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Introduction to Roman Architecture

Around the 12th century B.C., the Romans began to adopt elements of Greek architecture into the construction and style of their buildings. By the time of Emperor Augustus, Roman architecture had flourished so greatly that the city of Rome became known as a fabulous city of marble where the grandest structures were built. All across the empire, distinctively Roman structures like temples, basilicas, baths, aqueducts, libraries, and amphitheaters were erected to fulfill a number of religious, social, entertainment, military, and administrative purposes. Ancient Roman buildings could be characterized by the use of concrete, columns, arches, domes, vaults, and mosaics. Let’s look at some of the famous Roman buildings and structures.

The Arch of Titus

Built around 82 A.D. on the Via Sacra in Rome, the Arch of Titus is a triumphal arch commissioned by the Roman Emperor Domitian to commemorate his older brother Titus’ sacking of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Standing 15.4 meters high and 13.5 meters wide, it’s 4.75 meters deep. The archway had a height of 8.3 meters and width of 5.36 meters. There’s a detail on the Arch of Titus which shows triumphant Roman soldiers carrying holy articles from the Temple of Jerusalem, most significantly, the seven-branched menorah. 

The Pantheon

Rebuilt around 126 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian after it was destroyed by fire in 80 A.D., the Pantheon was built as a temple to all Ancient Roman gods. It’s located at Regione IX Circus Flaminius. A circular building, the Pantheon’s portico has a total of 16 huge Corinthian granite columns. Measured at 84 meters in length, 58 meters in width, and 58 meters in maximum height, the Pantheon was the largest concrete building until the 20th century. Its dome is still the largest mass concrete dome in the world. Today, it’s officially known as the Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs.

The Colosseum

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum is one of the greatest wonders of Ancient Roman architecture and engineering. Completed in 80 A.D., the Colosseum is 189 meters in length and 156 meters in width. The outer wall has a height of 48 meters. With capacity to hold 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum hosted numerous gladiatorial contests and other events. It’s located east of the Roman Forum.

Basilica of Maxentius

Started by the emperor Maxentius in 308 A.D., the Basilica of Maxentius was completed in 312 A.D. by the man who killed him in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine I. The Roman basilica was a huge meeting place where court cases or public events were held. The Colossus of Constantine can be found at the western end of the basilica. The Basilica of Maxentius was bothe the largest and the final building to be erected in the Roman Forum before the decline of the Roman Empire.

Baths of Caracalla

A Roman public bath complex, the Baths of Caracalla was completed in Rome in 216 A.D. during Emperor Caracalla’s reign. The bath building was measured at 228 meters in length, 116 meters in width, and 38.5 meters in height. It had a cold room, a medium room, a hot room, two practice gyms, a swimming pool, and even a library. Approximately 1,600 bathers could use the facilities of the Baths of Caracalla at any one time.

Circus Maximus

A chariot racing stadium in Ancient Rome, the Circus Maximus could hold more than 250,000 spectators. Measuring 621 meters in length and 118 meters in width, it embodied the grand ambitions of ancient Romans. The track could accommodate up to twelve chariots and chariot racing was a very popular sport in those times. The Circus Maximus was built in the 6th century B.C.

Aqueduct of Segovia

One of the most spectacular Roman aqueducts, the Aqueduct of Segovia was believed to be erected sometime between the 1st and 2nd century A.D. It’s situated in Segovia, Spain. Built to transport waters from the Fuente Fría river, the Aqueduct of Segovia has a maximum height of 28.5 meters. Constructed with unmortared granite blocks, the aqueduct is defined by the two-tier arches.

Tower of Hercules

Possibly built during Trajan’s reign, the Tower of Hercules is a Roman lighthouse located near A Coruna in Spain. Standing 55 meters in height, the Tower of Hercules overlooks the North Atlantic coast. It’s acknowledged to be the oldest lighthouse in the world. The Tower of Hercules is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Trajan’s Column

Completed in 113 A.D., Trajan’s Column is a triumphal column located in Rome. It was built to commemorate Trajan’s victorious campaigns in the Dacian Wars. Standing 35 meters in height on its pedestal, Trajan’s Column has a continuous frieze which runs from the base of the shaft to the capital, depicting Trajan’s victories against the Dacians.

Roman Theatre of Orange

The Roman Theatre of Orange was built in the 1st century A.D. during Emperor Augustus’ reign. The Romans used the theatre to spread Roman culture and provide some form of entertainment to the local people in Orange, France. In 391 A.D., the theatre was officially closed because the Church opposed all sorts of theatrical performances. In the early 19th century, the Roman Theatre of Orange was restored to its former glories. Today, it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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