Lewis Mumford understands of Greek cities and roman cities as being quite different. He starts by narrating the history of the roman structure of a city. In his explanation, he says that the city has a rectangular wall around it. The buildings in the city were not up to the wall since the outline and structure of the city was organized more like a military camp. The city was also served by two main streets; one running from north to south of the city and the other from west to east. The two streets met at right angles and the meeting point was often made a sacred place in the city. As time went by, the desire for better hygiene and transport called for feeder streets and with time, the city still had the two main streets but a lot of other smaller streets to serve the people. Later, the towns in Roman Empire started shifting in design until they were almost directly opposite of the original design though they still maintained their rectangular boundary. Looking the structure of the roman city, Rome, it had the rectangular outline and since it was the mother of all other cities built with its design, it acted as the master piece thus all its faults were corrected in later cities. This town did not have population limit considered in its construction while later cities had population limit considered. The contents of any roman city were:
- Fortifications – These were large historic features that would have memorial significance. The fortifications were either walls or other large buildings that had certain significance to the romans.
- The street system. All the roman cities had two main streets one running from north to south and the other from east to west. The streets allowed only one cart to pass at a time.
- Two basic housing systems. The roman cities had houses for the privileged or rich members of the society and those for the other common citizens. The citizens lived in apartments. Thus the roman architecture had different structural designs for different people.
Market. Rome was being sustained by imports. Thus trade was the main economic drive for Roman development. The general structure of the roman cities was more complicated than that of Greek cities. Looking at the Greek cities, Lewis Mumford was greatly impressed by how the Greek organization was conducted. All the people were open to interrogation about their profession and the pay was equal for any type of work done. The people were involved in virtually all activities thus had a voice in decisions pertaining to the city structure. Also, the general structure Greek cities were based on the social needs of the people while the Roman structure was based on the military needs. Thus Mumford understands the structure of the Roman and Greek cities to be much different to their different origins and cultures not forgetting the factors that facilitated the structure.
However, Mumford appears to be much keen on the Roman structure. The structure appears to evolve over time with first the rectangular shaped city served only by two main roads to a modern city that preserves the original characteristics of Rome yet has a population limit put into consideration to avoid excess pressure on the social facilities. These cities appeared initially as cluster of buildings like a military camp.
Closely examining the structure of Rome, it is situated at a mountainous topography thus it was hard for its development. It also appeared to be formed by a number of villages or small towns that merged. It had the rectangular boundary that also restricted its growth and expansion. The underground network of collecting sewage and supply of water also hindered the expansion of Rome.
Comparing the structure of Roman and Greek cities, the Greek cities had an open layout that could be easily developed and expanded as compared to the roman cities which were wall bound. This can be viewed as the main attractive feature of the ancient Greek towns as compared to roman cities.
According to AEJ Morris, the Greeks had a preconception of the city as a dwelling place where democracy was paramount. This meant that all the people had equal rights and the pay that was earned by all the people was uniform. This was quite different from the Roman understanding of a city. The romans understood a city to be place which was more likely to be attacked. Therefore, a city was more like the heart of the locality. It was constructed in a military camp style. With the Greeks leaving their cities to emerge as a result of merging villages or small towns, the Romans believed that a city was to be created by the people for protection. Looking also at the type of buildings constructed, it was also clear that roman had a sense of social classes and those living in the town belonged to several social classes. This was due to construction of houses of two types: one for the privileged and the other for the laborers. The Greeks had no such systems thus their understanding of a city remained simple.
Looking at the population structure of Greek city, it is evident that the population was in a way marginal but on the general population density, the distribution was even. The partial marginalization can be perceived to be from the initial small towns that merged to form the large city. Also, the population distribution is even due to the rules that governed the city. The population pattern is another thing that has an outright difference. The Greek pattern is even distribution without any basic arrangement of any shape but that of roman cities appeared to follow the outline of the city and the public utilities distribution. Pertaining to roman settlements, the following features were evident:
- All houses had their doors facing the streets and the courtyard.
- The houses were two three or four floors. This showed that their building skills had developed to very high levels.
- Social amenities were built on a central place where all the people would have access to easily.
Mumford’s ideas about Greek and Roman cities are more inclined to judging the Romans more than the Greeks. This is evident from his continued and keen evaluation of the Roman cities and the evolution of the cities. He appears to have a negative attitude towards the basic city design of Rome but with time, his thought change resulting in a new dawn on the roman city approach. His evolution story of the roman cities indicates that his ideas have changed and he appreciates the roman design. His ideas on the Greek city are acceptable and in a way I agree with them.