The building blocks of empire: civic architecture, central Italy, and the Roman Middle Republic Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Becker, Jeffrey Alan
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • The built, urban context of the city served as the dominant mechanism by which Rome’s hegemony expanded during the Republican period. As Rome’s political and territorial influence grew, encompassing first Italy and, later, the Mediterranean basin, the physical and institutional aspects of urban contexts developed along similar lines so that by the first century AD many Roman architectural forms and institutions had reached a point of canonization. These uniform Imperial cities and towns are well known to both ancient and modern observers and they predominate in scholarly reconstructions of Roman civilization. Less studied, however, are the origins of Roman urbanism and civic architecture that grew out of Italic traditions of the archaic period and developed more fully during the middle Republic. During this seminal period the Romans both established new cities and towns in Italy and reorganized other, pre-existing sites. While some theorists propose a centrally controlled approach to urban foundation, the archaeological evidence runs contrary, suggesting instead that indigenous influence played an important and abiding role in the construction, both physical and theoretical, of Roman urban systems in Italy. By studying the architecture of civic spaces, as well as the architecture and infrastructure that defined communities (including fortification walls and road networks), it is possible to identify and trace numerous important trends in Republican urbanism that have been heretofore overlooked. These trends suggest that the role of the city in Roman expansion was a nuanced one, rather than a static construct imposed by military domination. The move toward urban settlements was not restricted to those connected with Rome, but was a widespread phenomenon with numerous participants. In viewing the cities and the influences working on them from a local and regional point of view it is possible to arrive at a new understanding of the role of the city in the Roman expansion, a role that is made no less vital by the participation of indigenous cultures and the perpetuation of local architectural traditions.
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  • Terrenato, Nicola
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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