Carroll William Westfall (*)
September 18, 1997

Pompeii, the beguiling and enigmatic survivor from the past, puts into full relief the fundamental maxim of good city building, a maxim as valid then as now: buildings must be built first of all as contributions to an urban ensemble, and the urban ensemble must serve the civic life first of all. The experience of working in Pompeii as an urban historian with archaeologists for three summers was intended to uncover some simple lessons that could be applied by people building and rebuilding in American cities today.

Pompeii is instructive for current practitioners in America because its post-earthquake designers themselves emphasized the urban ensemble rather than the individual building. Furthermore, their rebuilding task was perhaps not so different from that of those who today might repair the fabric of the American villages, towns, and cities mutilated by neglect or, in the case of the last half century or more of building activity, marred by a disregard for the common good.

Pompeii does not surrender its lessons easily. The city is very difficult to see and decipher since it is so different from what we build in America today. Pompeii puts greater value on public places than on private ones while we do the reverse. It is compact and cut off from the countryside rather than loose and sprawling as our cities are. It is built with a range of architectural and urban elements clearly belonging to the same general range of components while our cities are much more diverse--cheek and jowl is a miscellany of buildings in different architectural styles, a jumble of industrial and transportation equipment and their related yards and dumps, fields of abandoned buildings, wastelands, and miscellaneous pieces of equipment in varying states of deterioration, all diffused across open rural landscapes or depopulated urban areas. And while the expanding sprawl of our cities forces us to drive more and more to get most of what we want, most of what a person in Pompeii needed to live a full and abundant civil life was accessible with the most democratic means of transport, going on foot.

To see clearly within a field of vision presenting such a different prospect I held in the forefront two questions: First, What kind of life was lived in this place, that is, Why and how did its builders build as they did? And second, what rules with general validity and applicability did they follow?


Different people have sought different Pompeiis: the earliest permanent settlement, a putative sequence of Oscan, Samnite, and Roman settlements, a well-preserved center revealing the nature of ancient economic activity or of social, or religious, or familial, or political, or other structures, and so on. My focus is on the Pompeii the Romans made from what they inherited.

My work is necessarily limited by the work of specialists. Until recently, Pompeii, like other ancient sites, was looked at piecemeal rather than as a whole. The interest was more in individual pieces than in the urban ensemble they contributed to. As a result, much information about parts of the urban ensemble that would be needed to distinguish the various periods of Roman work is lacking. I have therefore generally treated the Roman period as a whole and have only distinguished Republican from Imperial and Augustan from other moments in the Imperial period when the information available to me made that possible. Thus I do not provide a nuanced interpretation of the Roman period itself.

I have benefited tremendously from the work of the few others who have sought a larger, urban interpretation of the material visible in Pompeii, particularly Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and Paul Zanker (1). Fundamental to any future understanding of Roman urbanism is the pioneering work of William MacDonald (2). While my work dwells on the Republican and early imperial period, he focuses on the imperial period, with his most mature and revealing examples postdating A. D. 79, and on places with many fewer impediments than Pompeii presented to those who would organize the urban realm with an armature. Thus I thought it fruitful to interpret the Pompeii visible now not as an imperial city with an urban structure based on the armature but as an urban ensemble with a distinctly different character. In an appendix, however, I provide some speculation on what might had been done to convert that structure into an imperial city of the sort MacDonald describes so brilliantly and usefully.

My focus recognized that the Pompeii of 79 A.D. is a Roman refitting of an established, mature city built by others. The Romans incorporated Pompeii into their regime in 89 B.C. and gave it the status of a colony in 80 B.C. It is generally agreed that in large part the city they conquered resembled the one interred by the ash of Vesuvius. Its population was probably about the same, 8,000 to 12,000, (3) and the ground enclosed by the walls was the same 167 acres the Romans occupied. Perhaps ever since the seventh or sixth century, but certainly since the fourth, the city had been enclosed by walls following the same course as the present ones. Some think it filled with residents slowly and steadily since its foundation, but excavations in 1996 by an Italian team headed by Paolo Carafa support a different hypothesis--that it leapt to that level during the second century B. C. after having sustained a largely agricultural community within the walls. Either way, within the walls the placement of the streets, the character of the forum and the surrounding 117 blocks filled with atrium houses, lower class residential and commercial structures, and vineyards and gardens, and the location of several of the major public buildings and precincts existing in 80 B. C. were about as they were when the ashes covered it all 159 years later.

About as they were, but vastly transformed. No one would have mistaken the early imperial Pompeii with the Samnite city that had lost its independence in 89 B. C. because it turned against its Roman allies. At both important moments in its history Pompeii was a fully equipped city with a circuit of walls and associated gates, a basilica, public baths, and a theater in addition to the temples and forum found in any Mediterranean city of the period. These cities were as much the product of Hellenism as of Rome, and that accounts for the often-stated misinformation that Pompeii was a Greek colony or even a Greek foundation. Hellenistic cities such as nearby Naples, about which little is known, and the well-known Miletus and Priene were worth attention since they had the most sophisticated urban setting for conducting the civil life. But the presence of the oldest extant basilica, built in about 120 B. C. while it was still independent of Rome, reminds us that Pompeii also drew heavily from its powerful neighbor to the north.

In the century-and-a-half leading to the city's destruction the Romans had made a very different place within the older matrix. While the numbers living there probably changed little, who the individuals were and how they lived certainly did. Whatever Samnites who remained quickly assumed Roman ways, and those who fled or were banished were replaced by Roman citizens. The Samnite city had been relatively indifferent to the civil life and the architecture serving it; the Roman city replacing it was not. In ways the Hellenized Samnites could not have imagined, Roman Pompeii used civic activity and urban architecture to show that the religious and civic life gave order and vitality to private and commercial affairs.

Architecture was the most effective means of making this point. The Roman city had more public buildings and a more obviously public character in its public places. The Temple of Jupiter at the head of the forum had been enlarged and made into the Capitolium honoring the Roman triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. Three insula blocks had been cleared for new Roman projects, one of them a Temple and precinct honoring Venus (VIII,1), the others for the Forum Baths (VII,5) and the Central Baths (IX,1) which were still under construction in A. D. 79. Meanwhile, two distant insulae had been fitted out with an arena (II,6) and a palestra (II,7). And most importantly, the central forum had been completely transformed.

These physical differences supported the differences in the civil life. Roman culture was distinguished from other ancient cultures by the enlarged role the public life played in private affairs. Roman society was more extensively stratified, and more wealth and public honors were available to each of the various grades, especially the higher grades. Romans were richer than others, a difference they gladly portrayed in their cities. And Romans were synthetic in that they incorporated and transformed the societies they overran, and in the process they reinvigorated themselves and those they had incorporated earlier.

Roman cities illustrate a general principle: In cities that take the civil life seriously, the physical reinforces the civil and vice versa, with the one used as a means of achieving the ends of the other.

The Ionic Propylon which provided an entrance into the so-called Triangular Forum provides an example of how this principle was translated into an actual building project. In the pre-Roman period this area included a ruined temple, a theater, and a small palestra. The Romans reconditioned the temple ruin and added a roofed Odion, a large peristyled area used as a gladiators' barracks, and some walkways and colonnades in addition to a private cult building for Isis.

The added facilities made the area more important in the civil life; the new entrance made this added importance conspicuous and connected it to the urban ensemble composing Pompeii (4). And it did so by adding public buildings and other public components without extensive rebuilding of existing structures. In Pompeii, lesser things were swept away and bigger things were added as ever greater things became conspicuous in the city's built-up areas.

This was no where more evident than in the Roman's reworking of the central forum. The work of those in the Pompeii forum Project who focused on it can describe its fortunes at the hands of the Romans. It was the locus of the Romans' most intense activity, and that activity had a resonance throughout the city that permeates the distinctively Roman Pompeii.

That resonance connected the forum to the most distant reaches of the city. A visitor to the pre Roman city could have been unaware of the forum's existence unless he was near it or crossing the city on the single street, the via Marina-via dell'Abbondanza sequence, running from gate to gate and crossing the forum (5). In the Romanized city this would have been impossible. Indeed, the nearer he came, the more intense would have been the forum's pull. A similar, irresistible pull would also have worked on a person crossing the city along either of the other two major streets crossing the city, the via Stabia and the sequence composed of the via di Nola/via della Fortuna/via delle Terme/Strada Consolare, neither of which actually entered or touched the forum. How the Romans achieved that effect will require some careful scrutiny of what they built.

Travelling South

The via Stabia runs largely north and south probably along the alignment of a much older rural road connecting distant villages with a port lying just south of the city. Pompeii's walls brought it within the city but the forum lay at some distance to the west.


The Romans connected the street with the forum even without a direct physical link. They did so by working with the general rule that the easier the access is to the forum from a street crossing the via Stabia, the more evident is the forum's existence from its intersection with the via Stabia. In following the route downhill from the northern rural hinterland southward toward the sea we can see this rule in operation. (The Roman and Arabic numbers refer to the blocks defining the intersection proceeding clockwise from the northwest. The block numbers and street names are modern.)


The first intersection, with the vicolo di Mercurio (VI-16/V-6/V-1/VI-14), has little of interest other than a standpipe and a fountain near it (6). This is, however, the first standpipe one encounters along the via Stabia, the only one on which they there seems to be a consistent pattern in their placement and the only street in which they consistently stand free. Along the via Stabia we will see that stepping stones and curb stones often deflect traffic westward toward the forum. Here they do not; this is, after all, merely a vicolo, a minor street, leading into the byways of a residential district.



The next intersection (VI-14/V-1/IX-4/VII-3) is with the via di Nola and its prolongation westward into the city as the via della Fortuna. This very long and important street does not lead directly to the forum, but it does provide an important route into it and therefore its intersection is made important.


The intersection is enriched with additions inserted into a notch let into the block at its northwest corner, a unique feature that the Romans turned to their advantage (7). A standpipe is set away from the intersection, a fountain stands free near the corner, and between the two are a shrine and the remnants of column bases suggesting an arcade or colonnade in front of shops (8). Supplemented by curb- and stepping-stones, this collection provides an alluring route westward where, visible up the rise in the topography beyond frontages of obviously fine houses are some major public buildings. Their role in luring people up the via della Fortuna toward the forum will be discussed below.

Following two intersections that offer little of interest comes another (VII-2/IX-3/IX-2/VII-1) that one reaches in less than two minutes (9). Here we find one of the city's most curious intersections. Neither direction along the intersecting street, the via degli Augustali, offers much of interest. The eastward stretch is a backwater, and the westward direction courses between largely blank walls before quickly bending, providing nothing to entice a person to follow it. But it is important since it leads directly to the great public market, the Macellum, and to the northern entrance to the forum. The intersection is cleverly contrived to inflect the visitor into that unassuming street. A massive stepping-stone in the center of the via degli Augustali extends the (10) western sidewalk path while only small stones are available to cross the via Stabia. On the same side one encounters a standpipe on the north curb and, well south of the intersection, the accompanying fountain, the two acting as framers for the intersecting street.

The other, eastern side of the street reinforces that directional push. On the southeast corner an elaborate arcaded structure extends beyond the building faces and rises from the curb line
to incorporate the sidewalk into its mass, a unique feature among the streets of Pompeii. A mere shop with large back rooms, this structure invested this intersection with an importance suitable for its role as a pointer toward the forum.


Now becoming visible as one continues down the slope is the variety of features calling out the city's most highly charged intersection a mere two minutes away. On the way he is hardly diverted by the narrow vicolo di Balbo entering from the east (at VII-1/IX-2/IX-1), (11) and he notices that the western sidewalk is blocked by an unattractive extension (Augustan or post Augustan) of the Stabian baths out to the curb, but stepping stones located well before the impasse conveniently carry him to the eastern sidewalk.


The important intersection is at the via dell'Abbondanza. This street, the longest and most eventful in Pompeii, begins at the Porta Sarno with its access to the river and rural areas, runs westward with a frontage of garden villas backing up to the arena and huge palestra, and gradually becomes more urban with the house fronts of some of the most important families in Pompeii. It takes only ten and a half minutes to stroll to this intersection from the Arena at the distant walls. After crossing the via Stabia, the point of the street's lowest grade, it ascends to become one of the principal entrances to the forum. The upper sections of the street will be discussed below. The street jogs when it crosses the via Stabia and for a while is considerably wider on the western, forum side where one of the city's oldest principal civic structures, the Stabian Baths, is located.


The Romans exploited both the jog and the enlargement, both apparently dating back to the city's original layout and not the product of a later intervention (12). Everything here points towards the forum. Stepping stones cross in all four directions except that those on the western side of the intersection, leading into the wider section of the via dell'Abbondanza, make a continuous curb blocking cart traffic. This marks the street's reservation for pedestrian traffic and leads the liquid materials in the street to channels beneath the pavement.(13)

Here the fountain and standpipe stand together and against the eastern curb more or less on line with the center of the widened section westward across the intersection. They therefore become quite important in the view when approaching from the forum, although they cannot be seen from the forum. Four large brick piers (now truncated) describing roughly a square in plan forming the so-called tetrapylon of the Holconii stand to the west of the curb within the wide merger of street and intersection. Set against the curbs on the opposite sides of the street, this enigmatic construction could not have been an arch-the span is too great and the piers too thin. It is, simply, a tetrapylon that served several urban purposes. It made the intersection visible from up and down the via dell'Abbondanza, it enriched the intersection and thereby increased its importance, and it provided places for setting up statues and inscriptions.

After this intersection, the next one (VIII-4/I-4/I-3/VIII-7) is anticlimactic. Curb- and stepping-stones suggest that the major emphasis here is downward and along the via Stabia toward the Porta di Stabia, until one looks westward,
up the sloping via del Tempio di Iside, where he catches an oblique view of the Ionic Propylaeum. Were he to respond to its beckoning, he would find the entrance to the Triangular Forum and, in the opposite direction, features attracting him to the via dell'Abbondanza. If not, he continues down the via Stabia to the Porta Stabia and its port on the sea.

The collection and placement of urban components at three major intersections along the street and the artful siting of the Ionic Propylaeum provide important lures toward the forum. It seems likely that even the most nonchalant wayfarer would have responded to their call and investigated what lay along the street.


An east-west route

Let us pick up the path of such a person at the first of the major intersections. Here he might join a pedestrian who has come in through the porta Nola. On his way toward the via Stabia this newly arrived visitor would have seen little of special interest. In the sixth block along the via di Nola, on the north side of the street, he would have encountered (at V, 5, 3) the Caserma dei Gladiatori, a building made to appear imposing by having broad blank walls flanking its entrance, a distinct ramping up of the sidewalk that reaches its summit at that entrance, and the bottommost of the three steps leading into the ample atrium extended out into the sidewalk. Two blocks farther along and on the other side of the street (at IX, 8; most of the block is occupied by the double atrium Casa del Centenario) he would have encountered another anomaly. The curb here is in line with those in the adjacent blocks, but the house front is set back, and along the entire block benches have been placed against the wall. Toward the western end of the block is a fountain, and at the western end a shrine has been added to the wall. These elements suggest some more intense public use for this block, but what that use might have been remains unknown.


Despite the great distance he has covered, so far he has seen nothing with the interest he will encounter two blocks farther on at the via Stabia. Here all the enticement is along the upward slope of the street(now called the via della Fortuna). On both sides are orderly rows of houses with shops tucked into their interiors and dominated by the great house portals. The northern frontage has a fountain midway along and three streets intersecting it, the southern frontage only one street. The channel he is looking along becomes a relatively neutral foreground for the collection of large-scale public structures visible as he approaches the crown of the upward slope-one of them a temple, another a bath structure, the third an arch, accessible with a walk of a mere two and a half minutes (14).


The original Forum Baths, built immediately after Pompeii was absorbed by Rome, would not have been visible from a distance since it is surrounded by shops. An Augustan or post Augustan addition of a women's section was so sited, however, that a projection into the sidewalk (here the street is called the via delle Terme) produced a great bulk next to a rather small entrance that made the building highly conspicuous from well along the via della Fortuna.


Other modifications further refitted this intersection (15). One saw the addition of the Temple of Fortuna Augusta in 3/4AD. Its visibility was increased by shifting the regular mass of the building relative to the alignment of the buildings around it. In the building's front, the main axis was shifted slightly northward, and its front was set forward from the buildings at its flank. Now the via della Fortuna had to jog slightly northward from its original alignment, allowing its broad, blank flank, whose upper sections were faced with marble like that remaining at its base, to serve as a beacon set against the dark stone and stucco of the house fronts in the foreground.


Also highly visible would have been marble faces of the arch straddling the via di Mercurio, the final major public element in this intersection. Its greater than expected height allowed it to serve as a standpipe related to the fountain (no longer extant) at its base, but it also increased its visibility from a distance. The clarity with which it is seen was possibly augmented by moving back the building fronts in the block before it (the south face of VI, 10). This made those house fronts parallel to the temple's flank, and it allowed the termination of the vista down the northern half of the street corridor to terminate on a blank wall instead of at a prolongation of the street, thereby inflecting attention toward the forum.


The Temple of Fortuna Augusta also dominates the intersection when approached from the opposite direction. The via della Fortuna continues beyond the Temple of Fortuna Augusta with a new name, the via delle Terme, and after a few blocks before turns northward to become the strada Consolare where it leaves the city through the Porta Ercolano which is preceded by allée of tombs. When entering the city through that gate, the Temple of Fortuna Augusta is also the first major monument the visitor encounters.


After entering the Porta Ercolano, a person follows the street down a slight gradient and finds nothing much of interest. On the east side in the first block (at VI, 1, 13) and quite visible from the gate stands a structure seemingly possessing some sort of official status (16). It presents a broad opening to the street preceded by an apron squaring up the building relative to the street. But aside from the well head and fountain in the open area at the point at the south end of the next block (VI, 3),(17) nothing arrests the pedestrian's interest until he turns into the broad via della Terme-via della Fortuna-via di Nola sequence. Now he is immediately struck by the large-scale mass next to the women's entrance to the Forum Baths and the front of the Temple of Fortuna Augusta. These direct him to the forum without competition from the arch at the via del Mercurio which would have been obscured by buildings. We will return later to follow the route from here into the forum.

The other east-west route

To connect the via Stabia and the via di Nola-Strada Consolare sequence with the forum required intense directional gesturing since neither street made a physical connection with that center of civic life. The via dell'Abbondanza-via Marina, a major east-west route through the city, crosses the forum, and its two points of entry are invested with a dignity worthy of that civil center.


In both cases, preparation for the entrance begins at some distance where the usual building fronts one encounters on Pompeii's major streets give way to street sides decidedly unlike any others along the street's route.


The via dell'Abbondanza has a long introduction to the forum provided on the north by the articulated walls of the Eumachia Building beginning with a lower-level entrance a block short of the forum. Opposite its final third of length is the enclosure traditionally identified as the Comitium (in VIII,3), an enclosure thought to date from the earliest years of the Roman period when the tufa colonnade fronting it along the forum was also built. This forum face provided the Comitium's principal entrance, but in the via dell'Abbondanza another portal is punched through a wall articulated in a manner similar to that of the Eumachia Building facing it but at a much lesser scale. This wall's importance was increased by having it stand above a platform reached by three steps along the line of the sidewalk while the street continues with the slope that begins back at the via Stabia. The steps raise the sidewalk platform's level to that of the forum. Along the curbstone side are square holes that perhaps served as lodgments for something--a light-weight portico, an awning's supports, standards for holding banners, or something else worthy of this facade's importance.


The street's final entrance to the forum remains obscure despite intense archaeological interest at various periods in the site's history. Adding to the difficulty is the circumstance that the eastern forum colonnades on either side of the street were apparently being reworked at the time of the eruption, and the forum pavement here has been lost. But this much is now visible and is certainly Roman: the street ends at a curb connecting the two sides of the street and equipped with three tightly placed bollard slabs several feet short of the faces of the buildings standing along the east side of the Form. Next comes an ambiguous limsetone sill connecting the building faces across the street, and then the inner line of the tufa colonnade with a conspicuously wider intercolumniation centered on the center of the street-12'-10" (3.9 meters) (18) as opposed to the various narrower dimensions of the next intercolumniations (19).


The approach to the forum from the opposite side is equally monumental, especially on the south side along its entire stretch from the porta Marina. Here the via Marina has blank walls, first that of the precinct of Venus and, after a break for an intersecting street and a widening of the via Marina, the higher one of the Basilica, a building which can be entered from this street through a portal near its middle. The north side of the street is much more eventful. The steep slope up from the portal ends a short distance before the T intersection of the vicolo del Giganti (I.O./VII,7/VIII,1). Alongside the level stretch of roadway are four doric columns of lava and brick (formerly stuccoed). These are the easternmost stretch of a colonnade of piers and columns, twelve in all, stretching back toward the gateway on the sidewalk that remains level as the roadway dives down into the gate and giving access to otherwise inaccessible shops and houses.




Across the intersection the sidewalk widens and the street narrows. Foot traffic is easily carried across the vicolo del Giganti with generous stepping stones and collected from the narrowed street with two limestone steps and the lava curbstone taking pedestrians up to the higher grade of the shops in the next block (VII,7).



At about this point it becomes obvious that the forum entrance lies ahead. This effect is strengthened when, at a point approximately opposite the Basilica entrance, the sidewalk frontage is no longer residences and shops but the plain, stark wall enclosing the Temple of Apollo whose entrance lies half way between this point and the forum.


The Basilica, the Temple of Apollo, and the forum were extant when Pompeii became a Roman colony, but the Romans' interventions stamped the forum as the authoritative element among the group.




The Romans added the Temple of Venus, placing it within a precinct which they enlarged, apparently in the post-Augustan period. The enlarged precinct's walls push northward about 4' into the via Marina; the colonnade and a reworking of the inside of the porta Marina perhaps date from this project or were at least conceived of in conjunction with it. Either way, the street that resulted from the Romans' work is more than a mere conduit. Note, for example, the distribution of the right-of-way between street and sidewalk. On the western side (the porta Marina side) of the intersection with the vicolo del Gigante the walls are 20'-5" (6.3) apart with 11' (3.4) for the street and 9'-5" (2.9) for the sidewalk. On the other, eastern side, because the block front (of VII,7) is farther south, the total is only 14'-1 _" (4.35), now with a mere 5' (1.5) given to the street but almost the same width (9' 1 _") (2.8) for the sidewalk here that one had on the other side of the intersection. The building walls in this entire block (VII,7) from here to the forum will stay in a line. Similarly, at the western and eastern ends the width of the sidewalk will be about the same-at the forum end, the sidewalk is 9'-10 _ (3.0) (20). On the western side the sidewalk along the Basilica is nearly as wide, being 9'-1" (2.8) its entire length.


Both sidewalks, then, are approximately the same width for their entire length while the street set between the curbs widens conspicuously-it is 8'-10" (2.7) just in front of the entrance to the precinct of the Temple of Venus but 17' 5" (5.4) or more where the forum colonnade crosses it. This widening is important.



The two-story colonnade of white limestone along the west side of the forum was under construction at the time of the eruption. The several intercolumniations near the entrance of the via Marina vary from 6' 1" (1.9) to 7' 8" (2.3) except immediately opposite the via Marina. The street enters through a generous gap of 12'-5" (3.8) while the intercolumniation of the flanking columns are 8' 10" (2.7)(the northern one toward the Temple of Apollo) and 9' 6" (2.9) (the one toward the Basilica). Behind the forum face along the line of the forum walls of the precinct for the Temple of Apollo and the front of the Basilica a pair of columns had to be placed to carry the floor across the street. Here the central gap is 12' 9" (3.9) with 9'-1" (2.8) between the north column and the pilaster at the Temple precinct while the similar measurement at the Basilica (which has no pilaster) is 10' 2" (3.1) (21).


We have seen the center dimension earlier, at the opposite side of the forum where the via dell'Abbondanza enters through an intercolumniation of 12' 10" (3.9), a similarity that strongly suggests the two sides were understood to be parts of a pair.


The overall scheme now becomes clear: Looking toward the forum the street has a centralized, regular cross section, its plan's diverging sides defeating perspective's tendency to narrow vistas and make objects seem farther away. This vista leads to a larger open area entered through columns with wider spacing at the end of the street inviting the pedestrian to enter. Looking the other way, away from the forum, produces a very different effect. Here the convergence of the curbs and walls forces the perspective and pushes things farther away. In the distance two features catch one's eye. On the left, beyond the Basilica walls broken only by the portal giving onto the street, is the entrance to the precinct of the Temple of Venus, frontally placed, inviting, and totally open to view. On the right and farther away, beyond the point where the precinct wall has choked down the street's width, rising as if from the middle of the street, is the first of the columns of the colonnade. Located near the point the street pavement will begin its steep descent to the porta Marina which does not become visible until further down the street, the colonnade makes it clear that there is indeed something worth pursuing in that direction although whatever it is is clearly of lesser importance than the forum one is then leaving.

A final touch invests this area with importance: From the forum to the precinct of the Temple of Venus the pavement is enriched with small white marble pieces inserted in the corners of the dark lava pavers (22).

The via del Foro


Similar flecking appears in only one other locale in the via del Foro, the block-long connection between the Temple of Fortuna Augusta and the forum. Here the task of linking the via di Nola-Strada Consolare sequence to the forum called forth the fullest array of urban devices observable in Pompeii.


Among the devices making the entrance important was the limitation of options. Only the pair of entrances made by the via Marina-via dell'Abbodonza sequence joins this one in importance. Opposite it, across the forum's long dimension, is the via della Scuola (between VIII,2 and 3) which serves a small area and connects with no gate or other through route. The only noticeable Augustan work here involved closing the street to traffic with a curb and a fountain placed in the middle of the street (23). Additional entrances served the pre-Roman forum, but subsequent work either closed them or rendered them unimportant (24).


One project underway and not complete in A. D. 79 brought people into the forum along the west side of the Capitolium. Probably originally linked by way of the Strada Consolare to the porta Ercolano, it now uses the vicolo della Terme, a narrow, block-long back alley (between VII,5 and VII,6), to reach the forum (25). That entrance was (and still is) in use and would perhaps have remained so after the reworking was complete, but in the realm of civic places established through urban interventions, that entrance had long been a dead letter. A person following the route from the porta Ercolano and down the strada Consolare would hardly turn into the narrow vicolo delle Terme when the wide via delle Terme is available and the Temple of the Fortune of Augustus would, as we have seen, draw him to the via del Foro. Once there, he would be led southward by the porticus Tulliana, a colonnade named after the man, M. Tullius, who built the Temple of Fortuna Augusta, and then be directed southward to the great arched entrance to the forum.


Whether entering the via del Foro from the west or the east, the forum becomes his goal. Drawn by the richly ornamented white marble arch, he would soon find the white limestone pavement, the high flank of the Capitolium, and the generous open area lined by a great colonnade and the monumental buildings standing behind its eastern run. This has been his destination whether he knew it or not ever since he first began noticing various indications along his route that he ought to go this way rather than that, indications that became ever more insistent and in an ever denser array as he followed their appeal. Once there, he would have no doubt that this is indeed the center of this city's civil life.



Ever more insistent and in an ever denser array are the indications to the alert pedestrian that the forum is his goal. This insistence and increased density is legible because the pieces that are used insistently and repeatedly are recognizably related to one another and therefore can be compared with one another. Were they too different they could not be compared because it would not be recognized that they ought to be compared-one does not compare apples with dogs. Nor could they be compared if they were too much like one another-only a few people would take an interest in several of the same kind of apples or dogs. But no special knowledge is needed and no rare interest called for in sorting out different kinds of apples and dogs or separating apples from among other fruits or dogs from among other friendly four-legged mammals.

To put it another way: The forum's centrality is recognizable because any sentient, alert person can see and understand that the city of Pompeii is a single body made of diverse members, a body with knowable relationships between the greater and the lesser and with an evident continuity between the two.

Our way of looking at cities is quite different, and so are the pieces out of which they are made. We are accustomed to defining buildings according to functional categories--housing, selling, manufacturing, warehousing, recreating, worshiping, governing, etc. And we customarily think of cities as collections of these functions tied together by a wide array of equipment such as streets, highways, railways, cars, trucks, trains, etc. To see Pompeii, we must develop a different understanding.

Pompeii's buildings are more intelligible when interpreted within civil rather than functional categories. Both before and after the Roman retrofitting, these fell into only three categories--those serving religious cults (temples; religious precincts), those serving civil purposes (basilica, baths, markets, theaters, amphitheater, palestrae, etc.), and those used for domestic residential purposes (atrium houses; row houses; market garden and vineyard enclosures). All the other uses, for example manufacturing and commerce, were fitted into one or another of the three civil types rather than given a separate, independent status. The physical facilities serving these functions were never allowed within religious precincts, and they were held at arms length from important civic structures. Only residential structures accepted them, and the more important the residence, the more subordinate the shop or workshop was within it.

The result was a clearly legible hierarchy of buildings, a hierarchy easily discernable by comparing one building with another building and always understood as forming a corpus of buildings which in turn constitute the city's buildings. The complementary poles of continuity and distinctiveness accommodated within this system satisfies one of the principal aims of traditional city building and urban practices whether Roman or otherwise.

As in the urban so too in the architectural; the way cities are built has its complement in the way its buildings are built. In traditional practice, a city's buildings are built from a range of building components common to all buildings. In Pompeii and in the rest of the Greco-Roman world and its legacy, this is the so-called classical apparatus of forms or, more technically, the genere (26). Buildings could appear as related to one another by having parts obviously related to one another while exhibiting important differences calling attention to the distinctions all the buildings are different, but they are different in the same way. The differences are of two kinds. One is between the pattern of the assembly of the components; this is based on compositions following paradigms available in important models e.g., temples look like temples, houses look like houses, etc., but no two temples or houses look exactly alike. The other is in the differences given the physical character of the same components appearing in different buildings. Columns abound, but they differ in their size, choice of material, level of finish, and so on.

When these two systems of similarities and differences are coordinated, buildings are easily distinguished one from another, its being understood that the more important buildings lend their character to the lesser and the lesser take their place at some appropriate level beneath their betters (27). Compositional patterns distinctive to particular kinds of buildings see to it that temples are not confused with civil buildings and these are distinguishable from houses. Since all are built from the same components, all form part of the same architectural universe. But the differences between the compositional patterns and the different treatments of the components set the various examples apart and establish gradations between them. It is clear that among houses some were more important than others, just as there were differences between civil buildings and among religious ones.

All this simply restates as an urban proposition what Vitruvius said at I, i, 12: the city is a single body made of many members just as the buildings themselves are. Vitruvius, and the tradition within which he worked, took seriously the analogy between the form and figure of a building and that of the human body. Thus, as in the human body so too in buildings: similar members play similar roles in the composition and perform similar tasks in different wholes. In building, conventional design traditions make clear the role each member plays and the relationship it has to all the others forming the body of the building. This is so at both the architectural and urban levels of design. For example, at the architectural level, within a house columns form colonnades in a peristyle or sustain the impluvium in the atrium while in a temple they form a colonnade within the precinct and support the pedimented front and trabeated sides of the shrine itself. At the urban level, buildings and other components play a similarly coordinated role. House fronts and precinct walls define streets and open places, and colonnades enrich them.

The coordination of components, whether individual elements such as columns or larger entities such as a temple precinct and atrium house, allow a person to understand the city's buildings in relationship to one another and in relation to streets and open places. In so doing the person can gain a comprehension of the whole which is the urban complex serving specific civil ends. It is clear in Pompeii that religion dominated the civic life, civil affairs dominated the family and individual life, and the private life was valuable to the extent that it contributed to the public life. Thus temples, public buildings, and houses constitute the city. All activities other than those directly connected with religion, the civic life, or domesticity were accommodated in subordinate facilities, including the abundant supply of shops, bars, bakeries, and workshops serving up to the present-day visitor such a vivid insight into the daily life of Pompeii's residents and without which no city can function.

It is important to note that what is dominant in current American building practices on the fringes, in the suburbs, and in the commercial centers of our cities was pushed into the background in Pompeii. In pre-Roman Pompeii, shops fronted on the forum. The Romans moved them out, collecting some of them within the Macellum which was isolated from but connected to the forum. Shops were also excluded completely from some streets having the best houses while in others they were fitted into the fronts of grand houses whose august entrances dominated them and defined the street's civic character. Only on the lesser side streets did shops intermix with workshops and claim equal status with residences, but these residences were the backs or sides of the important atrium houses or the fronts of undistinguished houses of the people of lowest status in a society where public service was the most important index of status.

Streets in traditional cities differ markedly from those produced by current practice in America. Our streets are conduits for the equipment moving among buildings and open areas whose character is provided by the function they perform. In both pre-Roman and Roman Pompeii, streets were distinct open passageways between clearly defined civic buildings-they were corridors between blocks, and the blocks were discrete physical entities. If an open area was accessible through an inviting entrance from a street, it was a religious precinct, a place of civic resort accessible to the public-say, the forum or a baths, palestra, etc., or the part of the large atrium houses that were opened up for public use when the patron accepted the salutatio of his clients. In Pompeii there was no "open space," the term currently used to refer to something not built on but not used for anything in particular either and thereby playing some sort of amorphous public role although without any particular civil purpose.

The changes the Romans introduced throughout the city followed the traditional pattern and conventions that had developed in Mediterranean urbanism but intensified the result. As we have seen, the major focus of attention was the forum, the center of the civil life. The changes they made there and elsewhere were not random or haphazard but had the calculated effect of inflecting interest throughout the city toward the forum, thereby enlarging its importance in the city's physical, urban pattern (28).

The Building Components Composing the Urban Body:
the generic, the shared, and the humble


In adapting Pompeii to serve their civil purposes, the Romans worked with building components that played the role in the city that members play in any body they contributed to a whole while retaining a distinct identity of their own (29). These building components were built not from alien, different, or new kinds of elements but old, familiar ones, many of them the members from which were built the whole bodies of buildings, but now these members were used to satisfy urban ends rather than purely architectural ones. The building components playing a special role in the urban as opposed to the architectural realm belong to three groups of physical elements.


One group has already been mentioned: they were the standard generic elements within the Greco-Roman conventions, the so-called classical apparatus of forms, customarily used for making the better ancient buildings such as religious and civic buildings and the houses of the important citizens--primarily columns, colonnades, arches, walls, and podia. The Ionic Propylaeum is the most conspicuous and best surviving example of a building component. Architecturally it is a fragment of a colonnade, but urbanistically it is a public gateway connecting important public places.


Fountains and shrines constitute the second group of components which are shared by architecture and urbanism alike. These are complete entities identifiable as discrete things and capable of being used in small or large size without losing their identity. When used in buildings these are small parts of large structures-for example, an elaborate peristyle fountain that is more ornamental than utilitarian, as in the House of the Small Fountain (VII-8-23) or the simple domestic shrine with the lares. When used in the urban setting they assume an identity independent from an architectural setting. Fountains, for example the one in the via del Gallo, 32 of them in the areas already excavated, are sited throughout the city, all very similar to one another and none very elaborate. While clearly more utilitarian than decorative in form, their siting is a different matter, for as we have seen, they so clearly contribute to the general urban structure that we must conclude that their placement took more into consideration than the utilitarian demands of the hydraulic engineers. The fountains may be humble, but the Castellum Aqua feeding them from the high ground at the Porta Vesuvio more than makes up for that. At the point where a person enters the city along the important via Stabia, a monumental building aggrandizes a utilitarian function and provides in an excellent example of the way civic art enriches mere hydraulic engineering.


Shrines also betray a hierarchic importance while remaining easily identifiable no matter their size or setting. Whether in miniature as a recess tucked into a wall (as at VII-4-16, in the via degli Augustali facing the forum), a lararium in the peristyle of the House of the Gilded Cupids (VI-16-7/38), or in the vastly larger size of the great Capitolium standing free at the north end of the forum, a shrine's front has a vertical rectangle topped by a triangular pediment, the one being a vast reduction of the other (30). Both fountains and shrines illustrate Alexander Tzonis' point that these components can be understood as like members of a body since the different shrines (or fountains) are both the same and different but they are different in the same way and therefore are capable of being compared to one another. They appear in the public and the private realms and in the architectural and the urban realms, and their differences make manifest the superiority of the public and the urban.


The third and final group is made up of the more humble elements such as curbs and steps, physical things which finish off a construction project. Both the atrium and the veridarium in the House of the Silver Wedding bear comparison with the similar change of level from floor to colonnade in the forum. These curbs have their relatives in stepping-stones and their analogue in stairways and curb steps, as at the densely packed intersection of the via Stabia and via della Fortuna.


When these are used in an urban setting, they fill out the city's streets and intersections (31). Since they were intended to make the pedestrian's life easier, they tell something about the expected or customary flow of traffic and perhaps reveal the extent or status of that traffic. The final element in this category, the standpipes serving the water system, are more problematic. (The role they played in the water distribution system remains enigmatic.) These urban elements lack an analogue in architecture which is perhaps why their composition exhibits no architectural finesse despite the important place they often occupy in public areas.


When seen in situ, in the streets and intersections they serve, all three groups of urban components-the generic, the shared, and the humble--become charged with a distinctiveness that allows them to contribute to the public realm. It was through the manipulation of these building components that the Romans produced the dominance of the forum within the body of Pompeii.


To understand Pompeii as an urban body made of architectural members and building components we must replace our functional categories with the civil categories that define Roman architecture and urbanism. In like manner we must also reorganize our understanding of the spatial complex.

Our way of conceptualizing space is different from that of the ancients. Ever since the development of perspective in the fifteenth century and of Descartes' mathematical discoveries in the seventeenth, we have thought of space as continuous, unlimited, homogeneous, knowable, definable, and measurable within a gridded matrix--in short, as perspective space (32). The Romans inhabited a different realm which can be called precinct space. A precinct is an identifiable location with a special character and an exclusion from and linkage to the larger setting or realm containing it. Pompeii includes two kinds of precincts. One kind, which may be called an enclosed precinct, is represented by the forum and the precincts with the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Venus. The Basilica is an enclosed precinct, as is an atrium house and the so-called Triangular Forum with its theaters. These are defined more through exclusion or enclosure than through connection.

A second, which may be called an urban precinct, is an area with the task of connecting the members composing the urban body. Its locale is identifiable but its edges or limits are not necessarily strongly defined. It may be an intersection, an enlarged portion of a street, or some other part of the urban setting that has sufficient identity that one can be tempted to give it a generic name, for example piazza or largo. The identity is provided by a collection of building components that seem to belong together and to possess some reasonable, sensible, and purposive connection with one another but with an arrangement that allows them to establish visible connections with building components in other enclosed or urban precincts. It is, in other words, not the enclosure that establishes the presence of an urban precinct but the presence of components with a one-to-one relationship, or reciprocity, between one another. The relationship is calculated to produce or define a distinct sense of place, a place with an internal coherence and character of its own but not necessarily with distinct boundaries.

The ancient city is composed of these precincts. Indeed, the urban body composed of these precincts may be called an urban ensemble of precincts. An urban ensemble is the order established between the precincts. It organizes the otherwise inchoate realm surrounding the enclosed precincts and organizes the precincts themselves (precincts of both types) into a pattern commensurate with the civil realm, that is, with the ends or purpose of the political realm organizing the civil activities of the society using and building the urban ensemble.

The enclosed precincts are isolated until connected by something. Streets lie outside precincts unless they have been fitted out as urban precincts. They provide corridors but no particular order while urban precincts provide order and use the streets to make connections. Some streets are somewhere between gaps between precincts and fully-developed urban precincts. They begin to assume a character that can be called a piazza or a largo without quite becoming an urban precinct. They make an important contribution to the public, civil life pursued in the urban ensemble holding them and giving them a place, and therefore deserve they recognition that comes from receiving a name. An appropriate name might be a special urban feature.

There are several of these special urban features in Pompeii. One is the frontage of the public building, if it is a public building -- the so-called Dogana Ponderaria -- we encountered just inside the porta Ercolano (at VI,1,13). Another is the widened sidewalk we saw on the south side of the street in the via di Nola three blocks east of the via Stabia (at IX,8). A third one is the widened section the via dell'Abbondanza at the via Stabia in front of the Stabian Baths which might be called the largo Stabiana. And a final one is the area between the Capitolium and the Macellum to be discussed below.

A special urban feature adds to the quality of the public realm without shifting attention to something private, as does, for example, a raised sidewalk at a house (33). Their distribution in Pompeii does not seem to form a pattern, and neither do they always contribute to the matrix of connections forming the urban ensemble.

The urban ensemble, the overall pattern of order in the urban realm, is established by a series of one-to-one relationships between the various building components or members of the urban body found in the enclosed and urban precincts. The relationship is always on a one-to-one basis and not a complex relationship running out to a connected series. Thus, the sequence runs from A to B and from B to C and from C to D, but A does not entail D. In our spatial realm, that of perspective space, knowing the sequence A B C D will entail and predict E, and from D one can return to A directly. In the spatial realm of the Romans, in that of precincts, this is not possible. The precincts order an otherwise unordered realm, and they do so step by step, by establishing a precinct, or templum, (34) and then establishing relationships between one another on a one-to-one basis through relational design. This is not homogeneous space with perspectival order and buildings homomorphic with the space and with one another. In precinct space, the relationships between the precincts organize the larger realm but do not themselves inhabit a rational and therefore knowable realm. A will take you to B and from B you can know how to get to C, but at C you do not have the knowledge of where A is without calling B to mind.

Precincts are made from the standard elements forming the Greco-Roman architectural conventions, the so-called classical apparatus of forms-primarily columns, colonnades, arches, walls, podia, etc. As we have seen, when these are used in a special urban context to form an urban precinct, they take on an independent role as building components.

A principal characteristic of an urban precinct is this: it establishes a linkage with another precinct-either an enclosed or urban one. This it does by assigning the special task of forming that linkage to one of the building components. To perform that task the component might require a deformation relative to its architectural role. In this case the urban trumps the architectural. It may be a small detail, but it plays a large role in asserting the importance of the urban over the architectural, of the ensemble over the precinct. Such a detail can be called a telling detail.

Telling details make the urban ensemble legible. Indeed, they make an ensemble possible. They link precincts into a body that would otherwise be mere members inchoate, random, and unintelligible. A catalogue of them will reveal their importance while a map of them will describe the urban order of Pompeii (35).

The forum matrix

An urban ensemble is a visible, evident assemblage of precincts into a coherent whole. That whole is the urban realm serving a civil regime. The principal means of organizing an urban ensemble is through the one-to-one, point-to-point reciprocity visible between precincts. Telling details solidify the relationships. Special urban features supplement the precincts and augment the corridors and gaps between the precincts.

The urban ensemble of Pompeii is organized around two matrices of precincts. One is the forum series, the other the via Stabiana series.

The forum series works its way out from Pompeii's center of civil gravity, indeed, the center of the city's urban structure. This is a small area (perhaps ten feet or three meters square) in front of the statue base centered near the forum's south end (36). Here resides the focus of the urban ensemble with powerful linkages to the three urban precincts along the routes connecting it with the rest of the urban area. These linkages penetrate the boundaries of the forum and reveal it to be an urban precinct even as the colonnades and impressive, monumental buildings lining it make clear its character as an enclosed precinct. Uniquely in Pompeii, the forum is both an urban and an enclosed precinct.

Four axes intersect within this small area: the forum's long axis, the prolongation of the via Marina, the prolongation of the via dell'Abbondanza, (37) and a line running from the forum's focus at the statue base to the altar on the podium of the Temple of the Fortune of Augustus in the via del Foro. We will examine these in turn.


Between the focal area in the forum and the narrow confines of vaulted exit at the porta Marina a four-minute walk away, the via Marina encloses a pair of overlapping urban precincts familiar to us from their discussion earlier in this essay. One focuses on the entrance to the precinct of the Temple of Venus. The other extends farther down the street to reach the colonnade whose first column is a telling detail.


Much within the precincts in the via Marina is visible from the focal area in the forum; from the same area one cannot see the via dell'Abbondanza, but the widened intercolumniation in the tufa colonnade and the projecting eastward of the axial flow of the via Marina into and across the forum would certainly make a person conscious of its presence. After moving a few steps in that direction he would see the long, broad slope downward of the via dell'Abbondanza but not the intersection with the via Stabia. Its presence, or the existence of something important, would be made known by the tetrapylon's southern piers which are visible. Indeed, the highly visible western one has a telling detail, a tufa column engaged on its western face.

The handling of this building component reveals how the urban can trump the architectural. Were its architectural integrity uppermost in its design, the column would be engaged on a face looking inward toward the complementary pier of the tetrapylon, either the one to the north or the one to the east. Instead, it faces outward, and in the direction of the forum, as do the features associated with each of the other three piers--
an inscription (extant) and statue (now lost) on the northwestern pier, and statues (also lost) on the eastern ones. This strong directionality makes the tetrapylon a terminus to the via dell'Abbondanza even as that tetrapylon leads a person to the via Stabia rather than as a separate element at the end of the street and just in front of the intersecting street.


Lured by that telling detail and by the gradual emergence of the tetrapylon it helps form, the person approaching the intersection encounters other components investing the street with the character of an urban precinct: a propylaeum tells him where to find the so-called Triangular Forum; the pavement is raised and the surface flow of liquid diverted to underground channels; the street widens into a largo; the sidewalk pavement becomes limestone slabs when in front of the Stabian Baths; the standpipe and fountain furnish additional amenities and interest. From the gap in the forum's colonnade to the refreshing water at the via Stabia a mere three minutes away from the forum's focal area is a series of elements defining an urban precinct.

The third extension out from the forum's focal area connects with the Temple of Fortuna Augusta which can be clearly seen from the focal area and can be reached with a three minute walk. Along the way the pedestrian will take in
the largo at the Macellum, a special urban feature with so clear an identity and purpose it might equally well be considered an urban precinct (38). It certainly has edges that define and direct but do not contain. The east flank of the Capitolium bounds, but the Macellum frontage lures and has a distinct identity with the best columns extant in the forum colonnade and supplementary statue bases, but the continuity along the face of the colonnade is at least as strong as the attraction through it to the Macellum entrance. Similarly, the arch at the bottom of the largo both encloses the space and draws a person beyond it. Finally, a telling detail reveals that this was conceived of as a distinct entity and not a mere corridor to the arch or extension of the forum's space.

That telling detail is in
a variation in the reach of the lower of the two steps leading from the colonnade level down to the forum level (39). In the largo Macellum, the step's tread is a little more than a foot (.3) deep. But at a point about eight inches (.2+) into the forum beyond the front of the temple's rostrum (the dimension would have been less when the temple had its marble revetment) that tread is extended into the forum as an apron more than six feet (1.8+)broad. It holds this dimension around the entire forum but reverts to the narrower step on the opposite side of the forum. The effect is subtle but sharp; it allows what would have been a slot alongside the temple to become a largo within the precinct of the forum.


The via del Foro is the next urban precinct in the matrix of the urban ensemble. At either end are arches, one leading out of the forum, the other bounding the precinct while opening up to the via del Mercurio. The invitation to go through the farther arch is not strong since the axis of the street is slightly off from that of the via del Foro, and from the largo Macellum one sees the faces of buildings rather than the long street running to a defensive tower at the city wall. Instead, the stronger lure is the (formerly) white marble altar on the podium of the Temple of Fortuna Augusta. Because the temple has been brought out into the street and turned slightly toward the forum, this altar is even more conspicuous. It is the single thing seen clearly from the focal area in the forum. It is quite obviously an important telling detail.




This telling detail also works its charms on the person coming from the west, from the porta Ercolano and Strada Consolare. Indeed, at some point along that line it becomes clear that the via del Foro is an urban precinct playing an important role in the urban ensemble.


The intersection at the via del Foro is highly charged. There is so much packed in here -- temple, arch, baths, fountain attached to the arch, widened street, telling detail, portico -- it seems more a piazza than a mere intersection, but a piazza within an urban precinct. In it is one final telling detail defining the character and civil role of this piazza.


It is the northernmost column of the porticus Tulliana. This portico, probably originally covered, predated the temple and originally had thirteen columns. The three northernmost ones were removed, and the new end one was rebuilt. The one at the forum end had a pier with a flat return toward the building face and an engaged half column on the northern face, in the direction the portico runs. This pattern was reproduced at the opposite, temple end by adding bricks to the original column producing a flat return toward the building and a flat return back toward the forum, in the direction the portico runs.


This is the opposite direction from what one might expect, and in that opposition resides the character of telling detail and of the piazza and urban ensemble of the via del Foro. The rounded face of the column remaining visible is not in bilateral symmetry with its corresponding member at the opposite end. Instead, it inflects towards the temple. This connects the portico to the temple by linking its columns with the rounded portion of the portico's terminus, and it make clear the subordinate position of the portico relative to the temple. As we saw with the design of the tetrapylon at the largo Stabiana, only an urban rather than an architectural role for the building component can explain this feature. That treatment of the end support of the portico makes it into a telling detail.


The telling details in these urban precincts take us out of the forum into the city. Nothing beyond the points we have reached would carry us farther afield. Instead, in the distant reaches at a distance from the forum all the directional signs carry us inward, toward the forum, as we have seen when following the pattern of intersections of the three major street sequences. The most consistent set of these is in the via Stabiana series which we can now visit for a final time.


The via Stabiana matrix

The forum matrix of urban precincts revealed the important role of telling details. In the via Stabiana matrix, building components rather than telling details sketch out the series of urban precincts moving us along the street and directing us to the forum. Since we have already traversed it, here we need only list the parts of the series:

Porta Vesuvio to the via di Nola/via della Fortuna interesection. Here the Temple of Fortuna Augusta draws us to the via del Foro and then into the forum itself.

From the via di Nola/via della Fortuna interesection to the via degli Augustali where the portico blocks the sidewalk and assures we pay attention to the route leading to the forum.

From the via degli Augustali to the via dell'Abbondanza. Along this route there is no way to mistake which direction to go and no attraction to go elsewhere. Once at the via dell'Abbondanza, the tetrapylon and other building components in the largo Stabiana direct attention to the forum, as we have seen.

From the via dell'Abbondanza to the porta Stabia, clearly an exit as well as a boundary, and with one last chance to find the center again, since half way along the street the Ionic propylaeum suggests a visit to the so-called Triangular Forum which, if done, will in turn lead a person back to the via dell'Abbondanza.

This series is less strong than the group leading in and out of the forum and gathering in the focal area before the statue base. But that is as it should be: The forum is the appropriate locus for the greater insistence and increased density of the architectural and urban pieces constituting the urban setting the Romans built to support and reveal their civil life.





In building Pompeii the Romans followed rules, whether willing or unwillingly. The rules embodied "The Maxim held sacred by all free people: Obey the laws," to quote the lintel inscription of the Fluvanna County Court House from 1830 in Virginia. The rules were not imposed from outside but were contrived by those who would have to follow them. Their intent was to provide an urban setting supporting and sustaining the civic life, the life that provided a public setting for private achievement. The rules assured that the result of private effort was public value (40).



Pompeii's rules can be instructive for current practice not all of them, to be sure, but those that are instructive can give themselves over to use when we, in the very different context in which we live and build, seek to build civilly rather than barbarously and advance the common good rather than gather a mere private gain.

Three rules stand out for special attention:


1. Commerce must always be civilized.

Commerce builds markets, not cities. Markets serve private interests, not the public interest. They promote a private good, not the public good. But there can be no support for the public good without the satisfaction of a minimum of private needs. In the good city, the best city, private prosperity derived from commerce is the basis of an abundant public life.

Commercial activity serves prosperity. Prosperity provides the leisure required to pursue civil ends. Civil ends can be corrupted by too dominant a place for commercial activity and too great a desire for prosperity. The end of the market is living abundantly; the end of the city is living nobly and well. To reach that end, the commercial life must be civilized.


In Pompeii, commerce transpired in shops which always occupied subordinate places within the larger physical framework of a building or complex serving a more important civil purpose than commerce itself served. In the residential areas, commercial activities were either placed in side streets as parts of lesser domestic buildings or complexes (the intersection of the vicolo Storto and via degli Augustali [VII,4/VII,2/VII,12/VII,9] is a good example) or tucked into low shop fronts within the larger framework of a residential building, as along the via della Fortuna at the House of the Faun. In the central forum area before the Roman period, shops lined major stretches of the central open forum plaza. Under the Romans these activities were collected into a separate structure, the Macellum. It was attached to the forum with an important architectural frontage featuring statues, probably of important local citizens and of prominent members of the Imperial family, and its interior was organized to feature a shrine and a place for the market supervisors. The result was no mere shopping center but an important civil extension to the central civil forum.


2. The same building components must be used in the public and the private realm and in both architectural and urban applications

Using components that are recognizably the same allows a continuity to be established between the public and the private, the architectural and the urban. The components (columns, piers, arches, lintels, walls, fountains, steps, platforms, vaults, pitched roofs, etc.) are the ones that do a particular technical job with the appropriate level of decorum and within the formal parameters of local technique, materials, conventions, and traditions. They have their origin in nature and their perfection in the human form and continued artful practice, as theorists from Vitruvius onward have explained. In their final, finished form, these components are as different in Pompeii and, say, Santa Barbara, California, in the twentieth century as the food and the language of the two places are, but they are as recognizable as belonging to architecture as comestibles are to food and words are to speech.

The continuity in components allows for a continuity between the architectural character of a city's buildings since the more important buildings lend their character to the lesser. In Pompeii, temples were not confused with houses, but both houses and temples formed part of the same architectural universe. The city was a single body made of many members just as the buildings themselves were.

Buildings, cities, and the human body are analogous at the formal level. The role the various members play and the relationship they have to one another in playing that role is clear. In antiquity, religion dominated the civic life, and the private life contributed to the public life. All activities other than those directly connected with religion, the civic life, or domesticity were accommodated in subordinate facilities, including the abundant supply of shops, bars, bakeries, and workshops serving up to the present-day visitor such a vivid insight into the daily life of Pompeii's residents and without which no city can function.

The public life and the private life in a vivid city are intertwined and segregated at the same time. This intermingling is well illustrated by the continuity in public and private of the same building components. In adapting Pompeii to their needs the Romans worked with the standard range of architectural components they customarily used in their building practices. When used as building components in the urban realm, these familiar components are different in part simply because they are used in streets and open areas rather than in individual structures. This in itself makes them distinctive, but in addition, the same elements are generally grander, richer, and more carefully finished when they are dressing up public streets, intersections, and open areas and serving as the members of the religious or civic buildings or as the entrances to the houses of the most important citizens. That which connects things in the public realm is of greater importance than that which allows things to be separated, hidden away, or secluded; the public is superior to the private.


3. Whatever is done beyond the center has its complement in the center

Implementing this rule requires that there be an identifiable center. The center of a city is the locus of the most intense pursuit of the civil ends of the place, that is, living nobly and well. Within larger cities there are lesser parts, called neighborhoods, which themselves have their own centers-in America, the public school, church, branch library, etc., often accompanied by commercial facilities.

The result of following this rule over time is the gradual accumulation of civil accoutrements into a dense collection supporting the civil life in the center and their relatives less densely spread about in the other districts and neighborhoods of the city.

Illustrations: In Pompeii, when a shrine is built in a neighborhood, a temple is built in the center. When a portal is remodeled on a dwelling, an entrance to a public place in the center is improved-not necessarily by the same person, but if the same person does both, he would achieve a certain civil renown. In America, when a wealthy person builds a pool house at his residence, he adds a pavilion to the central public library. When an ordinance is passed imposing design guidelines on buildings fronting neighborhood streets, more tightly drawn ones are framed for controlling the design of commercial frontages near the center of public life. When trees are planted at twenty-foot centers in the neighborhoods, they are similarly planted and supplemented with ground plantings in the center.

What can we learn from Pompeii? That if one wishes to live well he must build well, that the urban serves and facilitates the civil, that the architectural is continuous with the urban, the urban trumps the architectural, and that building a city takes time and is never finished.



Suppose Vesuvius had not erupted. How might the Romans have equipped their urban ensemble with an urban armature of the sort William MacDonald identifies with Roman imperial urbanism? What follows are three projects wealthy Romans seeking renown through urban projects might have undertaken.

1. Further improvements in the via del Foro

On the west side the shops would be chopped back and a portico built to respond to the Portico Tulliana on the east side. The new portico would run all the way from the via delle Terme to the forum. In it would be a new, grander entrance to the Forum Baths.

2. A new shrine on the via della Fortuna

The owner of the grand atrium house at VII,4,51 in the via della Fortuna midway between the via Stabia and the via del Foro buys his neighbor's large atrium house at VII,4,46-49 at the corner of the vicolo Storto, and he replaces it with a shrine or perhaps even a temple within a precinct of some sort-it might call to mind the Temple of Jupiter Meilichios on the via Stabia at VIII,7,25. The project would be designed to strengthen the connection between the via Stabia and the via del Foro, perhaps by playing itself off against the appearance of the Temple of Fortuna Augusta, and perhaps fronted with a portico and other features found in armatures.

3. Improvements in the via Marina
Augmenting the Temple of Venus' importance

The houses facing the via Marina and nearest the forum in VII,7 are shaved back and a portico is built from the Temple of Apollo to the vicolo del Gigante. At the point opposite the precinct wall and entrance to the Temple of Venus some sort of special feature calling attention to the precinct's entrance is built-perhaps an arch or a tetrapylon or a fountain or way station. The portico must be set back, and the new feature must be designed and placed in such a way, so that the link between the forum and the column beginning the colonnade leading parallel to the via Marina, the telling detail in that urban precinct, is not be lost to sight.