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Ancient Roman Architecture

It is hard to underestimate the value and quality of cultural heritage that ancient Rome left to its descendants. The cultural inheritance of ancient Rome is now can be seen in a great variety of elements of culture, including literature, architecture, theatre, sculpture, art, and language all over the world. However, for mentioned earlier cultural elements, ancient Rome was prominent in medicine, the art of war, and religion. It is the architecture according to which the following generations can estimate the greatness of the ancient Roman Empire and the influence it has on the following generations.

For centuries, the pieces of art that were found in Rome have decisively influenced the development of architecture, urban planning, technology, and the arts all over the world. The achievements of ancient Roman artists in the sphere of sculpture, painting, and architecture were considered to be a universal model during the periods of antiquity, the Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicism (Chilvers 112). The churches, temples, classical buildings, squares, and palaces of Rome, as well as sculptures and paintings have always remained the major point of reference for artists and architects throughout the world. Although the examples of Roman paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and buildings have survived in great numbers, only few names of its architects and artists are recorded (Chilvers 115). Historians claim that the monuments were designed for serving the needs of their patrons rather than for the expression and promotion of artists' temperaments.


Roman art embraces the period of time in a thousand of years. Additionally, it covers the territory of three main world continents that include Africa, Europe, and Asia (Taylor 28). It is not a secret that the ancient Romans hardly hesitated to adopt different artistic influences from the surrounding and preceding Mediterranean cultures. Ultimately, ancient Roman art became the alternation of mixed Egyptian, Greek, and Etruscan cultural principles and influences (Taylor 29). In other words, archeologists and culture experts still argue about the authenticity of Roman art and challenge in defining the Roman signs in Roman art. Discussing its timing, archeologists suggest the year 509 BC was a starting point of the foundation of both Roman art and Roman Republic. The period of the first Roman art had continued until 330 CE and finished with the foundation of the Roman Empire (Taylor 29).

Traditionally, Roman art is divided into two basic periods namely such one of the Republic and the one of the Roman Empire. In their turns, the periods are subdivided into minor ones in accordance with imperial dynasties and major emperors (Chilvers 710). During the period of the Roman Republic, Roman art had distinctive similarities with Etruscan one. In the course of time, another country, i.e. Greece, influenced it dramatically. Eventually, during the last two centuries before Christ there emerged a distinctive Roman manner of sculpting, painting, and building. At the same time, due to the extraordinary geographical location and the varied population of the country, Roman art and architecture were rather diversified. It was characterized by a great amount of attributable styles and preferences of a wide range of patrons within regions (Scheidel 5). However, ancient Roman art was not only such one of emperors and aristocracy, but of all population of the republic, including middle-class businesspersons, soldiers, freedmen, and slaves. Nowadays, there still exist remarkable pieces of ancient Roman architecture. They attract the interest of millions of tourists from all over the world. They include a great number of monuments of antiquity, such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Imperial Forums, the Arch of Titus, the Arch of Septimius Severus, and the Arch of Constantine. Moreover, there are such ones as the Nero's Aqueduct, the Arch of Drusus, the Porta Maggoire, the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Venus and Roma, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Neptune, the Temple of Vesta, and the Temple of Augustus and Livia, to name the few ones.

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As noted earlier, modern Rome has saved a great number of monumental remains of antiquity. They have witnessed different periods of styles and development of architecture, art, and urban design that are associated with more than a millennium of history. The brightest examples of ancient Roman architecture are triumphal arches, bridges and basilicas, aqueducts and temples, as well as ancient theatres and arenas. As mentioned earlier, the geographical location and diversified population of the Roman Republic influenced the amount of art styles and combinations. It can be proved by a wide range of building typologies, the stratification of architectural languages, and original developments in urban planning. They harmoniously integrated in the complex morphology of the city. In this respect, the following civil monuments are worthwhile mentioning: the Baths, Forums, palaces and city walls, and the systems of water supply, including fountains, aqueducts, and drainage.

Triumphal arches were originally erected as a decorative gateway to honor some important events or persons. In the course of the military Roman history, arches became triumphal gates for generals who had won a prominent victory, as well as for the commemoration of new emperors (Chilvers 710). Initially, these ones were the temporary structures. However, starting from the 1st century BC some of them were erected of permanent materials throughout the Roman Empire. Though most of constructions are situated in Italy, three the most famous examples have survived in Rome itself, more specifically the Arch of Titus (81 AD), the Arch of Septimius Severus (203 BC), and the Arch of Constantine (315 BC). Each one of them is decorated with a notable sculpture. The last one is the largest and most dignified one among all Roman triumphal arches. At the same time, the piece of architecture is considered to be the indication of a profound decline in Roman art. To sum up, triumphal arches belong to the most distinctive and influential types on ancient Roman architecture. Besides, the saved ancient triumphal arches inspired many post-Roman rulers and states on the erection of their own arches. The most notable ones in the Roman style were constructed in a number of cities all over the world. Here belong the Wellington Arch in London, the Siegestor Arch in Munich, and the Arch de Triomphe in Paris.

Due to an intense population of Rome, the citizens needed to have some constructions assisting in getting water in and out the city. That is why ancient Romans designed huge water channels called aqueducts. The first aqueduct called the Aqua Appia was constructed in 312 BC (Scheidel 15). Later, there came the Aqua Anio Vetus, the Aqua Marcia, and others. Eventually, there appeared 11 aqueducts in ancient Rome and the surrounding countryside (Scheidel 15). The first Roman water constructions were needed for water supply. Later, they became the objects of civic pride and public interest as these massive arched structures were doubled and decorated. The system of aqueducts was splendid but did not survive in the course of time. However, some ancient Roman water constructions are not only saved but remain operational to these days. An average traveler in Rome can witness the mystery and beauty of these structures today. More specifically, the Nero's Aqueduct, which is located on the present Via Statillio, the Arch of Drusus, and the Porta Maggiore located on two important ancient roads the Via Labicana and the Via Praenestina are monumental bridges and arches visible above ground throughout the city.

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The most known architectural construction, which is associated with ancient Rome, is the Colosseum. The Flavian Amphitheatre belongs to the world's most magnificent examples of ancient Roman engineering and architecture, which is located in the center of the city. Historians suggest the period between 70 AD and 80 AD to be the time of its construction (Ramage and Ramage 58). It was erected under three Flavian emperors, namely Vespasian, Titus, and Dominton. The amphitheater was originally constructed for public spectacles and gladiatorial fights. It had a sitting capability of more than 50 thousand spectators located according to their ranks. The Roman Colosseum had remained in use for about 500 years. Not only were the contests of gladiators held there. A number of public performances took place in the Colosseum, including animal hunts, mock sea battles, re-enactment of famous battles, executions, as well as dramas based on Classical mythology (Elsner 48). During its existence, the Colosseum had been partially damaged by the fire and earthquakes. Most of the tumbled stones were reused for building hospitals, churches, palaces, and other constructions elsewhere in Rome. In the course of time, it became impossible to hold some large events in the Colosseum due to the ruined state of the interior. However, it remains one of the most popular touristic attractions in Italy, which annually receives millions of visitors.

Another perfectly preserved architectural construction from antiquity is the Pantheon. It was erected under the reign of Marcus Vispanius Agrippa in 27-25 BC (Ramage and Ramage 64). Historians still argue as for the function and dedication of the building. However, the porch, pediment decoration, and the name show it as a temple. At the same time, historians assume that the impressive construction might have acted as a giant sundial. The Pantheon went through the fire in 80 AD (Ramage and Ramage 64). In about 125 AD under Emperor Hadrian, the temple was completely rebuilt as such one to all the gods of the Roman Republic (Ramage and Ramage 64). However, starting from the seventh century, the Pantheon was given to Pope Boniface IV as a Christian church. It, in its turn, saved the building from the spoliation and abandonment. Being the best preserved example of the monumental architecture of ancient Rome, the Pantheon now is a state property that annually attracts millions of tourists from all over the world.

The Imperial Forums belong to another partially preserved example of architectural heritage of antiquity. It comprises a series of monumental public squares located in the center of the Roman Republic. They were the locations of religion, politics, and economy in the ancient Roman Empire. The area of the Imperial Fora included the Forum of Caesar, the Forum of Augustus, the Transitional Forum, and the Trajan's forum. In the early twentieth century, the Imperial Fora was restored. Now it belongs to the list of favorite places of interest. Still, due to its close location with heavy traffic, its noise, and vibration the buildings are at risk of damage.

Religious monuments and pieces of art deserve special attention. Some of them still exist in the Eternal City. Here belong the remarkable basilicas of the period of early Christianity, including the Archbasilica Saint John Lateran, and the Papal Basilica Saint Mary Major, as well as Saint Paul's Outside-the-Walls. During the period of more than two thousand years, Rome has remained a religious and secular capital of Europe. Besides, the city has been directly associated with the authentic history of Christianity since its origin. For centuries, the Eternal City has been and still remains a symbol of Christian faith due to the Saints and Martyrs, the Tombs of Apostles, and now, the presence of the Pope.

Ancient Roman temples belong to the most visible archeological remains of antiquity. Its maintenance and construction was a distinctive part of religious beliefs in ancient Rome. As noted earlier, ancient Romans had followed the models of both Greek and Etruscan styles in their architecture style. The most popular temples and their remains that belong to the period of the ancient Roman history comprise the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Venus and Roma, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Neptune, the Temple of Vesta, and the Temple of Augustus and Livia among others. Overall, there exist thirty-two temples within the city of Rome. Their existence proves a rather serious and honorable attitude of ancient Romans towards gods and religion.

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Finally, Roman theatres that had been derived from the Greek also belong to archeological and cultural objects of ancient Rome. They were built in all areas of the Empire to provide this kind of entertainment to citizens. Providing the little evidence about the specific ancient Roman theatres, only few of them have survived inside the city. Here there are such as the Theatre of Marcellus created by Caesar and Augustus in 11 or 13 BC and the Theatre of Orange located in France (Taylor 102). The last being a prominent example of antiquity and a classical Roman construction also proves the fact of influence that ancient Roman artists had in the prospect of development of art.

To conclude, being a combination of Etruscan and Greek cultures, the ancient Roman architecture has obtained its individual distinctive features. Architectural constructions present the most visible heritage of antiquity, including arches, basilicas, aqueducts, temples, theatres, and forums. The existence of similar architectural buildings in Europe and all over the world proves the fact of not only evident beauty and luxury but also their reliability and credibility. Nowadays, a great number of them are preserved and reconstructed in order to allow the following generations to enjoy the beauty and glory of ancient Roman architecture.

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