The organization of space in Pompeii

Ray Laurence*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Architects have looked back upon the Roman city as a city of precise planning and order. For adherents to neoclassicism and to modernism, the ancient city and in particular Pompeii holds a strong position in histories of architecture. The archaeological remains of Pompeii directly or indirectly influence the form of the modern city. However, it would appear that the historian’s and archaeologist’s conceptions of the ancient city are in turn influenced by the modern city, in which they live or interact. This paper is about the search for a methodology for the interpretation of the urban landscape in Pompeii. It addresses the problem of how we interpret the built environment, and how this interpretation is influenced by present concerns: in other words, the dialogue between the architectural present and past. Finally, I will offer an interpretation of the organization of public space in Pompeii. Pompeii as an artefact presents not only the past, but also the present. Pompeii is part of a heritage industry in which vast numbers - 4-5,000 daily - visit the site, the appeal being the possibility of empathizing with the past, or of seeing daily life as it was! The appeal of Pompeii would not appear to permeate into present-day academic archaeology. Little analytical work has been at tempted. Why such a situation should arise is strange. The information-set available in Pompeii is large, although it has been recorded in a variety of manners. A reason for shying away from analytical work in Pompeii might be that there was a feeling that the destruction of Pompeii left a microcosm of Roman life, and was not really the concern of archaeologists. However, it is becoming increasingly clear, from Penelope Allison’s work upon artefact assemblages in Pompeian houses, that the processes of deposition in Pompeii are as complicated as in any other archaeological site.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban society in Roman Italy
EditorsT. J. Cornell, Kathryn Lomas
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781135361990
ISBN (Print)9781857286441
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Book first published 1995 by UCL Press. Published 2017 by Routledge.

Copyright the Author(s) 1995. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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