Roman Engineered Landscapes

The endurance of centuriation on landscapes for more than 2000 years might appear quite incredible.

Unlike other types of land division, centuriation was a holistic enterprise with characteristics of incredible modernity that anticipated by two millennia our contemporary understanding of sustainable land design and management. Centuriation built on the engineering strengths of verifying initial local conditions; designing the landscape; predicting performance based on awareness of such design; monitoring such performances in the longer term, and adjusting or redefining designs when needed. Rather than treating landforms, rivers and flora as separate aspects of a territory design, ancient survey commissioners married these aspects throughout all phases of redesign and construction of a landscape.

The processes by which centuriated landscapes were preserved can be remarkably different from one to another but quite often these landscapes consist of both dynamic-evanescent and static-permanent elements. Notwithstanding the impact of centuriation on modern European land organisation, the principles underlying the design approach of ancient surveyors are still undisclosed.

Analysing the long-standing persistence of centuriation and how its components survived and thrive has therefore a key impact on our understanding of modern European landscapes and their conservation.

Last update: 29/08/2022