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Were Cities in Ancient Rome Dangerous

In: Historical Events

Submitted By henryw
Words 748
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Taken from 2010 past paper

‘City life in Roman Italy was dangerous.’
How far does your study of city life in Roman Italy support this view?
In your answer you should:
· consider in what ways life in Roman cities might be dangerous;
· include analysis of the level of dangers in different cities;
· support your answer with evidence from Pompeii, Ostia and
Herculaneum. [45]

There were few ways in which people could come under harm in ancient Rome as though it was not as developed as the world we live in now, there was still order. The events that would cause people to feel in danger were natural disasters, riots, fires, floods, and rarely an attack by a killer whale. Pompeii and Herculaneum suffered the most from natural disasters. They were struck by two severe events, one of which causing the demise of both cities. The first of which was the earthquake in AD 62, which cause widespread damage. The epicentre of this earthquake was more towards Pompeii but it was felt for miles, even causing damage in Ostia. The damage that the earthquake caused can still be seen in Pompeii as the some findings are still in a state of repair. Because of this earthquake, buildings such as Insula blocks were limited to two stories in their repair. This was so any further earthquakes wouldn’t cause damage to the same extent. The second, and more important natural disaster to strike the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum was the eruption of mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The effects of this disaster were devastating. The ash from this eruption left the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum covered in ash for thousands of years and killed anyone who was still in their homes at the time of the eruption. The danger of this eruption can be observed in Pliny the younger’s account of what happened to his uncle. He explains how he saw a giant ash cloud rise from the volcano and that when his uncle, pliny the elder, went to rescue people from a nearby town he was overcome by toxic fumes and barraged by falling ash. The extent of the danger can be seen by the fact that Pliny the elder who had gone on a rescue mission had died himself because of it. But Pompeii wasn’t just subject to natural disasters; it suffered damage from a riot also. The riot occurred at an event at the amphitheatre. It was between fans from a neighboring town of Nuceria and the Pompeian fans. Fighting started and it spread to the streets. It is safe to assume that hundreds of people died in this riot and because of this, games at the amphitheatre were banned for ten years, this was in AD 56. This would have been very dangerous for all citizens in attendance. Ostia suffered its fare share of danger as well. It was subject to numerous floods. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that buildings were raised so that they weren’t damaged by floodwater. Another problem in Ostia was fires. There is evidence that fires occurred in the fireman’s barracks in Ostia. This was needed to protect the granaries as grain needed to be so dry there were often fires. This is another reason for the elevated floors. Danger from fires was increased to those living in insula blocks on the upper floors as there would only have been one exit. The final danger that Ostia faced was a killer whale in its waters. During the reign of Claudius a killer whale was spotted in Ostia. This whale was capable of killing humans and so was considered to dangerous to live and Claudius ordered its death. Though it is obvious that danger was prevalent in ancient roman cities, we can also see that it wasn’t too dangerous in most cases, excluding the natural disasters. For one Pompeii was a very wealthy town and so could have been seen as safe. Also Pompeii and Ostia too were well-organised cities. They had a stable political system and controlled well. They had protection against disasters as evidence by the fireman’s barracks in Ostia. Finally the towns were well built. The styles of building used can be identified and seen as safe and sturdy. In conclusion, due to the time that they lived in and the lack of technology, ancient roman cities were dangerous. But they were managed well and so that danger was contained and it wasn’t extrem…...

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