“Roma Traversata”

This might seem a little far afield for us, but the Center regularly sponsors conferences in Rome and Marc and I are there a lot for our work. One of the great pleasures of Rome is wandering through its streets. It’s such a dense city, and practically every corner has an interesting history. A new book out this month from Cornell University Press looks like it will be a welcome addition to the literature on the city. And the book’s focus on how a great city grows organically over centuries is very much in keeping with our Tradition Project. The book is Roma Traversata: Tracing Historic Pathways through Rome, by scholar Allan Ceen (Penn State). Here’s the publisher’s description:

Roma Traversata analyzes pathways to decipher the complexity of Rome’s urban layout. Nearly all of the prehistoric country paths converging on what was to become the Roman Forum (the ancient city center) are still traceable in the modern city. To these were added other major streets in ancient times. Additional Medieval and Renaissance streets developed the city further as its center shifted from the Forum toward the Vatican. Some of these provided the framework for Rome’s late 19th century urban development.

Ceen follows nine routes: three prehistoric, three ancient, and three post-classical pathways through the city, showing us that streets are not merely the space left over between buildings but have a formal character of their own and even determine certain aspects of buildings. Rather than insisting upon the greater importance of streets over buildings, Ceen studies the interactions between buildings and public space, something he describes as urban reciprocity.

Profusely and beautifully illustrated, Roma Traversata shows that streets and pathways of Rome are not merely ways of getting from place to place. They are places.