Geography / Natural Features / Topography
The natural features of Rome's location had an impact on all stages of its development. The river and topography determined the location and "layering" of the city, the volcanic history of the area led to a stronger building material for the empire, and the marshes and hills affected the direction of Roman expansion in the 1900s.
RIVER. The location of the city is almost wholly based on the river and the place where the river was most crossable (Tiber Island).
The river is also responsible for the "layering" of the city. The Campo Marzio area (flat peninsula area in center of Image 1, which is the historic core of Rome) has flooded many times throughout history and is deeply layered (up to 25' in some locations). Layers were built up over 1000s of years from a combination of alluvial deposits (especially in medieval times when the city was all but abandoned), and the fact that many buildings in Rome collapsed on themselves and were later used as foundations for new buildings. (Bourne Chronicles, 2011)
The flood of 1870, just as Rome was again becoming the capital of Italy, spurred the building of the four-story walls that now line the Tevere (built 1876-1926). No significant flooding has occurred since that time. (Bourne, 2012)
HILLS. Rome was first founded on the Capitoline Hill - one of the Seven Hills of Rome (seen in Image 1). Today the Seven Hills are shallower and lower than in beginning from 1000's of years of landslides, silting and human building projects. (Mueller, 1997)
Topography was a factor in the direction of settlements as they expanded outward after unification. The Sabatini hills to the west blocked settlement until technology was available to easy building on hillsides (highlighted in Image 2). A critical housing shortage after WWII, along with Marshall Aid funds coming in from the US, led to building on this hilly rugged land so close to the center of the city. The rising costs of land so close to the urban center had finally surpassed the cost of doing construction in difficult areas. (Karabenick, 1963).
MARSHLAND. Little-to-no growth occurred in the south west section of the city because much of the land between the urban core and the coast was unusable marsh land and plagued with malaria. (Karabenick, 1963) This marsh restricted development until Mussolini embarked on the enormous project of draining the marsh. This marshland is likely the reason why Rome was founded inland, not on the
OIL & GAS. In the late 1940s and 1950s, oil and natural gas were discovered in multiple places throughout Italy. This further spurred the growth that was already occurring in Italy during this time. (Hearder, 1990)
VOLCANOES. The Mediterranean peninsula (Italy today) has contained over 50 volcanoes throughout time. Today there are three active and ten dormant volcanoes in the country, two of which are near Rome. Volcanic ash was one of the keys to the development of a critical component of the success of ancient Rome: concrete.
The presence of volcanoes also influenced the success of certain agriculture practices, most notably vineyards and olive farms, as they thrive in soils rich in potassium and
other minerals left after eruptions.