Grid planning systems based upon the orthogonal intersection of roads have been recorded since the end of the sixth century B.C.
At Olbia, a colony of Miletus on the Black Sea, Russian excavations have revealed a grid plan with a celestial orientation in the center of the upper city, apparently dating from the end of the sixth century. The city was rebuilt at that time after a fire.1
At the other end of the Greek world, at Selinus, we find the same system (Fig. 1). Indeed, the acropolis of Selinus is one of the crucial points for the investigation of regular city planning. If as early as the sixth century we find such a complete and perfect example, we do not know what innovations we must credit to Hippodamus, who lived in the fifth. Like Roman plans, the plan of Selinus is characterized by the orthogonal intersection of two major axes (the north-south axis is 9 meters wide). Further subdivisions create blocks, probably rectangular in shape, whose short side faces the decumanus. This side measures 28.1 to 29.95 meters, so apparently a 100-foot module was used as a base. The roads vary in width between 3.60 and 3.95 meters. This is obviously the per strigas subdivision that was common in the Greek cities of the fifth century, as will be seen later.
In attempting to explain the odd fact that such a plan should have appeared at such an early date, many scholars have sought its source among the works of the Phoenicians, in spite of the fact that neither Carthage nor any other Phoenician city shows any precedent for the grid plan at that time. To avoid assigning the plan to an era preceding Hippodamus, Fougères2 among others attributes the present plan of Selinus to the period of reconstruction after 409 B.C.3 Yet excavations by Gabrici4 have revealed that the acropolis of Selinus was already being laid out along two major axes at the end of the sixth century. Not until the fourth century, however, was the acropolis subdivided into rectangular blocks. This happened during the decline of the city, when the acropolis became a residential sector. It is hoped that further excavations will clarify the chronological order of the plan of the acropolis.5 At present it seems that we can do no more than confirm that a system of two major intersecting axes has existed since the sixth century. Beside being logical from the point of view of communications, as noted by Gabrici, this plan is directly comparable to the layouts of other Greek cities (such as Olbia),6 thereby making it unnecessary to take recourse to the theory of Italic influence, as Wycherley does.7 This author has rightly observed, however, that in the sixth century Selinus did not yet have the complex grid plan found at Miletus and Olynthus.
In the Etruscan and Italic world, Veii is an important example of an intersection of two almost perfect orthogonal axes in the archaic residential sector of Piazza d’Armi.8 The oldest part of Pompeii, going back to the sixth century, also has the axial scheme, whether Greek or Italic in origin. It may be that this same plan will be found in Etruscan centers explored by Cozza and Pasqui, especially Monterado between Montefiascone and Orvieto, because the gates of the enclosures, both circular and polygonal, seem to have been laid out by a celestial orientation.9 The same form may have been employed at Cortona,10 according to what can be decuded from the location of the city gates. (It is possible that the upper part of the ring of walls served only strategic purposes and did not correspond to the part of the city that was lived in.) Cortona’s modern streets also suggest this plan, especially those which begin at Porta Castiglionese, Sant’Agostino, and at the now demolished Porta San Domenico, for they are straight and perpendicular to each other, and intersect at the urban center.11
Thus the oriented axial system is found in Greece as well as in Etruria. We cannot say, however, that it is specifically Etrusco–Italic. Furthermore, because it is a spontaneous method of organization, we can consider it to have developed independently in the two cultures.
Miletus was destroyed by the Persians in 494 B.C. and rebuilt either during the years after liberation (479)12 or after 466,13 becoming a well-known example of the grid plan (Fig. 2). The plan, as reconstructed by Wiegand and von Gerkan,14 presents two similar but distinct grid systems, developed successively, within which are set the largest buildings. The average city block measures 29.50 by 51.60 meters, or about 100 by 175 feet. Later developments may account for further longitudinal subdivisions. Two streets, wider than most (7.50 meters) and at right angles to each other, are to be found in the southern section of the city. The reconstruction is conjectural, however, since it is based on incomplete data.15 The long sides of the blocks could have been much longer yet, while the short sides could have been arranged on wide lengthwise streets (one of which, leading to the Gate of the Lions, is known with certainty). Such a layout would be even more similar to that of the cities we are about to examine. In fact, such cities are characterized by a pattern of elongated blocks and by the greater importance of the lengthwise axes (more continuous and usually wider) on which the short sides of the blocks are established. In other words, the emphasis is on longitudinal strips, which are then subdivided into transverse blocks in a manner analogous to the system known to Roman surveyors as per strigas.
Olynthus,16 founded in 432 b.c. and destroyed in 348, is a city of this type (Fig. 3). “Avenues” between 5 and 7 meters wide run north-south, complemented by perpendicular “streets” about 5 meters wide (Fig. 4). The resulting blocks17 are 35.00 or 35.40 meters wide and about 86.34 meters long (120 by 300 feet), a width-to-length ratio of 1:2.5.
Rhodes follows the same scheme (Fig. 5). Many ancient authors have written of this city. The most reliable deduction about it, however, comes from the epithet θεατpoεiδής, found twice in Diodorus (XIX, 45; XX, 83). From this it has been inferred, by Hermann, Erdmann, and Cultrera, especially, that the city was patterned on a semicircular plan articulated by a system of radial streets.18 This conclusion is important since, according to Strabo (XIV, 654), Rhodes was planned by the same architect who laid out Piraeus, namely Hippodamus.
Kondis’s partial reconstruction of the city plan has been very important.19 He has shown that Rhodes was patterned on orthogonal streets and was characterized, at least in some sectors, by subdivision per strigas. The resemblance to a theater obviously refers to the natural configuration of the terrain, which is bowlshaped and slopes toward the port. Vitruvius (II, 8, 43) offers an explanation of this comparison in his description of Halicarnassus, which is often compared to the plan of Rhodes and is thought to be an outstanding example of a circular city: is … locus est theatri curvaturae similis. Itaque in imo secundum portum forum est constitutum. (The natural conformation is similar to the cavea of a theater. Thus the forum was disposed in the lowest part, along the port.) As we might expect, there are also references in Strabo, where the term θεατροειδής clearly refers to the physical setting.20 Though incomplete, the restored plan shows what perhaps was an array of main streets grouped in the north-south direction. The distance between them, set by Kondis21 at 100 feet, must have resulted in very long blocks. The plan corresponds perfectly to the description, attributed to Aristides (Rhod. 43, 6), of a city admirably subdivided, entirely regular and uniform (seeming to be one single city), with uninterrupted streets ((ἀγυιὰς ἐξ ἀρχῆς εἰς τέλος διηνεκεῖς ἥκιστα ἀξίας καλεῖσθαι στενωπούς).22
The founding of Rhodes dates from 408–407 B.C. Certainly reconstructions and enlargements have followed since, because of both the destruction and the growth of the city. It is possible, however, that a large section of the city (especially the center) corresponds to the original plan.
Aristotle (Pol. II, 1267b, 22), as well as several other sources, attributes the master plan of Piraeus to Hippodamus of Miletus. On the basis of a number of walls that intersect at right angles, it seems safe to say that the city had an orthogonal plan which must date from the days of Pericles (before 445).23 A street 14 to 15 meters wide has also been confirmed. The reconstructions that have been made of the entire plan must remain conjectural, however.
Goodchild24 had the good fortune to discover, from traces on an aerial photograph, a lost city near Bengasi which he identified as the ancient Euesperides. Although the plan is not entirely uniform, it presents the usual subdivisions by two or three longitudinal axes intersected by much narrower perpendicular streets and thus forming a pattern of rectangular blocks (Fig. 6). These blocks vary in their dimensions; they measure about 44 meters (150 feet) in width in the southern part of the city and about 35 meters (120 feet), in the north, while the lengths vary between 80 and 130 meters in the southern blocks and are about 100 meters for the northern ones. As at Pompeii, such irregularities most probably result from successive expansions. Recent research shows that the life of the city extended from the fifth to the third centuries B.C. It was already in existence in 510 B.C.25 and was to end its history by the middle of the third century, when Ptolemy III captured it and substituted for it the new city of Berenice.
Important examples of the grid type of urban pattern are to be found chiefly in the West. Verification of the plan of Thurii, a city founded in 444–443 B.C.26 on a plan by Hippodamus, would be of basic importance to these studies. We know of this plan through a description by Diodorus (XII, 10, 7): τήν τε πόλιν διελόμενοι κατὰ μὲν μῆκος εἰς τέτταρας πλατεῖας …, κατὰ δὲ τὸ πλάτος διεῖλον εἰς τρεῖς πλατεῖας.27 Thus the city is shown to have been patterned by orthogonal axes:28 four in one direction and three in the other. It appears, however, that seven streets would be insufficient for a city the size of Thurii. Very likely the system of cardines and decumani was supplemented by a system of small streets. These are not πλατεῖαι but στενωποί, as at Hippodamean Rhodes.
The hypothesis of extra streets is not shared by von Gerkan,29 who bases his argument on the passage of Diodorus immediately following the one just cited: τούτων δὲ τῶν στενωπῶν πεπληρωμένων ταῖς οἰκίαις ἡ πόλις ἐφαίνετο καλῶς κατεσκευάσ0αι. This passage is frequently translated as, “And these streets being packed by dwellings …” that is, the πλατεῖα and στενωπός apparently have lost their differences in meaning and simply mean urban streets.30 Such a debasement is strange, since the terms were not synonymous31 but had a precise difference of meaning in the urban theory of the time. (Their Latin counterparts platea and angiportus are found in Vitruvius I, 6, 1; see note 12 of chapter 2.) It is probable that in place of τoύτωv δέ, used by Vogel because it is found in the most authoritative manuscript (Patmius, tenth or eleventh century), we should read instead ὑπὸ δὲ τούτων, given by the later manuscripts. Thus we can agree with C. Müller’s translation: Quumque vicos his interiectos domibus explevissent, urbs commode digesta et pulchre exaedificata videbatur.32
Two other solutions are far less likely: to construe τoύτωv as a pronoun (relative to πλατεῖαι) dependent on στενωπῶν, and thus translate “these being the alleys of the streets (of the πλατεῖαι) packed with houses …” Alternately, we can consider ταῖς οἰκίαις to be a correction by the editors of τὰς οἰκίας in the manuscripts and can employ it as a relative accusative, noting that πληρόω is used with the genitive and not with the dative. We then translate as follows: “and these (the πλατεῖαι) being filled with στενωποί (completed by στενωποί) the city appeared well stocked with houses.”
Through solutions of this type we avoid the improper use of terms in Diodorus and the mistake of ascribing only seven streets to an important city. In this description Diodorus speaks first of the general layout (main arteries which probably enclosed entire regions) and then of private construction—that is, the blind alleys whose function was to subdivide the city blocks rather than to establish pedestrian communication.
Subdivision per strigas is common to the next group of cities, known to us principally through excavations or through the carryover of their ancient plans into the layout of present cities. These are Agrigento, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, Paestum, the acropolis of Selinus as arranged after 409 B.C., Capua, and Marzabotto.
Pirro Marconi includes the general layout of the city in his ingenious and penetrating study of Agrigento.33 Marconi’s opinion in regard to the Hippodamean city plan is that “… in many cities, including Agrigento, it is nearly impossible to find any principles of order; everything is fortuitously arranged, without a preconceived plan. In Agrigento especially, the abundance of available land made it even easier to leave matters to chance and individual initiative.”34 Marconi has examined the agglomerate of small dwellings in the northern sector, finding them disorganized and tightly packed, and noting the lack of any traces of urban organization. However, he does not exclude the possibility that other parts of the city were more uniformly organized, basing his theory on nonexistent evidence in Diodorus.35 Marconi thinks that perhaps such sectors were to be found in the lower portions of the city, where Greek coins are often found.36 The groups of houses of the Roman epoch found in this section give no sign of a possible new plan installed by the Romans.37 He makes these statements notwithstanding the fact that the map on page 17 of his book Agrigento shows many rectilinear alignments of roads in the southern sector of the city. He even gives a reconstruction (on page 40) of the general layout of streets according to a plan that is entirely irregular.
Recently, near an unearthed block of Roman buildings (not far from San Nicola), a large and regularly planned neighborhood was excavated by Griffo,38 which dated close to the end of the second century B.C. It is laid out on a large artery of more than 10 meters width, into which four cardines debouch, each between 4.75 and 5.35 meters wide and running the length of the excavation (200 m). The blocks are 36.55, 35.90, and 34.65 meters wide, respectively. This highly interesting excavation should be extended to give us a general picture of Agrigento’s plan.
In the meantime we can develop an approximate reconstruction from studying aerial photographs, which show a group of small modern roads and terracing (Fig. 7).39 In the central portions of the city there is a clear pattern of cardines enclosing blocks one actus wide and much elongated. Beneath the present state highway runs a decumanus more than 10 meters wide;40 the one parallel to it probably ran some 300 meters to the south as at Paestum.41 Another decumanus can be inferred from some tracks that would have passed through the agora. This, according to the most generally accepted hypothesis,42 was located near the Olympieion and the Temple of Hercules. Finally, at the southernmost part of the city layout are the remains of several houses to the west of the Temple of Concord (Fig. 8).
The decumani run some 10 degrees north of east, though only the Olympieion follows this orientation; the other temples face directly east.
Thus a large part of Agrigento, the most important part, was laid out in a uniform grid pattern. To the north, however, a group of poorer dwellings has been found built into the hillside; these follow no regular pattern.
When we consider a chronology for the layout, the area adjacent to San Nicola must be attributed to the second century B.C. The remains farther south go back to Roman times. Only the dwellings to the west of the Temple of Concord are attributed, by Marconi,43 to the fifth century. The Olympieion is almost certainly a criterion in establishing a chronology of Agrigento, since, as has been mentioned, it follows the orientation of the city. The period during which the temple was built has been placed between 480 and 460 B.C. (for the telamons and polychrome tiles) and 450 to 440 (for the lion’s head rainspouts and for fragments of the pediment).44 According to Diodorus (XIII, 82), and Polybius (IX, 27) (but their testimony has been questioned), the temple had not yet been completed by 406 B.C. In any case, the Olympieion presupposes the existence of the city plan. This means that the plan must be traced back to the founding of the city in the first decades of the sixth century—the period to which the walls have been ascribed—or more likely to the period immediately following the battle of Imera (480 B.C.). It was after this battle that the city assumed its monumental form. The major temples date from that time, and we learn from Diodorus (XI, 25, 3) of the great numbers of prisoners taken in the battle who were employed in quarrying the material that served to build the temples and sewers.
Thus it is entirely possible that the most important sector of the city could have been systematically planned and organized during the period of its greatest splendor. Rather than thinking of master plans made during the renaissance of the city under Timoleon in 338 B.C. or during the Roman era, one can hypothesize that the second-century quarters were rebuilt on older foundations. Dwellings are more easily rebuilt than public buildings.
The plan of Pompeii has been the object of much research. From the beginning the uniformity and regular layout of the city were noted and attempts were made to trace the path of the cardine and decumanus. At first these were thought to be the Via di Nola and Via di Stabia. This theory was maintained into the time of Mau,45 who supposed the central square to be the intersection of these roads,46 as Sogliano still maintains.47 Van Bezold, on the other hand, suggests that the Via di Mercurio with its southerly extension and the Via dell’Abbondanza correspond to the cardine and decumanus.48
The first positive step in understanding the plan was Haverfield’s recognition of the original center of the city.49 He believed that the southern sector around the Forum, whose plan is well marked and is independent of the remaining sectors, marks the first phase of the urban development of Pompeii.
This early city has been described often, especially by von Gerkan.50 Its boundaries are clear for the most part: Vico dei Soprastanti, Via degli Augustali, Vicolo del Lupanare, and Via dei Teatri. The Foro Triangolare was probably outside, and the boundaries of the west side are questionable.51 The principal axes were also clear; the Via della Marina with the first section of the Via dell’Abbondanza may be considered the original decumanus, while the Via delle Scuole, the Forum, and a section of street which perhaps was in the northern part of the present Forum make up the cardine.
The scheme is clearly an axial one, with intersection at the Forum. Yet several irregularities in the plan cannot be overlooked. 1 he axis of the decumanus is broken at the temple of Apollo; the cardine is not perfectly orthogonal. According to von Gerkan, a gate should correspond to the extension of Vico Storto, and at 83 meters from the gate of the cardine, opposite the gate of Vico Storto, there should be yet another gate, since at that point there is evidence of a street (Vicolo del Gallo) even though it runs only inside the ancient city. This hypothesis of von Gerkan is less certain; it is more likely that there is a gate corresponding to the Vico delle Terme which would fall alongside the Temple of Apollo. The Vico delle Terme may follow the extension of the consular road.
The alignment of the Temple of Apollo, parallel with the cardine, is especially important. A wall built in the middle of the second century B.C.52 to the north of the Forum, near the Capitolium, also runs parallel to it. The decumanus only briefly follows this orientation (Via della Marina); because of this, Sulze53 falls back on the gratuitous hypothesis that the Via dell’Abbondanza may represent a later correction to the decumanus and that the original decumanus, following the alignment of Via della Marina may end north of the Terme Stabiane. One must realize, however, that in the ancient nucleus of Pompeii the axial system was not used as rigorously as in other cities.54
Some scholars claim that the growth and development of the entire city took place in one single phase. Others think that there were at least two successive phases: the first an extension to the north of the Forum, the second toward the east, terminating at the present boundaries of the city. Spano55 maintains that these two successive periods of development were carried out under the Samnites, whereas the ancient nucleus of Pompeii was built by the Etruscans. However, Patroni56 attributes Region VI, because of its regular pattern, to the Etruscans, who are thought to have settled in Pompeii during the sixth century B.C. and to have built a quarter ex novo. Attempts have been made to validate this theory through such arguments as the famous “Etruscan” column of Region VI and the supposedly Etruscan heraldry on the houses there.57 According to Patroni’s theory, Regions VII and VIII were built after Region VI, thereby reversing the commonly accepted sequence of Pompeii’s development. The cardine then would be the Strada di Mercurio, while the Via di Nola would be the decumanus.
The complete and clearly defined plan of the original Pompeii around the Forum argues against Patroni’s theory. Indeed, the uniformity of the general city plan outside the original nucleus contradicts the idea of a two-phase development—that is, a development of Region VI prior to that of Regions V, IX, and others. In short, the development of the entire urban fabric occurred in only two successive phases: the archaic nucleus and its extension to the present limits.
The principles governing the second phase of development were carefully studied by von Gerkan (Fig. 9),58 who thought he recognized Landstrassen roads which at the time of the original Pompeii lay outside the city, on which the new city would be built. These roads were the Via di Mercurio (considered an external extension of the original cardine), Via di Nola (thought to be a major artery between Naples, Nola, Nocera, and Salerno) and Via di Stabia (a large road between Naples and Stabia).59 Such heavily traveled roads would not have passed through the old Pompeii, which was autonomous. Along this preexisting layout the present city of Pompeii was thought to have developed.
Rather than counter von Gerkan’s theory,60 it is preferable to describe the physiognomy of greater Pompeii, that is of a city with a clear and unified pattern, having evolved with only such limitations as are imposed by the forms of the archaic nucleus. This relation to the old city adds interest to the wide variety of solutions that were to arise (Figs. 10 and 11).
The Via di Nola and the Via dell’Abbondanza are the longitudinal axes, the decumani that characterize Greek city plans. They subdivide the city into three strips of equal width. The Via dell’Abbondanza joins the decumanus of the old city and from this junction measures slightly less than twenty actus. The Via Stabiana is also twenty actus long. The plan of Pompeii is based on precise dimensional criteria.
There are three major cardines: the Strada di Mercurio, the Strada del Foro, the Forum itself, and the Strada delle Scuole make up the first; the second is the Strada Stabiana; the third is the street leading from the Porta Nucerina. This last is the only street at right angles to the decumanus, the other two being slightly oblique. The first cardine was laid out on an axis with the Forum, but the reasons for the shift in the Via Stabiana are not clear.
The irregular pattern of the blocks of Region VI derives from the oblique angle of the first cardine, while the trapezoid and parallelographic plans of the blocks adjacent to the Via Stabiana depend on the inclination of the Via Stabiana.61
Several other irregular features also result from the juncture of the second phase with the preexisting city, especially in areas adjacent to the original Pompeii. Vico delle Terme and Vico Storto relate to the access roads of the ancient center, as von Gerkan has observed.
The short sides of the blocks, measuring an actus or less,62 are arranged along the decumanus according to the usual rule. Variations in length occur according to the location of narrow streets parallel to the decumanus. Thus the northern strip has two rows of blocks; those in the first row are approximately four times as long as their width, the second row is only two and one-half times the width. Two rows also make up the middle strip, with length-to-width ratios of 3:1 and 3.5:1. The blocks in the third strip have slightly less than a 2:1 ratio of length to width.
Considering that the connection of the old city to the new posed many problems, the large Pompeii is quite uniformly arranged. Curiously, this fact has not been recognized in such penetrating studies of Pompeii as those by von Gerkan,63 who thought that only the archaic city had been planned, not the new one. In fact, almost the opposite is true. If the new city was indeed planned as a unit, one important consequence for Pompeii’s history was that it did not develop gradually but grew rather as a neapolis implanted ex novo at a definite juncture in time. Even so, it may not have been constructed all at the same time. In this connection, it is interesting to note that in the zone adjacent to the amphitheater there are typical blocks, laid out in the usual pattern but not built upon, only bounded by enclosing walls. The streets here are closed by gates fixed in pillars of tufa, whence Maiuri64 maintains that passage on these streets was governed by itinera privata (private passages) intended exclusively for access to the restricted areas of the gymnasium and amphitheater. Because of this use, there are neither shops nor dwellings here. Yet, instead of limiting the function of this area to serving the needs of the amphitheater and gymnasium, one can understand it as part of the master plan. The walls close off the building lots;65 the roads are as yet unopened to normal traffic.66 Thus there was a real master plan which prescribed the development of the unbuilt city. The earlier development, too, must have followed this system.
The city walls aid in establishing a date for the founding of the new city (Fig. 12). Remains of walls between Porta Ercolano and Porta Vesuvio have been put by Maiuri67 as antedating the Samnitic period, they have the same perimeter as the Samnitic walls. Unlike the heavy fortifications the Samnites traditionally built in hard and durable stone, these walls are built in local sandstone or tufa. They mark the return of the Greek peoples between 474 and 425 b.c. after the battle of Cumae. The chronology which Maiuri proposes finds a parallel in the political history of the period. The Greek positions against the Etruscans were reinforced after the battle of Cumae. Naples was also founded at this time. Not only were the Greeks responsible for these walls, but according to Maiuri68 they laid out Region VI on a “Hippodamean,” not an Etruscan, plan. Indeed, since we have shown that the new city was designed as a whole, not only was Region VI laid out at this time but all the rest as well, following the same plan. The new Pompeii is very probably a direct relative of Naples; the two large new cities were developed as extensions of the old ones after the battle of Cumae, and both were patterned by Hippodamean plans. The only difference is that at Naples the juncture with the old city produced no complications of boundaries.
The chronology advanced by von Gerkan69 (and adopted by Boethius70), attributing the development of new Pompeii to the Samnitic immigration, is less likely. And nothing can be said in favor of Carrington’s assignment of the new Pompeii to an Etruscan colony of about 500 B.C.71 He finds in the plan a resemblance to the Italic urban schemes, and the trapezoidal blocks are suggestive of the terremare.72
Concluding our remarks on greater Pompeii, we can say that by attributing to the Greeks the unified plan of Pompeii, not only do we clarify the general framework of the Etruscan and Greek influences upon planning but we also flatly eliminate the theory that Region VI was built by Etruscans.
As for archaic Pompeii, its nucleus may date from the sixth century. It has nothing in common with the Greek system of several decumani; it is simply an axial scheme, even though the decumanus is not perfectly rectilinear. Pompeii belongs to a general category of ordered cities and, as described by von Gerkan, can be defined as a “pure Italic example,”73 without limiting that type of urban pattern to the Italic peoples, however. There are no particular reasons to consider Pompeii an Etruscan city, as Spano would,74 nor to justify Etruscan influence upon the city by the existence of three gates (according to van Gerkan75) and a temple with three cellae (though this has a later date). Most probably the plan layout dates from before the period of Etruscan influence in Pompeii and was built instead by the Oscans and the Greeks of the Gulf of Naples (compare the Temple of Apollo to the Doric temple).76
The conventional terms decumanus and cardine have been employed for the streets of Pompeii, meaning respectively the longitudinal and transverse streets. Instead, πλατεῖαι and στενωποί ought to be used for the major communications arteries (Via dell’Abbondanza, Via Stabiana, and others) and for the secondary streets. Many of these στενωποί secondary streets, whose function is less that of channeling traffic than of defining the city blocks, are bounded by long walls with no doors and few windows, because whenever possible the preferred access was onto the πλατεῖαι. These same terms could be used just as well for what excavators have called the “avenues” and “streets” of Olynthus. The terms are documented in the description of two comparable cities, Thurii and Naples—the latter for the πλατεῖαι. It would be highly anachronistic to search for cardines and decumani; in fact the widespread disparity in ascribing the status of cardine or decumanus to one street or another is significant. Spano’s explanation of the “dekkviarim” (decurialis) inscribed in the Stabian gate (Conway 39) as “decumanus” cannot be supported.77 (This is the name he gave to the Via dell’Abbondanza.) The etymological significance of the terms πλατεῖα and στενωπός is usually preserved;78 I cannot agree with Dalman’s opinion that, as used in the new comedy, they have lost their original meaning.79 Dalman notes that a scene of Adelphoe by Hegesippos takes place in a στενωπός. This must refer to a main street because people pass through (παριὼν πᾶς) and because the door of a house opens onto it. He therefore argues that it must have been a πλατεῖα instead, and that στενωπός must have been used in this sense. However, house doors and the passage of people are also possible on the “streets” of Olynthus and through the lanes and alleys of Pompeii. Up to now these have been called στενωποί, even by Lucian (Dial. Mer. 9, 5, where a farcical duel takes place in a στενωπός and ibid. 2, 3, an allusion to a door decorated with a crown).80
The Latin platea and angiportus correspond to the Greek terms πλατεῖα and στενωπός, as already noted by Nissen.81 Their equivalence is especially clear in the work of Vitruvius, as will be shown, and in the glossarists. The etymology of angiportus is close to στενωπός (angu meaning “narrow” and portus “passage”).82 Its principal meaning is therefore that of a “narrow passage” (that is, a communicating street), while the meaning of “blind street” remains secondary.83 Varro can be cited in this connection too; he writes in De ling. Lat. VI, 41: qua nihil potest agi (some of the alleyways of Pompeii were closed to traffic).
Angiportus, as translated from the στενωπός of Greek comedy, has lost its original etymological meaning, according to Harsch,84 and has come to mean only street. His demonstration of this is analogous to what was said by Dalman. In Plautus’s Pseud. 960–961; Terentius’s Eun. 845, the angiportus cannot be “blind street” but rather a place where there are people, an ordinary street onto which face many houses. It follows that the term no longer has a specific meaning, and the angiportus were not blind streets onto which no house had its principal entry. Unfortunately the conclusions regarding the meaning of στενωπός and angiportus in the comedy were based precisely on this mistaken supposition.
At Pompeii, a city divided by πλατεῖα and στενωπός, we can easily picture scenes from the Latin and new Greek plays. The two terms, for street and lane, alternate in the plays, but it should be noted that platea occurs frequently in Terence and Plautus but is rare elsewhere; it was probably borrowed from Greek comedy. The lanes are given ordinal numbers: a τρίτη ρύμη (“sixth street”; ρύμη is equivalent to στενωπός) is mentioned in Philippides 22 K, and Plautus speaks of an angiportus, sextum a porta proximum, which means the sixth in a series of lanes opening onto a main street beginning at a gate.85 Whenever possible, people sought to have the main entrance to their house face the platea, with a rear gate from the garden opening onto the angiportus (Plautus Asin. 741; Most. 1045). Such is the layout of the houses of the Tragic Poet, of Pansa, and others. A similar situation is recorded in Apuleius Met. IX, 2, in which a bitch enters the house de proximo angiportu per posticam.86
Of particular importance are the passages from Vitruvius referred to in Chapter 2, footnote 11 and the one cited here, from I, 7, 1: Divisis angiportis et plateis constitutis arearum electio … est explicanda…. (After apportioning the alleys and settling the main streets, the choice of the squares has to be explained.) It follows that the urban structure consists of plateau and angiportus, that is, πλατεῖαι and στενωποί. The latter certainly are not blind alleys, but rather narrow lanes or streets (as they are used in contrast to plateae) and are fundamental to the urban pattern. Their relationship and orientation have always been the object of close study. It would seem that Vitruvius considers Greek cities, rather than Roman ones, to be patterned by πλατεῖαι and στενωποί. In the example cited by Vitruvius, the urban structure is set by a grid of angiportus and plateae; the piazzas can be placed only secondarily within this grid. This is exactly what is done in the uniformly patterned Greek and Roman cities.
Not unlike the preceding examples, Herculaneum is laid out along decumani parallel to the sea (one 7 m, the other about 5 m wide). These are crossed by narrower cardines. The blocks, however, are not of the usual dimensions. As far as we know from the excavations to date, they are some 47 meters wide to either 90 (a ratio of 1 to 2) or 120 or more meters long.
Theophrastus had written of Herculaneum as early as 314 B.C.87 No other documents of its origin are available.88
The plan layout of Naples (Fig. 13) in the modern part of the city has been closely studied by Beloch,89 and the reconstruction of the original plan has closely followed the guidelines he set up.90 The high city is patterned by four (three according to Beloch) decumani, which are a, b, c, and d in the plan (Fig. 14),91 and 20 cardines (22 or 23 according to Beloch). The decumani run some 25 degrees north of east-west, paralleling the coast line.
From this pattern emerge elongated rectangular blocks which according to De Petra92 have the following dimensions: the decumani are 20 feet (6 m) wide; the blocks measure 185 meters on the long side (a measure apparently based on 1 stadium); the residential city in the direction of the cardines measures 740 meters (4 stadia); the short side of each block, including the cardine, averages 37 meters; the cardines vary in width from 10 to 12 feet (2.96 to 3.55 m). According to De Petra, the 37-meter width of the blocks represents 125 Euboic feet (0.296 m per Euboic foot). It is more probable that the blocks are one actus wide. In any case, the ratio of width to length is about 1:5. The blocks, with the cardines between them also measure 740 meters, again using De Petra’s calculations.
On the other hand, Pirro claims that not all the cardines are equal but that four are wider than the others.93 He reaches this hypothesis in his desire to reconstruct Naples along the pattern of Thurii;94 however, the method he employs in the analysis of the major streets is arbitrary.
Actually, the medieval topology of the city is a good guide to a study of the ancient streets.95 While the greater number of streets were called vici, some were said to be plateae. These latter (see Fig. 14) correspond to decumanus b (Platea Nili–Platea Furcillensis), c (Platea Ficariola–vel ad duos amantes–Platea Augustalis–Platea Capuana), d (Platea Marmorata–Summa Platea), and to the cardines e (Platea Atriensis) and f (Platea subtus forum). Furthermore, the location of certain medieval gates is known. Those which correspond to the four decumani seem to be certain.96 In addition, there was a gate near the back door of San Gennaro (near g) and two others, it appears, opened in the north and south walls on the axis of Via Donnaregina (h).97 These last two gates might lead one to postulate the existence of two other πλατεῖαι g and h,98 in which case the north-south πλατεῖαι, would have been spaced at regular intervals of four actus. Although the reconstruction of these elements remain in doubt, the distinction between πλατεῖαι and στενωποί is documented by the medieval tradition of plateae and vici. As at Thurii, Naples was structured by a basic pattern of a few mutually perpendicular πλατεῖαι and the insertion among them of στενωποί.
The date of the founding of Naples remains uncertain. According to Beloch,99 the city was at first an Athenian colony. He bases his view on texts by Strabo (page 246) and others which show Athenian influence, borne out also by characteristics of the coinage.100 If this view is correct, Naples was founded after 446 B.C., remarkably close to the date of the founding of Thurii (444–443), as Nissen too has stated.101
However, the coinage that began at about 460 B.C. leads to a different conclusion.102 As a result, it is usually believed that Naples was founded after the return of the hegemony of Syracuse, after the battle of Cumae in 474. At that time Partenope (Palaepolis) gained new vigor through rapid urban expansion, so important as to merit the name of Neapolis.103 It is to this city that the necropolis with ceramics of the third decade of the fifth century is attributed.104 And it is very probable that it was this installation of a “new city” that brought about the general and unified master plan that has been discussed, and not the date of the walls, as established by Gabrici105 on the basis of the ceramics gathered in the first excavation. (The ceramics are thought to date from the first half of the fourth century.) Although it is believed that the walls belong to the period of Samnite rule, they may have been built as additional fortifications later in the life of the city.106
Pozzuoli and Sorrento are considered in the same general framework as Naples, and are usually ascribed to the Greek period (sixth or fifth century B.C.). However, because they differ from the previous examples and because no single archeological element could confirm the traditional chronology, it is probable that they belong to a later era.
The aerial photographs of Paestum reproduced in Figs. 15 and 17 were taken by Lieutenant Colonel G. Schmiedt on August 4, 1954. He was quick to observe that the clearly visible strips in the area reveal some of the ancient road patterns (Fig. 16).107 Through other photographs J. Bradford108 confirms this observation, as do aerial surveys by the Istituto Geografico Militare, undertaken before the excavations by Sestieri.
Reconstructed through information gained by excavations and aerial photographs, the plan of Paestum is of extraordinary interest. A decumanus crosses the city from east to west (from Porta Sirena to Porta Marina), cutting the Forum along its southern edge. The remains of a parallel road to the south can be traced through the aerial photograph. This road must have extended only into the western sector of the city, for in the eastern part it is replaced by the line of the walls.
Furthermore, the part of the city to the north of the principal decumanus is twice the width of the southern sector.109 Hence, another decumanus to the north of the main one probably divided the city into three equally spaced strips. Short traces of such a road can be seen in the photographs. Yet aligned with this postulated third decumanus are two posterulae, small gates, built into the walls. The gate on the eastern side is unusual in width and shape; furthermore, it should be noted that there are very few gates on this side. Each of the three bands thus defined is about 300 meters (1000 feet) wide.
A few cardines have been found through excavations. The one behind the sanctuaries in the southern sector, leading from the Porta della Giustizia to the Forum (the so-called Via Sacra), has no clear continuation into the northern sector. To the west of the Forum there are several lanes. No street appears to correspond to the Porta Aurea. Four cardines to the west of the Via Sacra have been excavated, though for only a short tract. Each is between approximately 4.90 and 5.40 meters in width. Many other cardines can be discerned in the photographs. The towers in the walls are often seen to be aligned with these, and the same is true of the frequent posterulae. (This explains why there are so few posterulae on the east side.)
A grid of very long rectangles results, the short sides of which measure about 35 meters (34.55 m at the last excavated block to the west) by 300 meters, a ratio of 1:8.5. As at Pompeii, whose blocks measuring 230 meters in length were subdivided into two or three sections, the long blocks of Paestum must have been traversed by small lanes. This system must also have been employed at Naples. It is entirely probable that not all the cardines were as narrow as those excavated to the west of the Via Sacra. Perhaps some were much wider, truly major communication arteries comparable with the decumani,110 while the others were simple access ways to residential blocks. This arrangement would have formed a system of πλατεῖαι and στενωποί, as at Pompeii.
Although the sanctuaries are oriented directly east, the city grid is shifted a few degrees north of east.111 Possibly religious considerations dictated that the temples should be positioned more carefully by celestial orientation without regard to the layout of the city. Yet it can also be hypothesized that the master plan of the city evolved after the sanctuaries had been built, since the relation between the two plans is not always coherent. Several early constructions belonging to the sanctuary (to the south of the Forum) are buried under buildings that follow the general grid pattern of the city.
According to this hypothesis, the present urban structure is not the original one but is later than the “basilica” and the “Temple of Ceres,” although not necessarily later than other sanctuaries near the basilica, including the Temple of Neptune. (These presumably were aligned with the basilica to create a general uniformity.) Thus the layout of Paestum should be dated no earlier than the end of the sixth century.
On the other hand, we know that the city grid was laid out before the end of the fifth century. The most ancient walls are placed at about 400 B.C. by Krischen112 and, as we have seen, the large gates, small gateways, and towers are aligned with the city grid. Not much later than the period of the walls are several buildings near the Forum which are aligned with the city grid, including perhaps the cistern and especially a large building east of the road which joins the eastern part of the Forum with the region of the two southern sanctuaries.113
We should also remember that during the fifth century Paestum must have had a large expansion, as indicated by the vast quantity of archeological material from this era. Such an expansion has been interpreted by P. Zancani-Montuoro114 as related to colonization by Sybarites. This hypothesis derives from the new interpretation by C. P. Sestieri115 and P. Zancani-Montuoro, working independently, of a passage by Strabo (V, 251) relative to Posidonia: Συβαρῖται μὲν οὖν ἐπὶ θαλάττῃ τεῖχος εθεντο, οἱ δ’ οἰκισθέντες ἀνωτέρω μετέστησαν, ὕστερον δὲ Λευκανοι μὲν ἐκείνους, ‘Pωμαῖοι δὲ Λευκανοὺς ἀφείλοντο τὴν πόλιν. (The Sybarites, it is true, had erected fortifications on the sea, but the settlers removed them farther inland; later on, however, the Leucani took the city away from the Sybarites, and the Romans in turn took it away from the Leucani.) The two authors claim that the τεῖχος near the sea must be the walls of Posidonia and not other primitive fortifications, as previously thought.116 They thereby distinguish a Sybarite colony from the first settlements of the οἰκισθέντες, who then migrated toward the interior. (These people are thought to be Thessalians by Zancani-Montuoro and Enotri by Sestieri.) The colonization by Sybarites must have happened at the end of the seventh century according to Sestieri. The colony is also recalled by Pseudo–Scimmo. Yet Zancani-Montuoro claims that the colony could only have been founded after the destruction of the mother country in 510 B.C. It could have been founded immediately afterward, as the present author thinks, or during the long rebuilding of the city state. A city called Sybaris also existed from 510 to 453 B.C.117 Again, Zancani-Montuoro118 recalls that the coinage of the sixth century seems to proclaim the independence of Posidonia from Sybaris and that certain coins dating certainly after 480 commemorate both cities and can therefore be placed at the time of the participation of Posidonia in the rebuilding of Sybaris, 453–448.119 Breglia120 accepts the evidence of the coins but thinks that in the years following 510 B.C. a large number of Sybarites arrived at Posidonia, causing a great expansion.121 An incuse coin (therefore earlier than 480), and with the stamp of Sybaris, is attributed to Posidonia because it is a part of the local measuring system. However, this is a unique piece.
Leaving aside the possibilities of linking the development of Paestum’s master plan to the Sybarite colony and waiting for thorough excavations to ascertain certain elements, one must perforce include in the chronology of the city plan a very long blank period, the whole course of the fifth century, with the walls as an ante quern reference.
The regular pattern of ancient Capua has already been surveyed by Beloch.122 He recognized in the present plan of Santa Maria Capua Vetere a division by cardines and decumani (among the latter the Corso Umberto, corresponding to the Via Appia). The plan devised by Heurgon (Fig. 18)123 traces five decumani, designating the central one as the major axis, and four cardines.
Capua occupies a prominent place in the study of uniform town planning because it is considered one of the rare examples of the Etruscan plan.124 It has the intersection of two main axes, decumanus and cardine, that typify the Etruscan type and differentiate it from the nearby Greek cities patterned by rectangular blocks. Indeed, the importance of the comparison is heightened by the proximity of Capua to the Greek cities and the possible relations between them. Did the Etruscans of Capua imitate the neighboring Greek cities, as Thulin thinks? Or should Capua be considered a pure example of Etruscan planning and the bridge by which the Greeks learned the grid layout? (Lehmann-Hartleben).
But the reconstructions that have been made of a city divided by cardines and decumani are unsatisfactory. The decumanus that corresponds to the extension of the Via Appia (Corso Umberto) is not perfectly rectilinear. More important, the cardines, as reconstructed by Heurgon, are not parallel to each other. As yet there is nothing to compare with the exceptional width of the blocks (150 and 200 m by 200 and 300 m). Excavations so far have not provided sufficient evidence upon which to make an accurate reconstruction. However, important results are expected from the research of A. De Franciscis. The reconstruction proposed here is only speculative.
The aerial photograph (Fig. 19) presents a section of the outlying territory as well. The cardines and decumani of the centuriation do not reach into Capua; they bear no relation to the pattern of streets in the city.125 The boundaries between city and territory are thus clearly marked. By extending the line of the Via Appia to the east and west we can link two gates not far from the bends in the road.
These findings agree with the few and insufficiently documented archeological data—the location of the tombs immediately outside the city, the remains of the gates near the San Prisco bridge,126 and some foundations of walls between San Francesco and the Amphitheater.
Compared to the reconstructions of Capua by Beloch and Heurgon, the configuration of the perimeter walls is probably less regular. One element of the centuriation lines indicates that the eastern wall must run closer to the city center.127 The city would thus have had a north-south extension of 40 actus and an east-west run of 46 actus (Fig. 20).
The decumanus commonly assigned to the path of Corso Umberto may be in a different position. The city was probably patterned by six equally spaced decumani, five of which correspond to existing streets. It remains uncertain whether the second of these from the north is Corso Umberto or if it follows the path as laid out in the reconstruction (which would correspond better to the change of direction of the Via Appia on the west and would be more regular on the eastern side). The first, third, and fourth strips (from the south) measure one stadium each, as at Naples; the others are a little larger.
Via R. D’Angiò, apparently related to the Via Dianae, is an irregular cardine of which a fragment has recently been found.128 Perhaps the path of the other two cardines is ancient, though they too are irregular, especially to the east (Corso Garibaldi, Via Albana).
Between the decumani the aerial photographs show clear elements of a design of strigae, one actus wide, to be seen in the pattern of narrow lanes or in the disposition of the buildings.129 This follows the common scheme of decumani subdivided into sections of uniform width, strigae. The major cardines do not follow such a rigorously perpendicular layout. Yet it would be foolish to attribute the irregularities to medieval or modern changes, since the streets are fully consistent with the patterns of external circulation and since the truer directions are closely maintained through the decumani and minor cardines. There is no need to correct the major cardines, then, as in the reconstructions; they probably represent preexisting roads.
A regular pattern is observable in only one part of the city. The southwest sector follows a different layout that can be explained either as a medieval modification of the city or, more probably, as the oldest residential sector, already in existence before the master plan was devised. The fact that this section was joined to important extraurban roads argues in favor of this latter hypothesis. Furthermore, it may be readily supposed that Capua, a city of vast dimensions, must have been preceded by a more modest center. Its history would thus be analogous to that of Pompeii.
No archaeological traces are to be found today in the eastern half of the city, because the decline of Capua caused the number of residential neighborhoods to decrease. It is likely that, as at Pompeii, this outermost sector of the city was the last to be built and was later abandoned when the medieval settlements gravitated toward the center.
This is the general character of Capua, which can be deduced with a fair degree of probability. A reference to the city plan comes to us from Cicero, De leg. agr. II, 35, 96: Romam in montibus positam et convallibus, cenaculis sublatam atque suspensam, non optumis viis, angustissimis semitis, prae sua Capua pianissimo in loco explicata ac prae illis spatiis irredebunt atque contemnent…. (Rome, situated on mountains and in valleys, raised and suspended in the air with its houses, its poor streets and narrow alleys, they derided and contemned in comparison with their Capua developed on a plain, and in comparison with those spaces.) Spatiis is a correction made by Haupt. The codes give semitis, and Clark gives praeclarissime.
The plan corresponds in full to the traditional Greek scheme. As Beloch has observed, the Via Appia, which presupposes the city, is an ante quem reference to the city (312 B.C.). Yet Velleius, I, 7, makes two very different references concerning the founding of Capua: nam quidam … aiunt a Tuscis Capuam Nolamque conditam ante annos fere DCCCXXX … sed M. Cato quantum differt, qui dicat Capuam ab eisdem Tuscis conditam ac subinde Nolam; stetisse autem Capuam, antequam a Romanis caperetur, annis circiter CCLX. (For some maintain that … eight hundred and thirty years ago, Capua and Nola were founded by the Etruscans … but the opinion of Marcus Cato is vastly different. He admits that Capua, and afterwards Nola, was founded by the Etruscans, but maintains that Capua had been in existence for only about two hundred and sixty years before its capture by the Romans.) That is, 800 and 470 B.C.;130 yet both dates are incorrect, by general agreement. As was pointed out before, the plan of a city as large as Capua probably does not go back directly to the original founding but grew alongside a more ancient nucleus. This we recognize as the western part, to develop at a later time into a great neapolis. Various sources suggest that it had the nature of a double city.131 The date ascribed by Cato to the city can be understood as a reference to the neapolis.
Yet if, as seems probable, we see in Capua an Etruscan plan, we cannot fail to observe how similar the plan is to those of neighboring Greek cities. The city does not offer an Etruscan system (as in the preceding reconstructions which established a decumanus maximus) to contrast with that of the Greek cities.
At the opposite end of the Etruscan world is Marzabotto (Fig. 21), which has been considered a clear example of a city laid out according to the Etruscan discipline.132 The theories of division by perpendicular axes, decumani and cardines, known through literary sources, are supposedly confirmed through this monumental example. Furthermore, age and geographic location have invited comparisons between Marzabotto and villanovan Bologna, and especially between Marzabotto and the terremare settlements. The plan of villanovan Bologna had already been thought of as orderly and uniform. Further comparisons with the terremare settlements have made Marzabotto an important element in developing the theory of Etruscan origins.
The founding of the city is generally placed toward the end of the sixth century or the beginning of the fifth century B.C. Notwithstanding the width and the high quality of workmanship of the streets and the relative perfection of the sewer system, the city cannot be dated later than the middle of the fourth century B.C., when the Gallic invasion brought destruction.
The plan is identical to that of Naples; two decumani (east-west) crossed by a perpendicular street. The rectangular blocks, usually one actus wide, are established on the decumani. (As at Olynthus, a block twice the normal width is divided by an ambitus.) The blocks are about 165 meters wide,133 slightly less than those at Naples. As at Piraeus, the decumani are 15 meters wide.
A detailed comparison with the layouts of Naples, Paestum, and Olynthus shows that Marzabotto does not depend at all on the Etruscan theory of delimitation, nor can it be compared with the terremare cities; it is essentially a Greek city. The types of residential units have been rightly compared by Arias with those at Olynthus. There is no usual Etruscan axial system but instead πλατεῖαι and στενωποί which delineate the strigae of the city blocks.
It is truly remarkable that Lehmann-Hartleben134 should find in Marzabotto an extraordinary resemblance to the terremare plans and nothing whatever in common with Greece. On the other hand, Brizio and especially Patroni and Sogliano have compared Marzabotto with the urban structure of Pompeii, but from this they deduced that Pompeii was Etruscan in origin.
This chapter has documented a characteristic subdivision per strigas through various examples dating between the end of the sixth and into the fifth century B.C. Not always has it been possible to establish a firm date. Having examined individual cities, we will now try to look at them as a group.
The date proper for Miletus, whose plan differs slightly from the general scheme, is about 479 or 466 B.C. Olynthus and Rhodes are datable at 432 and 408, respectively. Agrigento was probably built in 480 or 450. Naples belongs to the third decade of the fifth century, while Pompeii is assigned to between 474 and 425. Paestum can be traced from between the end of the sixth century and the beginning of the fourth. The date of Capua is difficult to establish. Marzabotto could go back to the first decades of the fifth century, and certainly not later than the first half of the fourth.
Although some dates are uncertain and perhaps too elastic, there is a certain contemporaneity among the sites.
Furthermore, evidence indicates that the Etruscan cities of Capua and Marzabotto are planned according to Greek schemes. Obviously an interdependence must exist between plans having specific characteristics in common (even in the measuring system employed); in other words, there is imitation by either Etruscans or Greeks of the other. It is possible to advance the view, as Lehmann-Hartleben has done for the origins of uniform town planning, that the idea was Etruscan and that the Greeks came to know the system at Capua, subsequently propagating it through Sicily and the entire Greek world.
Yet general historical reasons prevail, such as the superior civilization of the Greeks, and in particular their interest in mathematics and meteorology from the sixth century on. The Greeks were also colonizers, to a much greater extent than the Etruscans, and this meant a greater concern for planning in connection with the founding of cities. All these considerations argue in favor of Greek priority.
Capua, after the building of a first nucleus, was enlarged with the aid of a master plan copied from various Greek cities. Marzabotto naturally was in contact with the Greek world through the port of Spina. The plan of Marzabotto must be attributed to the Greek influence which so deeply penetrated the Etruscans of the north during the fifth century, and especially during the middle decades.135
From this survey there also arises greater appreciation of the community of civilization which ties the Etruscans to the Greeks. Not only were the Etruscan artistic forms derivative (easily obtainable through commercial exchange) but they also copied the city plans with absolute fidelity.