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Few words about Forma Urbis

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Reconstruction of a fragment of the Forma Urbis with the Pompey Theater audience
Reconstruction of a fragment of the Forma Urbis with the Pompey Theater audience

There is no doubt that Rome is a big city. It was already big in antiquity and just like today’s cities are divided into districts, so Rome was divided into the so-called. regions. During the times of Octavian Augustus, the Eternal City had 14 of them. Each of them had a separate administration to facilitate the management of the entire city. This was not easy, because under Emperor Constantine I the Great, Rome had 322 important intersections and 423 streets.

Unauthorized construction was illegal and punishable. But how did the Romans know the size of the land when they didn’t have the tools we have today?

However, they had something that was extremely helpful to them. This help was Forma Urbis Romaealso called Forma Urbis marmorea or Forma Urbis Severiana because they were created during the Severan dynasty. The shorthand is Urbis Form. It was a cadastral map of all of Rome carved into white marble, showing the entire city at ground level. There were several versions of this map, which were created at different times in the history of the Empire. Only a few fragments have survived to the present day. Only about 10% of the original plan area has been found so far. Professor Matteo Cadario believes that the period of creation of the original Forma Urbis is the time of the reign of Septimius Severus, more specifically the years 205-208 CE.

There are also fragments of plans that contained errors that have been corrected, which proves the importance that the Romans attached to their accuracy.

Author: Piotr Szuba (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Alberto Angela, Jeden dzień w starożytnym Rzymie, Warszawa 2021

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