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Public buildings and private opportunities: some dynamics in Pompeii’s urban development

  • Michael Anderson (a1)

Pompeii’s urban fabric presents a complicated palimpsest of construction, amalgamation, fission, renovation, and destruction, each being a reflection of the current social, economic and political realities at the moment the work was accomplished. Taken together, these data reveal how changing socio-cultural values gradually altered the face of the urban environment over time. However, while the overall transformation of the urban fabric is clearly a collective reflection of shifting concerns, it was really the actions of individuals that served to translate these trends into the physical reality that survives in the archaeological record. It was their particular decisions, undertaken in response to localised stimuli but expressing broad cultural trends and fashions, that served to produce, piece by piece, the complex and layered tapestry of the urban environment. Yet archaeological data only rarely provide the detail necessary to be able to identify the specific, small-scale motivations behind structural changes and the sequence of development, much less the ability to assess the positive or negative outcomes of particular decisions. Cases where it is possible to do so provide a rare window onto the localised, small-scale and often personal dynamics taking place wthin the broader process of urbanisation. Such cases emphasize the central rôle of individual actors in reacting to and reifying the forces of urban transformation through their private construction activities.

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Journal of Roman Archaeology
  • ISSN: 1047-7594
  • EISSN: 2331-5709
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-roman-archaeology
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