Cities and urbanism

Authored by: Jeffrey D. Veitch

The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138676299
eBook ISBN: 9781315560175
Adobe ISBN:


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The city, and associated urbanism, presents a complex phenomenon in the ancient world. This chapter focuses on the sensory affordances of the Roman city, especially Rome. Following Henri Lefebvre, perception was the way in which the body interpreted urban space through the senses. Particular attention is given to the Roman street as the central city space of sensory perception and as the site of transitions within the Roman sensory modality in the mid-first to mid-second century ce. Movement was key to the changes in sensory perception of Roman streets, which drew on physical, social and imaginary conceptions of the street. Archaeological practices deal with the first and second elements in field recording, while ancient historians and classicists deal with the third through analyses of literary texts. Sensory studies of the Roman city have recently emphasised a literary image of Rome as plagued by the worst of urban problems. However by emphasising the complexity of influences on the Roman urban image, archaeology and textual sources display a constant tension between efficient movement, civic infrastructure and social responses to the development of the Roman city from the second century bce to the second century ce.

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