Urban planning     Urban environment

Urban planning in the Early Byzantine period
  In the Early Byzantine period, cities were the centres of administration, economy and culture, and provided the monumental mundane surroundings that were considered an essential part of civilized life. The physical aspect of the Early Byzantine city was that of a Roman city. It was often walled and laid out as regularly as the terrain permitted. Broad streets met at right angles. The two main avenues, the Roman cardo and decumanus, were often bordered with covered colonnades that sheltered shops, and decorated with monumental arches at their intersections. The so-called Byzantine Shops at Sardis illustrate the use of the porticoed street in Early Byzantine urbanism. Similar constructions and the bustling activity they housed have been captured in the street life scenes of the Megalopsychia mosaic at Antioch. Religious and civic centres were grouped around open squares. Baths, theatres and, in larger cities, hippodromes provided entertainement. Monumental fountains, statues and paintings adorned the public buildings and places. Basic needs were served by aqueducts, cisterns and granaries, while extensive cemeteries, monasteries, and villas lay outside the city walls. Gradually, magnificent churches heralded the change from the pagan to the Christian Roman Empire, and marked the urban landscape. The representation of Jerusalem on the Madaba map graphically portays the importance of churches, with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Nea and several other churches specifically depicted.
  The Early Byzantine empire saw itself as an aggregate of cities, most of which were of ancient origin. Constantinople grew out of a small Severan town into a huge and splendid imperial capital; Ephesus, Sardis and Antioch were ancient and prosperous provincial foundations. Cities built in the Early Byzantine period where no previous settlement of importance had existed before represent a much smaller category. Among these artificial creations, all of which had a short life-span, Caricin Grad is a fine sixth-century example. Its antique urban planning was adapted to the demands of its time: it has no civic buildings of traditional type or places of entertainement, but is dominated instead by large churches.
  Urban life held strong in the Early Byzantine period, with public works and services maintained and revitalized through imperial and private patronage. In the sixth century, however, the ancient urban regularity tends to disappear. Open spaces are progressively cluttered with shoddy commercial constructions, as in Caricin Grad. Booths were set up in the colonnades at Ephesus and Sardis. Buildings were extended into streets, or adapted to new purposes, or simply left in ruins. Natural calamities, barbaric invasions, and the fading of civil institutions accelerated the decline of eastern cities. Activities became increasingly diversified and markedly rural, with artisans moving from the periphery to the city centre and live stock kept inside the houses.

See also: Constantinople; Sardis; Antioch; Caricin Grad