Scale and Metabolism in Ancient Cities

  • Joseph TainterEmail author


Ancient cities were like modern ones in some important ways and unlike them in others. Both have consisted of dense agglomerations in which people live in ways that are unprecedented in human history. Despite their points of similarity, scale and metabolism distinguish ancient cities from modern ones. Using the examples of Athens, Rome, and Pompeii, this chapter explores how these cities appropriated energy sources, how they employed time-shifting of energy through debt, and how together these allowed ancient cities to grow but also constrained their scale, unlike sprawling cities of today.


Complexity Energy Exchange Urban metabolism Urbanism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment and SocietyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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