Rich and poor, traders and bureaucrats, slaves and the free often
lived cheek-by-jowl in the most multicultural and vibrant city of its age.
Its reconstruction after almost 2,000 years is a possibility that
excites Professor Andrew Wallis Hadrill, director of the British School in
"Rome has always been a very cosmopolitan place and you can see this
in the detail of the Forma Urbis: there's simply nowhere else like it.
"It was the first duty of the emperor to know who was in his city,
where they lived, and how on earth to feed them to keep them from rioting.
So this map is a symbolical statement in both size and magnificence. It
says: 'we know you in detail, we know every street, every doorway'. What a
wonderful way to display knowledge! It's saying, 'This is our city - look
at it! Wow!'"
The map is also invaluable for revealing the hidden side of Rome which
never stood the test of time - the commonplace houses and shops where
ordinary Romans lived their lives.
Although frustratingly it only gives details of the ground floors for
a city that would have had the New York skyline of its day, it is still
the most important topographical work to have survived to modern times.
Now the veil is being drawn back from the real story of Rome - a
buzzing, noisy, often smelly and crowded but living city, beautifully
captured in stone.