By KirkDouglas 1 Comments
By education, I am an archaeologist. I worked on an excavation at the Roman Villa Arianna in Castellamare di Stabia, Italy in 2010. Ancient Stabiae was one of the cities buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, which also buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. It also has the distinction of being the place of death of Pliny the Elder, a famous Roman statesman and writer of Natural History, which is a sort of encyclopedia on nature.
One of the things that fascinated me in my study of Roman ruins in the area, having visited Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, Puteoli and Paestum, was the concept of urban planning. If one looks at the way most coloniae were set up, they all follow a general pattern. This pattern is called the grid system, and SimCity has always incorporated that in the way it functions.
The Roman grid system is called centuriation. It was developed in part from observing the way Greek colonies set themselves up in Italy. Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum were all originally Greek colonies or heavily influenced by Greek colonies, for example. The Greek system was first attributed to a man named Hippodamos of Miletus. His contribution to the grid plan was to first rebuild the Piraeus, which is the harbour-city of Athens, according to a grid pattern. Previously, the roads had meandered, following traditional paths and zoning was a bit of an issue, mixing industrial with residential and so on.
Here is a plan of the Piraeus, as altered by Hippodamos: LINK
You'll notice that the plan incorporates a grid, as well as main thoroughfares to get to important areas of the city, such as the Agora.
Hippodamos later expanded his grid plan to his home city, Miletus, in 479 BC. You can see in this plan of Miletus, how the grid pattern was taken to an extreme: LINK
All this was not lost on the Romans. They expanded the grid pattern with centuriation, which defined the size of each block in the grid. In addition, each Roman Colony had a central north-south street, the Cardo Maximus, and a central east-west street, the Decumanus Maximus. This meant there was always a wide road leading to different hubs in the city, and always intersecting at the Forum, the main hub of activity.
This road in Paestum intersects with the Forum and all other roads branch off from there.Here's a picture, standing on the decumanus of Paestum, that I took in 2010: LINK
Anyway, my point about the grid system is that it works in urban planning and has for some time. Grid planning predates the Greeks and Romans, but examples of its use in their societies is far more pronounced than in others.
Tomorrow, when SimCity launches and I go into work and buy it, I'll try laying down a Cardo and Decumanus and see if that makes a difference in the way a city functions. I've seen a lot of people making just one north-south main thoroughfare (from the region highway) and it just looks like a recipe for congestion.
More to come!