Friday, October 30, 2020

The Eternal City -- Jessica Maier

A History of Rome in Maps

The University of Chicago Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-59145-2 (cloth)
ISBN-10: 0-226-59145-x
ISBN-13: 978-0-226-59159-9 (e-book)
November 4, 2020

Rome with its ancient and on-going history captures the attention and imagination of many people — researchers, historians, tourists, and readers — and its attraction has been on-going for centuries. Author Jessica Maier shows the perceptions of Rome both past and present as caught in maps through the ages. Some of these maps, while not as accurate, are like today’s maps. Others are more picturesque in form. When created, they held a specific purpose for their design.

Rome has a long history, and Maier lets the reader journey through the many ideas Rome has held from its inception, about which little is known and much guessed at, to the present. The book shows aspects of how all building stands next to, or on top of, those made in the past. It explains about Rome’s many changes and exposes information relatable to all major cities. As Maier states, Rome has had many reincarnations, and no city equals Rome’s resilience throughout the ages. As an example, she writes about San Clemente, a church in Rome dating back to the twelfth century which has a staircase leading down to a church of the fourth century upon which San Clemente was built. This fourth-century church was built on top of an old pagan temple, aspects of which can still be seen 60 feet below the ground level of San Clemente.

Maier states Rome is more than its architecture and buildings, for the maps show the inhabitants’ history, myths, and symbolism as shaped by gods, Caesars, pagans, Christians, and tourists alike. It is a fascinating study with an abundance of historical maps. Again, some are linear depictions of roads, ancient walls, and buildings while others are beautiful paintings showing the city’s changes through landscapes. The information is fascinating. How much did I like the book? Since I preordered a copy, a lot.

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