The ‘Rome and the Colonial City 2020’ Conference


Rome, following Greek models, spread its power across the Mediterranean by founding hundreds, if not thousands of new cities. Unlike older cities, Athens and Rome included, which evolved over time through a more organic, laissez-faire development, these colonies were based on a grid layout.


Falerii Novi Archeological structure, Credits to Roberta Orsini

That layout then influenced the formation of new city foundations in Medieval Europe, in the New World after 1492, down to its most brazen imitation by Mussolini. What were the ideals that lay behind these new cities, and particularly their grid layout? The grid has both egalitarian, and authoritarian characteristics. This conference pulls together specialists on antiquity, the middle ages and the modern period to question some of the “colonialist” assumptions in the literature, and to look at the changing ways in which antiquity has influenced modern urbanism.


Artwork by Sofia Greaves

The papers span from antiquity through to the twentieth-century. Speakers consider colonial cities from Greek foundations in Italy, to Roman foundations in Italy, from Spanish Latin America in the 16th century, to British North America, Australia, and Africa.

The conference, which is free to attend, will be held over three days in Rome (28-30 January 2020). Papers are organised thematically, so that each day covers antiquity through to the modern period. The first day will focus on theoretical writings about the city in the colonial context; the second looks at colonial foundation as a process of experimentation with urban models; the third looks at the ideological underpinnings of the grid, its use whether for egalitarian ideals or social control.

Days 1 and 2 will be held at the British School at Rome; Day 3 will be hosted by the Dutch Institute (KNIR) across the valley from the BSR.

Papers will be 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of discussion. It is expected that the conference will result in a book publication.

The Project

The ‘Rome and the Colonial City 2020’ Conference is organized by the ‘Impact of the Ancient City Project’ under Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill in Cambridge, funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 693418).

Visit the project website here:

Artwork is by project member Sofia Greaves.