The European Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition
The European Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition
The Iberian Peninsula, the largest in the Mediterranean, has a forbidding arid interior, but is rich in metals and has attracted traders from the earliest times. The Phoenicians established themselves in the south at Gades (Cadiz), and much later at Carthago Nova (Cartagena), while Greeks from Massilia (Marseilles) founded Emporion (Ampurias) on its NE coast in 550 bc.
A clash over Spain brought about the Second Punic war (218–201 bc) between Rome and Carthage, as a result of which Rome gained a footing in the peninsula. In 206 bc Rome set up a colony of Italians by the river Guadalquivir near Seville and called it Italica. During the rest of the Republican era, the Romans were engaged in a long and bitter struggle to subdue the interior.
In 133 bc Numantia, a major centre of Spanish resistance, fell after a long siege, but the north coast was not subdued until the time of Augustus, when a series of colonies was established, including the fine cities of Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) and Augusta Emerita (Mérida). In 27 bc Spain was divided into three provinces: Tarraconensis, Lusitania and Baetica.
The old Greek town of Emporion was made a veterans’ colony by Julius Caesar and it expanded to accommodate 10,000 people. Soon the new town had a temple, forum and basilica complex, as well as an amphitheatre just outside the walls. Two fine late Republican houses have been found on the east side of the city, more Hellenistic than Roman in style, with peristyle gardens and elegant fountains.
In the second-century ad Italica (Santiponce), the oldest Roman colony in Spain became a Colonia and was greatly enlarged in honour of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian, both of whom were born there. The new quarter, laid out on a grid plan with colonnades flanking the streets (Figure 10.1), is full of splendid peristyle houses, mostly dating to the second and third centuries ad, often with rich mosaic pavements and swimming pools. Outside the walls to the north is an amphitheatre, built by Hadrian, which measures 160 × 137 metres and held 25,000 spectators.
Augusta Emerita (Mérida), founded by Agrippa in 25 bc as the capital of the new province of Lusitania, was filled with monuments of evident propagandistic intent. Although it was only medium-sized, covering some 50 hectares (123 acres) by the third-century ad, it was a city of some importance because it had a fine circus, 425 metres long, two-thirds the length of the Circus Maximus in Rome.
Circuses were relatively scarce owing to their huge size and the cost of building them, and they usually indicate that the city was particularly wealthy or important. It also had a splendid theatre (18 bc) built side by side with an amphitheatre seating 15,000 (8 bc). The theatre is particularly impressive with its restored scaenae frons decorated with two storeys of polychrome marble columns (Figure 10.2). The so-called Temple of Diana had 11 × 6 Corinthian columns of local granite and was raised on a 3-metre-high
Figure 10.1 Italica (Spain): general plan.
Figure 10.2 Augusta Emerita (Mérida, Spain), theatre, scaenae frons and stage.
podium. The nearby provincial forum of Mérida was enclosed by Corinthian colonnades supporting an attic decorated with alternating clypeate heads of Medusa and Jupiter Ammon with Caryatids between, a clear allusion to the Forum of Augustus at Rome.
The city also had three aqueducts the largest of which, called ‘Los Milagros’ is still an impressive sight. It was constructed of small square stones laced with courses of brick and survives to a height of 25 metres in parts. Also impressive is the remarkable 760-metre-long bridge over the Guadiana river, which has no less than 60 arches.
Tarraco (Tarragona) had been a Roman possession for two centuries when Augustus made it the capital of the enormous province of Tarraconensis in 27 bc. It was a flourishing city, the richest port on the east coast according to Pomponius Mela writing c. ad 43. There were also several gold mines in NE Tarraconensis. The Augustan forum and basilica complex was built to the SW of the city, and nearby was the theatre.
The Julio-Claudian amphitheatre was located to the east of the city close to the sea. In the Flavian period, the magnificent Temple of Rome and Augustus and the vast adjoining provincial forum were built at a high point on the north side of the city. Towards the end of the first century ad, the complex was complemented by a circus, only about 340 metres long, built below and to the south of the provincial forum.
Some of the most notable monuments of Roman Spain are its bridges and aqueducts. Trajan built the 190-metre-long bridge over the Tagus river at Alcantara in ad 106 (Figure 10.3). The architect, as an inscription records, was a Lusitanian, Gaius Julius Lacer.
It has the distinction of being the highest bridge in the Roman world, 47 metres high. The arches gradually became wider towards the middle so that the river could be crossed in a single span, to avoid setting the abutments in the stream. There was a small temple at one end and a triumphal arch marked the centre of the bridge. Mention should be made here of the well-preserved Augustan bridge at Saint-Chamas in France which had two triumphal arches, one at each
Figure 10.3 Alcantara (Spain), bridge over the Tagus, built by Gaius Julius Lacer in ad 106.
Figure 10.4 Segovia (Spain), aqueduct, first or early second-century ad.
end. The two most famous aqueducts in Spain were Segovia and Tarragona. An impressive aqueduct bridge crossed a valley three kilometres outside Tarragona, 217 metres long with a total height of 42 metres. The last kilometre of the Segovia aqueduct, which brings water 17 kilometres from Riofrio, is possibly the most dramatic of all aqueduct bridges.
In order to carry the water across a deep valley into the town a spectacular bridge of 118 arches and 813 metres long, was built in the late first to early second-century ad (Figure 10.4). The water channel was 30 metres above ground level at its highest point and was carried on two storeys of arches, the lower one with unusually tall slender piers. It was probably to give strength to this light structure that the unmortared granite blocks were left rough.
The old Greek colony of Massilia (Marseilles) with its excellent harbour, founded in 600 bc, fell to the Romans along with the Mediterranean coastal region in the wars of 125–121 bc. The year 118 bc marked the establishment of Narbo Martius (Narbonne), Rome’s first overseas citizen colony, which became the capital of Gallia Narbonensis in 27 bc.
Julius Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul in the wars of 58–51 bc which concluded with the fall of Alesia and the capture of Vercingetorix. In 27 bc Gallia Comata (‘long-haired Gaul’), excluding Narbonensis, was divided into the three provinces of Aquitania, Belgica and Lugdunensis. Lugdunum (Lyon), founded by Munatius Plancus in 43 bc, was the northernmost city in the Rhône Valley and became the centre of the road network of Gaul.
It rapidly became a great and prosperous city under Augustus capital of the Three Gauls and the administrative centre of both Gaul and Germany. It had four aqueducts, the longest of which, the Geir, crossed four deep valleys using an inverted syphon system instead of a bridge like the Pont du Gard. A theatre, 108.5 metres in diameter, was built next to an odeum, and inscriptions suggest that there was also a circus.
Julius Caesar and Augustus founded several colonies, and the Augustan peace brought prosperity to local towns such as Visio (Vaison-la-Romaine) and Vienna (Vienne), as well as to old Greek foundations. The influence of Rome on the buildings of southern Gaul was strong and direct. City walls and gates bear a close analogy to those of northern Italy, and baths, theatres, amphitheatres and temples were closely modelled upon Italian prototypes.
Glanum (St. Rémy), settled by Greeks in the third-century bc, retained its bouleuterion and houses with peristyles and pebble mosaic floors into Roman times. These illustrate the older, Hellenistic type of house belonging to an earlier phase of Provençal history.
The town was sacked, perhaps by the Cimbri, in the late second-century bc, but a revival was underway by the first-century bc. Roman influence can clearly be seen in the late first-century bc baths have a similar layout to the Forum and Stabian Baths at Pompeii. The most important monuments in Glanum are the Arch of the Julii, probably late Augustan, and the late Republican mausoleum (Figure 10.5).
The mausoleum has a square base adorned with reliefs of famous scenes from Greek mythology. The second storey is four-sided, with arched openings framed by Corinthian columns at each corner. The top storey consists of a ring of columns supporting a conical roof under which stands a statue of Julius. Like the triumphal arch at Orange, the Glanum arch is remarkably advanced for its date. In many respects, it resembles the Arch of Titus, with its single-arched passageway flanked by piers with attached columns. The upper parts of the arch are missing.
The two most conspicuous monuments of Arelate (Arles), the earliest Roman colony to be founded after the conquest of Gaul (46 bc), were its theatre and amphitheatre. The theatre
was probably the older and was perhaps built shortly after the founding of the colony (30–20 bc). There is some dispute about the date of the amphitheatre, although the architect was the same T. Crispus Reburrus designed a similar one at Nemausus (Nîmes); in scale and detail, they are almost twins, Nîmes measuring 133 × 101 metres, and Arles 136 × 108 metres.
Both owe their survival to the fact that they were turned into fortified towns in the Middle Ages. Standing at the apex of the Rhône delta Arles was known as the city of marshes. This is perhaps the reason why the forum was raised on a U-shaped cryptoporticus, measuring 89 × 59 metres. The famous, 15.25 metre-high, Egyptian obelisk at Arles, came from a circus which is thought to have been at least 450 metres long.
Excavations have also revealed the caldarium with its enormous apse and part of the tepidarium of an extremely large bathing complex built by Constantine, who for a few years resided at Arles (ad 306–312).
Arausio (Orange), founded as a colony in 36–35 bc, possessed two monuments of special interest in the history of Roman architecture, the ‘Arch of Tiberius and the theatre. The arch (Figure 2.10) can claim to be the first-known triple arch because the Arch of Augustus in the Roman forum, although triple, had lintels, not arches, covering the two side passageways (Figure 3.8).
The three arched passageways of the arch at Orange were framed by four Corinthian half-columns standing on high pedestals, supporting a continuous entablature and a pediment over the central arch. Between the top of the side arches and the entablature were sculpted panels showing spoils of war, and in the central bay of the attic were further relief panels.
The arch had many ingredients of the great triple arches of the later Empire, but lacked some features, such as free-standing columns, victories in the spandrels, and a dedicatory inscription in a single, unbroken attic. It is also quite large, 19.57 metres wide × 19.21 metres high × 8.40 metres deep, compared with 23.27 × 20.88 × 11.20 metres deep for the somewhat larger, but much later, Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.
With its triple attic and its scenes of battles, arms and spoils it has been suggested that the arch was built as a monument to the glory of Germanicus in the years after his death in ad 19, although recently it has been suggested that the arch is Augustan and was later reconstructed by Tiberius.1
The theatre at Orange (Figure 10.6), probably built at the beginning of the first-century ad, has an extremely well-preserved scaenae frons, 37 metres high. The wall survives practically intact, but most of the 76 columns which once adorned it have since disappeared. However, the surviving parts and the analogy of the reconstructed theatres at Mérida (Figure 10.2) and Sabratha (Figure 9.18) suggest that the columns were arranged on three storeys with aedicules emphasising the three doors leading onto the stage.
The other side, the magnificent postcranium wall (Figure 10.6), famously called ‘la plus belle muraille de mon Royaume’s (‘the finest wall of my kingdom’) by Louis XIV, originally had a covered loggia at ground level; higher up a low relief arcade; and at the top two rows of projecting brackets designed to support the poles on which the vela were hung.
The theatre fully illustrates Augustan ‘discrimina ordinum’, the separation of the classes (Figure 10.7).2 The division of the seating into ima, media and summa cavea was emphasised by the high walls which separated them. As for the occupants of the media and summa cavea they did not so much as a set foot within the theatre until they had reached their seating area by way of external staircases.
Nemausus (Nîmes) was founded as a veterans’ colony in 28 bc and in 16 bc a circuit of stone walls was built, enclosing an area of 223 hectares (550 acres). The walls were 2.4 metres wide and there were 19 towers along them of which the largest was the Tour Magne, a 40-metre-high octagonal tower, built at the highest point of the town as a lookout.
Another was the gate of Augustus (16–15 bc) which stood between two semicircular towers with a statue of Augustus in the courtyard behind. It had the usual two arched passageways for wheeled traffic, flanked by two smaller passageways for pedestrians, and presumably
Figure 10.6 Arausio (Orange, France), postcranium wall of the theatre.
there was an arcaded gallery above. In type it was based upon the monumental city gates of northern Italy, such as those at Turin, Verona and Augusta Praetoria (Aosta) and the Porta Venere at Hispellum (Spello in Umbria). The Porte Saint-André and Porte d’Arroux at Autun (Augustodunum) are well-preserved Gallic examples of this type.
Nîmes also possessed one of the best-preserved of all Roman temples, the ‘Maison Carrée’, dedicated to Rome and Augustus and dating to the Augustan period (Figure 2.2). It had a hexastyle porch of Corinthian columns standing on a high podium and the cella was pseudo-peripteral.
The length and breadth of the stylobate were related in the ratio of 2:1 and the podium, columns and entablature in the ratio of 2:5:2. In style the building followed the latest Roman fashions, the acanthus scrolls of the frieze being reminiscent of the Ara Pacis and the channelled masonry similar that of the Temple of Mars Ultor. Another notable monument of the city is the splendidly preserved amphitheatre already mentioned.
Its two-storeyed façade (Figure 10.8) had openings flanked by pilasters and half-columns, but the strong vertical emphasis suggests that it was a little later in date than the Colosseum. Near the top of the façade, the wall can be seen the 120 corbels which supported the masts for the vela. These can be examined more closely inside the building at the top of the seating (Figure 10.9).
One of the best-preserved aqueduct systems in the Roman world is that which brought water to Nîmes from springs 50 kilometres away, thought to have been built by Agrippa between 20 and 16 bc. Most of the channel was below ground or carried on a low wall, and the water ran down a steady incline which has been calculated as 1 in 3,000 over the whole distance.
To carry it across the gorge of the River Gardon, the famous Pont du Gard was built, 269 metres long × 49 metres high (Figure 10.10). The proportions are simple: four units for the central arch, three for the lateral arches, one for the upper storey of arches, and six for the overall height. The bridge was slightly curved against the flow of the stream, and the wide central arch spanned the stream so that there were no abutments in the river bed.
The bridge was entirely built of stone, with no clamps or mortar, some individual stones weighing up to 6 tonnes each. The many projecting bosses were left to support scaffolding for maintenance of the bridge. When the water arrived in Nîmes it flowed into a large circular basin (castellum divisorium) with a settling tank and ten outlets, 0.40 metres in diameter, through which the water was fed to the various parts of the town.
Visio (Vaison-la-Romaine) has been described as the ‘Pompeii of Provence’, mainly because of the excavation work of Canon J. Sautel. Taking advantage of the Augustan peace, the inhabitants moved down from the nearby hill-town in about 20 bc to found the new city on its present flat site.
It possessed a basilica, praetorium and Tiberian theatre, 96 metres in diameter, but today it is most famed for its fine peristyle houses. They give us some insight into the luxurious living conditions of wealthy Gauls. One of these, the House of the Messi, had a bath, latrine and many fine frescoed rooms, dating to the first-century ad.
The street façade of the House of the Silver Bust had a portico in front of it and there were shops behind. The columnar atrium gave access to a peristyle garden with a small pool on the south side, and a much larger peristyle to the west containing a pool and a completely private
bathing suit. Close to the northern frontier of Narbonensis Vienna (Vienne), the capital of the Allobroges, became an extremely prosperous city in the first and second centuries ad, as is shown by its enormous theatre, 130.4 metres in diameter, an odeum 72 metres in diameter, the well-preserved Temple of Augustus and Livia, and a circus 455 metres long.
There are more than 130 Roman theatres and odea in Gaul, both of the Classical and Gallo-Roman types. The sequence begins with the late first-century bc theatre at Forum Julii (Fréjus) which seems to have been built largely of timber, although it was quite large, 84 metres in diameter.
In the Augustan period some fine stone theatres were built, including those at Arelate (Arles), Arausio (Orange) and Vienna (Vienne), followed later by some very large theatres, especially the 148-metre-wide late first-century ad theatre at Augustodunum (Autun), the Roman capital of the Aedui. There are two theatres in Lutetia Parisiorum (Paris), the larger of which, 130.5 metres in diameter, is of Gallo-Roman type.
At Grand (Vosges) there was an extremely large theatre/amphitheatre, 149.5 metres wide, and at Augusta Suessionum (Soissons) a theatre, c. 144 metres in diameter. Both of the latter were in Belgica.
Some buildings of sacred character were largely unaffected by Roman taste, for example, Gallo-roman temples like the ‘Temple of Janus’ at Augustodunum (Autun). With their characteristic tall cella, usually surrounded on all sides by a low open portico, they were built all over Gaul, Britain and Germany, sometimes in simple materials, and sometimes monumentally with Classical details.
Rural sanctuaries (conciliabula) also retained their own traditional layout and style. They frequently contained theatres in a variety of shapes and sizes, known as theatres of gallo-roman type.3 A typical Gallo-Roman sanctuary like Champlieu in Belgica consisted of a bath building, theatre and temple precinct (Figure 10.11). Often these monuments were carefully related to each other, as at Sanxay in Aquitania. Some theatres
have both an oval arena and a stage, as at Derventum (Drevant) in Aquitania and Aregenua (Vieux) in Lugdunensis. At Augusta Raurica (Augst), the theatre has a gap in the rectilinear wall to show the temple of Schönbühl, 80 metres away.
The piles of human bones in the sanctuary at Ribemont-Sur-Ancre in Belgica may represent human sacrifice, common in pre-roman times and attested by Julius Caesar (Bellum Gallicum 6.17). In Narbonensis there are many types of sacred sites, such as the sacred pool of Glanis and the hilltop sanctuary at Glanum.
The Spring sanctuary of Nemausus at Nîmes was marked by a prehistoric cone-shaped tower about 18 metres high, later incorporated into the 32.5-metre-high Tour Magne. It also contains the so-called Temple of Diana, which was perhaps a library, with its remarkable stone barrel vault.
Emperor Claudius invaded Britain with four legions and by ad 47 had overrun most of SE England. The revolt of Boudicca (ad 60) was a setback, but soon the Romans pushed their conquests into Wales (ad 78) and as far as the Moray Firth in Scotland (ad 84).
The conquest was followed by the establishment of a network of military forts joined by a road system. Gradually the forts were replaced by civilian settlements, either colony composed of Roman veterans or towns built as centres of tribal areas. Colonies like Camulodunum (Colchester) established ad 49, Lindum (Lincoln) c. ad 90 and Glevum (Gloucester) ad 96–98, had the dual purpose of consolidating Roman power and romanising the surrounding region.
Native towns, such as Verulamium (St. Albans) and Durovernum Cantiacorum (Canterbury), were often laid out on a Roman grid plan and enjoyed many amenities such as baths and theatres. The Celtic aristocracy was rapidly romanised and as early as the first-century ad villas, such as Fishbourne, were built in fashionable Roman style. More than 600 villas are known in Britain, most of them dating to the third and fourth centuries ad.
Londinium (London), sited on the north bank of the Thames at the lowest point where the river could be bridged, was founded as a port for trade with continental Europe. Burnt in the revolt of Boudicca, it was rebuilt in Flavian times, probably raised to the rank of Colonia, and at some time in the late first-century ad became the provincial capital.
It was then that a huge forum was laid out, covering an area of 3.2 hectares (eight acres) flanked by a basilica over 150 metres long. To the southwest of the forum a governor’s palace was built (c. ad 85) and a fort covering 4.45 hectares (11 acres) in the NW corner of the city (early second-century ad). In the early third century ad, a city wall was built incorporating the fort.
In 1954 a second-century ad Mithraeum was discovered by the Walbrook stream, divided into nave and two aisles by a row of columns with an apse at the end. The nave had an earth floor and the aisles wooden ones. In 1988 a substantial amphitheatre, built in ad 70 and later renovated, was founded under the Guildhall Art Gallery.
In ad 5 Camulodunum (Colchester) became the capital of Cunobelinus, the Shakespearean Cymbeline, whose kingdom roughly corresponded to Essex, and as such was a prime target in the Claudian invasion of ad 43. After the invasion, a legionary fortress was built there, but it was supplanted by a veterans’ colony in ad 49 and the defences were pulled down.
East of the Colonia a huge classical-style temple of Claudius was built on a podium measuring 24 × 32 metres. The building of this temple sparked the rebellion of Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni (Tacitus, Ann. 14.29–39). The city suffered severely in the rebellion and reconstruction was so slow that the temple was not restored until c. ad 100.
In the second century ad, the city began to prosper and an area of 44 hectares (108 acres) was enclosed in walls 2.64 metres thick on a 3-metre base. Many fine houses have been found dating to this period and the city seems to have been provided with running water and a sewerage system.
Eburacum (York) seems to have begun as a fort in Flavian times or earlier. By the late Flavian period it became the headquarters of the Legio IX Hispana and the fortress was enlarged to cover 19.5 hectares (48 acres). The original defences were turf and timber, but these were replaced by stone fortifications in ad 107–108.
Parts of the Principia have come to light under York Minster, and substantial parts of the walling and an elaborate sewerage system survive. A civilian settlement grew up around the fortress and in the early third-century ad its status was raised to Colonia.
When Septimius Severus divided Britain into two provinces, York became the capital of Britannia Inferior. York was the place where Severus died in ad 211, as did Constantius Chlorus, in ad 306. His son, Constantine, was proclaimed emperor there in the same year.
Verulamium (St. Albans), situated near the river Ver some 50 kilometres north of London, was a native centre before the Roman invasion. Its subsequent development was typical of many non-colonial cities. In the first years following the invasion it became a military post, and soon afterwards a civilian settlement.
Its grid plan was laid out before the revolt of Boudicca, although it suffered badly in the uprising because most of its buildings seem to have been of timber. The city was slowly rebuilt, with some public monuments of stone, although houses continued to be wooden.
In ad 155 a fire swept the city and in the aftermath stone became more common in house construction. Many of these houses had finely painted walls and mosaic floors. During the second century ad, two fine stone gateways known as the London and Chester gates were built, along with the theatre, which was at first only about 50 metres wide. Like many other Gallo-Roman theatres it was almost circular with a circular arena and had a small stage, only 14.9 metres wide.
Reduced building activity in the third-century ad seems to point to a decline, but in the fourth-century ad the theatre was enlarged and houses were built and expanded. The discovery of a finely jointed wooden water pipe dating to the middle of the fifth-century ad testifies that the city was still enjoying civilised amenities even at that late date.
Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) was a pre-Roman settlement and formed part of the realm of Cogidubnus after the Roman invasion. In Flavian times the forum, measuring 43 × 40 metres, was built, flanked by an 84.5-metre-long basilica. At this time the grid plan was laid out, although the large number of buildings which do not conform to it suggest an earlier settlement. Other buildings include an amphitheatre and public baths. On the basis of the capacity of these, the city probably had a population of only about 1,000 people.
Before the Roman conquest Aquae Sulis (Bath) was probably a spring sacred to the native goddess, Sulis, the equivalent of Minerva. In Roman times it became a fashionable spa and the area around the spring underwent development. North of the spring a temple of Sulis stood inside a colonnaded courtyard measuring 53 × 75 metres (Figure 10.12).
The temple itself was raised on a tall podium with steps leading up to it. Its façade had four Corinthian columns with a very high pediment containing a relief head of Medusa in a shield carried by flanking victories (Figure 10.13). The proportions of the podium were 2:1 and the cella was decorated with engaged half-columns like those of the Temple of Portunus at Rome
Figure 10.12 Aquae Sulis (Bath, England), Temple of Minerva and Roman baths, mid-second century ad: plan.
(After B. Cunliffe, Roman Bath Discovered [London: Tempus, 1971], figures 2 and 24.)
(Figure 1.16) and the Maison Carrée at Nîmes (Figure 2.2). Bath must have been a cosmopolitan city, with visitors from all over Britain and a good number of Roman residents, which may explain why the temple was so Roman in appearance and so unlike the normal Romano-Celtic type of temple.
The baths themselves were laid out, probably close to the sacred spring, towards the end of the first century ad. A vestibule to the south led to the bathing chambers. To the east was a large swimming pool, measuring 22 × 8.9 metres, with two smaller cold plunges beyond, and to the west the hot rooms.
The swimming pool was lined with lead and covered with a wooden roof supported on 12 large masonry piers. Later a second set of hot rooms replaced one of the smaller cold plunges and a laconicum (dry hot room) was added to the hot rooms on the western side.
A large circular cold bath replaced the vestibule to the west of the great pool. In the late second century ad the wooden roof over the pool was replaced with a barrel-vault. In the fourth or fifth century ad the area became prone to flooding and the baths were abandoned.
Of the many hundreds of villas found in Britain the most famous is perhaps that at Fishbourne, which in scale surpasses any other (Figure 10.14). It was probably built for the loyal, pro-Roman king of the Regenses, Cogidubnus or Togidubnus, who tried to Romanise the area in the early years of Roman domination. The villa was not the first building on the site.
In the years following the conquest the site was a supply depot, and then a timber house of some pretensions was built there. In the 60s ad a masonry building took the place of the wooden one, but it was not until ad 75 that the great villa which we see today was laid out. Presumably the earlier buildings proved unsatisfactory for Cogidubnus, whose title, probably
rex magnus, entitled him to greater style (RIB 91).4 The huge villa, which perhaps served as his residence in old age, was an astonishing creation both for its time and its place, covering as it does four hectares (ten acres). No comparable villa of the first century ad has been found in Europe outside Italy. An entrance hall in the centre of the east wing with a hexastyle porch and a pool at the far end led into a huge peristyle garden.
In the NE corner was an aisled hall or basilica and in the SE a bath building. In the middle of the west wing was an apsed audience chamber where official receptions took place. In the north wing was a set of guest chambers with fine mosaic pavements disposed around two small peristyle courtyards.
The private rooms of the king were ranged along the south wing. The only Roman villas to approach Fishbourne in size were built in the fourth century ad. Chedworth, one of a number of Cotswold villas in the region of Corinium (Cirencester), originally consisted of two buildings and a separate bathing suite, but by ad 300 these elements were united into an inner and outer courtyard. Fine mosaics were laid in the dining room and a second set of baths added.
Hadrian’s Wall was the largest single project ever undertaken by the Romans in Britain (SHA, Hadrian 11.2) and ‘perhaps the largest and most remarkable building programme ever undertaken in the these islands at any time’.5
In ad 105 Agricola’s conquests in Scotland were given up and the frontier fixed along the road between Luguvallium (Carlisle) and Coriosopitum or Corstopitum (Corbridge), known as the Stanegate, where a number of forts had already been established.
There appears to have been a major uprising in northern Britain in ad 118 and, as a result of a personal visit by the Emperor Hadrian, it was decided to build a wall, 80 Roman miles long, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. It ran along high ground a little to the north of the Stanegate where the main garrison was housed.
In about ad 124 it was decided to evacuate most of the Stanegate forts and move the fighting forces up to the wall itself. The wall was an extraordinary undertaking which needed seven years to complete and which had to be managed for the next 300 years (Figure 10.15).
It required the quarrying of 770,000 m3 of stone which in turn had to be transported to the site by 900 carts and 1800 oxen, not to mention an even larger number of horses and mules. Not surprisingly, although the original plan called for a wall ten Roman feet wide, the width was later reduced to eight feet.
Hadrian’s wall was a fully integrated defence system, consisting of 12 forts to which four more were later added. In addition to the forts there were castles, measuring 20 × 25 metres, every Roman mile. Each mile was further subdivided into three lengths by two lookout turrets, each of which would have been manned by four soldiers, two on duty on top of the wall and two resting in the turret.
North of the wall ran a continuous ditch, 8.5 metres wide × 3 metres deep, except where the wall followed a ridge or other defensive feature. The forts were served by a military road and just behind the road to the south an elaborate earthwork known as the vallum was built to delineate the military zone of the wall.
Vercovicium or Borcovicium (Housesteads) on Hadrian’s wall is a good example of an infantry fort (Figure 2.12). It covered just under 2 hectares (5 acres) and was probably manned by about 800 auxiliaries. It lay on the south side of the wall, which joined it at each end and was parallel to it, as with all forts on a cliff edge.
It was divided into five areas by four main streets in the usual pattern: The central third of the fort consisted of the headquarters building (principia), granaries, and hospital. The commandant’s house (praetoria) had a small bath-house adjacent to it, whereas the bath-house for the use of the troops was about 200 metres away next to a stream.
The rest of the fort was mainly occupied by barracks. In the SE corner of the fort was a remarkable communal lavatory with rows of timber seats built
Figure 10.15 Hadrian’s Wall (England), view eastward from Cuddy’s crags towards Housesteads.
over deep sewers flushed with water from collection tanks to the east. A narrow stone channel in front of the seats held the water in which the sponges could be washed. The cavalry fort at Cilurnum (Chesters) had similar arrangements, except that it lay across the wall.
A good deal of the ground plan was given over to stabling, and its hospital was in the rear of the fort. A feature of the fort was the sunken stone strong-room below the main standard-bearer’s office where the legionary pay was kept. An abutment of the bridge over the river was also found near the fort.
The small auxiliary fort at Brocolitia (Carrawburgh) is of interest too because of the discovery nearby of a third century ad mithraeum, with an anteroom separated by a wattle-work screen from the nave which was lined with the usual benches.
Hadrian’s Wall comes at an intermediate stage in the development of fortifications in Britain. The early forts built soon after the conquest were designed as bases for highly mobile troops who left the fort to fight in the open. By the time of Hadrian forts were becoming part of a static defence system, equipped with ditches and ramparts and, later, ballista platforms.
Finally, when in the third and fourth centuries ad Saxon sea-raiders had begun to harry the coasts of England, the Low countries and northern France, a series of coastal forts were built as a defence against them. These forts of the Saxon shore had much more massive fortifications and took on the appearance of mediaeval castles.
There were 10 or 11 of them along the coast of SE England. Mostly they had masonry walls about ten metres high with bastions and look-out towers. Communications between them seem to have been by sea because they usually do not lie near Roman roads. Richborough, Pevensey and Porchester are perhaps the finest of these forts. By the early fifth century ad the defence of Britain was no longer practicable and the island was abandoned by the Romans.
The Rhine and Danube frontiers
The Rhine/Danube frontier remained the most difficult to defend throughout the Roman Empire (Figure 10.16). In his conquest of Gaul Julius Caesar had penetrated as far as the Rhine. After Actium Augustus pushed his armies as far as the Danube. Noricum (most of Austria and parts of Slovenia) became a client kingdom in 16 bc and a province at the time of Claudius.
The province of Moesia, created about ad 6 and later divided into two provinces, stretched across the northern Balkans from central Serbia to northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. Further west Tiberius and Drusus defeated the Raeti in 15 bc and extended the frontier to the upper Danube.
This resulted in the creation of the province of Raetia, which largely corresponds to central and eastern Switzerland and the Tirol. In 5 bc the Tropaeum Alpium was set up at La Turbie above Monaco to commemorate the conquest of the Alpine people.
It was a roofed circular colonnade of 24 columns with a statue of Augustus on top. Its total height, including its square podium, was almost 50 metres. Between 12–9 bc. Tiberius subdued Pannonia (eastern Austria, western Hungary, northern Croatia and parts of Slovenia) which at first was part of Illyricum, but later became a separate province.
Meanwhile in a campaign of 12–9 bc the Roman armies under Drusus crossed the Rhine and reached the Elbe, which today springs in the Czech Republic and passes through Dresden on its way to Hamburg. The Elbe-Danube line provided an excellent natural frontier along a mainly river boundary, and it was hoped eventually to incorporate the whole of Germany up to the Elbe into the Roman Empire.
However, in ad 6, while Tiberius was operating against the Marcomanni beyond the Elbe-Danube line, a revolt in the Balkans caused him to recall his troops. In ad 9 the troops of Publius Quinctilius Varus were ambushed between the Rhine and the Elbe and three legions were lost, a terrible catastrophe for the Emperor Augustus.
As a result, the Roman forces were recalled to the Rhine–Danube line, and the fort of Argentorate (Strasbourg), now in France, but in Roman times in the province of Germania Superior, was rebuilt as an important legionary fortress. Before long an extensive civilian settlement had grown up near it in a locality called Koenigshoffen to the west of Strasbourg.
The only other major advance across the Rhine was in ad 83 when Domitian embarked upon an expedition against the Chatti and drove them from the Rhine valley. The frontier was pushed a little beyond the Rhine in the region of Mogontiacum (Mainz), and met the Danube a little west of Castra Regina (Regensburg).
Most of this triangle of land was added to Upper Germany (Germania Superior) which was formally established as a province at this time along with Lower Germany (Germania Inferior). Upper Germany corresponds to SW Germany, Alsace and western Switzerland, and Lower Germany to the land west of the Rhine, Luxembourg, parts of Belgium and the southern Netherlands.
The Lower German limes (frontier) extended from the North Sea to Rheinbrohl, just south of Rigomagus (Remagen). The Upper German limes extended to Lorch and the Raetian limes to Castra Regina (Regensburg). Most of the frontier followed the Rhine and the Danube, but along the 300-kilometre-wide land corridor between the two rivers wooden palisades were erected, probably in ad 121–122 at the time of Hadrian.
There were timber watch-towers and a road behind the palisades, although many of the watch-towers were later rebuilt of stone. In the Danube region the palisade itself was later replaced by a stone wall. The stone watch-towers had three storeys internally.
There was usually a stone doorway giving access from the outside to the middle level, but not the lowest, which had to be accessed internally. There was a doorway in the top storey of the tower which gave access to an encircling wooden balcony surrounded by a balustrade and there was an overhanging roof.
Reconstructed examples can be seen at Anhausen, Oberbieber and Rheinbrohl, but not all are accurate. Wooden towers have been reconstructed at Rainau and Schwabsberg. The watch-tower reconstructed at Bad Ems in 1874 was the first and oldest reconstruction of a watch-tower.
It was based upon the towers shown in the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome, but it is no longer considered historically correct. The watch-tower at Hillscheid is considered the most accurate, as is the elaborate reconstruction of a small fort and watchtower at Pohl.
The western gateway of the Antonine auxiliary fort at Welzheim and the gateway to the fort of Biriciana (Weissenburg) have also been reconstructed. The most complete reconstruction of a Roman fort in Germany is at Saalburg in the Taunus mountains.
There is also a well-preserved cohort fort at Eining on the Danube (Abusina). Good sections of the limes can be seen at Anhausen, Buch, Feldbergkastell, Gunzenhausen, Hienheim, Jagsthausen, Pohlheim-Grüningen and Walldürn. There are foundations of the Castellum baths at Theilenhofen and Würzberg.
As early as Claudian times legionary forts began to be built on a more permanent basis in stone, and fortresses became more numerous as more soldiers were posted to the RhineDanube frontier. At the time of Hadrian no fewer than 13 legions were permanently stationed along the Rhine-Danube frontier including Dacia, a total of 175,744 legionaries and auxiliaries, almost half of the Roman army.
The legionary fortresses included those at
Noviomagus (Nijmegen in the Netherlands), Vetera (Xanten in Germany), Novaesium (Neuss), Apud Aram Ubiorum (near Cologne) and Bonna (Bonn) in Germania Inferior; Mogontiacum (Mainz), Argentorate (Strasbourg in France), Vindonissa (Windisch)
and Castra Regina (Regensburg) in Germania Superior and Raetia; Vindobona (Vienna), Carnuntum (Petronell in Austria) and Brigetio (Szöny in Hungary) in Pannonia Superior; Aquincum (Budapest) in Pannonia Inferior; Singidunum (Belgrade), Viminacium (Kostolac in Serbia) and Ratiaria (near Vidin in Bulgaria) in Moesia Superior; Oescus (Pleven in Bulgaria), Durostorum (Silistra in Bulgaria) and Troesmis (Iglita-Turcoaia, Romania) in Moesia Inferior.
Figure 10.16 The Rhine and Danube frontiers of the Roman Empire: map.
At Vetera (Xanten) on the lower Rhine remains of a double legionary fortress were uncovered, and are now reburied. An older timber fortress covering 45 hectares (111 acres) was rebuilt in stone in ad 43 and again by Nero (Vetera I) to cover 56 hectares (138 acres). Rectangular in shape and measuring 902 × 621 metres, it had the normal four gates and the principia in the middle.
To the north were the residences of the two legionary commanders. Smaller houses were built for the tribunes, and smaller ones again for the officers. A hospital and barracks were also uncovered. The fortress was destroyed in the Batavian revolt of ad 69–70 (Tacitus, Hist. 4.22ff), and a smaller fortress designed to accommodate a single legion
was rebuilt a little to the east (Vetera II). In the period ad 98–105 the settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana was established 3 kilometres to the north. Covering 83 hectares (205 acres), it is now partially restored. It had a regular street plan, with an amphitheatre in the east corner as well as the usual baths, temples and shops.
In 38 bc Agrippa transplanted the Ubii, a tribe friendly to the Romans, across the Rhine and they built a city on the site of modern Cologne. In 9 bc it received an altar for the Imperial cult of Rome and Augustus. A double legionary fortress (Apud aram Ubiorum) was also established there.
The legions left in the 30s ad and in ad 50 Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensium (Cologne) was established in honour of Claudius’ wife, Agrippina, who had been born there. The city, by then extremely prosperous and a leading religious centre, became the capital of the province of Lower Germany.
The legionary fortress of Carnuntum, east of Vienna, was rebuilt in stone after ad 73 and measured 500 × 400 metres. It had the usual principia in the centre with the praetorium to the south. Workshops, a hospital, a large bath building, houses for the tribunes as well as 60 barracks for the centuriae have been uncovered, but buried again.
Outside the fortress was a legionary amphitheatre, measuring 98 × 76 metres, which held 8,000 spectators. Three kilometres to the west of the fortress at Petronell was the civilian city, which became a colonia under Septimius Severus.
A number of houses and the public bath have been heavily restored. Outside the city is a second, larger, amphitheatre which could accommodate 13,000 spectators and to the south the substantial remains of a large four-sided triumphal arch, the Heidentor, built between ad 354 and 361 by Constantius II.
Between ad 101 and 106 Trajan conquered Dacia (corresponding to part of modern Romania) and in ad 109 set up an enormous monument, 30.77 metres high, at Adamclisi in the Dobrudja plain (Moesia Inferior, but now in Romania) to commemorate his victory.
Now rebuilt, it consisted of a huge masonry drum 30.52 metres in diameter raised on seven steps and capped with a mound. On top of the mound was a hexagonal tower supporting a giant trophy. The drum was decorated with 54 panels sculpted in a simple, direct style depicting the conflict between the Dacians and the Romans, now in the nearby museum.
In the valley below the monument a town grew up called Tropaeum Traiani. It was impressively rebuilt after its destruction by the Goths and most of its monuments, including a large basilica, are Constantinian.
Germany (Germania superior and inferior)
The holy mountain of Magdalensberg in Austria had been settled by the Celts in the second century bc. During the first century bc because of its fine position, good soil, and plentiful water supply it became an important city in the kingdom of Noricum. In the period 40–20 bc it was a prosperous trading centre and individual houses were finely frescoed.
Following annexation in 15 bc it entered its period of greatest prosperity with the building of a basilica, senate house, bath and large classical-style temple within an enclosure. However, the founding under Claudius of the new city of Virunum at the foot of the mountain brought about its decline and little more was heard of it.
Virunum was the capital of the province of Noricum until the middle of the second century ad. Now largely reburied, it had a regular grid-plan with basilica/forum/capitolium situated along its main axis, as well as a Roman theatre.
It also had an amphitheatre, 108 metres long × 46.5 metres wide, of unusual shape with straight long sides terminating in semicircular ends. The water-system with lead pipes, a sewage system and public fountains indicate a good water supply.
The oldest Roman colony on the Rhine, Augusta Raurica (Augst in Switzerland), was founded by Munacius Plancus in 43 bc. The centre of the town was rebuilt in the mid second century ad on regular lines (Figure 2.1) with basilica, forum and temple built as a single complex over three city blocks.
By the second century ad Augusta Raurica had become extremely prosperous to judge by the aqueduct which supplied the town with water and the new theatre built in about ad 140–150. At Mogontiacum (Mainz), the capital of Germania Superior, the most remarkable Roman survival is the Jupiter column, more than 9 metres high, recomposed from nearly 2,000 stone fragments.
It stands on two steps above which are two plinths, the smaller of which bears an inscription dating the column to ad 58 or 65. The plinths and the five-column drums they support are covered with reliefs of deities. On the Corinthian capital on top of the column stands a small plinth which originally supported an above life-size gilded bronze statue of Jupiter. This is the oldest of many Jupiter columns which have been discovered in the Rhineland.
Augusta Treverorum (Trier), situated on the west bank of the Moselle, was established as a military post by Augustus and shortly afterwards it became the capital of the province of Gallia Belgica and a leading economic centre. The second-century ad witnessed a burst of building activity with the laying out of a large forum, 400 × 150 metres, a new bridge, an amphitheatre and the St. Barbara Baths.
The city is of great interest because of its two Gallo-Roman sanctuaries, the Altbachtal and the Irminenwingert. Like the rural sanctuaries in Gaul, they combined temples, shrines and altars with a cult theatre. The Altbachtal theatre had curved seating inscribed into high rectangular walls, presumably designed to ensure privacy for the initiates, and a very small stage.
The discovery of grimacing and burlesque masks suggests this was a mystery theatre in which scenic and cult games were performed. The function of theatres of this type seems to have been primarily religious and the theatre model introduced in Roman times took the place of a simpler, pre-Roman performance area. The temple of Lenus-Mars across the river also seems to be Romano-Celtic. The city attained its greatest importance in the late third-century ad when it became the capital of Constantius Chlorus.
Country villas were the centre of a working estate and had to provide grain storage, stabling and farm buildings. In Northern Europe, early villas combined all these facilities under one roof, but soon the main house was separated from the buildings for farm workers and storage, as at Oberentfelden in Switzerland, Anthée near Namur and Estrées-sur-Noye near Amiens.
A linking portico or corridor was commonly built along one side of the villa, often flanked at either end by a pair of projecting rooms, as can be seen in the Köln–Müngersdorf villa, while in larger villas the rooms were grouped around internal peristyles. The largest villa of all was the gigantic third-century ad villa at Nennig with its two-storey portico flanked by three-storey projecting wings and four internal peristyles.
Illyricum became two provinces in ad 10 under Augustus, Pannonia to the north and Dalmatia to the south. Salone (Solin) on the Adriatic coast of Croatia was settled by Roman traders in 47 bc. After supporting Caesar in the civil war it was raised to the status of Colonia and under Augustus became the capital of Dalmatia.
It soon became by far the largest city in Dalmatia and, as a leading Adriatic port with good road connections with the interior, enjoyed unbroken prosperity from the late Republic to the Byzantine period. The city rapidly spread eastwards and by the time of Marcus Aurelius, the new sector (urbs nova) was walled.
On the south side of the old town are the remains of the theatre, 65 metres wide, built in the first-century ad and altered in the second. East of the theatre is a porticoed forum, the remains of a Capitolium to the north and a small lapsed curia to the SE. Behind the scene of the theatre are the remains of a tetrastyle Corinthian temple dedicated to Augustus as pater patriae, dating to after ad 2.
In the NW corner of the old city is the amphitheatre, built in the second half of the second-century ad and reconstructed at the time of Diocletian. It measures 100.65 × 124.75 metres and would have accommodated about 15,000 spectators. East of the city in the direction of Split is the well-preserved arcades of the aqueduct which brought water to Salona.
Pola was initially part of Illyricum until Augustus included it in the Tenth Region of Italy. It is located alongside a well-protected harbour on the SW extremity of the Istrian Peninsula. The city is rich in archaeological monuments, the most visible and monumental being the amphitheatre, which measures 132.5 × 105.1 metres and was probably completed in the Julio-Claudian period (Figure 10.17). Its entire outer wall is preserved, comprising
two storeys of arches and a top storey of rectangular windows, bringing its total height to 32.45 metres. The remarkably well-preserved Temple of Augustus, built between 2 bc–ad 14, measures 17.65 × 8.05 metres. A prostyle temple with a porch of 4 × 2 columns raised on a podium, it was one of two identical temples which stood in the forum.
Another notable monument of Pola is the Arch of the Sergii built 29–27 bc (Figure 10.18). It’s single opening, with winged victories in the spandrels, is flanked by pairs of fluted Corinthian columns. The inner walls of the piers are decorated with vine and acanthus leaves, and the soffit with coffers ornamented with rosettes and a snake struggling with an eagle.
Three podia divide the attic into two parts and over the podia stood statues of Lepidus Sergius, in whose honour the arch was erected, his uncle and his father. The city also possessed two Classical-style theatres, the smaller of the two being perhaps an odeum.
Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) on the north bank of the Sava river in modern Serbia, became a Roman base during Augustus’ conquest of Illyricum. Its status was raised to Colonia in Flavian times and in ad 103 it became the capital of Pannonia Inferior.
Because of its situation, it became important strategically in the third-century ad when Galerius built an imperial residence there. The buildings, which were constructed at great cost in brick, included a huge bath building, a public granary and a large and small palace. Running between the two palaces was a hippodrome.
Apollonia in the province of Macedonia, now in modern Albania, was an important harbour city and terminus of one of the Empire’s most strategic roads, the Via Egnatia, which linked Rome to Asia Minor. Unencumbered by modern buildings the site contains a theatre, bouleuterion and Temple of Diana.
The city of Buthrotum (Butrint) in the province of Epirus, now in modern Albania, has recently been the subject of systematic excavations which have revealed a great deal about the city. An important discovery was the Sanctuary of Asclepius,
whose theatre, dating originally to the late fourth-century bc, was rebuilt in the second century and on a larger scale. Nearby is the forum which features a building probably used for political purposes. It had a wide antechamber opening onto three rooms, one of them lapsed.
Many of the buildings at Butrint are early Christian in date, but one of them worth mentioning is the palace, adapted from a townhouse in about ad 400. Its most interesting feature is the tri coach, perhaps a dining room, at the east end of the great central courtyard.
- The European Provinces Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition
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