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“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble”

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Octavian Augustus
Octavian Augustus

According to Suetonius, Augustus, when assessing his rule, said: “I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble”. The question is, had Rome really undergone reconstruction to such an extent under his rule? To this end, a professor of architecture and urban planning from the University of California – Diane Favro – created a computer model of the Eternal City of the time of Augustus, where the individual buildings were marked with colours, depending on what they were made of. However, as the study showed, Rome did not change as much as the first emperor claimed.

The professor tried to find elements of propaganda in the quotation. However, as she points out, with Augustus’ taking the throne of Rome, the long civil wars ended in the Empire and became so-called pax romana. The economy began to prosper, and in connection with this, mass-extraction from the mine in Carrara (northern Italy) was started – Carrara marble. According to the professor, the massive mining of marble allowed the ruler to start numerous constructions in the capital and throughout the Empire.

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