Ancient Rome’s geography nowadays is harder to discern because of the thousands of years of continuous building and transformation. The hills which were strategically so important in the early days of the city have been eroded by centuries and millenia of continuous earth works and urbanisation: whilst it is easy to think of geography as a purely morphological consideration we should remember that it was critical to the development of the ancient Roman economy and Roman society.
Given the above complexity the subject of ancient Rome’s geography has been broken down in numerous specific pages which you will find listed towards the end of this short article.
Ancient Rome’s geography was heavily influenced by the marshes which have since disappeared from sight, except perhaps to those who own the damp cellars. The famous Cloaca Maxima and its widereaching network of drainage channels tamed the rivers and streams into a series of well hidden underground channels: Many portions of the Cloaca Maxima are still wide enough to drive a horse and cart down for routine inspection and maintenance. The drain still functions formidably.
Another important feature of Rome’s geography is the river Tiber, which played an important role in the geological development of the Roman “ager” and eventually providing its population with a ready access to the Mediterranean sea and international trading routes.
The location chosen for Rome was ideal from a strategic point of view and had much to do with the city’s brilliant future. Not only could Ancient Roman ships navigate up the river to the port by the Tiber island, but they could do so under the protection of the surrounding hills.
Ancient Rome’s Geology
Many of the city’s engineering structures and buildings are made utilizing the materials which were readily available. Given that the area was once subject to volcanic activity there is a plentiful supply of a variety of rocks and stones, such as the hard Basalt used for paving roads, Travertine marble to cover the Colosseum amphitheatre as well as Peperino, Tufa, clay and so on. All of these were used in a great variety of building techniques.
For more detailed information about the Geography of ancient Rome (including the hills), tiber river (including local geology),tiber river tributary, ancient Roman roads, ancient Roman maps …