Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
THE DREAM OF ANCIENT NUREMBERG

AMONG ALL the countries with a highly developed city culture, Germany is the youngest. At the time when Hangchow was a city of more than a million, the largest settlement in Germany had only 20,000 inhabitants.

Upon the country of the Germanic peasants, herdsmen, and warriors, which was still far removed from the stage of city development, the Romans imposed their encampments of legionnaires, and their city colonies -- the avant-garde of civilization against primeval forests, marshes, and heath where the "savages" were still roaming. When the Roman empire collapsed the Roman cities in the provinces also fell into decline, and seven hundred years passed before the realm of the Germanic language started on its own to create urban settlements. It is surprising that Germany was to become one of the world centres of urbanization and, what is more, that the third-largest city on earth was located within her boundaries, even though it enjoyed this distinction only for one decade.

The largest and richest Roman city in Germania was Trier (or Treves), with 80,000 citizens during the fourth century; and this figure was not surpassed by a German-built city until the seventeenth century. Next to Treves in importance were Cologne with 50,000 inhabitants, and Mainz, the administration and supply centre for the Limes Germanicus, as the Romans called the line of fortifications they had built against the Germanic peoples north of the frontier. Other important Roman settlements were Nijmegen and Utrecht in what is now the Netherlands; Xanten, Bonn, Worms, and Strasbourg, on the Rhine; Regensburg and Vienna, on the Danube, and Augsburg, Kempten, and Zurich.

Most of these cities initially consisted only of a fortified rectangular camp, in the shadow of which a suburb would develop, inhabited by tradespeople, innkeepers, craftsmen, and prostitutes. Some of the places were from the outset built as cities according to Roman models. The merchants of Trier and Cologne grew rich through their trading with the Roman army that was stationed at the Rhine. Trier was at the centre of a large network of longdistance highways and had all the characteristics which also dis

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