a family tree of cities
Here’s a drawing I completed last year but have only just found time to create some prints and write up my thoughts which accompany it. They are a little disjointed, and only a tiny selection of possible cities which could have been included, but these are the ones which were interesting to me and are all connected in some way…
The family tree begins in the top left corner with the Neolithic. Uruk was the largest settlement in Mesopotamia – the birthplace of civilisation. We move through Troy and Memphis, with a brief interlude in Stonehenge, which in 3000BCE was just 56 wooden posts. This stone age era ends in Tyre with the birth of the age of the Phoenicians.
Kish was the first Sumerian city to have kings. At the same time, Caral the most ancient city of the Americas was founded. Ur, once situated on the mouth of the Euphrates, is now well inland. Its great ziggurat was built in 2100BCE in present day Iraq. Around 1800BCE Nomadic Amorite Sheep herders moved into the ancient city of Babylon, a city previously mainly occupied with the pursuit of agriculture. In 1330BCE Tutankhamun moved the capital of Egypt back to Thebes, his father had relocated it Akhetan before him. Beirut was first mentioned in letters from Egyptian Pharaohs, has been continuously inhabited since then. The sheltered harbour of Lisbon became a flourishing Phoenician trading post in 1110BCE. Fenghao, the name given to the settlements of Hàojīng and Fēngjīng, which together formed the capital of the western Chinese Zhou dynasty. The Armaeans arrived in Damascus in 1001BCE and the city became, as Beirut, one of the oldest continually inhabited in the world.
250 years later and moving north, Rome was founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus in 758BCE. Romulus won the argument over where the city should be founded with the site of the Palatine Hill. Persepolis was the capital of the Persian Empire, the earliest remains of which date from 515BCE. Noted for its use of wooden columns and capitals, the city was built upon a terrace which was 125,000 square metres. In 438BCE, the impressive stone temple of Athena, the Parthenon, was constructed on the Acropolis in Athens, a building of immeasurable impact. In the Peloponnesian war, which ended in 404BCE, Sparta was the main enemy of Athens. In the end Athens surrendered. Alexandria was founded in 331BCE by Alexander the Great and was Egypt’s capital for over 1000 years. Fergana was an important outpost on the silk road from China to the west, founded by Greek colonists who had been settled by Alexander the Great. The nomadic Yuezhi tribe migrated through here in 160BCE. They went onto settle and become part of the Kushan empire. Bathinda is one of the oldest Punjab cities and also part of the Kushan Empire in 15CE. Skipping West and over to London, the Romans arrived in 43CE. Londinium would be sacked by Queen Boudicca in little over 10 years later. Pre-empted by a series of major earthquakes in the years before it, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried in 79CE, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, just one day after the festival of Vulcania, the Roman god of fire. Although originally a military colony, Timgad is thought to exhibit the best display of the Roman grid city plan remains of which can still be seen in modern day Algeria.
In the Middle East, Petra becomes the capital of Arabia in 106CE. The city was on a main trading route and its natural topography led to its creation in the style of a fortress, with its classical architecture carved into the rock face, an early form of Facadism. In the second century, the Romans arrived in Louyang, resulting in anarchy and the burning of the Han Capital. Leptis Magna was a prominent Roman City in modern day Libya. Its emperor Lucius Septimius Severus lavished great wealth, the remains of which can still be seen. Around 300CE, the Visigoths began their journey from Visby, Gotland, Sweden to head southwards. In 330CE Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, became the capital of the Roman Empire with the arrival of its Emperor Constantine. In 410CE, the Visgoths made their way to Rome and Rome fell, the first time in almost 800 years that Rome had lost to an enemy.
After the sack of Rome, Europe was submerged in the dark ages. A couple of hundred years later, in 618CE, the focus of development had shifted to the East and Xi’an, in central China, was the world’s largest city. Back in the west, in 866CE, the Vikings invaded Medieval England and York became the centre of the Kingdom of Jorvik. In the 10th Century, Venice became an important trading post along the Adriatic Coast and a crucial link between Western Europe and the Byzantinve Empire. In 1241, Mongols invaded Krakow and the city was completely rebuilt. Just over 10 years later, Copenhagen receives its city charter.
Meanwhile, in the Italian city state of Florence, in-fighting between rival wealthy families led to a decree that each of its 150 towers be torn down. 100 years later Timur Lenk leaves Delhi destroyed, in his mission to resotre the Mongol Empire. In 1440 Vienna, the tradition begins within the Hapsburg Dynasty that the head of the house was also the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 16th Century, the mud-brick towers of Shibam, Yemen, were thought to be part of the world’s first skyscraper city. Although, as we know, with their medieval towers from the 13th century, several Italian cities could also lay claim this honour.
In Edinburgh in 1446, the leader of the Scottish protestant reformation, John Knox, built his house on the Royal Mile. In contrast, it was also around this time that work began on Brunelleschi’s dome, which would become the catalyst for the Renaissance which would revolutionise Europe. A little behind its mediaeval counterparts, Lucca constructed its city walls in 1544, these can still be seen today. Gondar, named the ‘Camelot of Africa’ because of its numerous Imperials Royal castles, was founded in 1635.
William Penn arrives in Philadelphia in 1682. He would go on to design the first modern version of the grid iron city. As Europe was in the throws of the Enlightenment, Dublin established the ‘Wide Streets Commission’ in 1757 to re-shape the old mediaeval city and improve the quality of life for its inhabitants. In 1781, the grid iron plan made its way to Scotland and Glasgow’s grid plan was laid out and construction begun. As a start of the mass Antipodean migration of the British Empire, the first fleet captained by James Cook arrives in Botany Bay, Sydney.
The prototype metre was developed in the Catalan city of Barcelona in 1792. In Aberdeen, Union Bridge was completed, the largest single span granite bridge in the world, part of improvements which would bankrupt the city in the early 19th century. In 1811, the Commissioner’s plan for Manhattan laid out the city in its current grid format. Meanwhile, in 1837, Hoddle completed a survey of the land which would become Melbourne’s central grid. Just a bit further north, in 1851, gold was discovered in Ballarat, Victoria, which led to the gold rush. In 1852, Napoleon meets Georges Eugene Haussman, which would kick start his ambitious renovation of Paris. In 1852 Chicago was struck by the Great Fire. Although a devastating tragedy, it would kickstart its redevelopment into one of America’s most ambitious and successful cities. In 1889, Nellie Bly became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, meeting her forebear Jules Verne in France along the way. She bought a monkey in Singapore.
Welywn Garden City, designed by Ebeneezer Howard in 1920, was part of the UK Garden City movement, spurred on by a desire for cities to combine the benefits of the both the city and the countryside. Champion of the Modern movement, Le Corbusier, designed Chandigarh in the 1950s. In fact, his plan for the city is etched onto each drain cover in the city (that is, if you manage to find one). 1989 marked the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Berlin wall. The East has once again come into the limelight and in 2000, Beijing began construction of its 6th ring road, some 15-20 kilometres from the centre of the city. Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Biejing were proposed as the ‘National Central City’ in 2005, cities in charge of leading and developing the future of China. In 2011, Moscow was home to the most billionaires of any city in the world. And finally in 2012, Tokyo, the capital of Japan, has the largest metropolitan area of any city in the world.