The study of the mighty Roman people has revealed how practical a people they truly were. The Romans were able to make excellent use of their building materials which allowed them to expand their engineering skills beyond the creation of temples. Their invention of concrete as well as the mastery of the arch allowed them to really display their unparalleled architectural skills.
It was this mastery that allowed for notable buildings such as the Roman colosseum and pantheon to be built. Unlike the infrastructure of other ancient civilizations, much of Roman architecture is still around today. This not only gives us the opportunity to study and learn from the Romans, but also serves as a testament to their engineering prowess. The Arch. Anyone that has had the pleasure of visiting Rome would have easily seen the extensive use of arches in Roman architecture.
However, the conception of the arch cannot be credited to the Romans although evidence suggests that the Romans were the first to put the arch to good use (Alchin, n.d.). Throughout our study of the Roman people, the practicality of this civilization should have become abundantly apparent. This is further demonstrated with their use of arches in their architecture. The arch utilized less building material, utilized less labor, and was also more structurally sound than any other technique that had been conceived. While the Romans did not invent it, they certainly recognized its great potential and made excellent use of it (Alchin, n.d.
). Arches were used in all manner of buildings especially when it came to bridges and aqueducts. This allowed the Romans to build across obstacles such as rivers as well as use tiered arches to serve as aqueducts, bringing water from remote areas to the city of Rome. Structurally, had the Romans used flat bridges they would not have lasted because the bridge would have been unable to hold its own weight.
Using arches allowed them to build longer bridges which were not only structurally sound but were also aesthetically pleasing. If we look towards the Roman colosseum, we see the combination of two Roman architectural processes. The colosseum was built with four tiers of which the ceilings of the various passageways were constructed of concrete and vaulted arches. These arches rested on supports made of limestone, which is strong but also very heavy. Had the Romans not created the cheaper and lighter concrete, the colosseum would have had too much weight. Likewise, had the Romans utilized flat ceilings instead of the arches, the building would not have been able to support itself. Without the Roman invention of concrete or their mastery of the arch, the colosseum could not have been constructed (Alchin, n.d.
). Near the Greek settlement of Puteoli, a peculiar volcanic earth named pozzolana would be discovered. Initially, this substance was used to make mortar, a thick paste used as a bonding agent for bricks.
However, the effects of mortar wear off over time and must be replaced making it ill-suited for buildings that require sound structure (BaldEagle Construction, 2012). The Romans discovered that by adding various strengthening material (limestone, broken bricks, etc.), a stronger substance could be created. Hence, the building material of concrete is born. This newfound material replaced rubble as a filler for walls which enabled massive permanent structures to be built (Kamm, 2008).
Another consequence of this new discovery was the ability to utilize irregularly shaped stones as facing dubbed opus incertum (Kamm, 2008). Opus incertum developed into opus reticulatum where pyramid shaped stones with square bases were inserted head first creating an aesthetically pleasing outward appearance. This gave way to yet other method known as opus testaceum. In this method, thin triangular shaped bricks were used with their points inserted into the wall and the flat ends facing outwards (Kamm, 2008). The Roman discovery of concrete along with their innovative building techniques also allowed them to build circular structures such as the colosseum and the pantheon, monument to the gods (Kamm, 2008). ConcreteAs Roman opulence grew with the expansion of its empire, so did the need to display its wealth, glory, and power through architecture. The Romans were not content with merely emulating the refined Greek nation, they sought to outdo them in every way possible.
The architecture between the Greeks and Romans is strikingly similar, understandable if we think back to the absorption of Greece into Rome. However, the proud Romans would only use Greek architecture as a basis for inspiration. The resulting product of this borrowing would yield architectural processes and buildings that would ultimately surpass all other civilizations of this time.