‘Veduta dell’Arco fabbricato in onore d’Augusto’ by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Library of Congress)
The scope and scale of Mars settlement is so significant that it can defy our intuitions.
Generally speaking, thinking about endeavours on this scale does not come naturally to us. Especially for those that are new to the idea, it can feel detached from practical reality.
The trick to shrinking this unwieldy concept down into an accessible format, is found by thinking a little bigger. We have to consider it within the broader context of history.
In the Northwest corner of Italy, the small valley town of Aosta sits tucked against Switzerland and France. This alpine settlement was once home to a Gallic people known as the Salassi, who were driven out by the Roman empire in 25 BC. To commemorate this victory, the Romans built the Arch of Augustus, a monument that still stands over the city entrance today.
Much later, In the mid-1700s, the artist and archeologist Giovanni Piranesi made an etching of this monument. It portrays a group of 18th century Aostanis shuffling about in the shadow of that then-dilapidated structure.
Two centuries after Piranesi’s death, and shortly before my birth, a print copy ...