Book Corner

City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction

By David Macaulay
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1974
Grades 5-9
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Two thousand years ago, the Romans had a huge empire in Europe and even parts of Africa and the Middle East. As their empire grew bigger, they needed more cities for all their people to live.

In City, the Roman emperor has declared that a new city will be built. He sends planners, surveyors, and engineers to find the perfect spot for it. Once they have found it, they start planning the new city in detail. Right before your eyes, an ancient Roman city rises up. It has houses, markets, streets, government buildings, an amphitheater, and a lot more. It is bustling with all sorts of people. The city has a defense wall to keep intruding armies out and aqueducts to bring water in.When you turn the pages of this book, it is like walking in the city itself. There are detailed pictures of the buildings, the tools used to construct them, the people who made them, and the people who live in them.

Click on the pictures for a closer look.

The map of this insula, or city block, shows a mix of uses: houses, apartments, and shops. What different uses and buildings are on your block?

What purpose do you think is served by the large stones in the street foreground? What features of the street are similar to street features today?

Where do you think the water in the public fountain comes from? How did it get to the fountain?

The city functions as a trading center for goods, as seen in the marketplace here. Does your city have a public market like the one pictured? If so, what goods are traded there?

From CITY: A STORY OF ROMAN PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION by David Macaulay. Copyright © 1974 by David Macaulay. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.