Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)

Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)

Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)

Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)

The great imperial thermae represent only a small proportion of the baths built, many of which could be quite small. The latter were termed balnea or balneae, and there were 170 of them in Rome according to Agrippa’s census (33 bc) rising to 856 in the fifth-century ad according to the Regional catalogues. Some were a continuation of the Pompeian type, with a single row of rooms along one side of a palaestra, as in the Baths of Neptune at Ostia, or the Baths at Glanum. A variation, with the rooms in an axial sequence but running perpendicular to the palaestra, can be seen at Champlieu and Conimbriga. Smaller baths were often laid out on the ‘ring’ plan, with the rooms arranged in a closed, but not axial sequence. The endless variety of ground plans inherent in this type can be appreciated by comparing such diverse examples as Madaurus and Thence (both in Tunisia), the Hunting Baths at Lepcis Magna (Figure 9.16) and the south baths at Thamugadi (Timgad).5 Therapeutic and spa baths, like those at Baiae, Badenweiler and Aquae Sulis (Bath) featured large plunge baths fed by natural springs (Figure 10.12).


Roman emperors were careful to provide plenty of entertainment for the Roman populace because they knew that people were held in control by two things: bread and circuses (Fronto, Elements of History, 18). The most important buildings designed for mass entertainment in the Roman world were the theatre, odeum, amphitheatre, stadium and circus (or hippodrome).

The earliest theatrical performances date to the fourth-century bc and took place in front of or close to temples. Audiences in the early days were easily distracted. In the Mother-in-Law, a play by Terence (fl. 170–160 bc), the actor delivering the prologue laments that in the first performance of the play the audience was more interested in the boxers and the rope-dancer (Terence, Hec. 1–5). In the second performance, the play broke up in disorder when a rumour circulated that there was to be a gladiatorial display. Things quietened down a little by the Augustan period when attendance at the theatre was very formal and tightly controlled. In Italy, the first Roman theatres, such as those at Iaitas, Pompeii and Pietrabbondante, were based on Hellenistic theatres, but the fully developed Roman theatre was somewhat closer in design to the modern theatre. Like Greek theatres, Roman theatres were composed of three elements: semicircular cavea (auditorium), orchestra and scene building (Figure 10.7), but, unlike those of the Greek theatre, the stage and scene building of the mature Roman theatre were joined to the auditorium and rose to the same height, for example, in the well-preserved theatre at Bostra (Bosra, Syria) (Figure 2.8). This created a sense of enclosure made more emphatic by the vela (awnings) overhead to shade the spectators. Whereas the Greek orchestra was circular, in Roman times it became semicircular, because it had lost most of its importance by then, with the result that much of its space was taken up by the magistrates’ portable thrones (Visalia). Above the lateral passages leading into the orchestra were the boxes (tribunal) for the presiding magistrates. Unlike the high Greek stage, the Roman stage (pulpitum) was broad and low, so that the magistrates in the orchestra could see what was going on. In the front of the stage, there was usually a slot into which the curtain sank at the beginning of the performance. Behind the stage rose the scaenae frons (the front of the scene building), with its three doors for the entry and exit of the performers. It was richly decorated with two or three storeys of columns, niches, statues and honorific

Figure 2.8  Bostra (Bosra, Syria), Roman theatre.

inscriptions. Behind was the postcranium, an area used by the actors and for props. In the case of Orange, ancient Arausio, (Figure 10.6) the back wall (postscaenium) is particularly well preserved. At the sides of the stage were large rooms (used as foyers) often richly decorated, such as those at Orange (Figure 10.7) which fitted against the sides of the cave uniting it with the stage building. Most Roman theatres were built against a slope to save expense, but the Romans were perfectly capable of building on a flat site, the classic example being the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome (13–11 bc) with a fully built-up cave resting entirely on alternately annular and radial vaulted substructures (Figure 3.9). These both supported the cavea and ensured easy circulation throughout the building. The stage of a Roman theatre was enormous, often 60 metres or more in length, a massive space in which performed spectacles such as popular plays, mime and pantomime, often accompanied by musicians and choirs. The decoration of the sets as well as the costumes of the players were sumptuous, judged by wall paintings and descriptions (Apuleius, The Golden Ass 10.30–32). In the late Roman theatre, the orchestra was sometimes flooded to provide water spectacles. As early as the first century bc valuable presents were thrown among the people by a magistrate (missile). These were often advertised in advance, as was the provision of awnings (vela) on a hot day. Benefactors donated money not only for the fabric of the building but also in support of the games (Ludi scenic), as numerous inscriptions attest.

The odeum, designed for musical performances and essentially a smaller version of the theatre, was usually roofed, for example, the odeum at Pompeii (c. 70 bc), which is referred to in an inscription as Theatrum tectum (roofed theatre). Despite its early date, it had an astonishing internal span of 26.25 metres. Some exceptionally large odea were built, like the Odeum of Domitian at Rome (more than 100 metres wide) and the odeum at Carthage (96 metres wide). Odea is said to have catered for a more refined taste than theatres, although a story is told of an odeum being emptied of its spectators because the fish market had opened (Strabo, Geo. 14.2.21).

Amphitheatres were constructed in much the same way as theatres, but with the important difference that they were not semicircular, but elliptical with an oval arena in the centre, as at Pompeii (Figure 6.9). The amphitheatre at Pompeii, the earliest known, was built against the town walls and upon an earth fill (aggestus), which means that access was limited and most spectators had to climb one of the two external staircases to reach their seats. Amphitheatres were also equipped with vela to protect spectators from the sun. There are well-preserved remains of the mast holes for the vela in the Colosseum (Figure 7.1) and at Nemausus (Nîmes) (Figures. 10.8 and 10.9). At Capua and the Colosseum (Figure 7.3), there are also bollards at ground level around the building which were used to hold the winches for the ropes to control the vela. Amphitheatrical spectacles were mainly of two kinds: animal hunts (venationes) and gladiatorial combat. Animal hunts became popular when more than 100 African elephants were captured at Palermo in 251 bc and taken to Rome to provide a public spectacle in the Circus Maximus (Polybius, 1.40). An animal hunt is depicted on the walls of the frigidarium of the Hunting Baths at Lepcis Magna. As for gladiatorial games, there was a very old tradition of prisoners being forced to fight each other to the death on the tomb of a dead hero, to placate the gods of the underworld. Such a spectacle is known to have taken place in the Forum Boarium at the funeral of Brutus Pera in 264 bc (Valerius Maximus, 2.4.7). Gladiatorial games were commonly held in the Roman Forum until fire damage caused them to be transferred to the Saepta Julia in 7 bc. However, the enormous Colosseum (Figures 7.1 and 7.2), built between ad 75 and 80 and measuring 188 × 156 metres, became the venue par excellence. Accommodating about 50,000 spectators the Colosseum exceeded every other amphitheatre in size, although some are quite large, such as Capua, 165 × 135 metres, Italica, 157 × 134 metres, Augustodunum (Autun), 154 × 130 metres, Verona, 152 × 123 metres, Pozzuoli, 149 × 116 metres and Thysdrus (El Djem), 148 × 122 metres. Later amphitheatres often had provision for storage of props and animals under the arena floor, and in the amphitheatres, at Capua and Puteoli (Pozzuoli) there was a complex of underground cells where the animals were kept until the show began (Figure 7.4). Counterweights were used to haul the cages up to an upper level where the animals could escape through a series of trapdoors into the arena. The show was a dazzling one and included magnificent processions, exotic animals, executions of prisoners and even mock naval battles. A spectacle lasting 100 days was put on for the opening of the Colosseum in ad 80 and 9,000 animals were killed. In Trajan’s games of ad 108 10,000 gladiators fought and 11,000 animals were killed. Gladiators, mostly men but occasionally women, were usually slaves who had been trained at a gladiatorial school. The more agile became net-men (retiarii) armed only with a trident and a net and wearing very few clothes. They were often pitted against heavily armed gladiators with swords, who depended on brute strength. Often the losers were killed, but not invariably because training a gladiator was a lengthy and expensive business. Some gladiators enjoyed the same kind of adulation that today is accorded to soccer players, as graffiti in Pompeii shows.6 However, spectators could easily become drunk with blood-lust, as St. Augustine warns (Confessions 6.9).

The circus or hippodrome was another well-established Greek building type, used in Roman times for races with four-horse (quadrigae) or two-horse (bigae) chariots, and sometimes for a variety of popular entertainments, including gladiatorial games and venationes. It was by far the largest of all buildings used for entertainment in the Roman world, the length of full-sized circuses ranging from 400 to 620 metres. The Circus Maximus in Rome was the largest of all and it has been calculated that the arena of the Colosseum would fit into its arena about 12 times. Banks of seats lined its two long sides and the curved end, and in the early third-century ad, it could hold 150,000 spectators.7  Usually 12 teams of chariots competed by running seven laps in an anti-clockwise direction around the arena which was divided by a median strip or spina. The careers or starting gates were usually set out on a curve to allow each of the teams an equal chance at the start of the race to get through the narrow gap between the end of the spine and the arena wall. The optimum distance from the careers to the end of the spine has been calculated as 140–160 metres. In more sophisticated circuses, such as the second-century ad circus at Lepcis Magna (Figure 2.9), the spine was set at an oblique angle to allow the teams more space at the crucial beginning of the race. A further refinement, seen in the early fourth-century ad Circus of Maxentius at Rome, was to angle the seats nearest the careers as well, to bring spectators even closer to the action. Perhaps because it was most in view, the most lavish ornaments were ranged along the spine, and the finishing post was opposite the middle of it. Along its entire length, it had water basins and fountains, statues of victory and emperors, honorific columns and a shrine or altar to Consus (a chthonic deity associated with the circus). In prominent positions towards its ends were the seven fishes or eggs which marked the number of laps completed. These were first set up by Agrippa in 33 bc in the Circus Maximus (Dio, 49.43.2). At each end were three cones, about 5 metres high, designed to give the charioteer warning of the turn. Being a charioteer was a dangerous occupation, but successful ones were idolised by their fans, mobbed in the streets and entertained by the wealthy. One of the most popular charioteers of the later first-century ad, Scorpus, won 2,048 races, but died, probably in a crash (naufragium), when he was only 27 (Martial, Epigr. 10.50, 53). His epitaph recorded that Fate counted up his victories and thought he must have been old. Horses and riders often suffered injury or even death (Sidonius Apollinaris, Poems 23.323–424). Races were between teams (factions) which raced under the colours red, blue, green and white. People passionately followed their teams. There were frequent attempts to foul the opposition and sometimes curses were laid upon their horses. Cases are known where a fan committed suicide when his team lost.

The stadium, another well-established Greek type, was used for foot racing and other athletic competitions. Stadia are of similar shape to circuses and are often confused with them, but stadia are very much smaller. Their arena is normally close to a stade long (180–200 metres), and only c. 30 metres in width, compared to c. 70 metres for a circus. Stadia were seldom built in the western provinces, although they are common in the east where the Greek tradition was still strong. Domitian was very keen on athletics and built a stadium in Rome, well-known, not as a ruin, but as the Piazza Navona.

Figure 2.9  Lepcis Magna (Libya), circus or hippodrome, second-century ad: restored plan.

Honorific monuments

There were so many monuments in the Roman Forum that in the year 158 bc the Censors ordered all statues to be removed except those authorised by a decree of the people or the Senate (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 34.14.30). The oldest honorific monuments were columns carrying a statue, such as the column of L. Minucius (439 bc) and the Maenian column (338 bc) set up to commemorate the victory of C. Maenius at Antium (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 34.11.20). In 254 bc during the First Punic War a column bearing the beaks of ships (columna rostrata) was erected on the Capitol in honour of the naval victory of M. Aemilius (Livy, 42.20.1). A similar column of C. Duilius stood in the Forum. The row of equestrian statues which once stood in the forum of Pompeii represents another old tradition. Being granted an equestrian statue was a rare honour in Republican Rome, decreed for outstanding feats, such as the victories of C. Maenius and L. Furius Camillus in 338 bc. During the imperial period, emperors were honoured by them, for example, the huge Equus Domitian in the Forum and the still-surviving equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

The earliest known arches (fornices) were the three erected by L. Stertinius in 196 bc on which were placed gilt statues (Livy, 33.27.3–4). In 190 bc P. Cornelius Scipio erected an arch on the Capitol with seven gilt statues and two equestrian ones (Livy, 37.3.7). The Fornix Fabianus was erected by Q. Fabius Maximus in 121 bc and rebuilt by his nephew in 57 bc. Augustus erected two arches in the Roman Forum, a single arch in 29 bc and one with a lintelled passageway on each side in 19 bc (Figure. 3.8). Some imperial arches had a single vaulted passageway, for example, the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum (Figure 7.9) and the Arch of Trajan at Benevento (Figure 8.7); others, like the arch at Orange, had three, the central one being wider and higher than the flanking ones (Figure 2.10).

The most elaborate triumphal arches, such as the Arch of Septimius Severus (Figure 12.2) and the Arch of Constantine (Figure 2.11), had column plinths adorned with victories, soldiers

Figure 2.10  Arausio (Orange, France), ‘Arch of Tiberius’, c. ad 19.

Figure 2.11  Rome, Arch of Constantine, ad 312–315.

and prisoners, keystones containing divinities and spandrels with flying victories. The frieze usually contained a triumphal procession and in the attic was the dedicatory inscription. In the most richly decorated arches, the soffits of the vaulted passages were coffered. The piers flanking the arched openings, the sides of the arch, parts of the attic, and the walls of the passageways sometimes contained sculpted panels with scenes of triumph, imperial providence, sacrifice and apotheosis. Often bronze figures of horsemen, four-horse chariots, divinities, trophies and barbarians stood in the attic. Four-sided arches were placed over cross-roads and were covered with a cross-vault, as in the ‘Arch of Janus’ in Rome (ad 315), or a cupola, as in the Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Oea (Figure 9.17). The Arch of Augustus at Rimini, built in place of a city gate to commemorate the completion of the Via Flaminia (27 bc), is the oldest surviving triumphal arch. Arches are also found at the ends of a bridge, as in Saint-Chamas in France, or the middle, as at Alcantara in Spain (Figure 10.3). The double arch at Saintes in France stood at the entrance to a bridge. Double arches sometimes flanked by towers, belong to city gates, such as those at Nemausus (Nîmes), Augustodunum (Autun), Ravenna, Hispellum (Spello), the Porta Palatina at Augusta Taurinorum (Turin) and the Porta Nigra at Augusta Treverorum (Trier) (Figure 12.11).

Utilitarian buildings

Strabo praises the Romans for paving their roads, constructing aqueducts and building sewers (Strabo, Geo. 5.3.8). It was not just Strabo who admired them. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian who lived in Rome at the time of Augustus, thought that they were the three most magnificent indicators of the greatness of the Roman Empire (Ant. Rom. 3.67.5). They all provided essential services to modern eyes are some of the most impressive Roman achievements. The Romans probably inherited their skills from the Etruscans, builders of the famous Cloaca Maxima (great sewer) under the Roman Forum which partly functions to this day.

Roman roads, which eventually connected the entire Roman Empire, placed great demands on their builders in terms of planning, surveying, engineering and organisation. The route a road such as the Via Appia (Figures 1.4 and 1.10) was to take had first to be surveyed, a vast undertaking in itself. The road bed had then to be laboriously prepared as Statius describes (Silv. 4.3.40–55). Two furrows, on which the kerb-stones were laid, marked the width of the road, on average 14 Roman feet (about 4.1 metres) wide to accommodate two passing carriages. Then 0.45–0.60 metres of earth was removed to stabilise the roadbed which consisted of layers of larger stones as a foundation (statement) with broken stones or gravel (rules) above. Above this was finer material on which were laid large polygonal blocks of basalt, to produce a smooth carriageway (summum dorsum). They fit together so tightly that ‘they do not present the appearance of separate stones, but an unbroken surface’ (Procopius, de Bello Gothic 1.14). In addition, cuttings, viaducts, bridges and tunnels had to be engineered to allow the road to run as straight as possible. The distances had to be measured and milestones placed along the road, and suitable monuments set up to mark the beginning and the end of the road.

Rivers and streams were regarded by the Romans as barriers which required the ritual of suspicion before they could be crossed. Building a bridge was a demanding operation, especially if it crossed a deep or fast-flowing river. The first bridge over the Tiber, the seventh century bc Pons Sublicius was built on wooden piles or public. The first stone bridges were built in the third-century bc, a time when the arch was coming into common use. If possible, the Romans avoided placing abutments in a fast-running stream because an obstruction anywhere in the stream increases its velocity, the worst place for obstruction being mid-stream, where depth and velocity are greatest. Turbulence around an object is caused by the stalling of the fluid particles through friction drag, and they’re breaking away from the smooth flow path of the stream in whirls and eddies, the activity known as ‘scour’, which tends to undermine a bridge’s abutments. The danger to the bridge abutments is both from the turbulence itself and from the particles of all sizes that the turbulence carries with it. It is interesting to note that the shape of the abutments used by the Romans, with the long faces parallel to the flow, the blunt end downstream and a tapering end or cutwater upstream, is approaching the optimum streamlined shape for minimum turbulence. Because the Romans bridged a fast-flowing stream in one span whenever possible, the central span of a Roman bridge is often wider than those at the sides, clearly seen in the Pont du Gard aqueduct bridge (Figure 10.10). Using the round-headed arch, the central span is, therefore, higher than the side ones. Unless a rising bridge was required, the springing heights of the arches had to be carefully adjusted to maintain a horizontal road over a river. The Alcantara bridge in Spain shows how expertly the Roman coped with these problems (Figure 10.3).

Aqueducts must rank among the most impressive engineering achievements of the Romans. There were 14 in the city of Rome alone by the end of the Roman Empire. A great deal is known about them thanks to Frontinus, who was appointed water commissioner (curator aquarium) by Nerva in ad 95 and wrote the work de Aquis Urbis Romae, in which he gives full technical details of all nine aqueducts which existed in his day. As well as being impressive as buildings they were, in the words of Frontinus, more useful than the ‘idle pyramids’ (de Aquis 1.16). In an aqueduct system, the difficulty was to build a water channel on an exact incline to achieve a steady flow from the source of the water to its destination. For example, the water for the Roman town of Nemausus (Nîmes) was brought 50 kilometres from the hills outside Uzès. Over this entire distance, the incline was maintained at 1 in 3,000, meaning that the waterfalls were less than 17 metres over the entire distance. Where the channel crossed a river it was carried across by a bridge, such as the 275-metre-long Pont du Gard near Nîmes (Figure 10.10). It may be argued that a lead water siphon would have been an easier solution, but the cost of transporting and joining lead pipes was prohibitive. There was also the problem of atmospheric pressure which threatened to burst the pipes. Constructing an aqueduct bridge was a more straightforward solution, especially as the quarry for the Pont du Gard was only 600 metres away.8 The 813-metre-long bridge which carries the Segovia aqueduct across a valley near the centre of the town is perhaps the most spectacular of them all (Figure 10.4). When an aqueduct system crossed an important road its passage was sometimes marked by a single or double archway, such as the Porta Praenestina (Porta Maggiore) (Figure 5.4), the ‘Arch of Drusus’ and the Porta Tiburtina at Rome, all reminiscent of triumphal arches. Not all the water reached its destination. Greedy landowners often piped off considerable amounts for their private use if the aqueduct passed through their land (Frontinus, de Aquis 2.72–76). The water which did get through was fed into castellum aqua (water distributor) at the highest point in the town from which it was piped to the various districts. The finest examples of such castella are found at Pompeii (Figure 6.12) and Nemausus (Nîmes). Regularly spaced water towers such as those in the streets of Pompeii distributed water to a particular neighbourhood (Figure 6.13). Three pipes brought the water down from these towers: the top pipe fed private houses; the middle public baths and circuses; the lowest public drinking fountains. This ensured that in the event of a shortage the public fountains would run out of water last.

Harbours and lighthouses

The problem with a river harbour is that the silt eventually produces a sandbar at the river mouth. The solution is to build a separate harbour to shelter ships from storms. Around it can be built shipyards, warehouses and a lighthouse, or towers on each side of the harbour mouth from which chains can be drawn across to protect it (Vitruvius, de Arch. 5.12.1–7). The remarkable harbour at Carthage, built by the Carthaginians and later used by the Romans, consisted of a rectangular commercial harbour linked to a circular military one which could handle 200 ships. It had a circular island in the middle and contained docking bays with slipways as well as warehouse facilities. Claudius built a large harbour near Ostia which covered 200 hectares (Figure 6.16). However, it was very exposed and a storm destroyed 200 ships in it (Tacitus, Ann. 15.18.3). Finally Trajan built the splendid 715.54-metre-wide hexagonal harbour, which is still visible from planes near Fiumicino airport. He also built two other important harbours in Italy, one at Centumcellae (Civitavecchia), greatly praised by Pliny the Younger (Epist. 6.31), and the other at Ancona, overlooked by the tall Arch of Trajan. Other important harbours were at Antium (Anzio), built by Nero (Suet. Nero 9), and at Lepcis Magna, built by Septimius Severus (early third-century ad).9 In 37 bc enormous excavations were begun to create Portus Julius, which was to be the base of the western fleet. This involved building a navigable canal between Lake Lucrinus and Avernus. Under Augustus, the harbour of Forum Julii (Fréjus) became an important naval base but declined in the first century ad to the advantage of Misenum with its magnificent natural twin harbours, and Ravenna which was protected by marshes. These became the primary Roman naval bases (portal praetorian). The most famous ancient lighthouse was arguable at Alexandria, which is normally reconstructed as a high, slender structure, that, according to Arab descriptions, was between 103 and 118 metres in height. It was built in diminishing stages like the numerous depictions of the lighthouse at Ostia. The best-preserved Roman lighthouse is the 55-metre-high ‘Tower of Hercules’ at A Coruña in Galicia, Spain. There are also the 13-metre-high remains of the Roman lighthouse at Dover, octagonal in plan and originally c. 25 metres high.

Military and defensive architecture

The Etruscans built fine defensive walls and the Romans followed this tradition during their period of early expansion in Italy. The Servian Wall (Figure 1.5), built c. 378 bc and enclosing 426 hectares (1,065 acres), shows how advanced their defensive techniques were at an early date. Soon mighty walls were built to fortify a chain of defensive sites along the coast and in the Apennines. The techniques varied to suit the materials available. At Ardea, where there was a ready supply of tufa, the walls were similar to the Servian Wall in Rome. In the hills, enormous polygonal stones were used. At first, the stones were unsmoothed or only partly smoothed, as at Circeii or Anagnia (Anagni), but later they fitted together with admirable precision, as at Signium (Segni) or Alatrium (Alatri).

The Romans first began to build forts after they overran the camp of Pyrrhus in 275 bc (Frontinus, Strat. 4.1.14). There were two types of fort, the larger covering between 1.8 and 2.2 hectares (4.5–5.5 acres) and housing about 800 soldiers (ten centuries of about 80 soldiers each), the smaller covering 1.2 hectares (3 acres) and housing half the number. The forts were usually rectangular and had curved corners like playing cards (Figure 2.12). In the case of Hadrian’s wall in Britain, they lay parallel with the wall, as at Borcovicium (Housesteads),

Figure 2.12  Borcovicium (Housesteads, England) Roman fort, second to fourth century AD: plan.

or across it, as at Cilurnum (Chesters). Forts had four massive gateways, each gateway with two passages, flanked by guard-rooms. They were divided into five areas by intersecting streets: the via principals passed across the fort from a gate on one of the long sides to the one opposite. The via praetoria ran from a gate on a short side to meet the via principalis and divided the front area of the fort (praetexta) into two halves, both of which contained barracks. The central part of the fort consisted of the headquarters building (Principia), the commandant’s house (praetorium), granaries, and a hospital (valetudinarian). The Principia, always in the centre of the fort, consisted of an open columnar courtyard and a cross-hall running the full width of the building which could contain the whole body of troops. At one corner of the hall was a tribunal where the commanding officer stood to address his troops. Opening off one long side of the hall or sometimes opposite it was five rooms. The central one was the company chapel, which often contained a statue of the emperor, altars and the legionary standards. The pair of rooms to one side was used by the adjutant (cornicularius) and his clerks; the other pair by the standard-bearer (signifer) and his accountants. The via document ran from the back gate, dividing the rear of the fort (retention) into two halves, which also contained barracks. The via Quintana ran parallel to the via principalis and separated the retention from the central buildings of the fort. Close to the wall was the latrine. The troops were housed in long barrack blocks each divided into about ten rooms, which were further subdivided into two rooms, one for eating and sleeping and the other for storing equipment. A centurion and his junior officer had quarters at the end of each barrack block, which would have accommodated 80 or more infantry; whereas in cavalry forts such as Cilurnum (Chesters), the accommodation was a little more generous so that there were only about 60 to each block. These were the usual arrangements of a Roman fort, although the position of some buildings could vary from the fort to fort. The 21-hectare (52 acres) legionary fortress at Lambaesis in North Africa was built in its present form around ad 268 (Figure 9.4), and the double legionary fortress at Vetera (Xanten) in Germany, which covered 56 hectares (139 acres), had similar features but of course on a larger scale.

In imperial times the Romans did not concern themselves with the defence of the capital itself until the invasions of the third century and when Aurelian built the magnificent walls around the city which have largely survived to this day. The circuit, mostly built between ad 271– 275, was roughly star-shaped, with the principal roads entering the circuit at angles so that the approaches to the gates would be visible from the walls. It enclosed an area of 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres) over three times the extent of the fourth century bc Servian Wall. The walls of Constantinople, built by Theodosius II in ad 413–440 after the sack of Rome, were the climax of Roman skill in fortification. There were 300 towers and the total width of the defences was 70 metres, comprising two parallel walls as well as an outer moat and other defences. The vertical distance from the bottom of the outer moat to the top of the highest part of the wall was 35 metres. Its remarkable success is attested by the fact that it defended the city for more than 1,000 years.


The Romans regarded it as essential to bury their dead, only certain criminals were denied this right. One class of Roman tomb was derived from Etruscan tombs such as those at Caere (Cerveteri) and took the form of a circular masonry drum with a mound of earth on top. The Tomb of Caecilia Metella at Rome and the Tomb of Munatius Plancus at Gaeta were cylindrical (both c. 20 bc), and both had a drum 29.5 metres (100 Roman feet) in diameter. The Tomb of the Plautii near Tivoli (ad 10–14), 60 Roman feet (17.76 metres) in diameter, was a somewhat smaller example of this type. The Mausoleum of Augustus (begun 28 bc) was much larger than all of these, 89 metres (300 Roman feet) wide, as was the Mausoleum of Hadrian (Figure 8.25) with a cylinder 66.75 metres (225 Roman feet) wide rising from a base 89 metres wide (c. ad 135). Two circular tombs in Algeria, the ‘Médracen’ (third-first century bc) and the ‘Tomb of the Christian woman’ (probably second or first-century bc) both had a drum c. 200 Roman feet wide with 60 half-columns around the exterior (Figure 9.1). A similar but much smaller tomb, dating to the second-century ad, near Capua in Italy and called ‘le carceri vecchie’ had 22 half-columns at ten-foot intervals around the exterior. The second class of tomb, probably derived from Syria, was composed of several superimposed columnar structures capped by a conical or pyramidical roof. Examples of this type are the ‘Conocchia’ at Capua and the Mausoleum of the Julii at Glanum (St. Rémy) (Figure 10.5). North African examples include the obelisk tombs at Sabratha, Maktar, Cillium and Thugga (Dougga). There were also temple tombs in Tripolitania and the remarkable tower tombs of Palmyra. One of the finest hypogea (underground tombs) was that of the Scipios, built originally for Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, consul of 298 bc. His magnificent monolithic tufa sarcophagus, now in the Vatican Museum, is of great interest because of the Doric triglyph frieze capped by dentils with Ionic volutes at the ends of the lid, a type fashionable in South Italy and Sicily at the time. Chamber tombs are commonly found and can be seen lining the roads out of Rome, Pompeii and Ostia. Many were elaborately decorated outside, such as the Tomb of Annia Regilla in Rome, and inside, such as the tombs of the Valerii and Pancratii on the Via Latina. An unusual tomb is the pyramid of Cestius built in 330 days c. 18–12 bc (Figure 2.13), which is 37 metres (125 Roman feet) high × 29.6 metres (100 Roman feet)

Figure 2.13  Rome, Pyramid of Cestius, c. 18–12 bc.

at the base. In the later Republic and the first two centuries of the Empire, cremation became common and ash chests or urns were placed in the niches of columbaria (dovecotes), such as the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas in Rome with its mosaic plaque composed of polychrome glass tesserae. When inhumation became more common in the third century and the tradition of elaborately carved sarcophagi began. Christians rejected cremation and buried their dead in the maze of subterranean burial grounds known as catacombs. There were four main burial methods: formal, burials in the ground covered with a slab; loculi, a burial slot in the wall of a catacomb; the arcosolium, an arched recess with the body either immured or in a sarcophagus underneath; and chamber–tombs for richer Christians.





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