Sunday, November 3, 2019

And the Sun Went Down on Rome

Sunset is a natural break in activity. Dinner is done, the fire is lit and it's time to settle down around the campfire.

Unless you stirred up a mess of orcs at noon. Then they are coming to get you. Or you have to hike through a particularly bad neighborhood to get to the Inn.

Ancient Rome, after Julius Caesar had a special hell. If you have ever seen a Roman city, you'd expect that everything was all orderly and right angled. That is true for everywhere except Rome itself. In the 390s or 380s BC, Rome was sacked and burned by the Gauls. Most people would have given up at that point and the sun would have set on their civilization. But not the Romans. Orders were given to rebuild the city as quickly as possible and that threw the normally orderly Romans into a tizzy of building. There was exactly zero planning.

By the time of Julius Caesar, Romans had private chariots and coaches, in addition to equines and all the wagons and carts needed for industry. The streets of Rome were packed with vehicles and animals that take far more strength to operate than a modern vehicle. Being an Absolute Ruler is wonderful. Julius ordered an end to carts and wagons during daylight hours. All carriages and chariots were limited to the last two hours of daylight.

And with one law, the streets of Rome were safer. In daylight, that is. At night, in the dark, all of those carts, wagons, horses, mules, chariots and carriages were unrestricted, making the city a death trap for pedestrians. Anyone without some sort of conveyance would dash home before dark, before the streets became dangerous.

Crime was probably pretty low at night. What right minded villain would risk their own life out on the streets with all that vehicle traffic?

There were excepts for specific classes of traffic during daylight hours: Priests, Vestal Virgins, and Triumphing generals could ride during the day. The Romans were all about holy days or holidays, so festivals processions were exempted, too. At various times, construction contractors had the right to travel in daylight to make city improvements.

Some roads were so narrow, that they were closed to vehicles day and night. This was done with stone pillars, rather than signs. Other roads were so narrow that only one vehicle could pass. The Romans didn't have one way streets, they sent runners ahead to block travel. As you can imagine, this would cause some conflict.

In my next post, we'll talk about time, city services and police in ancient Rome. 

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