Ancient Roman architecture  

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The Appian Way as it appeared in Piranesi's imagination (1756), from Le Antichità Romane.
The Appian Way as it appeared in Piranesi's imagination (1756), from Le Antichità Romane.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Architecture of Ancient Rome adopted the external Greek architecture for their own purposes, which were so different from Greek buildings as to create a new architectural style. The two styles are often considered one body of classical architecture. Sometimes that approach is reproductive, and sometimes it hinders understanding by causing us to judge Roman buildings by Greek standards, particularly when we take a point of view limited to external appearance almost alone.

Certainly, the Romans absorbed Greek influence in many aspects closely related to architecture, for example in the introduction and use of the Triclinium in Roman villas as a place and manner of dining. But at this point so too should we note Roman indebtedness to their Etruscan neighbours and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for their future architectural solutions, for example in terms of hydraulics and in the construction of arches.

Adopting this broader view of architecture we can see that social elements such as wealth and high population densities in cities forced the ancient Romans to discover new (architectural) solutions of their own. For example, the use of vaults and arches together with a sound knowledge of building materials enabled them to achieve unprecedented successes in the construction of imposing structures for public use. Examples include the aqueducts of Rome, the Baths of Diocletian and the Baths of Caracalla, the Pantheon, Rome (largest single span dome for well over a millennium), the basilicas and perhaps most famously of all, the Colosseum. They were reproduced at smaller scale in most important towns and cities in the Empire. Some survivals are almost complete, such as the town walls of Lugo in Hispania Tarraconensis, or northern Spain.

Political propaganda demanded that these buildings should be made to impress as well as perform a public function. The Romans didn't feel restricted by Greek aesthetic axioms alone in order to achieve these objectives. The Pantheon is a supreme example of this, particularly in the version rebuilt by Hadrian and which still stands in its celestial glory as a prototype of several other great buildings of Western architecture. The same emperor left his mark on the landscape of northern Britain when he built a wall to mark the limits of the empire, and after further conquests in Scotland, the Antonine wall was built to replace Hadrian's Wall.

List of buildings, features and types of buildings

Public architecture

Public buildings

Private architecture

Civil engineering

Military engineering

Architectural elements

See also

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