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Roman Architecture

Roman Architecture

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Published by: Shinji on May 18, 2010
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Roman Architecture

Origins of Roman Architecture

As with sculpture, the Romans borrowed heavily from two cultures that they conquered – the Etruscans and the Greeks.

Model of an Etruscan Temple

Origins of Roman Architecture
 

Elements of Roman architecture show very significant Greek influence. However, Roman functional needs sometimes differed, resulting in interesting innovations. The Romans were less attached to “ideal” forms and extended Greek ideas to make them more functional.

Architecture The Maison Carrée at Nîmes

Romans needed interior space for worship, whereas the Greeks worshipped outside. Their solution was to extend the walls outward, creating engaged columns, while maintaining the same basic shape.

Architecture The Maison Carrée at Nîmes

Roman Innovation

To the original Greek orders, the Romans added two:
 

The Tuscan order. The Composite order.

Roman Innovation

Tuscan Order:

Like the Doric, except this one has a base.

Roman Innovation

The Composite order combined elements of both the Ionic and Corinthian. It appears to be Corinthian acanthus leaves, supplemented with volutes.

Roman Innovation

The Romans were the great engineers of the ancient world. Their structures, particularly of public works, were often massive in scale.

Ruins of the Basilica of Constantine

Roman Innovation

The Roman ability to build massively was largely determined by their discovery of slow-drying concrete, made with pozzolana sand. This allowed not only bases, but also walls to be constructed of mainly concrete or concrete and rubble. Facings could be made of more expensive stone or inexpensive brick. The result was strong structures that could be formed in any desirable shape.

Roman Innovation – Massive Building – the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia

The Temple of Fortuna Primigenia was a massive structure, made possible by concrete construction.

Roman Innovation – Massive Building – Baths of Caracalla

Roman baths were the recreation centers of Roman cities, incorporating pools, exercise facilities and even libraries. They could serve hundreds or thousands at a time.

Terme di Caracalla

Roman Innovation – The Arcuated Arch

Romans did not invent this form, but they used it well in bridges, within buildings, and to allow aqueducts to span rivers and gorges.

Roman Innovation – Composite Walls

Note the use of a brick outer facing and a fill of concrete and rubble.

Roman Public Water Supply
Pont du Garde Aqueduct, Nîmes

Roman Public Water Supply

The Romans transported water from far away to cities via aqueducts. Cities themselves were plumbed, providing private water for the rich and for baths and communal supplies for poorer neighborhoods.

Roman Innovation
Entertainment – the Roman Colosseum

Roman Innovation - Public Entertainment

Public spectacles – be they gladiatorial combat or theatrical – were given public venues. Theatres and arenas were built to hold multiple thousands of people and were engineered so as to allow quick and effective entry and exit.

Roman Innovation
Entertainment – Amphitheatre at

Nîmes

Roman Innovation
Worship – The Pantheon

Roman Innovation
Worship – The Pantheon

The magnificent interior space of the Pantheon was achieved by:
 

Employing a dome over a drum. Coffering the dome to reduce weight. Placing an occulus to allow light to enter.

Roman Innovation
Housing - Insulae

Large apartment buildings housed most of the population of a Roman city.

Roman Innovation
Road Building

The need to move legions and trade goods in all weather led to the development of the best roads in the world (to the 19th century).

Roman Innovation
Road Building

Roman Roads Spanned the Empire

Public Buildings – Basilica

Basilica were first built to house audience facilities for government officials. When Christianity became the state religion, this kind of building was adapted to Christian worship.

Public Buildings – Basilica

A large nave is flanked by side aisles behind a row of supporting piers. An Apse draws attention in the direction of the altar.

Conclusion

The Romans were brilliant engineers. Their innovations form the basis of much of our civil engineering today.

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