Ab Urbe Ef icta: Reconstructing Livy’s Rome

Haley Tilt (Classics, Class of 2016, Reed College)

The works of the Roman historian Livy describe monuments that stood intact, monuments lost, and monuments forever altered by Rome’s changing political landscape. Using modern mapping and visualization technology, I have designed and implemented a website that allows users to visualize these monuments­­present and absent­­that Livy described and historicized.

The website utilizes digital mapping resources allowing users to compare how a monument might have looked in Livy’s era to how it looks today. Incorporating images taken during my recent period of study in Rome, users can visualize how Livy populated new areas of the city over the development of his histories. It also incorporates selections of Livy’s own text in order to encourage users to consider how written narrative, visualization, and geography intersect.

As a Classics major, I came to the project with considerable knowledge about Livy, a good deal of support from the Classics department, but minimal programming skills. In order to bolster these skills, I interned for Reed’s Software Design Studio, a pilot project designed to bring unlikely people into software development. In addition to the mentors from Portland’s tech industry, I was able to collaborate with Reed faculty outside the Classics department, instructional technologists, and librarians. The site was developed with a level of abstraction that will make the project perfect for reuse, both at Reed and at other institutions. And, because the project is open­ source and available on Github, other institutions are free to use and modify my code­­with support from my team­­for their own applications.