Project 5: Street Design and Decoration in Roman Italy

Via dell´Abbondanza new
Via dell’Abbondanza in PompeiiFoto: T. Lauritsen


WP5 examines the decoration and architectural design of streets and their façades in the Vesuvian cities between the 2nd century BC and the late 1st century AD.

Previous programmes of research dedicated to these subjects have analysed individual aspects of the streetscape in isolation, or focused on particular activities connected to the street. In Pompeii, for example, we know much about the distribution of public fountains, shrines and façade graffiti across the city. But rarely and only in very limited contexts have the decorative elements of the street been linked with the actions and activities that it hosted.

In response to these traditional approaches, the aims of this work package are threefold: (1) to examine decorative aspects of the Roman streetscape in their totality, (2) to explore how the ensembles that framed the street developed over time and (3) to consider the impact that decoration and design features had on everyday life. To achieve these aims, WP5 is employing a range of quantitative and qualitative research approaches. A database is being constructed to record the details of those decorative and architectural features of façades that have survived, as well as those that were identified upon excavation but have since disappeared. The database is connected to a GIS, so that the results can be mapped and explored cartographically, which will assist in the identification of broad-scale decorative trends that recur across various types of media. Three case studies supplement this ‘big data’ approach, each examining part of a Pompeian neighbourhood. These micro-historical analyses will permit a more detailed exploration of the relationship between the individuals that produced streetside décor and the people that viewed it.