02 Lecture: From Constantine’s Rome to the Leonine City

From Constantine to Leo III by way of Gregory I

Population:  A fraction of its former size. Why?

  • Pandemic: Plague (Black Death) 540s
  • No longer a capital; end of senate   6th c
  •  State, public buildings not needed

Example: Crypta Balbi area

So who does continue to live in the city?

  • Local business and tradespeople
  • The wealthy:  big landowners
  • Some administrators from Byzantium before ca 700
  • Poor people
  • Clerics



  • Ancient: villa, farm manager, slaves or coloni; commodity agriculture; owners in cities
  • 312+ pious donations to churches
  •  680s: spread of Islam: estates in N. Africa lost
  • Rented:  emphyteusis

Gregory I b. ca 540; 590-604

  • Rome a duchy under exarch of Ravenna
  • Lombards: a relatively new presence
  • violence in countryside
  • Gregory and other popes assume tasks Byzantines lack staff to perform
  • More social welfare tasks

Rome’s urban space

Housing: clustered

Forum area: much less reason to use it

Comparison: modern Detroit

New construction: Churches

Krautheimer map Constantine

Krautheimer map Gregory I

Carolingian era

New construction:   Santa Prassede, Zeno Chapel


Papal and city administrative center: St John Lateran

Triclinium of Leo III reconstructed apse

view early 17th c showing older appearance of square

St. Peter’s: major center for pilgrims

New walls (848-52) named for Leo IV