Roman Architecture

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