Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The informative nature of David Macaulay’s City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction rests as much on the illustrations as on the text. The narrative, broken up into short paragraphs, is clarified and enhanced on every page by Macaulay’s architectural drawings: plan views, elevations, cross-sections, and full-page perspectives—all done freehand, in pen and ink, the traditional tools of architects and engineers. A glossary of architectural and engineering terms is included at the end of the book.

The story of Verbonia’s construction began in 26 b.c. when Emperor Augustus ordered the founding of a new city in the Po Valley to replace several villages swept away by spring floods. The fertile river valley had long needed an efficient trading center from which the area’s produce could be dispersed to other cities, and the presence of a fortified city promised greater security for this region so close to the unconquered Alps.

Without delay, Augustus dispatched a corps of military engineers to select a site, survey the area, draw plans, and establish a military camp in the center of the future city. Like other Roman cities, Verbonia was to be laid out like a chessboard and surrounded by a wall to prevent both enemy invasion and uncontrolled urban sprawl. The workforce consisted of two thousand soldiers, retired by Augustus and ordered to settle in Verbonia; farmers from the area; and slaves,...

(The entire section is 526 words.)