Classical Architecture Series
Roman Architecture

Characteristics, Influences, Building Techniques, Legacy.

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Colosseum, Rome (72-80 CE).

Alcantara Bridge, Spain (104-6 CE)

Roman Architecture (c.400 BCE - 400 CE)


Architecture of Ancient Rome
Roman Characteristics
Building Techniques: Arch, Vault, Dome
Influence of Ancient Greece
Use of Concrete
Building Materials
The Pantheon
Public Baths
Triumphal Arches
Bridges, Aqueducts
Roman Roads
Urban Planning, Houses, Residential Architecture
Famous Roman Buildings

For the chronology and key dates
of architectural developments,
around the world, see:
History of Art Timeline.

Leaders of Ancient Rome
most associated with
architecture as a form
of political and urban
art, include:
Augustus (27 BCE-14 CE)
Tiberius (14-37)
Caligula (37-41)
Claudius (41-54)
Nero (54-68)
Vespasian (69-79)
Titus (79-81)
Domitian (81-96)
Trajan (98-117)
Hadrian (117-138)
Antoninus Pius (138-161)
Marcus Aurelius (161-180)
Caracalla (211-217)
Diocletian (284-305)
Maxentius (306-312)
Constantine I (306-337)


Architecture of Ancient Rome

Roman architecture, even more than the rest of Roman art, reflected the practical character, restless energy and organizational mindset of its creators. As the Roman Empire expanded to engulf not only the Mediterranean region but also large areas of Western Europe, Roman architects struggled to achieve two overriding aims: to demonstrate the grandeur and power of Rome, while also improving the life of their fellow citizens. To this end, they mastered a number of important architectural techniques, including the arch, the dome and the vault, as well as the use of concrete. Using these methods, Roman engineers designed and built some of the greatest public buildings in the history of architecture, including temples, basilicas, amphitheatres, triumphal arches, monuments, and public baths. In addition, to further reinforce the ideals of the Pax Romana and, above all, maintain efficiency and order, Roman architects designed numerous aqueducts, drainage systems, and bridges, as well as a vast network of roads, while planners developed a series of urban blueprints, based on army camps, to help create new towns from scratch. Roman architects absorbed a great deal from Etruscan art and design, and had huge respect for both Greek architecture and Greek sculpture. They also learned from Egyptian pyramid architecture and stonework. Architecture is Ancient Rome's unique contribution to the history of art and to the culture of Europe. It is far more influential than the various forms of Roman sculpture, most of which were derived from the Greeks. Among the greatest buildings erected by the Romans, were: Maison Carree, Nimes, France (19 BCE); Pont Du Gard Aqueduct, Nimes, France (19 BCE); The Colosseum, Rome (72-80 CE); Arch of Titus, Rome (81 CE); Aqueduct, Segovia, Spain (100 CE); the Baths of Trajan (104-109); Trajan's Bridge, Alcantara, Spain (105 CE); Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Turkey (120 CE); Hadrian's Wall, Northern England (121 CE); The Pantheon, Rome (128 CE); Palace of Diocletian, Split (300 CE); Baths of Diocletian (306 CE); Arch of Constantine, Rome (312 CE); and the Cloaca Maxima (600-200 BCE), one of the world's earliest sewage systems, constructed in Ancient Rome in order to drain local marshes and transport the city's waste to the River Tiber. Many aspects of Roman building design were examined by the architect Marcus Vitruvius (active, late 1st century BCE) in his architectural treatise De architectura (c.27 BCE), although it appeared before the most creative phase of Roman construction.



Roman Characteristics

Mighty Rome! Conqueror of Gaul and Carthage, of Greece and Egypt, mistress of the Western world through six centuries, capital of the mighty Caesars, unchallenged home of grandeur, spectacle, and magnificence, splendid with the art plundered from a hundred enslaved peoples, giver of laws and morals and military science to all the West. And yet this "Eternal City" was artistically inconsequential. Except in one direction, that of monumental architecture and structural engineering, Rome produced very little distinctive creative art. The Romans cut off rather than absorbed the one significant development on Italian soil, the Etruscan, and turned to import decadent Greek sculptors, decorators, and painters to give a Hellenistic surfacing to their culture. In the aesthetic scales the contribution of mighty Rome weighs more lightly than that of tiny states such as Sumeria and Siena.

Grandeur was Rome's goal, grandeur her one achievement, and perhaps also the secret of the shallowness of her art. The desire to impress by bigness led to magnificent works of engineering and building. But the desire to impress by profusion and boastful display led, more often than not, to the decoration of those same works with misused scraps and veneers of Greek architecture and weak imitations of Greek ornamental sculpture. Hellenic moderation and reasonableness became Roman practicality and Roman swagger.

A glance around the main forum in Rome (1st century BCE - 3rd Century CE) would have given any observer a birds-eye view of the city's architecture: old temples, increasingly complex and graceful and adorned, but with something of Greek simplicity and harmony persisting, set among palaces, basilicas, memorial columns, and arcades; on every side magnificent arched construction, grand vistas, and banks of columns crowned by rich Corinthian capitals; on every side a profusion of vulgarized Greek ornament, interspersed with new panels of Roman relief sculpture: in all, a wonderful display of grandeur and exhibitionism.




As soon as Rome takes on importance politically and culturally - that is, as soon as adjoining Etruria has been subjugated and Carthage successfully challenged - the spirit that dominates the arts is that of the conqueror and the celebrator. Architecture, for instance, becomes dominated not by temples, but by the Forum or trading place, the basilica or public meeting-hall, the baths, the sports arenas, the theatres and circuses, many of which are constructed in colossal size, and lavishly ornamented. Later there are the palaces, triumphal arches, and ceremonial gateways.

It seems incredible that Etruscan capabilities (in architecture and other arts) - so advanced at the time of the rise of Rome - should have disappeared so quickly following the Roman takeover of Italy. But the Greek influence, coming from Greek colonial cities in the south of the country, and from the Greek world of the eastern Mediterranean, rapidly became dominant.

See also: Egyptian Architecture (3,000 BCE - 200 CE). Please see especially, Middle Kingdom Egyptian Architecture and New Kingdom Egyptian Architecture.

Building Techniques: Arch, Vault, Dome

In architecture, however, the Romans absorbed some important techniques from the Etruscans before Greek influence was decisively felt. This included the arch and the vault, which were destined to carry Roman engineering into a development directly away from that of ancient Greece, who preferred "post-and-lintel" building methods to arches and domes. Thus was laid the foundation of the art in which the Italic peoples were to surpass the Hellenes: structural engineering. The vaulting techniques used by the Romans were the simple geometric forms: the semicircular barrel vault, the groin vault, and the segmental vault. The vault surfaces were typically covered with stucco or tiles. An excellent example of Roman vaulting is the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius in Rome. A natural development of the vault was the dome, which enabled the construction of vaulted ceilings and the roofing of large public spaces such as the public baths and basilicas. The Romans relied heavily on the dome for much of their architecture, such as Hadrian's Pantheon, the Baths of Diocletian and the Baths of Caracalla. Characteristic of Roman architectural design was the construction of complex forms of domes to suit multilobed ground plans.

The mastery by Roman architects and engineers of the arch, vault and dome - further enhanced by their development of concrete - helped them to solve the first problem of monumental architecture, which is to bridge space. Roofing a great area means carrying heavy materials across spaces impossible to span with the Greeks' simple post-and-lintel system. In the arch, and the vault that grew out of it, the Romans had a means of thrusting the massive Colosseum walls story above story, of covering a luxurious bathing hall that could accommodate three thousand persons, and of creating the majestic form of the Pantheon.

Influence of Ancient Greece

Although limited by their persistent use of post-and-lintel building methods, Greek influence over Roman architecture was dominant in almost all matters of architectural style and 3-D decorative art. The most obvious Hellenistic gift was the series of Greek Orders of architecture - Doric, Ionic and Corinthian - from which the Romans developed two more: Tuscan and Composite (variants of the Greek Doric and Corinthian styles, respectively). In general, Roman Doric, Ionic and Corinthian Orders were slenderer and more ornamented. Columns tended to be left unfluted, but the fascia of the entablature, left plain by Greek architects, was heavily decorated.

Given their tendency to show off, Roman architects had the least interest in Greek Doric and, when they did use it, they invariably added a decorative molding to the base. Examples of the Roman Doric style can be seen in the Tabularium and the Colosseum in Rome, and in the Temple of Hercules at Cori. The Ionic order was used by the Romans in some temples and public buildings, as well as private homes. Exemplars include: the Temple of Fortuna Virilis and Trajan's Forum in Rome. By far the most popular idiom, however, was the Corinthian order. Based initially on the style of columns taken from the Greek Temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens, the order became progressively more decorative and elaborate. Good examples can be seen at the temples of Mars Ultor in Rome, and the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli.

In view of all this, it is hardly surprising that whereas the names of architects are mostly Roman or Etruscan, the names of sculptors and painters are Greek. Whats more, it seems that the architects did all the important engineering and construction work, and then handed the building over to imported artists to do the superficial decorative work. Thus, when the hand of time stripped the ornamental casing from the Caracalla Baths or the theatre at Orange, the walls and arches stood out with a mighty lift and a compelling grandeur. And a "plain" engineering work like the Pont du Gard stirs the blood and lifts the eye with its mathematical vigour.


The Roman mastery of concrete was a major step forward. Its strength, flexibility, convenience and low cost - when compared to any other building material - made arch, vaults and domes much easier to build. First employed in the town of Cosa sometime after 273 BCE, its widespread use was a key event in the Roman architectural revolution, and freed Roman construction from the restrictions of stone and brick material and allowed for revolutionary new designs in terms of both structural complexity and dimension. Laid in the shape of arches, vaults and domes, it quickly hardened into a rigid mass, free from many of the internal thrusts and strains that troubled the builders of similar structures in stone or brick. The widespread use of concrete in many Roman structures has ensured that many survive to the present day. the Pantheon, Baths of Caracalla, and Basilica of Constantine in Rome are just three examples.

Roman concrete (opus caementicium) was typically made from a mixture of lime mortar, water, sand and pozzolana, a fine, ochre-coloured volcanic earth, which set well even under water. To this cement mixture, was added a combination of tuff, travertine, brick, and other rubble. Among the more unusual additives used, were horse hair, which reportedly made concrete less prone to cracking; and animal blood, which increased its resistance to frost.

Concrete walls, except those underground, were invariably faced. Works were categorized according to the type of facing employed. The four main types included: (1) Opus quadratum concrete, a type of ordinary stone walling that was used to face important public buildings. (2) Opus incertum concrete, the most popular facing for ordinary concrete walls, prior to the Imperial era. (3) Opus reticulatum concrete, similar to opus incertum but with pyramid-shaped stones. (4) Opus Testaceum concrete, a type of brick/tile-facing which became the most widespread form across the empire. (5) Opus Mixtum concrete, a combined brick/stone facing, popular with later empire architects during the Diocletian period.

Building Materials

The earliest buildings built in and around Rome were made of tuff, a type of volcanic rock of varying hardness, which could be worked mostly with bronze tools. Later, harder stones were used, like peperino and local albani stone from the Alban hills. During the empire, the most common stone used for building was travertine, a form of limestone quarried in Tivoli, as used on the exterior of the Colosseum in Rome. Marble was used only for facing or decoration, or sometimes in mosaics. Coloured marbles and stones like alabaster, porphyry and granite, were also popular, as exemplified by the remains of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli. The majority of domestic homes were made with a variety of unburned bricks faced with stucco.


There were temples in Rome, and throughout her far-flung colonies and provinces. But they were far less distinctive and inventive than Greek designs of (say) the Parthenon or other structures; rather they represented the Greek idea adapted and elaborated. The columns usually carried florid Corinthian capitals - the Doric style being too plain to Latin eyes. Decoration was added elsewhere too, so that in the end no bit of bare wall was tolerated. Even the architrave, kept clean by the Greeks to emphasize the feeling of cross-bar strength, was soon being traced over with Roman ornament.

The earlier round structures of the sort illustrated in the ancient Temple of Vesta in the Roman forum, provided an appealing grace and a pleasing ornamental fullness not known to the architecture of the Hellenes. The more usual adaptation of the Greek rectangular temple is to be seen today in the example at Nimes in France, known as the Maison Carree. It illustrates both the survival of the essential Greek form, and the typical Roman (originally Etruscan) changes, such as the podium or raised platform (stylobate) with a flight of steps in front, and the substitution of engaged columns or pilasters along the side walls of the cella, in place of the original continuous colonnade. Even today the building has dignity and a quiet effectiveness.

In some cases the cella of the Roman temple was vaulted in concrete; it might also possess a semicircular end, as in the Baths of Diana at Nimes, and the Temple of Venus and Rome, in Rome. The most important Roman temples of which remains exist, include: Mars Ultor, Castor and Pollux, Fortuna Virilis, Concord and Antoninus, in Rome; the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, the Temple of Minerva at Assisi and the temples at Pompeii.


The most influential type of religious building developed by Roman architects was the basilica. Originally secular in purpose, it was destined to become an early prototype for the first Christian churches - see Early Christian Art - and thus to affect monumental architecture down to the twentieth century. The basilica was commonly situated in the Forum of a Roman city, and was designed as a large covered hall to be used as a place of general assembly for trade, banking, and administration of the law: in simplest words, a meeting hall. The standard Basilica plan had a central nave between side aisles; and it was here that clerestory lighting and construction were introduced into European building. A few basilicas were given semicircular halls at the end opposite the entrance, corresponding to the later church apse or altar area. The oldest basilica is the Basilica Porcia (184 BCE), while the famous Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls (4th century CE) at Rome, though rebuilt in the 19th century (according to the 4th-century plan), illustrates the impressive simplicity and grandeur of the basilica design, combined with late Roman sumptuous decoration. Where arched construction here surmounts the interior columns, the earlier form had been a continuous architrave, sometimes with gallery above, just under the clerestory windows. It is one of Rome's four most distinguished papal basilicas: the others being the basilicas of St. Mary Major, St. Peter's, and St. John Lateran. The most magnificent example is the 63,000 square-foot Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius, an awesome example of the cohesion and strength of Roman concrete. A more modern basilica modelled on Roman architecture is Saint Peter's Basilica (c.1520-1620)in Rome.

The Pantheon

The greatest surviving circular temple of classical antiquity, and arguably the most important example of ancient art produced in Rome, is the Pantheon. Today it has lost its interior embellishments, though it is the best preserved of major Roman monuments; but it takes the breath by the vast dimensions, the simplicity of its forms, and the audacity of the structural design. A temple-like forecourt or porch lies against an immense 142-foot wide circular hall or rotunda, under a low dome. The engineering is elementary: the rotunda's walls form the drum from which the dome springs direct; there are no windows. Light is admitted to the building solely through a great a 28-foot oculus left open to the sky at the top. To sustain the thrust of the dome, the walls are twenty feet thick, and there are eight apse-like niches hollowed in them—one opened to form the main portal, the others designed for statues of gods and later transformed by the Christians into side-chapels. In its time the inside of the dome, richly coffered, and the marble trim of walls and apses, must have been impressively sumptuous; but today it is the grand simplicity of the engineering and the great spaciousness that thrill the visitor. The Pantheon is truly one of the world's most impressive buildings. The Corinthian temple facade of the French Pantheon (1790) Paris, designed by Jacques Germain Soufflot (1713-80), is a direct copy of its ancestor in Rome.


The theatres of Rome itself were usually temporary erections, but often were adorned with almost incredibly rich displays of sculpture and architectural accessories, if one may believe eyewitness reports. Some surviving provincial examples indicate, indeed, that the architecture was thought of as part of the spectacle. One Latin description mentions a stage wall with 360 columns, 3000 statues, and other "special" adornments.


Amphitheatres were public arenas (of which 220 are known) in which spectacles were held, such as contests between gladiators, public displays, public meetings and bullfights. There is enough left of the Colosseum in Rome, for instance, to indicate the form and to impress the eye - though the complete interior sheathing of coloured marble has disappeared. Constructed by the emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian (c.70-82), the structure is of concrete with a facing of Travertine marble. The 6-acre complex is a marvellous constructive feat: a bowl more than 600 feet long, with 50,000 or 60,000 seats resting on a honeycomb structure of arcades and vaults, with passageways for spectators, rooms for the gladiators, and cells for the wild beasts. To that extent the architecture is functional and honest. But the marble facing to a certain degree weakens the mass effect, denies the engineering, and contrasts badly with the necessarily heavy materials. The columns carry no weight.

Incidentally it may be noted that the Emperor Augustus (31-14 BCE), of the golden age of Rome, who is said to have boasted that he transformed Rome from a city of brick to a city of marble, was speaking in terms of a veneer. Greek monumental buildings had been of solid marble, and the Egyptian pyramids are mountains of laid-up stone, but the Romans seem not to have had the time or the thoroughness to deal in difficult materials even when they had the materials at hand. (See also: Late Egyptian Architecture.)

Amphitheatres should be distinguished from Roman circuses (hippodromes) - in effect, racecourses flanked by tiers of seats and a central grandstand - whose elongated circuits were designed for horse or chariot racing events; and also from the smaller stadia, which were built for athletics and similar games. The largest Roman hippodrome was the U-shaped Circus Maxiumus (built, rebuilt and enlarged c.500 BCE - 320 CE) in Rome, with a seating capacity at its height of 250,000. It became the prototype for circuses throughout the Roman Empire.

Public Baths

Probably the most popular Roman buildings among all classes of citizens were the public baths (balneae or thermae) (akin to Turkish steam baths) which by the end of the republic, were a recognized feature of Roman life. The term Balneae usually referred to smaller scale baths, while Thermae described larger, wealthier establishments. It was in the late Imperial thermae, like the Baths of Caracalla, that the spirit of luxurious grandeur in Roman architecture was best expressed. The best of them were regular social meeting places of the upper classes, and were lavished with the most stupendous engineering ingenuity and the most vulgarly ornate architectural decoration. Not only was an incredible number of pools, gymnasia, anointing rooms, and lounging halls to be roofed over, but lecture and studio rooms had to be included in the interior, and a stadium was to adjoin it. It is said that one thousand bath buildings existed in imperial Rome, ranging from the simplest to the immense establishments known by the names of the emperors who built them, Nero, Trajan, Diocletian, and the like. There are sufficient remains of the Baths of Caracalla to impress the observer today with the daring of Roman engineers in roofing the necessary spaces and buttressing the supporting arches. There are traces of the marble sculpture as well as pavements and mosaics, and contemporary descriptions that aid in building up a picture of magnificent decorations and furnishings.

The first thermae were established in Rome about 21 BCE by Marcus Agrippa, deputy of Emperor Augustus. Others were built by Emperors Nero, Titus, Trajan, Caracalla, Diocletian, and Constantine. The best preserved are the Baths of Caracalla, the Baths of Diocletian and the Stabian Baths in Pompeii. The design and construction of public baths is discussed thoroughly by the Roman architect Vitruvius in his treatise on architecture (De Architectura).

Triumphal Arches

The commemorative arches, or arches of triumph, were a sort of ceremonial architecture invented by the Romans in their passion for the show of power, to commemorate an important event or military campaign. They merit hardly more attention than any other ornamental and advertising monument, though there is considerable symmetry and academic competence in the compositions. Typically erected away from the main thoroughfares, they were typically decorated with relief sculpture illustrating the events to be commemorated. The most famous example is the Arch of Titus, celebrating the capture of Jerusalem, and the Arch of Constantine (c.315), celebrating Constantine's victory over Maxentius at Milvian Bridge. Famous triumphal arches erected in the Italian provinces included those of Tiberius at Orange, of Augustus at Susa, of Trajan at Benevento and Ancona, and Caracalla at Tebessa. All have served as models to fifty generations of triumphant militarists home from their conquests, including Napoleon Bonaparte, who commissioned the famous Arc de Triomphe (1806-36) in Paris, a masterpiece of 19th century architecture. (See also the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans: 1789-94.) Triumphal arches perfectly expressed the spectacular-ceremonial side of the Roman character. An offshoot was the single column memorial, exemplified by Trajan's Column (c.1123 CE). The stylistic antithesis of the triumphal arch is probably best exemplified by the Ara Pacis Augustae, Rome (c.13-9 BCE), a shrine erected by the Roman Senate to mark the triumphal return of Emperor Augustus from the battlefields of Gaul and Spain.

Bridges, Aqueducts

But in bridges and aqueducts one finds fully asserted again the spirit that is admirable and splendid. These constructions are functional, authentic, mathematical. Waterways strike out across country, overcoming both hills and valleys. Gorges are bridged with those honest spans, repeated, unvarying, everlasting. This is the supreme architectural memorial of the Roman Empire. In the thick, heavy, power-breathing Roman wall, and in the regimented arches and vaults, one finds artistic Rome and her engineer-architects in their most honest and typical achievement. When she turned to ornamentation, employed other architects to split the functional Greek columns and paste them uselessly beside the arches, in row over row against the walls, the engineer was eclipsed, a curtain of make-believe was dropped before the true drama of Roman building art. The Pont du Gard has come free of those embellishments; it moves boldly, implacably, nakedly on its business of carrying an aqueduct over hill and valley. Other great structures include the Aqueduct of Segovia (100 CE) and the eleven aqueducts in Rome itself, such as Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus - both begun by Emperor Caligula in 38 CE. and completed by Emperor Claudius in 52 CE.

Roman Roads

Roman engineers were famous above all for their high quality roads. In all, they laid more than 250,000 miles of roads, including over 50,000 miles of paved roads. At the height of the Roman empire, 29 major military highways radiated from its capital, Rome. The most famous Roman roads include: (in Italy), Via Appia (the Appian way), leading from Rome to Apulia; Via Aurelia, from Rome to France; (in France) Via Agrippa, Via Aquitania and Via Domitia; (in Spain and Portugal) Via Augusta, from Cadiz to the Pyrenees; (in Britain) Ermine Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way.


As well as building roads to facilitate transport and travel overland, Roman architects also erected numerous lighthouses around the Mediterranean and the western shores of the Atlantic, to assist maritime navigation. One surviving example is the famous Tower of Hercules (c.110 CE), located on a peninsula about a mile and a half from the centre of Coruna, in north-western Spain. Known until recently as the "Farum Brigantium", the lighthouse has been in continual use since the 2nd century CE, making it the oldest lighthouse in the world.

Urban Planning, Houses, Residential Architecture

The city of Ancient Rome - at its height, a huge metropolis of almost one million people - consisted of a maze of narrow streets. After the fire of 64 CE, Emperor Nero announced a rational rebuilding program, with little success: the city's architecture remained chaotic and unplanned. Outside Rome, however, architects and urban planners were able to achieve a lot more. Towns were developed using grid-plans originally drawn up for military settlements. Typical features included two wide axis streets: a north-south street, known as the cardo, and a complementary east-west street called the decumanus, with the town centre located at their intersection. Most Roman towns had a forum, temples and theatres, plus public baths (Thermae), but ordinary houses were often simple mud-brick dwellings.

In very simple terms, there were two basic types of Roman house: the domus and the insula. The domus, exemplified by those discovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum, usually comprised a collection of rooms set around a central hall, or atrium. Few windows overlooked the street, light coming instead from the atrium. In Rome itself, however, very few remains of this type of house have survived. One example is the House of the Vestals in the Forum and the House of Livia on the Palatine Hill.

In general, only wealthy citizens could afford houses with courtyards, roofed atria, underfloor heating or gardens. Even then, space constraints in many provincial towns meant that even well to-do houses were relatively compact. Rich cities were the exception. The Judean port of Caesarea (25-13 BCE), extended by Herod the Great to please his boss Augustus Caesar, and home of Pontius Pilate, the regional Roman Prefect, posessed a spacious network of gridded streets, a hippodrome, public baths, palaces and an aqueduct. The wealthy Italian port of Ostia, had brick-built apartment blocks (called insulae, after insula the Italian for building) rising five floors high.


Roman architecture has had a colossal influence on building construction in the West. If Greek architects established the main design templates, Roman architects established the basic engineering prototypes. Thanks to their mastery of the arch, vault and dome, they set the standard for most types of monumental architecture. Their example was followed closely in Byzantine art (Hagia Sophia), in medieval Russian architecture (the onion domes of St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow), in Renaissance architecture (Florence Cathedral) by the likes of Fillippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) - for more about Roman influence on the Florentine duomo see: Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi and Renaissance (1420-36) - Andrea Palladio (1508-80) and others, and Baroque architecture (St Paul's Cathedral), and inspired Neoclassical architecture around the world. The Pantheon in Paris (1790), and the US Capitol Building (1792-1827) in Washington DC are just two of the world-famous structures derived from Roman architecture. In addition, Roman bridges, aqueducts and roads became the models for later architects and engineers throughout the world.

Ancient Rome
For more about the arts of ancient Rome, see the following:
Early Roman Art (c.510 BCE - 27 BCE)
Hellenistic-Roman Art (c.27 BCE - 200 CE)
Roman Art of the Late Empire Period (c.200-400 CE)
Ancient Rome: Celtic Art Styles
Christian-Roman Art (313 CE Onwards).

Famous Roman Buildings

Here is a short list of the most important architectural structures designed by Roman architects. Many had a significant effect on Romanesque architecture of the late medieval era. Unless otherwise indicated, the location is Rome.

Cloaca Maxima (600-200 BCE)
One of the world's earliest urban drainage/effluent systems.
Circus Maxiumus (c.500 BCE - 320 CE)
Largest Roman hippodrome, with seating capacity of 250,000 spectators.
Temple of Jupiter (500 BCE)
Greatest of all Etruscan temples, it was built mostly from timber on the Capitoline Hill by King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. It was destroyed in a fire in 83 BCE, before being rebuilt using stone and marble columns.
Temple of Vesta (100 BCE)
A circular Corinthian-style temple near the Tiber; the oldest surviving marble building in the city of Rome.
Temple of Hercules, Cori (80 BCE)
A rare example of the Roman Doric style.
The Forum in Rome (1st BCE - 3rd Century CE)
Home to temples, palaces, basilicas, triumphal arches, arcades.
Maison Carree, Nimes (19 BCE)
Best preserved of all Roman temples, made of limestone with Corinthian columns.
Pont Du Gard Aqueduct, Nimes (19 BCE)
Highest aqueduct ever built by the Romans; made of precut stone blocks, with three tiers of arches. Designed to provide fresh water, it is a superb example of the Pax Romana.
Theatre of Marcellus (10 BCE)
Famous Roman theatre, noted for its high exterior facade - a blend of orders and arches.
Temple of Mars Ultor (2 CE)
Built out of Carrara marble by Augustus to avenge the death of Julius Caesar, it was the central feature of the colonnaded Forum of Augustus.
Treasury at Petra, Jordan (25)
Carved out of the rose-red cliff face by masons working for King Aretas IV, whose Nabataean kingdom was annexed by Emperor Trajan.
The Colosseum in Rome (72-80 CE)
50,000-seater amphitheatre for gladiatorial contests and the like.
Arch of Titus (81 CE)
The oldest surviving triumphal arch. One of 36 built in Rome alone.
Aqueduct, Segovia (100 CE)
One of the most significant and well-preserved Roman architectural structures on the Iberian peninsula. Carries water from Fuente Fria river to Segovia.
Baths of Trajan (104-109)
Huge thermae complex, designed by Apollodorus of Damascus.
Trajan's Bridge, Alcantara (105 CE)
Stone bridge spanning the Tagus river with six wide arches. A triumph of Roman engineering.
Library of Celsus, Ephesus (120 CE)
Its monumental facade has two levels of columned bays, topped by alternating curved and triangular pediments.
Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli (123-134)
Complex of 30 buildings set in parks and gardens, off the Appian Way.
Hadrian's Wall, Northern England (121-136 CE)
Stone/turf structure, averaging some 20 feet high, erected to keep out Barbarians.
The Pantheon in Rome (128 CE)
Originally a temple, its coffered ceiling remains the largest non-reinforced concrete dome in the world.
Baths of Hadrian, Leptis Magna (127)
Constructed in near Tripoli in Libya, from green, pink, black and white marble.
Arch of Septimius Severus (203)
Triumphal arch made of white marble, erected at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, to commemorate the victorious Parthian campaigns of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, in 194/195 and 197-199.
Temple of Minerva Medica (260)
Noted for its experimental elaboration in vaulting, designed to make the supports lighter both structurally and aesthetically.
Palace of Diocletian, Split (300)
Set in an enormous walled compound, as big as a town. Had a huge gallery 520 feet long with over fifty windows overlooking the sea.
Baths of Diocletian (306 CE)
Grandest of all Roman Baths; could accomodate over 3,000 bathers. Remained in use until the aqueducts that supplied the water were destroyed by the Goths in 537.
Arch of Constantine (312 CE)
Last of the great triumphal arches. Stands in the shadow of the Colosseum. A year after its construction, Constantine converted to Christianity.
Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (312) (Basilica Nova) - meaning Largest building in the Roman Forum, lavishly decorated with enormous Corinthian columns, rich marbles, mosaics. Influenced on the design of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
Mausoleum of Santa Costanza (360)
Built as a tomb for Constantine's daughters, Helena and Constanza. Its dome is supported by 12 pairs of marble Corinthian columns. Inspired numerous Byzantine and Christian churches.

Further Resources

NOTE: For more about the arts of ancient Rome, see the following:
Early Roman Art (c.510 BCE - 27 BCE)
Hellenistic-Roman Art (c.27 BCE - 200 CE)
Roman Art of the Late Empire Period (c.200-400 CE)
Ancient Rome: Celtic Art Styles
Christian-Roman Art (313 CE Onwards).

• For more about architecture in Ancient Rome, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

Architecture Glossary
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