Spanning one-ninth of the earth's circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents.
The Grand Tour of Italy was the ultimate educational rite of passage for eighteenth-century British elites, the experience of traveling abroad by which wealthy (mostly) male youth gained exposure to masterpieces of Western art as well as to the fashionable society of the continent. These eighteenth-century travelers were deeply steeped in a classical education.
The Forma Urbis Romae (or Severan Marble Plan) is a crucial resource for studying the ancient city of Rome. Enormous in size and astonishingly detailed, it contains irreplaceable information about the city in the early 3rd c. CE--its famous monuments and its lesser-known neighborhoods, its major streets and its back alleys, its commercial infrastructure and its religious life. The Plan also tells us about ancient Roman ideas of the city, ideologies of representation, and mapping and surveying. The more we know about the Marble Plan, the more we know about imperial Rome.
Unfortunately, only 10-15% of the Plan survives--and in 1,186 pieces. Starting in the 4th c. CE, this map suffered the same fate as many other public monuments in the city of Rome. Many of the slabs onto which it was carved were simply stripped from the wall of the Templum Pacis on which it was mounted and used in the construction of new buildings, or burnt in kilns to make lime. Even after the Plan's rediscovery in the 16th c. CE, pieces of it were used as construction material and lost.
Summary by Michael Shanks, Fall 2009
This past summer began a major archaeological project focused on the northern edges of the Roman empire in Britain. An international team drawn principally from Stanford and Durham University UK started excavating the Roman fort and town at Binchester and exploring its place in one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world.
Stanford graduates and undergraduates are making key contributions to the project, pursuing personal research interests as well as working throughout the survey, excavation and lab teams.
Stanford University joined the Monte Polizzo project in 1999, when Michael Shanks and Emma Blake brought a dozen Stanford students to Salemi, Sicily and began analysis of finds from the 1998 excavations. In 2000, Ian Morris began excavating on the acropolis with students from Stanford and other universities and volunteers from Salemi, Corleone, and Marsala.