chapter  1
31 Pages

Textual Evidence for Roman Perceptions of Streets and Plazas

The introduction argued that streets played a major role in how people perceived of and came to understand the ancient Roman city. The purpose of this chapter is to elaborate on this thesis by exploring the textual evidence. The chapter begins by addressing the question of who was responsible for deciding where to place buildings with specifi c uses and by outlining the limited role of civic government in those decisions. Zoning laws were lacking and laws for the maintenance of streets required the involvement of private property owners, demonstrating a public-private partnership in which individuals had a great deal of power to shape the urban landscape. We then turn to the issue of how Roman urbanities perceived of streets and how those perceptions shaped ideas about the proper use of space. The Latin vocabulary for urban streets and plazas illustrates a conception by which streets could be divided into categories based on their physical attributes. Ancient city dwellers deemed specifi c activities appropriate in the context of different types of streets and plazas, further infl uencing how they made decisions about the use of urban space.