Roman architecture was based on Greek buildings; Romans borrowed the column orders from the Greeks but, on the other hand, they introduced new elements such as the arches, the domes and the composite capital.
The most important element introduced by the Romans was the arch which they took from the Etruscans. Arches allowed to make higher ceilings which could be roofed with domes and share weight of the building in a more balanced way.
Romans also used different materials such as concrete, brick, marble to compose buildings. The main buildings constructed by the Romans were:
- Amphitheaters were large structures used for gladiator fights, chariot races and other events.Built from stone, the amphitheaters were typically shaped like large ovals. Some had more than one level of seating, and many looked somewhat similar to a modern day football stadium. The largest amphitheater in the world, the Colosseum, is located in Rome.
Other building where many Romans spent time were the public baths Thermae. Thermae were used for socializing, bathing and exercising. They used to have hot baths, warm bahts and cold baths. The bath houses included gardens, an open air yard in the middle of the building called atrium and rooms to exercise and rest.
Roman temples give an idea on how sophisticated was Roman architecture. Temples were based on Greek models but some of them were covered by domes and their entrance was more ellaborated than it was in the Greek temples.The entrance or portico had a porch with high columns and temples were built in elevated places so a frontal staircase was made to access to the high platform known as the podium. The distance of the columns in rectangular temples were proportional to the diameter of the columns. There were round temples mainly those dedicated to Vesta. Inside the temples there were fresco paintings, a stutue of the God or Goddess and sometimes a treasure. The temples were place in one of the sides of the forum or near the major streets.
Wealthy families lived in houses built around atriums. The rooms had freco paintings and mosaics on the floor. Houses were single single storey and used to have running water as well as underground heating systems. They were made of stone.
Poor social groups lived in appartment complexes called insulae designed to accommodate as many people as possible.
On the other hand, Romans were excellent engineers and built very solid public works. The main ones were:
Aqueducts (water bridges) were built throughout Rome, their arch structures bringing water to areas far away from natural water supplies. Water was transported to a fountain and even using pipes to wealthy homes.
Roman roads favored trade and communications throughout the empire as well as they permited the Roman legions to move quickly. Roads were constructed using several layers of masonry and concrete. These roads have been durable enough to be used nowdays. Roads had a hump to allow water flow to the edges and to avoid flooding. The roads were called via by the Romans.
The bridges built by the Romans have extremely durable. Some of them even they are used today. To make bridges more solid and strong, Romans used arches and stone and concrete.