In his preface to this new edition he reviews the developments over the past thirty ears, in archeology, in historical and philological work, and in urban planning and architectural trends that make The Idea of a Town timely once again; a reminder that recognizable patterns and texture, public open space, and conspicuous institutions can enrich the late twentieth-century city which has become preoccupied with the isolated architectural object, with physical and market forces. Rykwert focuses on the Roman town as a work of art, a symbolic pattern deliberately created and enjoyed by its inhabitants - its shape and the structure of the spaces constructed on the basis of beliefs and rituals. His starting point is the ancient texts: mythical, historical, and ritual in which city-foundations are told and played out, and in particular the "Etruscan rite," a group of ceremonies which regulated the creation of practically all Roman towns. The principal institutions of the town, its walls and gates, its central shrines, and its public spaces, were all part of a pattern to which the myths which accompanied them provide clues. As in the other "closed" societies Rykwert investigates and compares throughout the book, these rituals and myths served to create a secure home for Roman citizens, placing them firmly in a knowable universe.
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The design, functioning and future of urban situations is explored in written, drawn and modelled work which builds on the legacy of twentieth century urban theory and is directed towards the development of sustainable cities.
He is sustained by two important methodologies in undertaking such a complex task. This was the mandate for a new urbanist sociology. Rykwert thus interrogates the social narratives of pre Republican Rome in the face of minimal archaeological material evidence.
Institutions may crumble as architectural structures but survive through function, reputation, social tradition, legend and plan. This is derived in part from the early tribal conflicts of the Latin people catalogued by Livy, who had narrated a lively history of key archaic Latin wars and the changes that had impacted on the morphology and sociology of Roma Vetus as a result; city walls, temples building, ritual activities and the resulting changes in Roman law, the calendar and the structure of military practice.
Archaic Romans inhabited a city permeated by profound myth-memory and territorial totems and taboos. Ancient oak and fig trees, sacred flames kept burning and regular urban and extra urban processions to a series of 27 altar stations, each with its own appropriate ritual offering understood and shared by the supplicants.
In chapter two he considers the archaic city of Rome and its geographical site. Every Roman town founded throughout the empire was by law to become a Roman simulacrum, a literal model of the archetypal foundation morphology of the great mother city, which inevitably became a place that would only exist as a living myth for its extended colonial communities.
The creation of an institutional priesthood required the transmission of codified laws and skills of divination using systems of animal haruspicy fortune telling. In fact at least one of the Tarquinian kings was confirmed as a skilled priest.
His name may even be of Etruscan origin. Equally important are the transmission of place names within the area of the Seven Hills of Rome. Each name, such as Lupercal or Scala Caci possessed complex connotations of tribal, territorial and ritual significance.
This in turn was informed and guided by the templum of the astrological heavens; a circular diagram divided into quarters so the gods could literally co-inhabit the city with its various peoples. A ceremonial 7th century BCE Etruscan shield boss from the British Museum seems to demonstrate this divine segmentation. Roma had the secret name AMOR. As a result, there were terrible penalties for boundary breakers in early Roman law. Maps themselves were of divine value and were retained in two permanent versions, one in the secure tabularium, the second in the community.
The foundation ritual of a new town demanded that the gates and walls were ploughed using a ceremonial bronze plough drawn by the symbolic gendered dualities of an ox and a cow who cut a sulcus primigenius; the original furrow. In chapter three he discusses the orthogonal planning of early Roman towns using the square and the cross.
This takes him to the recent archaeology of Marzabotto north of Bologna. He discusses the anthropological origins of key ceremonial institutions that account for the perpetuation of important structures in the map of archaic Rome. The boundary is central to the divine partnership of community and the divine auguries. The Romulean pomerium was mythically located somewhere on the Palatine. Doubts about the authenticity of Romulus as a historical figure and recent archaeology from iron age settlements has led to a re-investigation of the ritual importance of these myths, which have gained importance for the understanding of archaic Rome.
The Scala Caci; the steps of Hercules and the Lupercal associated with the she wolf who succoured Romulus and Remus remain places of mythical potency on the Palatine Hill.
The festival of the Lupercalia on the 15 February was a collective ritual manifestation of the received truths of these legends. The ritual of the Salii and Ancilia centred on the rites of male and female puberty and used ceremonial shields, spears and athletic competition as a key component with its focus site being the Temple of Jupiter. This building was enlarged to colossal proportions under the period of the Tarquinian kings up to and after BCE.
The festival was central to the blessing of the armoury of the male soldiers to endow the Roman military with supernatural power. Female fertility was also confirmed by virgin priestesses at the Temple of Vesta with its eternal flame on the Roman Forum;In chapter four Rykwert brings together some important anthropological research on the inherited and transmitted traditions of the city centre, its boundaries, walls and gates from the most ancient sources either literary or archaeological.
Among the most ancient keepers of the law in Rome were the rites of the Argei; straw manikins thrown into the Tiber whose purpose is now unknown, the circular temple of the Vestal Virgins, the goddess Hestia and the god Terminus who had a dedicated altar in the Temple of Jupiter.
The other guardian is the ritual foundation of the mundus whose origins go back to human sacrifice but which contained ceremonial organic matter and functioned like a point of access to the centre of the underworld at the centre of the town.
The Tullianum was also a secure area of prisons Cacer near the ancient Roman council or Comitium, another source of security in Roma Vetus. Other guardians were the two faced Janus who could be the Etruscan god Culsans and his partner Culsu, the guardian of gates.
The Janiculum gates were symbolically open when Rome was at war and shut in peacetime. The labyrinth already resonated with fearful connotations of its legendary Minotaur guardian.
The fifth chapter considers a wide range of supporting case study evidence from other world cities. The functions of animal sacrifice and gender in a West African study by Leo Frobenius drew remarkable parallels with the archaic Roman sulcus ploughing rituals revealing a common ancestry for town foundations.
These common roots remain enigmatic and obscure. Christianity even absorbed these transmitted rituals in the founding of Constantinople in the 4th century. In the 16th century the Florentine Republic rewrote its own foundation myths as if they could be traced back to Etrusco-Roman sources. The scholarship and extensive allusion to ancient Mediterranean cultures within this book is so densely referenced it even temporarily defeated one Spanish translator.
For Joseph Rykwert one of his greatest fears, in the conclusion of The Idea of a Town, is that the pattern of the city as it was formerly revered might come to be discarded in the drive for anonymous, mass produced urban proliferation. It remains a pioneering survey of the urban ritual codes of archaic city cultures with Rome at its core.
The Idea of a Town
Gagor Joseph Rykwert — Wikipedia The History and Future of Cities to the question of how to make successful urban spaces and forms in cities today. Remember me on this computer. Home Jdea Help Search. The principal institutions of the town, its walls and gates, its central shrines, and its public spaces, were all part of a pattern to which the ry,wert which accompanied them provide clues.
The design, functioning and future of urban situations is explored in written, drawn and modelled work which builds on the legacy of twentieth century urban theory and is directed towards the development of sustainable cities. He is sustained by two important methodologies in undertaking such a complex task. This was the mandate for a new urbanist sociology. Rykwert thus interrogates the social narratives of pre Republican Rome in the face of minimal archaeological material evidence. Institutions may crumble as architectural structures but survive through function, reputation, social tradition, legend and plan.