The Idea of a Town: The Anthropology of Urban Form in Rome, Italy and the Ancient World

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MIT Press, 1988 - Architecture - 242 pages
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The idea of a town must be strong enough to survive the inevitable chaotic overlay of urban experience, Joseph Rykwert asserts in this fundamental book on urban form. In his preface to this new edition he reviews the developments over the past thirty ears, in archeology, in historical and philological work, and in urban planning and architectural trends that make The Idea of a Town timely once again; a reminder that recognizable patterns and texture, public open space, and conspicuous institutions can enrich the late twentieth-century city which has become preoccupied with the isolated architectural object, with physical and market forces.

Rykwert focuses on the Roman town as a work of art, a symbolic pattern deliberately created and enjoyed by its inhabitants - its shape and the structure of the spaces constructed on the basis of beliefs and rituals. His starting point is the ancient texts: mythical, historical, and ritual in which city-foundations are told and played out, and in particular the "Etruscan rite," a group of ceremonies which regulated the creation of practically all Roman towns.

The principal institutions of the town, its walls and gates, its central shrines, and its public spaces, were all part of a pattern to which the myths which accompanied them provide clues. As in the other "closed" societies Rykwert investigates and compares throughout the book, these rituals and myths served to create a secure home for Roman citizens, placing them firmly in a knowable universe.

Joseph Rykwert is Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
 

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Contents

Abbreviations
19
Rome and Romulus
27
Two City and Site
41
Three Square and Cross
72
Four Guardians of Centre Guardians of Boundaries
97
Five The Parallels page
163
The Bororo Rites
169
The Quartered Body as a Picture of the World
175
Ritual and Hysteria
188
Conclusion
194
Notes
204
Index
233
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