Event 70

2,210 years ago (200 B.C.)

Pont du Gardin France is a Roman aqueduct built circa 19 BC. It is a World Heritage Site and one of France’s top tourist attractions.
Credit: Photo by ChrisO, courtesy of Wikipedia.

What does it take to ’build a city’? Early villages and cities started to develop fairly impressive size and complexity soon after the start of the “urban revolution,” with large clusters of buildings, including residences, palaces, and temples. There are many examples of impressive building complexes in a number of early civilizations, including Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, Dynastic Egypt, and Classical Greece. But it was around 2,000 years ago that some societies developed and organized great engineering projects to help bolster their sprawling cities and empires. We can see such large-scale urban planning and construction for instance in ancient Rome, with projects such as the Coliseum and the elaborate systems of roads and aqueducts that connected many parts of the Roman Empire. But at about the same time, other civilizations were also developing equally elaborate projects, such as the massive task of connecting and bolstering fortifications into what eventually came to be known as the “Great Wall of China by the first emperor of China, Qinshihuang, who also built himself an elaborate tomb filled with terra cotta soldiers and horses.

Such large-scale projects became much more common and widespread around the world as complex societies emerged and enlarged in many parts of the world over time. Later examples of large-scale urban planning and civil engineering include Medieval Europe, the Ottoman Empire of Turkey, the Mogul Empire of India, later dynasties of China, the Khmer Empire of Southeast Asia, the Mayan and Aztec Empires of Mesoamerica, and the Incan Empire of Peru.




Such engineering and urban planning projects are typical of the world most of us live in today, and they got their start in these early civilizations about 2,000 years ago. Such monumental projects are testaments to the ingenuity of humans and human society in building a world around themselves to suit their needs. But they are also are reminders that such elaborate projects don’t guarantee long-term survival of the cultures that build them, as we can see in crumbling remains of ancient Roman roads and aqueducts.




This webpage discusses the history of civil engineering.

This is a webpage about the history and heritage of civil engineering.

This is an overview of ancient engineering and how it’s developed.




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