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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ancient Rome rises again ... stay tuned for its fall

A team of scholars and computer experts has created a simulation of ancient Rome that will help give visitors a sense of the city's architecture and living arrangements circa 320 AD. The creators refer to the site as a form of virtual time travel, and it could easily set a precedent for recreations of other places and eras.

It's been said that "history is written by the victors," but maybe that old saw will have to be revised to "history is recreated by the computer geeks." It will be interesting to see what other projects flow from this. Will there be competing versions of the same virtual worlds told from different perspectives? Will the presenters try to slant the portrayals of the simulated places to promote a particular political or philosophical world? Time will tell ... and the nature of the technology ensures that the possibilities are endless.

Personally, I would find it much more interesting if such a simulation was presented as a MMORPG (massively mutiplayer online role playing game, for the non-geeks out there) such as Second Life, where people could attempt to live virtually in that time and place. Of course, if such a virtual society were allowed to develop on its own, we might see it diverge quite noticably from the actual history. Maybe someone will create virtual Barbarian hordes to precipitate the fall of Rome once again.

You can learn more about the project at the Rome Reborn 1.0 Website

Here is an excerpt from the AP story on the Washington Post website:

Ancient Rome Is Rebuilt Digitally
By ARIEL DAVID, The Associated Press

ROME -- Computer experts on Monday unveiled a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320 — what they called the largest and most complete simulation of a historic city ever created.

Visitors to virtual Rome will be able to do even more than ancient Romans did: They can crawl through the bowels of the Colosseum, filled with lion cages and primitive elevators, and fly up for a detailed look at bas-reliefs and inscriptions atop triumphal arches.

"This is the first step in the creation of a virtual time machine, which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome and many other great cities around the world," said Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia, who led the project.

Read the full article
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