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A virus, as it is being seen, has exposed the hidden dark sides of cities. It has defaced the apparent splendour of the city life, revealing the true stages of poverty, starvation, violence, selfishness and other heartless characteristics in them! Greg Woolf’s publication ‘The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History‘ (Oxford University Press) is quite relevant in today’s world, as it portrays the contemporary reality. Woolf, the English Archaeologist, is one of the foremost experts on ancient civilisations…

Human Beings had socialised themselves only after establishing Rural Societies in the beginning of civilisation. The Rural Societies, in turn, had gone through many evolution processes before the birth of Urban Civilisation. Exactly how the Urban Civilisation was born? In this book, Woolf has tried to find an answer to the question regarding the birth of Urban Civilisation. The concept of Urbanisation dates back to the foundation of the Roman Civilisation, claims the author. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, the population of Rome stood at almost 0.3% of the Global Population. Woolf discusses, in a scientific way, the dangers of natural disasters, epidemics and internal strife in large cities, like Rome.

Meanwhile, Woolf believes that it was not Rome, but Uruk (currently in Iraq) – the remains of which have been unearthed, concerning the Sumerian Civilisation – was the first City. In addition to the formation and destruction of the city of Uruk, his publication contains the natural history of the cities of Mohenjo-daro, Jerusalem and Jericho, Pompeii, Alexandria and the Byzantine Empire. Readers get various pieces of information on subjects, like plague, insect infestation, unequal distribution of resources, famine, population, water resources and even about production of crops around those cities.

Greg Woolf

The author has further claimed that whenever the Urban Civilisation created a distance with Rural Civilisation, the very existence of the former was in serious crisis! Although Woolf has mostly discussed the scientific reasons of the destruction in cases of the Ancient and Medieval Cities, his model is, in a way, equally applicable to the happenings in the present world. COVID-19 Pandemic, the terrible reality of 2020, has taught the Humankind that the Urban Civilisation is yet to learn lessons from Nature, but is destroying the Nature for its own development, thus, driving itself towards extinction!

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