Many of the cities of modern Europe owe their location to choices made some 2,000 years ago during the time of the Roman Empire, new research from a University historian has revealed.
The research, conducted by Kent’s Professor Ray Laurence, alongside Dr Gareth Sears and Dr Simon Esmonde Cleary of the University of Birmingham, examined the archaeological evidence of a number of well-documented cities from the UK and other western European and north African countries.
The team found that the most successful cities were often founded at key points in the new communication network of Roman roads built across Europe – of which around 31,000 miles are known today.
Other factors that enabled new cities to succeed included the reproduction of a Roman culture over several generations, the ability to sustain an urban population over more than one generation and the construction of new monuments including amphitheatres, theatres and temples.
Professor Laurence, a Roman historian in the University’s School of European Culture and Languages, said: ‘The Romans programmed the geography of many European countries and created the capital cities of London and Paris with transport systems orientated around them.
‘Importantly, phases of urban development were relatively short-lived and were paid for by relatively few persons – in a sophisticated ‘big society’ format from 2000 years ago that produced hundreds of cities and produced one of the highest urban densities prior to the industrial revolution. However, this first European urban culture was found to be far from sustainable in the longer term.’
The team’s findings are presented in a new book published this month, The City in the Roman West 250 B.C. to A.D. 250. Professor Laurence added that the book was the first to set out the totality of Europe’s first urban culture that spread beyond the current boundaries of the EU to include Northern Africa and the Near East.
Source: University of Kent