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Cities old and new

I'm busy collecting information about Timgad (ancient Thamugadi) today. It's a Roman colony in what is now Algeria, which is very well-preserved because it was abandoned in late antiquity, and then just left to its own devices while it slowly vanished under the sand. Hence there was no robbing of stone or burying of old structures under new, and it was pretty much all still there when the French excavated it at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

I'm very familiar with it already, having written a Masters' dissertation in which I compared its suburbs with those of Roman Lincoln (a warm-up exercise for my D.Phil. thesis on Roman suburbs more generally). So I'm drawing on that knowledge to put together some stuff for my interview at Reading next week about how the streets of Timgad were used by the local elite to help show the city off to its best advantage. This sort of behaviour will be the essence of my next research project, so I'll be outlining what I plan to do, and demonstrating how some of my ideas can be applied with reference to Timgad.

Just now, though, I had a visitor pop into my office. It was the estate agent I originally rented my flat from this time last year, and who had come to borrow my key from me so that he could show some tenants round who were interested in taking it up in September. I'd been searching for images of Timgad on the web, and this one was up on my screen when he came in, causing him to ask, "Is that a bombed-out German city?". I explained what it actually was, and on closer inspection he could see his mistake, but it had made him think at first of places like Dusseldorf or Dresden (no doubt partly because it is in black and white).

Fearsome to think that human destructiveness can reduce a city in days to what nature takes 1500 years to achieve, though, especially in light of recent events.

EDIT: On the subject of pictures of Timgad, this man is now my new hero. You couldn't mistake that for a bombed-out German city!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC)
From what I've read of the firebombing of German cities in world war two the nearest analogy to it I can think of would have been the destruction of Pompeii, the firestorm having similar effects to the pyroclastic flows, with suffocation killing a great many of the inhabitants while they sheltered:

"Living beings were erased from the world with a deadly wind. In fire bombing as in nuclear war very little blood flows. Rescue workers in Hamburg report that the hurricane-like, blazing gusts of air reached hundreds of people one later found lying naked in the streets. Their skin was allegedly of a brown texture, their hair in good condition, their mucous membranes in their faces dried up and incrusted."


Jul. 14th, 2005 05:57 pm (UTC)
Gosh, how horrible. Yes, that does sounds like Pompeii. All the dust and ash which settled over Manhattan on 9/11 reminded me of Pompeii, too, although without the city-wide pyroclastic surges in that case.

Actually, it's possible Timgad may have suffered some kind of sack in its last years, because there are traces of fire-damage in several parts of the city. But, like most ancient sacks, it obviously wasn't that bad, given what's still left today, and certainly nothing like on the scale of Dresden.
Jul. 14th, 2005 05:53 pm (UTC)
Beautiful pictures.

I wish I could get at that triumphal arch with my camera.
Jul. 14th, 2005 06:02 pm (UTC)
You and me both! I've read so much about that city, but obviously, being in Algeria, it's not now the most accessible of places, and going there can't just be done on a whim.

Still, I'm impressed by what the internet is throwing up. Compared to 1998, when I wrote my dissertation and the 'net was a mere acorn compared to what it is now, the amount of really good quality images I can get my hands on today is incredible. I can enjoy Timgad virtually in a way I just couldn't in 1998: it was all dodgy black and white photos in ancient books back then. I've got a folder of 45 high-quality images now, all hoovered up off the web this afternoon, and some very pertinent to what I want to talk about.

Hooray for the internet!
Jul. 14th, 2005 06:36 pm (UTC)
The Net is wonderful.

It makes the world our oyster.

I hope you'll post more about Timgad. I love anything to do with archaeology (and especially Roman archaeology.)
Jul. 14th, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC)
I'll see what I can do!
Jul. 14th, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC)
I had never even heard of Timgad and am fascinated now.

Gavin dragged me away from Ground Zero squealing "dresden, London, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Hamburg, Pompeii' when the tour guide intoned sonorously that 'no other city on earth has faced this kind of devastation'.
Jul. 15th, 2005 08:38 am (UTC)
Hee-hee - good for you!

Between you and poliphilo, you may well hear more about this over the next few days, now that I know people are interested. Certainly, I personally am really quite fired up about it, because I'm coming up with all sorts of really interesting and concrete stuff I can use for my presentation.
Jul. 15th, 2005 07:44 pm (UTC)
One reason I love living in Lincoln is our Roman heritage. :) And walking up the Steep Hill is always fun. Or watching other people try and do it, even. Heh.
Jul. 15th, 2005 08:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, I haven't forgotten that hill from when I went round the place myself looking at all the Roman bits and pieces!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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