The architecture of the Romans was, in the main, an imitation of that of the Greeks, but the Romans were a strenuous, ambitious race who meant to be masters of the world and so had neither time nor taste to bestow on mere beauty in buildings. Whenever they wanted really refined carving, they sent to Greece, the land of artists.
The Romans, however, were far too great a people to become mere servile imitators. They showed originality in combining features which they had borrowed and displayed great engineering skill in construction. They carried stupendous aqueducts across valleys and spanned streams with bridges which have resisted all the assaults of time and flood.
The chief features developed by the Romans were (1) the round arch, (2) vaults and domes, and (3) pilasters.
The round arch, evolved by the Greeks, is generally associated with the Romans because it became such a distinctive feature of their buildings. It was used singly, or in a series or arcade, both as a means of construction and for ornamentation. The use of the arch led to vaulting, which offered splendid opportunities to workers in mosaic and to painters.
(Left) Tuscan Capital (Right) Composite Capital
The Pantheon, Rome. The pantheon is the most perfectly preserved of ancient Roman buildings. The dome is probably the oldest in the world, as it one of the most perfect.
The Roman Empire. This map shows the Roman Empire as it s greatest extent, and its division (IV and V centuries) into the Western Empire (Rome) and the Eastern Empire (Constantinople).
The above lettering, known as " Forum Capitals," is perhaps the most refined form of Roman printing in commercial use at the present time.
Arcades, varying in style or order, were often placed one above the other, as in the Colosseum.
The Romans fully realised the ornamental value of colonnades, and employed, in addition to columns, flat, rectangular half-columns, known as pilasters, standing out from the wall. We must note also one other distinctive and original feature of Roman architecture. Roman capital letters show dignity of form : and inscriptions disposed in square masses were employed with good decorative effect on flat surfaces, e,.g., on triumphal arches and entablatures.
Roman architecture is, in many respects, a transitional style. In construction it belongs to the Round Arch group, but it made use of every feature of the Greek or Lintel group.
The Romans, like many modern engineers, borrowed ornamentation from the Greeks when they sought to beautify their works.
Briefly contrasting Roman with Greek work one might say that Roman buildings suggest love of power, show, and luxury, while those of Greece reveal a love of beauty and clearness and severity of thought. Roman power and activity gained, for a time, control of the possessions of man: Greek thought still influences his mind.
The Colloseum was completed in A.D. 81. The tiers of round arches, which are used both for constructive and decorative purposes. Pilasters not columns are not used on the exterior wall.
The Arch of Titus. Titus was charged by his father, the Emperor Vespasian, to destroy Jerusalem, which he did after a four months' siege in A.D. 70. During his rule as Emperor (A.D. 79-81). Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius.
Among the memorial structures of the Romans, their triumphal arches are especially characteristic. These were modeled after the city gates, being constructed with single (as shown above) and with triple archways (as in the famous Arch of Constantine).