The More Cities Change...

Shelby Brown has collected a humorous and fascinating look at the common gripes of the ancient Roman city dweller. From from traffic jams to fashion requirements, many of these complaints will sound eerily modern.

Complied for a gallery class Brown taught at the Getty Villa last month, her list of "Seven Plagues" demonstrates that many of the problems faced by contemporary city dwellers wouldn't have been foreign to their ancient world antecedents.

According to Brown, "Some of the most illuminating diatribes come to us from D. Iunius Iuvenalis (Juvenal), an embittered poet of the late first and early second centuries A.D." Passages have been translated by Peter Green.

On noise pollution:

"Insomnia causes most deaths here . . . Show me the apartment
that lets you sleep! In this city sleep costs millions,
and that's the root of the trouble. The waggons thundering past
through those narrow twisting streets, the oaths of draymen caught
in a traffic-jam, would rouse a dozing seal-or an emperor."
(Juvenal, Satire 3.232–238)

On the high costs of city housing:

"If you can tear yourself loose from the Games, a first-class
house can be purchased, freehold, in any small country town
at the price of a year's rent, here, for some shabby, ill-lit attic."
(Juvenal, Satire 3.223–225)

Thanks to APA

Full Story: The Seven Plagues of the Ancient Roman City Dweller


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