What Architecture Did The Romans Invent

Romans have invented some of the most iconic architecture of all time – structures which have stood the test of time both through their sheer resilience and also their unique aesthetic. The Roman Empire was one of the most influential forces for civilization during their wave of expansion, and their architecture has had an equally big effect on establishing the foundations for modern day architecture. While classic Roman architecture such as domes, arches and the basic design of most city squares remain to this day, there was much more to it than what meets the eye.

The classic arch has become synonymous with Roman architecture and engineering but this style was pioneering when the Romans invented it. This new structure had the structural capability to support heavier weight and it allowed the Romans to achieve much larger features. By concentrating the weight of an object onto the two sides of the arch, they achieved a much more structurally sound design which allowed far more extravagant engineering feats compared to structurally unsupported designs.

The dome, another of the iconic structures attributed to Romans, was also a unique design which offered a distinct style to structures. By placing a circle of stones under the dome, they were able to provide both an incredibly supportive structure and give a unique effect to create different shaped buildings. This feature is also seen in other classic Roman structures, such as the Pantheon, which feature a large central dome as the main attraction.

But it was the attention to detail and the approach to architecture which made the real difference to the legacy left by the Romans. The typical ‘Roman style’ of architecture included grand maisonettes for the wealthiest, long streets of luxury shopping avenues, efficient and open public squares, grand and imposing statues, an abundance of fountains and other public displays of wealth. The idea of well laid-out public spaces and roads was taken from the Romans and is still seen in modern day cities today, although their vision is much more adapted today.

One of the key features which the Romans implemented in their architecture was that of the arches. This is designed to provide support to the structure and also give a slightly curved feel to the structure. This allowed for impressive spiraling staircases which symbolize the lavish design that the Roman culture opted for – evidence which is seen to this day. With even their functional architecture being sturdy, efficient but also beautiful to look at it’s no wonder that the culture of Roman architecture has lived on for so long.

Lastly there are the aqueducts, yet another invention of the Romans which shows the level of engineering which they had achieved. These colossal structures were able to intersect the landscape and provide stable and efficient water transport across large distances – with some stretching over 50 miles. As well as being incredibly functional these structures show the level of innovation which the Roman Empire had achieved and the level of sophistication which was behind the architectural feats which have taken so long to restructure today.

Housing Architectures

Apart from imposing public buildings, the Roman Empire also left a strong mark on domestic housing.The Roman villa, one of the central pieces of Roman domestic architecture, is the combination of the atrium and peristyle, two main features which made up the backbone of all Roman housing design. These were two courtyards – one which was open to the sky and one which was surrounded by columns and walls, that had a connection to each other and served as the main entertainment space. From there the floor plans of these bodies of houses varied depending on the wealth and grandeur of their occupants.

The color of the walls in a home was split into two main areas – light blue and white for the interior walls and red for the external walls. This was the result of an extensive research into the effects of sunlight and temperature which has informed modern day architecture in interior design. Interior decoration was also incredibly important, with mosaics and bright patterns covering the floors and walls of many homes as a visual indicator of wealth and luxury.

The kind of decorations and wall paints that were used in Roman villas showed off the sophisticated beauty of Roman architecture. Roman furniture was also carefully crafted and beautiful, often featuring elaborate designs with many different types of wood and fabrics helping to inform modern day furniture and decor styles.

The Romans also had an eye for detail and if the surface was not perfect then it would often be improved with various carvings and intricate decorations. This, combined with the symmetrical plan of many villas and buildings, allowed for a pleasing aesthetic which had a lasting influence on modern architecture.

Architectural Impact Today

The way that the Romans built and designed their monuments, villas and buildings has had a lasting influence on modern architecture. Many of the features which were noteworthy in Roman architecture have been adapted and integrated into modern day building funds and ideas. From the domes and arches which are seen in many grand buildings, to the more subtle and understated details, Roman architecture is deeply rooted in modern buildings.

In addition to this, many of the tactics and methods used by the Romans in the construction of their buildings have been adapted and used in many different industries. For example, the idea of a survey before construction, the use of bridges and causeways, even the idea of partitioning a building and lowering the centre of gravity – all of these ideas have been taken from Roman architecture and incorporated into modern buildings.

The idea of symmetry, proportion and balance is also core to Roman architecture and these ideals are still present in modern architecture today. Many modern buildings strive to achieve balance and harmony in their design and this reflects the approach of the Roman’s when it came to constructing their buildings.

Masonry Techniques

The Romans were famous for their masonry techniques, an impressive advanced engineering method which allowed for the construction of very large buildings. Masonry was an important part of the Roman building process and the Romans were masters of their craft. Many of the techniques used by the Romans were surprisingly similar to those used today, with a focus on quality and lasting construction.

The Romans used several different types of masonry technology to ensure that their buildings lasted. They knew the importance of using durable stone, as well as techniques such as mortaring, backing out and cutting stones to ensure that the structure stayed stable. This process of creating balanced structures is still used today but often adapted for modern materials.

The Romans also utilised concrete in their construction due to its strength and easy workability. This not only allowed them to construct larger buildings but also allowed them to build features which would be impressive even by today’s standards. Roman structures such as the Colosseum, Arena of Verona, Pantheon and many aqueducts are all standing testaments to the innovative and effective masonry techniques used by the empire.


Overall, it is clear to see why the Roman Empire was able to leave such a lasting impression on modern day architecture. Their unique take on masonry and construction, their use of symmetrical proportions, elaborate and well-made decoration, and their attention to detail when it came to structural support has allowed their architecture to remain standing while many others have fallen to dust. The Romans were far ahead of their time when it came to engineering and building construction and their influence has been felt for centuries.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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