New Article: The Atlas of Ancient Rome

Depiction of the room containing the Forma Urbis, as it might have appeared in its own time. Source: Princeton University Press.

My latest piece at TAC’s New Urbs looks at the incredible, two-volume Atlas of Ancient Rome, edited by Sapienza’s Andrea Carandini. An excerpt:

The detail and precision of the Atlas are extensive and impressive: As in Lanciani’s [19th century] work, every inch of the ancient city’s physical footprint is covered in Carandini’s. Here, this means all of the urban land that was enclosed by the city walls in the third century. Within this context, countless individual monuments, buildings, and outdoor sites are illustrated at higher resolutions in plan-and-section form. All drawings are color-coded to distinguish between extant structures, archaeological records, and scholars’ presumptions; and to date as much of the evidence as possible.

The written parts of the Atlas are thorough and serious. A collection of scholarly essays provides narratives of the ancient city’s infrastructure networks, building methods, natural environment, and demographic trends. Chapters on each of the 14 Augustan regiones—essentially, its political wards—are methodically organized, beginning with notes about urban planning, and proceeding to histories of urban change across the span of classical antiquity. The methodology used to collect and organize the information contained in the Atlas is also discussed at length—creating a degree of transparency between the editor and his readers that is refreshingly candid.