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Even though Roman architecture was influenced by ancient Greek structures, they are different from each other in many aspects.
The rise of Roman architecture began under the watch of the Roman Republic. However, it reached its peak under the Roman Empire, a period that witnessed the construction of some of the greatest Roman buildings ever built.
It was in this period that Roman architects started to use new technologies like the dome and arch to make buildings stronger and more beautiful.
Even though the timeframe of Roman Architecture is estimated to run from the establishment of the Roman Republic (in 509 B.C.) to the fourth century A.D., only a handful of buildings constructed before 100 B.C. have managed to survive. Most of the outstanding Roman architectural works that we see today, were built after the first century A.D. After the fourth century A.D., though the growth of Roman architecture had ended by that time, the extant buildings kept influencing the architecture of several countries. As a result, Western Europe saw the emergence of Romanesque architecture around 1000. This shows how much European architecture actually depended on ancient Roman structures.
From their intricate designs to their impressive construction, Roman buildings are some of the most fascinating structures in history. So, if you want to learn more about these ancient marvels, keep reading!
In this section, we will discuss the different types of buildings that were created by ancient Roman architecture.
The first type of building is called the amphitheater. It is known for being one of the major works of Roman innovation. Every amphitheater featured a gorgeous basilica and a triumphal arch. Historians have found a total of 200 buildings that fall in this category, and many of them are still in existence, like the Colosseum in Rome and the one that is located at Arles. Amphitheaters were public buildings that were mainly used for convening meetings or conducting bullfights and gladiatorial contests. The first building of this kind dates back to the first century B.C. However, the most spectacular of them were constructed under imperial rule. In this period, these buildings were constructed throughout the Empire, in almost all of the Roman cities. Some of the best ones could accommodate up to 60,000 people. They also had arcaded façades that were decorated with stucco, statuary, and marble. Even though the buildings were massive, they gradually fell into disrepair when animal killings and gladiatorial displays were banned in the sixth and fifth centuries, respectively. Even though many amphitheaters were razed after this, some of them were still in use as open meeting places.
The next great work of ancient Roman Architecture is the Basilica. In ancient Rome, basilicas were used for legal business and transactions. They had no religious significance at all. These stone buildings were used as town halls where various official ceremonies took place, and magistrates held court. Even though these beautiful buildings had spectacular colonnades, they lacked Roman arches. According to the records, Basilica Porcia is the oldest known building of this type. It was constructed by one of the greatest Roman soldiers and senators, Cato the Elder.
The next one on this list is the Roman Circus. This type of architectural work has many similarities with Greek hippodromes, Roman theaters, and amphitheaters. However, there were many differences too, including their different uses. For example, this ancient Roman building was primarily used for hosting horse races, chariot races, and re-enactments of naval battles.
The Roman Forum is the next one on the list. Even though it is not known when this piece of architecture was originally built, the forum went through a lot of changes in the various periods of the Roman Empire. In 63 BC, Romans brought marble to use in the forum for the time. After that, it went through a radical evolution. Some scholars pointed out that during the reign of Augustus, the Roman Forum was much freer and larger than it was during imperial rule. Later, when Caesar came to power, this evolution of the Forum became more intense, as the Roman Emperor had big plans for the market hub. In a book called 'The Roman Forum As Cicero Saw It', the author, Water Dennison, wrote that the forum retained its famous ancient Roman design only because public business was later diverted to nearby imperial fora. Most of the Roman Forums contained a basilica, a temple of Jupiter, public measures, and weigh tables. In addition to that, some Roman baths could also be found in the vicinity.
The Roman temples are the next on this list. These large buildings of religious significance can be considered the richest and most important residue of the Roman Empire. Even though only a handful of Roman temples have managed to survive, every large city had at least one temple to celebrate and give thanks to all the gods. Their meticulous designs and outstandingly built quality confirm the importance of temples in Roman life.
In ancient times, every Roman temple was dedicated to a singular god or multiple gods. The cult image of that deity or deities was situated within the main room of the temple. The Roman temples also contained other rooms that were used to store offerings and equipment for celebrations.
This section of the article will be dedicated to the discussion of various materials that the famous Romans used in their buildings. It will list the main items used to create these beautiful buildings.
One of the main materials used is stone. The Romans were always great admirers of marble and other luxurious stones. Even though there were no nearby sources of marble, they imported them all from Greece. Travertine limestone was available in Tivoli, which was what the Romans used to build the Colosseum.
The next one is the famous roman brick. Roman bricks were clay bricks that were heated in ovens. Romans started making them during the beginning of the Empire. Before that, sun-dried mudbricks were mainly used. Roman bricks were made in various shapes and sizes. On average these bricks were one and a half-Roman feet by one Roman foot. One Roman foot equaled 0.97 ft (0.3 m). The diversity of shapes included round, square, triangle, and rectangular.
The Romans perfected their brick-making skills somewhere in the first century of the Empire. After that, they used this element of construction everywhere. The bricks were introduced to many parts of the Empire by the Roman legions. It is believed that the Roman architect Vitruvius and his traditions influenced the use of the bricks in western and southern Germany. The Romans introduced their bricks as far as the British Isles.
The last material on this list is Roman concrete. With the advent of concrete, the Romans quickly shifted their focus to stronger and more supported constructions. With the help of this material, they started building larger and stronger pillars that could support triumphal arches and gigantic domes. Even though the concrete was not used much by people in Mesopotamia, the ancient Romans loved their concrete and used it on large-scale projects as well as smaller builds.
In this section, we will discuss the city plans of the empire and how buildings were constructed following the plans.
The Romans were very much inspired by Hellenic and Greek structures. The planned cities of the Etruscans might also have some influence over them because the Romans always tended to follow orthogonal structures.
The Romans created both small and large cities throughout the Empire. Almost all of them followed similar structures. The plan began with a central forum that is surrounded by numerous narrow streets. These roman roads were also built in a unique way that reduced travel time. Most of the time, a river flowed through each city, providing transport and drinking water.
In this section of the article, we will discuss the construction standards of Roman architecture.
It is needless to say how meticulous Roman engineering was. Some of the works of Roman architecture were so strong that many buildings, especially the ones built during the imperial rule, still stand today, completely unharmed. It took the Romans centuries to perfect their bricks and concrete. They also imported good-quality marble from Greece and used them to build some of the greatest buildings of all time.
Though arches were very common in ancient civilizations, the design and build quality of the Roman arch and dome have influenced architecture throughout the ancient world, for centuries. You can also see the Roman arch in many modern buildings. Similarly, the invention and use of concrete in Roman times have greatly impacted the modern world and its architecture. The quality of Roman architecture was so astounding that many buildings even survived a great fire in 64 A.D.
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