Roman architecture was influenced by a range of different cultures and architectural styles, both from within and outside of the ancient Roman empire. From the Romans’ own traditions of using materials like stone and brick, the Greeks and the Egyptians. Roman architecture also drew from Hellenistic and Etruscan forms of design. The use of columns, domes and arches were popular features employed by the Romans which are still used in architecture today. But what was the main influence of Roman architecture?
The Greeks and Egyptians were both influential on the Romans before them. The Greeks are credited with developing the classical orders – the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian – that were adopted by the Romans, becoming a defining feature of Roman architecture. The Greeks also developed the use of entablatures – the horizontal part of a façade where the columns are placed – which helped the Romans to build with higher ceilings. The Egyptians provided the Romans with the knowledge on how to build large stone structures, such as domes and arches, that could support large weights.
The Etruscans, a sophisticated and influential civilization in central Italy before Roman times, also had an influence on Roman architecture. In particular, their use of vaults and arches allowed the Romans to develop a clearer understanding and knowledge of construction techniques and methods. Additionally, the Romans learned from the Etruscans the use of a trabeated, or post and beam system, for roof construction, which became a mainstay in their construction.
The Romans were also greatly influenced by their own traditions and artistic culture. They incorporated these traditional elements into every aspect of their building constructions, including the use of friezes, mosaic floors and columns. The use of concrete in building construction was one of the most significant contributions of the Romans in the development of architectural history. Concrete was a revolutionary material that allowed the Romans to construct large structures more quickly and easily than ever before. The Romans also developed the arch, which combined with the vault, allowed them to build large ceiling spans.
The Romans were heavily influenced by their predecessors and contemporaries, yet they still fused their own traditions and knowledge with this to create a style of architecture that is still admired today. The influence of the Roman Empire on architecture has continued to have a lasting effect on modern buildings.
Abstract of Roman Architecture
Roman architecture is known for its grandeur and meticulously designed structures, entirely different from the styles of the preceding building techniques. Several elements of Greek and Egyptian architecture, such as the use of columns or entablatures, have been adopted for Roman architecture, setting a standard for the grand scale of building in the empire. As the Romans developed their own traditional elements of building, such as friezes, mosaics, and curved roof lines, they further explored the potential of building construction through their use of concrete and elegantly executed arches.
Influence on Later Architecture
The legacy and magnificence of Roman architecture goes beyond that of antiquity and affects several historical periods in later centuries. In the Renaissance, architects looked to Roman architecture and its principles as a model for depicting classical beauty in their own works. In Baroque architecture, extensively used in the 17th century, there is a heightened sense of dynamism and theatricality, heavily inspired by the Roman pursuit of grandeur. Even today, the influence of Roman architecture goes beyond the classical Orders, with modern construction often reminiscent of the use of concrete, and the mammoth scale of the medieval cathedrals relying heavily on the arch and arching ceilings.
The Romans possess a rich body of architectural theory, both from the early periods of the republic, and from the sophist period under Augustus. Vitruvius, the most prominent theorist, wrote his seminal Ten Book On Architecture, which was to be an instruction guide to architects of the future. In it, he details the elements of design and building with a clear and concise attempt to produce classic Roman architecture with a unified aesthetic, going far beyond the intellectual achievements of the Greeks. Today, these principles are considered essential teaching in many architecture schools around the world.
Throughout their developmental period and beyond, the Romans constantly iterated upon the elements of their building designs. From the early Greek and Egyptian influences on their visionary art styles to the more conscious aestheticism of the Domus, traditional Roman building relied heavily on the notions of Decorum, Venustas and Firmitas as guiding principles. Respectively, these three principles refer to propriety, beauty, and strength which are finely balanced in most civic Roman monuments. In using these three tenets, the Romans were able to construct incredible feats of engineering in complete harmony.
The Great Baths
One of the most impressive examples of Roman architecture, the Great Baths of Bath, England encapsulated much of the architectural elements of Rome. Spanning several hundreds of years in the making, the Roman Baths combine the unifying element of the Greeks, the extravagant aesthetics of the Etruscans, and the grand scale of the Hadrians. The baths are situated around a main pool, with a complex network of pillars and walls. The distinctive curved arches that make up much of the structure of the Baths are emblematic of Roman architecture, and still stand in-tact to this day.
The impact of Roman architecture on today’s architectural landscape cannot be understated. Although a great portion of their work has been lost to the test of time, their incredible engineering feats and lavish aestheticism still fascinate and draw in visitors from around the world. Moreover, the engineering principles developed by the Romans have the potential to inform modern construction methods, allowing us to explore the realms of what is possible within the scope of engineering.