Roman Architecture Term Paper

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The architectural style of Rome was firmly rooted in the Hellenistic traditions.

However, Roman architecture is probably more accurately reflected in the development

of new engineering skills and secular monuments than the ideas of gods and perfection

that birthed the Greek architecture. They introduced not only new ways to construct a

more efficient building but also a entirely different purpose for the building to be built.

While still holding the beauty that was so masterfully achieved by the Greek culture and

adding their own practically and ingenuity, the Romans developed an architectural style

that remains to this day.

The Greeks people had a very good reason, in their minds, to build a beautiful

piece of architecture; the worship of gods. Most all of the examples of Greek architecture

that we know of today were temples. The gods were the driving force behind any major

architecture of the Hellenistic period. This is not true of the Roman culture. Though the

Romans did build temples to their gods, the Roman style was more predominantly seen

in public dwellings and social gathering areas, such as basilicas and forums, than in their

temples. In fact, a majority of the temples that the Romans built were nothing more than

copies of Greek temples, with the exception of the domed Pantheon that will be

discussed later. Also, the Romans included their emperors in the temples along with the

gods and sometimes the temple was just for the emperor himself.

Another major difference between Greek and Roman architecture was the

purpose behind the building. Greek architecture was meant to be viewed as a piece of art

work that was dedicated to the gods. This is easy to see from the ornateness of the

outside of the building with the pediments and metopes and the rather drabness of the

inside with the exception of the friezes. The Greek designed it as a sculpture in a sense,

with all of the beauty to be viewed from the outside. This way of thinking is turned

completely around in the Roman architectural style. Although the Roman building are

beautiful on the outside, the true art lies on the inside with the many-colored walls and

paintings that gave a sense of depth to the room. Also, the Roman architect was

concerned with the lighting of the room so that the interior decorations could be seen

clearly. These things were important to the Romans because their buildings were meant

to be gathering places for the public. The basilica was one such of these types of

buildings that was intended to be a gathering place for Romans citizens to hold meeting

and perhaps even courts. Bathhouses and market places know as forums are yet other

examples of the types of building that the Romans focused on making pleasing to the eye

on the inside rather than the outside.

Not only did the Romans differ on why to build a building but they also made

drastic differences on how to build it. The Greeks used what is know as a “post and

lintel” system of designing a building. This is basically the idea of standing to columns

up and placing a beam across them. A very simple and easy construction but on the other

hand not a very strong one. As the Roman civilization grew larger and larger the

buildings they used for meetings and markets of course had to grow too. This presented a

problem with the use of columns, because the big the building, the more columns needed

to hold it up. Thus the Romans turned to engineering for the solution and the arch was

born. By using arches instead of columns and beams, the weight of the structure was

spread evenly out and toward the ground rather than directly down on the beam. This

increased the amount of weight that could be supported in a single area and thus giving

more room on the inside by taking away previously necessary columns, though they did

keep some around for decoration. This invention of course changed the mindset on the

construction of regular building that would have relied of columns, but it also was a

stepping stone to another invention. The dome is nothing more than a network of arches

that form an enclosed building. This is the theory that created the Pantheon, a circular

dome that was the temple to the gods. It is one of the first of its kind and has stood for

thousands of years while other building designed strictly with columns have turn into

nothing more than ruins. The superior engineering skills of the Romans truly played a

major role in their architecture and set it apart from their Greek counterparts.

Though the origin of their ideas came from the Greek architecture, the Romans

were brilliant in the ways in which they organized and improved those ideas. They

pioneered innovations in architecture, produced ground-breaking designs, and altered the

very way we view buildings. They have left an everlasting impact on architecture by

combining their way of life in the architecture that begin long before them.

Word Count: 847

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