Ancient Rome Architecture Facts That Will Surprise You | Kidadl


Ancient Rome Architecture Facts That Will Surprise You

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The revolutionary Roman architecture of ancient times influences construction even today.

Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Etruscans all had extravagant monumental architecture. However, ancient Roman architecture is fundamentally different from the rest of these styles.

The ancient Roman empire was one of the largest in ancient times. It was established in the year 27 BC and centered around the city of Rome. The empire originated from the banks of the Tiber river in Italy. It further spread across the neighboring continents and around the Mediterranean Sea. Roman architectural design and scientific inventions continue to influence the world even to this day.

Facts about ancient Rome architecture take us by surprise and can be pretty intriguing. Continue reading this article to learn more surprising facts on the Roman architecture of ancient times. Also, you may enjoy reading the fun facts articles on ancient Roman food facts and ancient Roman clothes facts here on Kidadl.

Roman Architecture Characteristics

The Roman empire replaced the Roman republic that began in the fifth century BC. Soon after establishing the Roman republic, the architects drew influences from the Etruscans and the Greeks. They absorbed and synthesized the earlier style of buildings and adapted the previous building types to the urban needs. While the Greek, Persian, and other architectural styles primarily focused on the external grandeur, Roman architecture focused on creating interior spaces that were previously unheard of.

Most other architectural styles used the post and lintel construction system where they used simple vertical columns or posts and a horizontal block called the lintel. The lintels were heavy and occupied the interior space. Hence, they were concerned about external impressiveness. However, ancient Roman architecture was different from this tradition. Romans were more inclined towards making impressive interior spaces than merely making structural supports. Several complex structures developed around the Roman era. They were known for their efficient engineering, design, and impressive interior spaces with vaults and arches. Let us find more about the characteristics of Roman architecture.

Ancient Greeks used Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic architecture. Later, ancient Romans adopted these styles with modifications and used them in their constructions in the first century BC. These have been in use in western architecture ever since. One of the most significant characteristic features of Roman architectural design was the combination of trabeated and articulated construction. Such structures had the post and lintel system of construction where arches were employed between the columns. However, the Roman arches eventually became the chief element in the structures, and the columns merely served as decoration or as buttresses to support the structure.

The invention of concrete in the second century BCE was a significant milestone in architecture. Romans were the first to construct buildings using concrete. The building material was made of lime, volcanic sand, tufa, marble, pumice, and bricks mixed into mortar. The Romans gained mastery in using concrete, and this can be called the Roman architecture introduction. The strength of concrete, flexibility, ease of use, and low cost made construction much more manageable.

Concrete could easily be molded into any shape and enabled the Roman architects to design interior spaces without other interior support. The cross or groined vault, the barrel vault ( also called the wagon vault or the tunnel vault), the dome, and the semi-dome were some of the complex architectural elements used to design the interior spaces. The use of concrete in construction was initially deployed in the ancient Roman town of Cosa after 273 BCE. Soon concrete led to widespread Roman architectural innovations as the Romans were freed from using building materials such as traditional stones and bricks in construction. Many Roman structures have survived till today, thanks to the use of concrete. The Baths of Caracalla, the Pantheon, and the Basilica of Constantine in Rome are pretty prominent. 

The concrete structures of Rome had survived the great fire in Rome during the period of emperor Nero in 64 AD. The concrete structures could manage to survive the powerful fire that almost destroyed two-thirds of Rome. Emperor Nero rebuilt Rome in measured lines of streets, with large open spaces. He widened the narrow streets and restricted the heights of buildings. Wooden constructions were banned, and several new structures, markets, and amphitheaters were built.

Why was roman architecture important?

Rome's everlasting culture and architecture are reasons that put it among the most prominent civilizations of ancient times. Hundreds of years after the decline of the Roman empire, the architectural marvel of Romans still stands tall, against all tests. Several cities of Europe and the west bear the influence of Roman power till today.

Roman architecture remained at its pinnacle during the Pax Romana period, regarded as the golden age of Roman imperialism. For around 200 years, from 27 BC to AD 180, ancient Romans made their innovations in architecture that still influence constructions of the modern world. The architecture was the most vital factor behind Rome's glory and success. Formal buildings such as the Roman temples, basilicas, amphitheaters are symbols of the empire's glory.

Aqueducts were channels built by the Romans to carry water into the cities. Roman aqueducts are found in modern-day Spain, France, Turkey, Greece, and North Africa. The construction of aqueducts needed immense planning. Tunnels, pipes, and canals were used in making the aqueducts which transported fresh water from natural sources like a lake to densely populated large cities. This water was used for domestic purposes, farming, and also for fountains and Roman baths. Primarily the aqueducts helped Romans to keep away human waste and other pollutants from their drinking water. Many aqueducts were built throughout the empire, such as the Aqueduct of Segovia and the Pont du Gard, to name a few.

Roman temples give us a glimpse of sophisticated Roman architecture. The Roman temple was a mixture of Etruscan and Greek models. Though the Greek structures looked similar to these, the Roman temples were more spacious. Greek temples could be approached from any side, but the Roman temple could only be entered from the front. The basilica, resembling a court hall, served administrative functions. The Ulpia basilica, constructed by emperor Trajan in the early part of the second century AD, is the best example.

Triumphal Arches were constructed to commemorate military victories. The largest triumphal arch that survives is the Arch of Constantine. It was constructed to celebrate the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, a battle between the Roman Emperors Maxentius and Constantine I in 312. Roman bridges are in use even today. The Alcántara Bridge across River Tagus in Spain is one of these wonderful constructions. Roman Emperor Trajan had it completed at the start of the second century AD.

Various other buildings that were meant for public utility had their significance in Roman life. Roman roads and bridges facilitated easy transportation and communication in the empire. Many of the roads were paved in stone, and they connected the territories from three different continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa. Several of these roads are still in use in Britain. Large walls protected the Roman cities that acted as administrative centers. The amphitheaters acted as arenas for public entertainment. They still stand tall in many European cities. The Colosseum, which is the grandest and most famous amphitheater, is over 1900 years old. These amphitheaters were the places where the most famous gladiator games were held. These architectural marvels play a significant role in unifying the empire.

Roman Construction Techniques

Archaeologists and historians greatly depend on the techniques used in buildings and constructions of ancient structures to get a good deal of idea about the rulers, the lifestyle, people, aesthetic sense, and other factors. Studying these buildings helps us understand the economic factors, the chronology of the structures, masonry skills, and techniques. Ancient Roman architectural techniques span over some time, from about 509 BC to Late Antiquity. Some of the methods in the architecture of Roman buildings were adopted by Etruscans and Greeks. However, Roman architecture differed from their traditional construction style with the post and lintel system. Along with exterior grandeur, the Romans focused on making impressive interior spaces. The arches and the vaults were classic exhibits of Roman engineering.

The invention of concrete was a significant breakthrough in engineering. Concrete made it easy for the architects to design the interiors with any shape. The vaulting techniques with simple geometrical forms displayed excellence in structural engineering. The vaults were covered with stucco or tiles. The widespread use of architectural structures such as arches, vaults, and domes in Rome was termed the Roman architectural revolution, also called the Concrete revolution.

The vital factor in this development was the invention of Roman concrete or opus caementicium, which changed the use of traditional building materials such as stones and bricks. Constructing using stones required skilled stonemasons, designers, and artisans. However, concrete allowed the builders to easily make more complex structures and impressive buildings compared to cut stone blocks and bricks. Numerous aqueducts, bridges, roads, temples, basilicas were constructed using the same concept.

A few of the most important ideas brought by Romans to architecture in ancient Rome are the use of concrete in construction, the true arch, and baked bricks. The invention of concrete made it simple for the construction of these features. Romans used concrete about 2000 years back. The concrete of those days was not as strong as that of modern times, yet, several Roman constructions have survived for several centuries and are still strong. The secret behind this is the crucial ingredient in making concrete.

Roman concrete was made using a specific process. Initially, limestone was burned to produce quicklime, which was added to water to make a paste. One part of lime paste was mixed into three parts of volcanic ash. The reaction between the ingredients created a mortar. This durable mixture was combined with tuff. This concrete was used to build structures such as domes and vaults.

Ancient Roman architecture was greatly inspired by ancient Greeks.

What is roman architecture famous for?

Romans added their innovations to the ancient Greek classic architecture to construct various formal and public utility buildings. The styles used between 509 BC to the 4th Century AD, which we collectively call Roman architecture, have their roots in Greek, Etruscan models, and classic architectural styles. However, the innovations that Romans brought in their constructions are what make them unique and famous.

Roman architecture is known for its architectural features such as arches, vaults, domes, and semi-domes. Roman temples, amphitheaters, aqueducts, bathhouses (thermaes), atriums, roads, brick walls, and many other constructions display the magnificence of Roman engineering. Stone buildings had art carvings depicting and famous Roman events and battles. In 27 BCE, Roman emperor Augustus initiated a program to repair the old monuments and construct new ones. The builders used volcanic ash from Pozzolane Rosse or pozzuolana, which erupted from the Alban Hills volcano 456,000 years ago. The concrete made with this ash deposit was durable and bonded well. This robust material was the secret behind the constructions that have survived several centuries.

Another notable feature in the architecture of ancient Rome is the advanced sewage system. Roman citizens had a wonderful plumbing system with indoor latrines, pipes, and aqueducts, which aided the supply of fresh water and waste removal. The Cloaca Maxima, which is the earliest sewage system in the world, is one of the most significant examples of an excellent drainage mechanism in ancient Rome. Etruscans originally built it as an open canal. Later during the Roman period, the canal was covered and converted to an underground sewer. It is a display of healthy sanitary conditions during Roman times.

One of the amazing examples of Roman architecture is the Pantheon. It houses the world's largest unsupported dome made of concrete. The name Pantheon means the temple of all the Gods. However, in the seventh century, it was converted into a Christian church.

World popular constructions such as the temple of Venus and Rome, Roman Colosseum, temple of Bacchus, stadium of Domitian, Roman Forum, house of the Faun, Pont du Gard, Pantheon, Mausoleum of Hadrian, Domus Aurea, and Arch of Titus stand tall announcing the greatness of Roman architecture.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for ancient Rome architecture facts, then why not take a look at ancient Roman government facts or ancient Roman religion facts?

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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