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(B.C. 750B.C. 100)
The Etruscans, who were the early
inhabitants of Central Italy, were great
builders, and their methods of
construction influenced Roman
architecture in a marked degree. Etruscan
architecture, which dates from about B.C.
750, is especially notable for the use of
the true or radiating arch, while walls
are of solid cyclopean masonry, in which
huge masses of stone are piled up without
Examples of Etruscan architecture
The remains, which consist chiefly of
tombs, city walls, gateways, bridges, and
aqueducts, were similar in character to
early Pelasgic work.
The Cloaca Maxima, Rome (c. B.C. 578)
constructed to drain the valleys between
the hills of Rome, has a semicircular vault
of peperino stone, 11 ft. in span, of three
concentric rings of voussoirs, each 2 ft. 6
ins. high, forming probably the oldest
example in Europe of true arch
construction, with radiating joints.
The Arch of Augustus, Perugia, is so called
because the part above the frieze was
added by Augustus. The Arch forms part
of the old Etruscan walls, about two miles
long, surrounding the ancient city, and is
the best existing example of Etruscan
masonry. It is built of large blocks of
travertine stone without mortar,
surmounted by a frieze resembling the
Doric with triglyphs represented by dwarf
Ionic pilasters.
The Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, Rome
(B.C. 509) the most important example of
this type of building, had its cella divided
into three chambers for statues of Jupiter,
Minerva, and Juno, and was nearly square

on plan, with widely spaced columns to

support timber architraves.

(B.C. 146A.D. 365)
The Romans adopted the columnar and
trabeated style of the Greeks and
developed also the arch, vault, and dome
of the Etruscans. This combined use of
column, beam, and arch is the keynote of
the Roman style in its earliest stages. The
Colosseum, Rome, everywhere throughout
its structure, displays these two features
in combination, for piers strengthened and
faced by attached half-columns support
arches, which in their turn carry the
In works of an engineering character, such
as aqueducts, the arch was supported on
piers without the facing column. Thus the
Orders of architecture which, as used by
the Greeks, were essentially constructive
were frequently employed by the Romans
as decorative features which could be
omitted and even at times lost their
original use, although the Romans also
used them constructively in temple
colonnades and basilicas.
The Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian Orders of
architecture were used by the Greeks ,
and the Romans added the Tuscan and
Composite, making five in all. The Tuscan
Order is a simplified version of the Doric
Order, about 7 diameters high, with base,
unfluted shaft, and simply moulded
capital, and with a plain entablature, as
seen in the Colosseum, and as used by a
Renaissance architect in S. Paul, Covent
Garden, London.
The Composite Order of the Romans has
a capital which is a combination of the
Corinthian and Ionic capitals, and was


used largely in triumphal arches to give an
ornate character. Vitruvius, the Roman
authority on architecture in the time of
Augustus, gives the proportions of the
Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian
Orders, but does not mention the
Composite Order, which was evolved later.
The proportions of the various Orders
were studied in the Renaissance Period by
famous architects, such as Palladio,
Vignola, and Sir William Chambers.
Temples were the predominating buildings
of the Greeks and were of one storey, but
the complex civilization and varied needs
of the Romans introduced other types and
necessitated the use of several storeys
which were frequently ornamented, as in
the Colosseum, by attached half-columns
superimposed one above the other.
Thermae, temples, amphitheatres,
aqueducts, bridges, tombs, and basilicas
all testify to the great constructive ability
of the Romans, whose majestic buildings
are in accord with the grandeur of Roman
Imperial power.
The Romans adopted the Greek method of
using large blocks of stone without mortar
during the Republic, but their practical
mind eventually hit upon greater economy
of materials by the use of concrete, a
hard composition which consists of small
fragments of stone, such as tufa,
peperino, marble, pumice-stone, or even
broken bricks, mixed with lime.
The Romans employed local slaves, liable
to statute labour on public buildings, as
well as the soldiers of the Roman legions
for unskilled labour under supervision
sufficedto mix the liquid concrete to the
right consistency for pouring between
boards to form walls or for spreading over
temporary timber centering or permanent
brick centering to solidify into arches and

vaults. This extended use of concrete

originated a new constructive system
which was adapted to diverse types of
important buildings.
Roman walls, both of stone and
concrete, are of special character and
must be described in detail. Walls of "
opus quadratum," i.e. rectangular blocks
of stone, with or without mortar joints but
frequently secured with dowels or cramps,
still continued in use. Concrete, both
unfaced and faced, was largely employed,
(a) unfaced for foundations, and (b) faced
for walls, of four varieties, viz.:


Concrete faced with " opus

incertum," i.e. irregular-shaped
stones. This was mainly used in
the first and second centuries


Concrete faced with " opus

reticulatum ", so-called because
the joints were in diagonal
lines, like the meshes of a net


Concrete faced with " opus

testaceum," i.e. with bricks
(testee) triangular on plan and
about 1 1/2 ins. thick , used
from the time of the Republic
till the end of the Western


Concrete faced with " opus

mixtum," which consisted of
bands of tufa introduced at
intervals in the ordinary brick

Concrete was a manufactured article, and

as such was not special to any country
and could be used in every part of the
Empire ; thus throughout the Roman
dominions it gave uniformity and similarity
to the buildings, whose character was thus
largely independent of local conditions.


The character of Roman architecture
depended largely on the extended use of
vaulting inherited from the Etruscans and
standardized as a structural system.
Concrete vaults were erected which
were never equaled in magnitude till the
introduction of steel for building in the
nineteenth century. The adoption of
concrete and the method of its use was
far-reaching in its results, as structures of
complicated plan were easily roofed by
vaults of various forms, supported on
centering or temporary wooden
framework till the concrete had set.
Sometimes such vaults were constructed
of brick ribs with concrete filling.
The various vaults used in Roman
buildings were as follows:
(a) The semicircular or waggon-headed
vault, otherwise known as the " barrel " or
" tunnel " vault, was borne throughout its
length on the two parallel walls of a
rectangular apartment.
(b) The cross-vault, which was formed by
the intersection of two semi-circular vaults
of equal span, was used over a square
apartment and the pressure was taken by
the four angles. When cross-vaults were
used over long halls or corridors, the hall
was divided by piers into square bays,
each of which was covered with a crossvault, which allowed of the insertion of
windows in the upper part of the walls as
in the tepidarium of the Thermae of
Caracalla and the Thermae of Diocletian,
Rome. The lines of intersection of these
cross-vaults are known as " groins."
(c) Hemispherical domes or cupolas (cupa
= a cup) were used over circular
structures, and semi-domes for exedra or
semi-circular recesses.

In all these vaulting forms concrete was

the important factor, for, owing to its
cohesive power, vaults and domes of
enormous size were daringly constructed,
and as they were cast in one solid mass,
and had the rigidity of a porcelain cup,
there was little or no lateral thrust.
With the use of concrete, decoration had
little connection with construction; for
concrete was a material which required a
facing, both for protection and decoration,
and walls of concrete were sheathed
externally and internally with marble,
stone, brick, or mosaic, and these
materials merely formed an appropriate
finish to the structure, thus differing
essentially from the homogeneous marble
walls of Greek architecture. Besides manycoloured marbles, cements and stuccoes
(" opus albarium ") were also frequently
used for wall surfaces, and the final coat
was polished. Mural paintings also were
executed on prepared stucco, and were of
different types, such as fresco, tempera,
varnish, and caustic painting.
Marble, alabaster, porphyry, and jasper,
when applied to a thick cement backing,
were usually attached to the walls by iron
or bronze cramps. Mosaics were used to
ornament not only walls and vaults, but
also floors.
The abundance of statues brought from
Greece led to the formation of wall niches
for their reception, and these were either
semicircular or rectangular, and were
occasionally flanked by columns
supporting a pediment, to form a frame
for the statue, or were fronted by a screen
of columns, as in the Pantheon.



The forum, corresponding to the agora in
a Greek city, was a central open space
used as a meeting-place, market, or
rendezvous for political demonstrations,
like the French " place," the English
market-place, and the Royal Exchange or
Trafalgar Square, London. There were
several forums in Rome, all very similar in
plan. All were designed to meet the
requirements of Roman citizens, and with
the surrounding buildings they reflect not
only the religion, law, and commerce, but
also the busy corporate life of the city,
which was much the same whatever the
form of government, whether of elected
Kings, Republic, or Empire.
The " Forum Romanum," Rome, the oldest
and most important of all, was laid out in
the valley between the seven hills of the
Imperial City, and was used in early times
as a hippodrome, and for contests which
later took place in amphitheatres. The
chief public buildings were grouped
around it, and its appearance in the
heyday of ancient Rome, adorned with
pillars of victory and statues and
surrounded by porticoes, colonnades,
temples, basilicas, and shops, must
indeed have been imposing.
The Forum of Trajan, Rome (A.D. 98
117) was the most extensive, and others
were planned by Julius Caesar, Augustus,
Vespasian, and Nerva.
Besides these general forums, others,
such as the " Forum Boarium," served as
markets for special purposes. Pompeii,
and indeed any town of importance,
followed the example of Rome and had a
forum as a centre of civic life. The forums
of Rome and of the Roman provinces are
early examples of well-considered townplanning, and were found even in the
outskirts of the Empire, in all of which are

traces of colonnaded streets to give

shelter from the sun.

Roman temples are an amalgamation of
Etruscan and Greek types; for while in
many respects they resembled the Greek,
the typical prostyle portico and podium
were derived from Etruscan temples.
There are several types, of which the most
characteristic is pseudo-peripteral which,
instead of side colonnades, has halfcolumns attached to the walls with a
prostyle portico in front.
The steps to the principal entrance were
flanked by massive, low walls which were
an extension of the lateral podium, and
they frequently supported groups of
statuary. Greek peripteral temples were
normally twice as long as their width, but
Roman temples were much shorter in
proportion, while the cella itself, used as
a treasure house and as a museum for
Greek statuary, frequently occupied the
whole width of the building. The
intercolumniation was sometimes wider
than in Greek temples, and then the
architrave and frieze were built in
voussoirs as flat arches, but this
treatment was unnecessary where walls
supported the entablature. Nothing
definite is known as to the cella ceilings,
but they may have been coffered, as in
the colonnades; of timber beams, as in
the basilicas ; or vaulted.
The absence of a surrounding colonnade
and continuous stylobate resulted in a
certain loss of unity, as compared with
Greek temples, which were more-over
generally isolated so as to be visible on all
sides. Roman temples were intended to be
seen from the forum which they faced,
and the entrance was emphasized by the
deep portico and steps, while there was


no attempt at orientation, as in Greek
Circular and Polygonal Temples
The Romans frequently employed the
circular and polygonal form, which was
probably derived from the temples of the
The Temple of Vesta, Rome (B.C. 715 and
later) in the Forum Romanum, was the
most sacred shrine in the Imperial city,
and here under the custody of the Vestal
Virgins the sacred fire was kept alight
which signified the home hearth as the
centre and source of Roman life and
power. It was founded in B.C. 715, but
was frequently destroyed by fire and
repeatedly rebuilt, finally by Septimius
Severus in A.D. 205. According to
excavations, it seems to have had a
podium 10 ft. high supporting a circular
cella, 28 ft. in diameter, surrounded by
eighteen Corinthian columns, 34 ft. 7 in.
high, and fragments of columns have been
found with fillets for the insertion of metal
Christian baptisteries were evolved from
these little circular temples, which
therefore hold an extremely interesting
position in architectural evolution.