; it is their institutions, their system of administration, their sense of identity, which give them their enhanced status. in this book I present only the smallest of a selection from them but one intended to be representative, of greatest and largest, almost all of them successful in their own particular ways, and (most of them at least) continuing to exist over centuries, often when the world around them changed its character and, therefore, their fortunes.

At its height, the Roman Empire encouraged the development of cities, regarding it as an essential element of their political system, over an area which included much of Europe, as well as substantial parts of western Asia and northern Africa. Only Egypt remained largely immune to the system. the cities I have chosen to describe are situated around the Mediterranean; only Palmyra, a link between the Roman and the oriental kingdom of Parthia, is remote from the sea, but that too was on an important inland trade route. of the others, Cyrene is furthest inland, but that is less than a day’s journey, at 19 km. But at the height of the Roman peace, as well as the rural estates, cities flourished far from the sea, in central France, in what is now the middle of Turkey, in areas all over the Balkan Peninsula. However distinct they were from each other, they were all part of the same system, which grew up in the days of Greek independence and which constituted a form of existence whose attractiveness ensured its durability. For those who lived in the cities—or at least,

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