Ancient Mysteries Ancient Town Planning

Ancient Town Planning

Ancient Town Planning
Catalog # SKU1001
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name F. Haverfield


Town Planning



Town-planning-the art of laying out towns with due care for the health and comfort of inhabitants, for industrial and commercial efficiency, and for reasonable beauty of buildings-is an art of intermittent activity. It belongs to special ages and circumstances. For its full unfolding two conditions are needed. The age must be one in which, whether through growth, or through movements of population, towns are being freely founded or freely enlarged, and almost as a matter of course attention is drawn to methods of arranging and laying out such towns. And secondly, the builders of these towns must have wit enough to care for the well-being of common men and the due arrangement of ordinary dwellings. That has not always happened. In many lands and centuries-in ages where civilization has been tinged by an under-current of barbarism-one or both of these conditions have been absent.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

The task of collecting and examining these details is not easy. It needs much local knowledge and many local books, all of which are hard to come by. Here, as in most branches of Roman history, we want a series of special inquiries into the fortunes of individual Roman towns in Italy and the provinces, carried out by men who combine two things which seldom go together, scientific and parochial knowledge. But a body of evidence already waits to be used, and though its discussion may lead-as it has led me-into topographical minutiae, where completeness and certainty are too often unattainable and errors are fatally easy, my results may nevertheless contain some new suggestions and may help some future workers.

I have avoided technical terms as far as I could, and that not merely in the interests of the general reader. Such terms are too often both ugly and unnecessary. When a foreign scholar writes of a Roman town as 'scamnirt' or 'strigirt', it is hard to avoid the feeling that this is neither pleasant nor needful. Perhaps it is not even accurate, as I shall point out below. I have accordingly tried to make my text as plain as possible and to confine technicalities to the footnotes.


The beginnings of ideas and institutions are seldom well known or well recorded. They are necessarily insignificant and they win scant notice from contemporaries. Town-planning has fared like the rest. Early forms of it appear in Greece during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.; the origin of these forms is obscure. The oldest settlement of man in town fashion which has yet been explored in any land near Greece is that of Kahun, in Egypt, dating from about 2500 B.C. Here Professor Flinders Petrie unearthed many four-roomed cottages packed close in parallel oblong blocks and a few larger rectangular houses: they are (it seems) the dwellings of the workmen and managers busy with the neighbouring Illahun pyramid.[6] But the settlement is very small, covering less than 20 acres; it is not in itself a real town and its plan has not the scheme or symmetry of a town-plan. For that we must turn to western Asia, to Babylonia and Assyria.

Here we find clearer evidence. The great cities of the Mesopotamian plains show faint traces of town-planning datable to the eighth and following centuries, of which the Greeks seem to have heard and which they may have copied. Our knowledge of these cities is, of course, still very fragmentary, and though it has been much widened by the latest German excavations, it does not yet carry us to definite conclusions. The evidence is twofold, in part literary, drawn from Greek writers and above all Herodotus, and in part archaeological, yielded by Assyrian and Babylonian ruins.

The description of Babylon given by Herodotus is, of course, famous.[7] Even in his own day, it was well enough known to be parodied by contemporary comedians in the Athenian theatre. Probably it rests in part on first-hand knowledge. Herodotus gives us to understand that he visited Babylon in the course of his many wanderings and we have no cause to distrust him; we may even date his visit to somewhere about 450 B.C. He was not indeed the only Greek of his day, nor the first, to get so far afield. But his account nevertheless neither is nor professes to be purely that of an eyewitness. Like other writers in various ages,[8] he drew no sharp division between details which he saw and details which he learnt from others. For the sake (it may be) of vividness, he sets them all on one plane, and they must be judged, not as first-hand evidence but on their own merits.

Paperback, 5 x 8, 155+ pages (illustrated)


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