The movement of people, animals, and vehicles through the ancient urban environment had a significant impact on the shape of ancient cities, but as an object of study, urban traffic is a relatively recent area of interest, one that has tended to focus on the Roman world. The range of methods available to consider the topic, however, are relatively many, including literary analysis, archaeological field survey, and a battery of technical methods, such as Space Syntax, Network Analysis, and Agent-Based Modeling. In all of these approaches, two models of movement—pedestrian and vehicular—remain paramount. The results of studying urban traffic have shed new light on the impact of different forms of urban design, the ways in which ancient people navigated those designs, and norms and formal systems in place in urban environments to order the movement of people and vehicles.
Whether on foot or borne by animals or vehicles, the movement of people and goods through ancient cities shaped those cities and the lives of those within them. The clustering of humble shopfronts on commercial streets and the monumental facades of processional routes alike owe their character to the passage of people moving for different purposes along their lengths. Indeed, as one of the most common elements of everyday urban life, interest in wheeled and pedestrian traffic consequently has become more defined in the classical world as greater attention is paid to non-elites and their material culture. Urban traffic is in fact another window onto everyday life, opening up opportunities to examine the reciprocal effects of city plans and their architectural elaborations on the political, economic, and social landscapes draped over them.