Roman architecture is famous for its efficient design and engineering, utilizing relevant building materials that helped them achieve success with construction. It is known for a variety of structures such as domes, amphitheaters, temples, arches, bathhouses, aqueducts, apartments, and so on. The key factors that helped the Roman Empire flourish were the lack of rival cities and the abundance of resources and labour. Originating from the Banks of the Tiber River in Italy, the empire spread around the Mediterranean Sea over the century. They were well known for several inventions in science and building design, which are utilized even today by cities around the globe.
However, there are some facts about the Romans and their architecture that stumps people even today. Here are some things which are less know about Roman Architecture:
1. Use of concrete
The Romans were the first to use concrete in their buildings. It was an aggregate of lime, lumps of tufa, peperino, broken bricks, marble, and pumice stone mixed with mortar. It gave them flexibility and strength in construction, as it could be molded into any desired shape or form to add to the building construction. The use of concrete helped this empire evolve and adapt, which was the factor that allowed this empire to reign for over 1000 years.
2. The Dome of Pantheon
The Romans used their advanced engineering and architectural skills to perfect the design of the dome. The dome of Pantheon is the world’s largest unsupported concrete dome and has a central opening called the Oculus, which was the only natural lighting in the hall. This dome is of 4535 metric tons and stands without any external support.
3. Perfecting the Arches and Vaults
The arch and the vault were used since prehistoric times by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Greeks. However, these were used to support only the roofs or other smaller structures. And with the Romans, these structures became more load-bearing and allowed the building of heavier structures and this led to the development of various bridges and aqueducts.
4. The Alcántara Bridge
One such bridge was the Alcántara Bridge (over Tagus River, Spain), which was completed in 106 AD by Emperor Trajan. The Emperor had inscribed on this bridge – “I have built a bridge which will last forever,” and this bridge still stands and is in use to date. Many structures around the expanse of the empire remain to date and are in use. This suggests the preciseness of the quality of construction.
5. The sewer system in Ancient Rome
The Romans developed a complex system of sewers covered with stones like the modern sewers. Water which was flushed from the individual homes flowed into a central channel which later connected to the main sewage system and finally disposed into a river or streams nearby. These sewers were developed from the inputs of many previous civilizations and perfected to its fullest extent.
6. Transport system of the Roman empire
The Romans are famous for their road networks and paved pathways. Some of these roads have tunnels built around them and played a vital role in the transport of people and goods. However, it is interesting to note that the whole empire developed around the Mediterranean Sea but they never became sea-faring like the Greeks.
7. Building guidelines
The Romans were specific about their architecture and wanted to create a set of guiding principles to govern the construction of structures. The building acts that were set up by rulers, like Augustus, Nero, and Trajan, were widely used. These norms and codes helped prevent the over-expansion of buildings that would disrupt the day to day lives in their cities.
8. Role of an Architect
The architect played a leading role in the city’s development. The final design would be done by an architect who would be serving as an engineer, a construction supervisor, a contractor, and a budget supervisor. All matters on the construction of buildings would be done directly under their supervision.
9. Hypocaust – Underfloor heating system
The underfloor heating system was first developed in ancient Romans. It had a furnace that would heat air from an air vent and direct it towards stone pillars attached to the floor. This system then heated up the floor of the building and the walls had ceramic tiles to insulate the heat. This primitive system reflected on the technological advancement of the Roman empire.
10. Skilled Labour
To create a sense of uniformity in their building construction the Romans employed a variety of techniques. One of them was the inclusion of norms and giving a vital role to the architect. But there was another less known fact – the training of labourers to help them with construction activity in the future. This approach helped the local community develop and at the same time ensuring the uniformity in architecture over such a vast span of land.