Lecture 6. Empire Building: Rome and Central America

This lecture is the first of a sequence of two lectures that focus on the building of empire, looking at the empires established in Rome, China and Central (or Meso-) America. We will look at the architectural forms and effects on the built environment of these political systems. In the case of Rome and China we are discussing vast territorial holdings and long durations - and we have a great deal of information about each of these empires. The situation in Central America differs in that we have far less knowledge of the cultures that controlled areas of central Mexico -in the west- and the Yucatan Peninsula -to the east, but here too we find civilizations of long duration. We also find some common traits within the built environments of these areas. And, importantly, we have evidence of city and empire building at a far earlier date than was once understood. Building and infrastructure were one key to establishing empire: roadways, water sources. Equally important was the establishment of clearly defined cosmological understandings within a culture - these then were inscribed upon the built environment. And a given political entity could then establish and make visible its territorial control through the replication of these forms. We can talk about the ancient Roman, Chinese and Mayans building in their own image, leaving a mark of dominion across the landscape. How each of these cultures did so is the topic of today's and next lectures.

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Lecture Notes