Greg Woolf (ICS)
The Mediterranean environment posed severe challenges for all projects of pre-modern urbanism. Unreliable rainfall, thin soils and landscapes fragmented by mountains and seas made many of its micro regions perilous places to support concentrations of population. Maritime connectivity faced obstacles from currents, storms and winds making mass evacuations and mass relief efforts equally difficult in times of crisis. The region was also susceptible to epidemics from south of the Sahara and from Asia, to seismic catastrophes caused by the tectonic plate edges that lay beneath the Mediterranean region, and to episodes of fire, flooding and siege experienced by all ancient cities. Despite all this, a series of urban civilizations successfully established themselves during the last millennium BCE and most cities in existence by 500 BCE were still functioning a thousand years later. Indeed many survive today. I will be discussing how sustainable urbanisms were developed around the Middle Sea, and how ancient cities survived both chronic stresses and acute shocks.