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Basic Roman Architecture



Roman architecture, sculpture and literature were strongly influenced by Greek models. However, the Roman buildings were large and ornate compared to buildings of about the same time. The Roman builders were able to use concrete unlike the Greeks who set the basis of architecture for many civilizations. Another great advantage for the Romans was the use of the semi-circular arches to form vaults and domes, also making normal buildings with archs much stronger.  The great Pantheon shows many examples of these.

Roman builders could not use marble all the time, because it was expensive and there was a limited amount. However there was a plentiful supply of terracotta, stone, and brick. Early in Roman development they invented concrete. It was made by mixing pazzolana, a strong volcanic material with rubble and a mixture of limes. The concrete was used to make walls, domes, vaulted rooves of solid concrete, concrete with brick ribs and faced structure with marble, or mosaic. Tools such as a plumb bob, a bronze square, bronze dividers, bronze foot rule and chisels were used in building.(Coolmine)

Roads were very important to the Roman Empire and they had a great ability to build roads. They were the first to build roads on the foundation basis. The roads were paved and they had ditches on either side so water could run off. There are roads still standing which were built by the Romans. They were wide enough to take a Roman chariot with two horses. There were laybys to let other chariots past. Roads were used often and we know this because of the grooves left by the chariots. Communication was good in the Roman Empire due to the roads so architectural ideas spread fast.(Coolmine)


One of the main uses of the arch was to build aqueducts which carried water from the hills to big tanks or cisterns in the cities. They contained pipes lined with cement, on the top of the arches, which carried the water. The pipes were covered to stop the water evaporating and to prevent contamination in the water. Smaller architectural works included euphoric arches, pillars of victory, and fountains. Arches and pillars were built to recognize the great achievements of emperors and generals.


In Rome there were the Arches of Titus, (built to celebrate the capture of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Emperor Titus) the Arches of Constantine, Septimus Severus, at Ancona the Arch of Trajan and many more. They were usually decorated with sculptured pictures or scenes. Columns of Carinthiann or composite style were built as part of the arch. The most famous pillar of victory in Rome is Trajan's Column. This is a Roman Doric style pillar, 155 feet high.


The Romans built hundreds of fountains in their cities, which were public and private. The fountains were made because the Romans loved running water, the cool spray, and also they were built in memory of events and distinguished people. Many fountains were devoted to certain gods, just like altars. In a typical town in the Roman Empire, the wealthy people lived in large houses while the ordinary Romans lived in blocks of flats called insulas.


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