Mapping Augustan Rome, An Introduction

By: Lothar Haselberger, Ph.D.

Mapping Augustan Rome responds to a lacuna in the field of Roman archaeology and urbanism: there exists no comprehensive reasoned period plan of Republican or Imperial Rome. Our enterprise aimed to create a visual synopsis of what is known about the city of Rome c.A.D. 14 – a pivotal phase of Rome’s transformation into an imperial capital – and to justify our renderings in written form. The result is a set of large-scale maps (1:6000 for the Main Map; 1:3000 for the Central Area) and a critical commentary addressing every structure, area, and aspect depicted. The title, Mapping Augustan Rome, expressly conveys our belief that the work offered here is merely the beginning of a larger process of reasoned visualization to be carried out on many levels of scholarship and which may, eventually, result in a ‘map’ of Augustan Rome.

Begun in December of 1998, Mapping Augustan Rome had its origins in a graduate seminar initiated by Lothar Haselberger and co-taught with David Gilman Romano at the University of Pennsylvania. Contributors to the project included eleven graduate students and one undergraduate, hailing from various disciplines including archaeology, art history, ancient history, and classics. Each participant was assigned a region of the Urbs to research, producing written entries and annotated visual materials which were then transformed by D.G. Romano and two graduate students into a digital format. Concurrently, Andrew Gallia and Nicholas Stapp worked to model the physical topography of the Augustan city, one of the project’s notable innovations (for technical details: “Making the map”. At the end of the process, Mark Davison, a professional graphic designer, improved the legibility and aesthetics of the maps.

The written text includes two introductory chapters which outline the project’s goals, procedures and accomplishments “An introduction to the experiment”, and explain the intricacies of computerized map-making “Making the map”. The balance of the volume consists of individual entries which seek to justify and explain each aspect of the map. Each region of the city is addressed in a broad, overarching entry, as are several urban systems such as aqueducts, city walls, and suburban expansion. Individual entries detail nearly 400 buildings, monuments, streets, tombs, neighborhoods, and horti, as well as more than 50 aspects of the Augustan city which could not be visualized, often due to an imperfectly known location (for a complete list, consult the indices of the Main Map). Rather than repeating information already available in topographic dictionaries such as the Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, each entry is limited to issues which impact the rendering process; aspects and debates tangential to the focus of our work are cursorily treated, if at all.

Though hindsight always reveals room for improvement, we hope to have provided a critically commented upon period plan of Rome at a crucial stage of its urban development.