Where Romulus Stood

Michael Kulikowski

  • The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces by Daniel J. Gargola
    North Carolina, 320 pp, £47.95, March 2017, ISBN 978 1 4696 3182 0
  • The Atlas of Ancient Rome: Biography and Portraits of the City edited by Andrea Carandini, translated by Andrew Campbell Halavais
    Princeton, 1280 pp, £148.95, February 2017, ISBN 978 0 691 16347 5

The Romans were formidably good at organising space. Anyone who has flown into Venice from the west will have noticed the unusually rectilinear field systems (Google Earth will show you too), a legacy of Roman surveyors two millennia ago, and far from unique: Roman conquerors and colonists left this type of centuriation behind wherever they went. Roman milestones and boundary markers are staples of dusty epigraphic collections everywhere, while in the Musée d’Orange (Orange was Roman Arausio) there is something even more impressive: a land register in stone, the fragments of which were found in 1949, recording all the plots of land (rectilinear, naturally) between Orange and Nice. It was engraved on the orders of the Emperor Vespasian, who wanted to reclaim public lands lost to private encroachment since the colony’s foundation by Julius Caesar. The density and detail of Roman land administration was unlike anything else in antiquity, or in the premodern world as a whole.

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