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Home > Free Essays & Book Reports > Architecture > Roman Influence On Architecture

Roman Influence On Architecture

Roman Influence on Architecture The world of architecture has been greatly influenced and affected by Roman architectural design and development. Their innovative designs and influential developments developed centuries ago have provided a basis for architectural masterpieces found across the planet and, what's more, have remained relevant into the 21st Century. While the Romans borrowed many architectural designs from the Greeks and Etruscans, the additions that they did make to the world of architecture changed that world forever. Their invention of cement, their new use of arches and vaults, the development in aqueducts, and the development of road systems brought about change that affected not only the Roman Empire but also the many peoples that that great culture touched in its many travels and conquests. “With the Roman invention of concrete in the first century BC and their growing understanding of the architectural principles of stress and counter-stress, Roman architects were able to experiment with new and elaborate forms of building, many of which were to pass in to the western architectural tradition. (Cunningham and Reich 156).” Until this innovative development, architectural progress had been severely limited and restricted. Building designs, using traditional Grecian models within the post and lintel system, had allowed for limited change. With the development of concrete and the increased understanding of its uses and applications, Romans were able to erect structures that would have previously been impossible using the Grecian post and lintel system. It was also the Roman use of concrete that led the way to many other Roman innovations in architecture, most especially the use of arches and vaults. Prior to the use of arches, Greek and republican Roman temples had been relatively small, partly because of the difficulties involved in putting a roof on a large space, without the use of supports. The Romans found and developed a way to use internal arches (“a curved structure that forms the upper edge of an open space, or the space between a bridge's supports” (Arch)) and vaults (“an arch-shaped structure, usually of masonry, used as the ceiling of a room or other enclosed space, as the roof of a building, or as the support for a ceiling or roof” (Arch and Vault)) to provide roofs for structures of increasing size and complexity. This new innovative style was adopted by the Romans from the Etruscans, as early as the fifth century BC (Cunningham and Reich 156). “Vaults used by the Romans were simple geometric forms: the barrel vault(semicircular in shape), the intersecting (groined) barrel vault, and the segmental vault. By the 1st century BC, extensive systems of vaulting were employed. A particularly fine example of Roman vaulting is the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome” (Roman Architecture), and their influence on architectural styles in using the arch can be seen in modern day Washington Square in New York and the Champs Elysees in Paris (Cunningham and Reich 155). Building upon this development, after the second century, stone arches were commonly seen in bridges and aqueducts, there by giving birth to more major innovation. Because Rome covered such a large area and housed a massive population, it required a constant supply of water. The Romans were able to tackle this problem by creating a network of pipes that carried water from the surrounding hills, into the city of Rome. Ancient Rome was supplied by more than ten aqueducts, providing the city with some 38 million gallons of water each day” (Tillery). This innovation led the way to future waterlines and sewer systems in the many places that Rome was to leave its influence, including Great Britain and France, many of which can still be seen today. Roman influence is also seen in Europe when looking at their modern day road systems. The Romans were the first civilization to make well-designed roads. This greatly increased the ability to expand because of the way roads were laid out. The major roads were constructed to keep the incredibly large empire linked so it would not fall. The Romans enhanced the roads by adding a number of things to the basic idea of roads, such as archways, city streets, and arch bridges (Road). It is easy to see, even in 21st Century contemporary life, the immense influence the Romans had on the development of architecture around the world. Whether driving through the south of Italy, walking the halls of the great gothic churches of France, or driving past the farm fields of Mexico, their mark can be seen and appreciated. There ability to understand both the science and the physics that was and still is required to build strong and reliable structures and to apply this knowledge to the development of their craft remains a statement of their innovation, genius and long-lasting effect on all of person kind.


“Arch- Encarta Word English Dictionary”. Retrieved October 20, 2000 from the World Wide Web: “Arch and Vault”. Retrieved October 20, 2000 from the World Wide Web: 1579231&cid=6#p6 Cunningham, Lawrence S. and John J. Reich, ed. Cultures and Values :A Survey of the Western Humanities. 4th ed. Vol. 2. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1998. “Road”. Retrieved October 28, 2000 from the World Wide Web: 1#p51 “Roman Architecture”. Retrieved October 20, 2000 From the World Wide Web: Tillery, Kristopher A. “ Ancient Rome Online… A Complete Source” Retrieved October 20, 2000 from the World Wide Web: .

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