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Did Augustus Really Transform Rome into a 'City of Marble'?

Caeser Augustus famously boasted "I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble." An architectural historian and urban designer at UCLA now has the model to prove the veracity of the claim.
March 7, 2015, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Stefanie Pietkiewicz provides the background on an ambitious project by Diane Favro, a professor of architecture and urban design at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Favro decided to uncover the truth behind Augustus’ famous declaration by using advanced modeling software to reconstruct the city of seven hills in its entirety and observing how it changed during the period when he was in power."

"Many scholars have looked at Augustus’ claim from a political standpoint, as a metaphor for him transforming a republic into an empire," Favro explains in the article. "I wanted to see if Rome literally transformed under his rule."

The method behind Favro's work is worth noting for its connection to urban design practices. According to Pietkiewicz, "Favro recreated Augustan Rome algorithmically using a technique known as procedural modeling. Scholars have tended to study the transformation of individual buildings in Rome instead of focusing on the transformation of the city as a whole because they lack the data needed to do so. While procedural modeling 'has not been widely used as a tool to reconstruct ancient cities,' Favro said, it has been used by urban designers to create contemporary cities."

The final model, and the answer to the question at stake, is available for viewing on an ArcGIS City Engine Web Viewer. For more on Favro's work, also check out the Digital Karnak project, a website that details the political, religious and architectural history of one of the world's most expansive temple complexes in Egypt.

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Published on Friday, March 6, 2015 in UCLA Newsroom
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