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I. ANCIENT ROME: GOVERNING THROUGH ARCHITECTURE The Roman Empire adopted a comprehensive approach to urban architecture, building hundreds of cities throughout the Mediterranean. A. Roma Caput Mundi: A Regime of Architecture 1. Rome considered itself caput mundi , “head of the world.” a. It commanded a vast international empire, secured through a system of rational military administration and civil law unknown to other ancient powers. b. Roman generals settled conquered lands, using architectural projects to impose the power of the empire. c. They created grand colonnaded enclosures, adding to them a new architectural repertoire of soaring vaulted interiors. The precise assembly of huge and complicated structures made from standard units extended the strict discipline of the Roman army to civil architecture. Using arches, vaults, and the new technology of concrete construction, Roman engineers devised unprecedented structures that defied gravity and overcame the irregularities of terrain. d. Throughout the empire their architects built a new type of city, in which public space and public architecture provided a formal envelope for daily existence. e. The Romans offered conquered peoples an improved quality of life. f. Multistoried aqueducts, such as Trajan’s Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, still testify to Rome’s pragmatic imposition of design over nature. 2. History of Rome a. Rome was an unlikely spot to found a great empire. i. Set 30 km (18 miles) upstream from the mouth of the Tiber River, the city’s fabled seven hills overlooked malarial marshlands. ii. The site’s only advantage lay in its location far enough away from the sea to escape coastal invasions, yet close enough to reap the benefits of maritime trade. b. Rome went through a process of synoikismos , in which villages joined together under a single legal code. c. During its first two centuries Rome borrowed legal codes, religious practices, and architecture from the more developed Etruscan culture to the north.
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Christopher Reinemann
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