From the beginnings of human existence art has been used to depict, glorify, and eternize the cultures of a society. Though the ages of time none have become more world renown than the workings of the Roman civilization; an art form which incorporated the customs of the Etruscans and Greeks to create an individualistic style that appealed to the cultural aesthetics of the time period. Of the various forms of art used by the Romans, the one which most clearly illustrates this is the Roman’s architecture, arguably the most influential and impressive use of artistic ideals.
By using innovative new materials, establishing new building methods, and absorbing surrounding and past cultural ideologies the Romans were able to leave a legacy of greatness for generations to come. Roman architecture was undoubtedly eclectic, using different styles from various cultures across Europe. The earliest buildings focused mainly on the styles of the Etruscans, the people who populated large areas of Italy before the rise of the Roman civilization. These techniques were with the use of simple arches for strength and sparing the amount of stone used during construction.Order now
The structures were formed on top of platforms, or podiums, and commonly had deep porches with only one stairway gaining access to the platform. After gaining knowledge from Greek builders, these structures added various styles of columns which created a more aesthetic image of the Roman edifices found in the main city areas. One such structure which clearly depicts the combination of Etruscan and Greek architecture is the Temple of Portunus, which mixes ionic and engaged columns on a building with a deep porch constructed on top of a large podium.
Various government and religious buildings in Roman cities were constructed in a similar fashion. Along with the adoption of architectural design from past cultures, the Romans used artistic ideals from civilizations neighboring the boarders of the empire which were gained while on campaigns to gain territories. Once such advancement was the mosaic, another Greek method which decorated stone buildings with colorful chips mixed into the concrete. Even with use of simple aesthetically appealing workings on the outside of buildings, “there was much more emphasis on the interior space and decoration than on the appearance of the exterior. (Ramage, 52)
The appearance of the interior was commonly improved with the addition of various other forms of art such as paintings and sculptures. While the civilization of ancient Italy used ethnocentrism in politics and government, they incorporated various cultures into their artistic creations. The most influential adaptation of the Etruscan architecture to the Roman world was that of the arch. While it underwent advancements, the arch was the most efficient way to shape structures.
Commonly used in buildings, the arch had another important role in Roman culture. It was vital in the creation of various Roman aqueducts because “The arch itself has the functional appeal of great strength, coupled with the relatively spare requirement for building materials, in relation to its size. ” (Ramage, 94) This was a great benefit since the aqueducts stretched long distances over wide valleys and deep gorges. Although difficult, the architectural patterns of these allowed for aesthetic achievement.
With proportionate arches per level, such as one arch on the first level being the same distance as three arches on the second level, “the rhythm set up by the long rows of arches is satisfying and beautiful at the same time. ” (Ramage, 94) Although most arches were used with a physical purpose, various arches were designed and constructed for intellectual and social purposes. Some structures such as extravagant arches allowed Roman leaders to symbolize ideas and reflect on past events with the use of artwork through architecture. One of the most famous of these is the Arch of Trajan located at Benevento.
With this arch Trajan was able to present the goals and ideals of his policies through imagery. The images used were meant to connect to the common citizens under his rule, and being built on a major road through Italy demonstrated his commitment to public works. This was backed by the six relief panels carved into each side of the arch. Each panel was created with the intention of depicting a topic clearly and simply to the viewer. In one image the pairing of military and civilian subjects “implies that prosperity and well-being result from the pacification of peoples beyond the frontiers. (D’Ambra, 83)
While being carved in beautiful shapes, the Arch of Trajan appeals to the aesthetics of the culture while conveying messages from a ruler to his citizens. Romans used a mix of architectural techniques to depict ideas and remember past accomplishments. Most structures, not only arches, also incorporated carvings out of the framework itself, mixing sculpting and architecture to form one aesthetic work of art. One such monument was erected by the senate in honor of Augustus’s return from wars in Gaul and Spain.
This was created to show the advancements of the Roman civilization while glorifying and emphasizing the greatness of the Empire. While there was constant construction through the lands of Rome, there was destruction as well. In order to unify the ideals of beauty the cities buildings had to be unified as well. The use of concrete, stone, marble and columns to erect buildings assured that the city would uniformly appeal to the Roman aesthetics. It is for this reason that “prominent citizens and emperors put up buildings and tore down eyesore to improve their cities. (D’Ambra, 59)
This also created an image of superiority of the empire over other cultures. While the basic forms of Roman architecture were adapted from the surrounding past and present cultures, their innovation led to the advancement of these traditional ideals. The most notable advancement would be the invention of concrete to construct buildings. Composed of broken stones, flint, and sand, when this material became mixed with lime it created an amazingly durable and strong material known as concrete. With this, the newly developed material formed the core of most walls and ceilings of Roman structures.
It is for this reason that concrete is the most significant Roman invention, contributing more than any other material,’ says Professor Middleton, ”to make Rome the proverbially “eternal” city. ‘” (Walters, 23) Since the material was shaped by surrounding wood structures which could later be removed, the outer appearance of buildings became unattractive. To avoid this brick and marble were used as an outer shell of structures to conform to the beauty of surrounding Roman creations. The discovery of concrete and the efficiency of reusing the wood frames to construct buildings made architecture far quicker and easier than ever before.
It is clear that “once the Romans had put the idea of using vaults and concrete together, the possibilities were endless. ” (Ramage, 53) Elaborate structures were now accessible, and the ability to erect enormous structures which were previously impossible due to the difficulty of stones and bricks were now possible. While structures were used for housing of citizens, the beautiful creations commonly thought of as Roman architecture were made in dedication to religious entities, legendary rulers, and social activities for citizens. The most well known creation with the use of concrete was the Coliseum.
Actually called the Flavian Amphitheater, it was one of the largest and most elaborate buildings in the world throughout the time of the Roman Empire. Used purely for social purposes, it stood four stories high and still appeased visually to the citizens of Rome. Still using the aesthetic ideas of the Greeks, each level had a different style of columns circling the structure. From this, each floor of the colosseum made the exterior visually linked to Greek architecture while the structure itself was erected with entirely by Roman techniques.
The greatness of this virtually eternal structure is so well know that even today it is universally recognized as one of the most astonishing accomplishments of all time. From all this it is not surprising that “the Colosseum was the grandest amphitheater anywhere. ” (Ramage, 136) Along with the colosseum, other socially useful buildings were created from new Roman advancements. Even after thousands of years of aging, “The elaborate and splendid character of the baths erected by the Romans sufficiently indicates what an important part they played in their daily life. (Walters, 37)
Combining various buildings to form a single structure with the use of gigantic domes, the intricacies of baths not only show their importance to the citizens, but also depict the mechanical knowledge and constructive genius of the Roman architects. While still mixing the structural ideas of other cultures with their own innovations, baths became magnificently beautiful structures complete with gymnasiums, sitting areas, libraries, and baths. Along with the skillful architectural design, these structures were filled with sculptures and paintings making them popular social meeting places.
With all the innovative structures created by the Romans it is clear that their cultural significance is more than just a building for prayer, gathering, or living. These structures were built to symbolize the greatness of Rome while appealing to the social and aesthetic ideology of the civilization. With the expressions of ideology, recognitions of accomplishments, and the unification of aesthetics made the artistic architecture of the Roman cities a universally uncontested marvel.