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The Julio Claudian | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Julio Claudian | Roman Architecture | Second edition


The Julio Claudian | Roman Architecture | Second edition

In ad 4 Augustus adopted Tiberius, the son of his wife Livia by a previous marriage, after all his other heirs had died. Tiberius was descended on both sides from the aristocratic Claudian family, which boasted 28 consulships, five dictatorships, seven censorships, six triumphs, and two ovations (Suet., Tib. 1.2). His own career too was one of unbroken success. He was awarded a triumph for his campaign in Germany. His private life, however, was less happy. In 11 bc he was forced by Augustus to divorce his wife, Vipsania, whom he adored, to marry Augustus’ daughter, Julia, for whom he came to feel such a passionate loathing that at the height of his career in 6 bc he retired to Rhodes for more than seven years. Julia’s scandalous conduct eventually resulted in her banishment in 2 bc and in ad 2 Tiberius returned to Rome, taking up residence soon afterwards in the Gardens of Maecenas (Suet., Tib. 15).

The architectural climate in Rome changed abruptly after the death of Augustus in ad 14. Tiberius (ad 14–37) did not have the same passion for building marble temples. In fact he did not build any magnificent works apart from the Temple of Augustus and the reconstruction of the Theatre of Pompey, both of which remained unfinished for many years (Suet., Tib. 47). The theatre had been damaged in the fire of ad 22 and the restoration was begun by Tiberius on the grounds that no member of Pompey’s family was equal to the task of restoration (Tacitus, Ann. 3.72). Although it was customary under these circumstances for the building to be named after its restorer, he decreed that the name of Pompey was to remain. He also erected a bronze statue of the praetorian prefect, Sejanus, in the theatre (Dio, 57.21.3), and rebuilt the scene building (Tacitus, Ann. 6.45.2), but the restoration was not completed until the time of Caligula (Suet., Cal. 21). The construction of the Temple of Augustus was entrusted to Tiberius and his mother Livia in a senatorial decree of ad 14 and Tiberius was about to inaugurate it in ad 37, when death intervened. The temple has never been found, although its location is known with a fair degree of accuracy and it is frequently mentioned in the literature (Dio, 57.10.2). It is behind the Basilica Julia in an area which has never been excavated. It was later used as one of the supports for Caligula’s infamous bridge which he used to cross from the Imperial palace on the Palatine to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. Caligulan coins show the temple as a hexastyle building in the Ionic style. It was rebuilt by Domitian and again by Antoninus Pius, whose coins show it as an octastyle building. Nothing is heard of it after that.

Another legacy of Augustus was the imperial residence on the Palatine, the Domus Augusti, an agglomeration of modest houses rather than a palace. Immediately to the north of it is the enormous platform (400 × 450 Roman feet [118.4 × 133.2 metres]) where the Domus Tiberiana stood. Our present knowledge of this complex, most of which is buried beneath the Farnese gardens, suggests that at the time of Tiberius the Domus Tiberiana was nothing more than a few older houses, perhaps including the house in which Tiberius was born. It was Nero who built the terraced platform and palatial complex, which from ad 69 was known as the Domus Tiberiana (Tacitus, Hist. 1.27; Plutarch, Galba 24.7). In ad 16 an arch was erected in the Forum near the Temple of Saturn in honour of Tiberius and his adopted son Germanicus. It was to commemorate the recovery of the standards lost by Varus to the Germans in ad 9 (Tacitus, Ann. 2.41). It had only one opening, as shown by the excavations of 1900 and the representation of it on a frieze of the Arch of Constantine. It is shown plain and unadorned, but so too is the Arch of Septimius Severus. It may have followed the pattern of Augustus’ arches in the Forum with victories in the spandrels and statuary on the attic, but otherwise without ornament.1 In ad 19 after Artaxias had been made king of Armenia the senate voted ovations for Germanicus and Tiberius’ son, Drusus the Younger, and erected arches to them each side of the Temple of Mars Ultor (Figure 3.11) (Tacitus, Ann. 2.64). Yet another arch was erected to Germanicus, who died later in the same year (Tacitus, Ann. 2.83), although Tacitus could be referring to the same arch. After the death of Drusus in ad 23 the senate decreed that he should be honoured as Germanicus had, perhaps meaning that yet another arch was erected (Tacitus, Ann. 4.9).

Between ad 20–23 on high ground NE of the city centre, and away from its temptations (Tacitus, Ann. 4.2), Tiberius built an enormous camp for the Praetorian guard, a body which in future was to have a preponderant influence on the imperial succession. He did so on the advice of the praetorian prefect Sejanus (Dio, 57.19.6), who was steadily increasing his influence over the emperor. Commanding a good view of the roads leading into Rome from the north and east, it had the usual rectangular shape (440 × 380 metres) with curved corners and a gate on each of the four sides. It was defended by a wall of opus testaceum, 4.73 metres high, with merlons every 3 metres. Behind it was a continuous series of barrel-vaulted rooms in opus reticulatum, 3 metres high × c. 3.60 metres wide, above which was the wall-walk. Parts of the barrack buildings and granaries came to light in the period 1960–1968 before the National library was built. Most of the outer circuit of the Castra Praetoria was eventually incorporated into the Aurelianic walls. Although the north and east gates were walled up and the outer wall itself was raised about 5 metres by Aurelian, and a further 2.5 metres at the time of Maxentius, most of the Tiberian work is still visible.

By ad 26 Tiberius seems to have lost interest in Rome, which he left, never to return. One day he was dining in a villa called spelunca (cave) in a locality in Campania now known as Sperlonga, clearly a corruption of the Latin word, when part of the roof collapsed almost killing him (Suet., Tib. 39). Sejanus, who was travelling with him, saved the emperor’s life, thus greatly increasing his power and influence (Tacitus, Ann. 4.59). Excavated in 1957 the villa’s focal point is a large natural cavern in the rocky cliffs which meet the sea at this point of the coast (Figure 5.1). Concrete walling and masonry flooring were added to the natural cave with, on the left on entering, a minor grotto with a spur of rock carved into the shape of a ship’s prow, inscribed in mosaic Navis Argo. Immediately to the south of this is a large rectangular basin in the middle of which is a rectangular structure on which was perhaps built a cenatio (dining area) and a vivarium (fish-pond). Linked to it is a circular basin with a statue group of Scylla attacking the helmsman of one of Odysseus’ ships on a small island in the middle. To the NE of the circular basin concrete walling created a circular room, probably the triclinium where Sejanus saved the emperor’s life, with a small bedroom behind. To the SE of the circular basin is a deep hollow which provided a theatrical setting for a magnificent sculptural group in white marble showing the Cyclops being blinded by Odysseus and his followers, now in the museum. Five seats were cut in the rock each side of the main cave to allow spectators to observe the spectacle. The sculptures, carved in a dramatic Hellenistic style, are signed by Rhodian sculptors, which suggests a connection with

Figure 5.1  Sperlonga, Grotto of Tiberius, early first century ad: plan

the emperor’s stay on that island, although some scholars date them to the Flavian period. The grotto at Sperlonga exemplifies the Roman delight in uniting architecture, landscape and sculpture into a single entity.

Tiberius spent several years in the seclusion of Capreae (Capri), and it was through a letter that he finally ordered the arrest and execution of Sejanus, who fell from power in ad 31. His self-imposed exile to Capri led to ugly rumours about his debauched life there, although Augustus, who had taken over the island as an imperial estate (Suet., Aug. 92), was never criticised for living in the country. Tiberius added several more buildings, embellished a number of natural grottoes and built the Villa Jovis, perched on the edge of a sheer cliff on the eastern tip of the island (Figure 5.2). The cliff falls away to the north, east and south, and a level site was created by cutting back the rock to build a huge undercrofting of concrete barrel-vaults. Part of this vast network was used as an immense water cistern to collect and store the infrequent but heavy rainfall. The cistern was vaulted over to form a flat square platform in the centre of the villa (Figure 5.3). The platform was probably covered with mosaics and perhaps surrounded on four sides by a peristyle of columns like the square of the cisterns at Ptolemais. The villa must have presented an extremely imposing aspect to visitors, who would have approached it, not by the modern pathway from the south, but from the NW up the steeper Roman road paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern. The villa would have towered above them, its main rooms standing more than 20 metres above the rising ground. In the SW corner is the entrance vestibule, with four green cipollino marble columns supporting the ceiling and a niche in which stood a statue, perhaps of the Emperor. From there a mosaic-paved ramp led up eastwards past a bathing suite on the south side of the complex. On the east side was a huge semicircular audience hall flanked by lesser halls. Only the

Figure 5.2  Capri, Villa Jovis: section and plan. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970]). .

Figure 5.3  Capri, Villa Jovis, ad 14–17

substructures now survive, but they must have required an immense work of cutting, levelling and buttressing. The rooms commanded stupendous views of Sorrento and Vesuvius, situated as they are on the edge of a 300-metre-high cliff. On the north side is the emperor’s private suite, approached by a single, well-guarded corridor and kept quite separate from the service rooms and kitchens on the west side of the villa. A long corridor leads northwards to a loggia (ambulatio), 100 metres long, running close to the edge of the cliff. Here the emperor would have strolled after eating and resting in the rooms that opened off it to the south. The triclinium, with its splendid views, was a vaulted room with polychrome marble paving on its floor. In his last years Tiberius was haunted by the spectre of impending death and it was his habit to consult soothsayers. West of the main block of the villa are the massive foundations of the observatory used by his adviser and astrologer, Thrasyllus. At the edge of the cliff to the south of the villa are the remains of a lighthouse which was used mainly for signalling to the mainland opposite. The emperor’s orders could also be transmitted to a signalling tower at Cape Misenum where the imperial fleet stood ready for the emperor’s command. The lighthouse collapsed a few days before Tiberius’ death in ad 37 (Suet., Tib. 74).

After the death of Tiberius, Caligula, son of the popular Germanicus, was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian guard, and began his reign amidst general enthusiasm, but his cruel excesses resulted in his being murdered by his own guards after only four years. During that period he did make some notable architectural contributions, by dedicating the Temple of Deified Augustus and completing the restoration of the Theatre of Pompey which had been left unfinished by Tiberius (Suet., Cal. 21). It was not, however, dedicated until the time of Claudius (Suet., Claud. 21). He probably built the large temenos dedicated to Isis and Serapis just east of the Saepta, because Augustus had banned the worship of Egyptian deities within the pomerium (Dio, 53.2.4). He despised the amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus, and so began building a wooden amphitheatre near the Saepta, which involved the destruction of many large buildings (Dio, 59.10.5). Two engineering marvels, the Anio Novus and the Aqua Claudia, were both begun by Caligula in ad 38. These were finally completed by Claudius, but the amphitheatre project was abandoned (Suet., Cal. 21). Caligula constructed a Circus in the Vatican, parts of which are said to have been found under St. Peter’s (Suet., Claud. 21). The 25.5-metre-high obelisk from Heliopolis which now stands in the middle of St. Peter’s Square is thought to have stood on the spina. It was brought to Rome by a ship of huge dimensions (Suet., Claud. 20). The ship was later sunk in the harbour at Ostia to provide a foundation for the lighthouse of Claudius.

It is said that Caligula extended the Domus Tiberiana to the Forum and converted the Temple of Castor and Pollux into a vestibule (Suet., Cal. 22). Suetonius goes on to say that he would often stand between the two statues to be worshipped by those who came there. Boni’s excavations of 1900–1901 in the angle between the Vicus Tuscus and the Temple of Castor and Pollux revealed a complex comprising an atrium, measuring 27 × 22.5 metres, and an adjoining piscina set in an open area measuring 41 × 23 metres. Immediately to the SE of the piscina was a ramp leading up from Forum level to the Palatine. It has been suggested that the entrance to this complex was through the Temple of Castor and Pollux via a bridge over the gap between the two buildings.2 This implies that the principal rooms of the Domus Gai were on the first floor at about the level of the temple podium.

In 1928 the level of Lake Nemi was lowered to reveal two enormous pleasure galleys buried in the mud. They were presumably like the ones described by Suetonius (Cal. 38):

He also constructed ten-oared Liburnian galleys with sterns studded with gems, multicoloured sails, and ample space for baths, porticoes, and dining rooms, and with a great variety of vines and fruit-bearing trees; reclining on these ships all day long he would sail along the Campanian coast amid choral dancing and singing.

The ships found at Nemi no longer exist because they were destroyed in 1944, but they were well documented and much of their furnishing survives. They were very broad in the beam, 20 metres and 24 metres respectively, and were 72 and 73.5 metres long. They were 1,100 tonnes in burden, ten times as much as Christopher Columbus’ largest ship. Flat tiles set in mortar were found in the hulls, which were laid over the oak decking. The pavements were of polychrome marble and mosaic. Flanged tiles were found which suggests that there were heated floors and perhaps baths on board these sumptuous vessels. The galleys contained a number of technical devices such as pump-pistons, pulleys and anchors. We hear of Ptolemy IV building an exotic pleasure galley equipped with similarly lavish equipment in 200 BC (Athenaeus, Deipn. 204E-208), which suggests that the inspiration for this type of pleasure galley was probably Hellenistic.

When Caligula was murdered by the Praetorian guard his uncle, Claudius, was proclaimed emperor. Claudius (ad 41–54) had a strong practical streak and his reign was mostly notable, as far as building was concerned, for engineering projects like draining of the Fucine Lake, repairing the emissary of Lake Albano, completing the two aqueducts begun by Caligula and building the harbour at Ostia. Claudius finally rededicated Pompey’s theatre which had been damaged by fire in ad 22 (Tacitus, Ann. 3.72). He ‘opened the games at the dedication of Pompey’s theatre … from a raised seat in the orchestra, after first offering sacrifice at the temples in the upper part of the cavea and coming down through the tiers of seats while all sat in silence’ (Suet., Claud. 21.1). In ad 51–52 a single arch flanked by engaged Corinthian columns was built over the Via Lata to commemorate his bringing under Roman control ‘barbarian people across the Ocean’, an allusion to his conquest of Britain. It may be that Agrippa’s crossing of the Aqua Virgo over the Via Lata was turned into this commemorative arch (CIL 6.920, 31203).

One of the aqueducts begun by Caligula was the Anio Novus, and the other is now known as the Aqua Claudia. Running at a steady incline above and below ground, through mountains, and across valleys, the two aqueducts were considered by Pliny to be the most remarkable in the world (Nat.Hist. 36.24.122–3). The Aqua Claudia, finished by Claudius in ad 52, is perhaps the most impressive of Roman aqueducts. Its arches, which begin near the seventh mile of the Via Latina, are still a remarkable sight as they approach Rome, and must have been particularly spectacular at the two points where they intersected and crossed the arches of the Aqua Marcia. The Anio Novus was carried on the same arches in a channel (specus) immediately above.

The Claudia was carried over the Via Praenestina by a double archway, built of heavily rusticated travertine masonry, later incorporated into the Aurelianic walls and now known as the Porta Maggiore (Figure 5.4). The twin openings are flanked by three aedicules each with a pair of Corinthian half-columns supporting a tall triangular pediment. The attic carries three inscriptions put up successively by Claudius, Vespasian and Titus. The masonry of the lower part of the arch was deliberately left rough and the columns supporting the aedicules are actually composed of a number of battered or unfinished Corinthian capitals laid one on top of the other. This curious mannerism may well have been a fancy of the emperor because other examples of rusticated work exist from this period. The arch which carried the aqueducts over the Via Labicana is known from by a Rossini drawing of 1829 to have also had rusticated masonry. The emissary which regulated the level of Lake Albano, originally constructed in the fourth century bc, was repaired at about this time, possibly by Claudius. The

Figure 5.4  Rome, Porta Praenestina, now known as Porta Maggiore, built by Claudius (ad 41–54) to carry the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus over the Via Praenestina and the Via Labicana, and later incorporated into the Aurelianic walls.

masonry around the mouth of the emissary has rusticated and irregularly projecting voussoirs like those on the two Claudian aqueduct arches. The Porticus of Claudius at Ostia and the early first century ad amphitheatre at Verona have similar rustication. However, there are earlier examples of such rustication, for example the Roman theatre at Iguvium (Gubbio) dating to 40–30 bc3. A final work which has stylistic similarities with these other Claudian monuments is the Temple of Deified Claudius on the Caelian Hill, which had been begun by Claudius’ wife, Agrippina, but left unfinished until the time of Vespasian (Suet., Vesp. 9). Part of the platform may still be seen in the gardens of the Passionist Fathers just opposite the church of Sts. John and Paul. This interesting survival is important because it employs a similar type of rusticated blocks, heavily rusticated arches, sharply projecting keystones and flat pilasters only partly carved out of rough unfinished masonry (Figure 5.5).

Claudius died in ad 54, probably of poison (Suet., Claud. 44), and was succeeded by his adopted son, Nero. At the beginning of his reign he deified his predecessor, Claudius, while his mother, Agrippina, started his temple. Once he had murdered his mother in ad 59 Nero pulled down the Temple of Claudius, apart from its substructures part of which he used for the Domus Aurea. Although wits mocked his singing, acting and chariot-racing, Nero left a great legacy in terms of art and architecture. Because many important artistic developments took place during his reign much is owed to this versatile emperor’s patronage. Sculptors in marble and bronze, mosaicists, painters, engineers and architects and other artists of ability and renown worked for his court, and many of their achievements are still to be seen. It can be argued that the discovery of his Golden House (the Domus Aurea) at the end of the 15th century was the greatest single stimulus for artists of the Italian Renaissance. His reign is

Figure 5.5  Rome, Temple of Deified Claudius, completed by Vespasian after ad 70: temple terrace

regarded as a turning point in the exploitation of concrete as a building material. His court painter, Famulus or Fabullus, worked on the Domus Aurea and was probably responsible for much of the intricate wall and ceiling decoration which still survives. The Domus Aurea also contains one of the first major examples of glass mosaic on a vault. His court sculptor, Zenodorus, created an astonishing bronze statue of the emperor, 35.5 metres (120 Roman feet) high, which stood at the entrance to the Domus Aurea. His patronage too must have stimulated the minor arts to judge by a passage in Pliny (Nat.Hist. 37.7.20) in which he is said to have paid 1 million sesterces for a single bowl.

When Nero became emperor, hostilities broke out with the Parthians over Armenia (ad 54). Domitius Corbulo captured Artaxata in ad 58 and statues and arches were voted in Nero’s honour (Tacitus, Ann. 13.41.4). There were some setbacks and an arch, decreed earlier, was set up in the middle of the Capitoline Hill (Tacitus, Ann. 15.18.1). Nothing now survives of it although it is shown on coins of ad 64 as a single arch with freestanding Corinthian columns and a gilded bronze quadriga (four-horse chariot) containing Nero accompanied by Pax and Victoria above the attic.4 In ad 59 as part of an initiative to remove commercial activities from the Forum Nero built a great market (macellum magnum) on the Caelian Hill (Dio, 62.18). Shown on a coin with the inscription MAC AUG on the reverse (Macellum Augusti, but less probably Machina Augusti, referring to Nero’s revolving room), it seems to have had a tholos (circular building) in the centre enclosed within a peristyle around which were rows of rooms or tabernae, an arrangement similar to markets at Pompeii and Pozzuoli.5 Tacitus mentions a vast amphitheatre erected by Nero in ad 57 (Ann. 13.31), although it was perhaps only a temporary wooden amphitheatre to replace the amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus, probably in the southern part of the Campus Martius. Awnings (vela) of sky blue and spangled with stars were hung on ropes in it (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 19.6.24). Nero’s architects/engineers, Severus and Celer, proposed a navigable canal from Avernus to the mouth of the Tiber, which was actually begun. Its length was to be 160 miles and its breadth sufficient to allow ships with five banks of oars to pass each other (Suet., Nero 31). This project was ridiculed by Tacitus as incredible, pointing out that the only water available to feed such a canal was in the Pontine marshes (Tacitus, Ann. 15.42).

The second great bath building, after that of Agrippa, was built NW of the Pantheon by Nero in ad 62 (Tacitus, Ann. 14.47). At the same time, he built a gymnasium at whose dedication in ad 62 Nero dispensed oil with Greek abandon (Tacitus, Ann. 14.47). The gymnasium was struck by lightning and burnt down in ad 62. The baths, and the gymnasium, if they formed part of the same complex as some scholars contend, were rebuilt in ad 63 or 64. The baths were said to be very luxurious and were also very popular. A plan made of the complex by Palladio, when portions of the building were still visible, has been shown to be broadly accurate by recent explorations in the cellars of buildings in the area of Palazzo Madama, Piazza S. Luigi dei Francesi and Piazza del Pantheon. However, the whole complex was rebuilt by Alexander Severus in ad 227 (SHA, Alex.Sev 25) and very few of the remains are Neronian to judge by Palladio’s plan, which shows a symmetrically arranged bathing complex of the Imperial type complete with natatio. There is no way of telling how much of this is Neronian and how far the original building lived up to Martial’s verdict: ‘What is worse than Nero? What is better than Nero’s Baths?’ (Martial, 7.34).

Nero resided at a number of residences in the vicinity of Rome. At some time before ad 60 he built a villa at Subiaco along both banks of the river Anio. Three complexes survive, but these represent only a small part of the original villa. The largest complex is on the north bank, linked by a great bridge to another complex on the south bank, which features a large curved niche. Tacitus tells the story of how Nero was almost struck by lightning while dining there (Tacitus, Ann. 14.22). In the monastery of S. Scholastica at Subiaco there is a portion of a barrel-vault from the villa, with rectangular, square and circular panels of polychrome glass mosaic set into a ground of pumice. The vault is reminiscent of the much larger vault in the triclinium of the Domus Aurea with an octagonal panel in polychrome glass mosaic set into a ground of pumice (see later). Another example of glass mosaic is on a niche found at Antium (Anzio) showing a seated Hercules which apparently dates to the time of Nero. Its decoration too is similar to that of the Domus Aurea. At Antium, which was his birthplace, Nero built a large villa where the Apollo Belvedere was found and a new harbour covering

60 hectares (148 acres) around which was a row of warehouses called the ‘grottoes of Nero.’

The first palace Nero built in Rome was the Domus Transitoria (passageway) because it linked the Palatine and the Esquiline (Suet., Nero 31). The imperial estates included the Villa of Maecenas on the Esquiline which had been bequeathed to Augustus. The main portion of the Domus Transitoria to survive is the so-called ‘Baths of Livia’, the name given to it by the excavators of 1721.6 It is a nymphaeum which owes its preservation to the fact that it was incorporated into the foundations of the Aula Regia of the Flavian palace. A pair of symmetrical staircases lead down to it (Figure 5.6). On the north side is a shallow semicircular recess pierced by a pair of niches each side of a stepped water cascade. In front of this, looking like the stage of a Roman theatre, is a row of nine low fountain niches ornamented with small free-standing columns which originally had bronze Corinthian capitals. Opposite was a dining pavilion supported on ten columns around three of its four sides and a small pool. At the sides were two barrel-vaulted rooms, each preceded by two columns. The paving and wall inlay were in polychrome marble, porphyry and serpentino. Some of the paintings on the

Figure 5.6  Rome, fountain court of Nero’s Domus Transitoria, destroyed in ad 64 and later incorporated

into the substructures of Domitian’s Palace: axonometric view. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

vaults have survived, forerunners of the paintings of the Domus Aurea. Delicate borders of relief stucco divide the vault and the lunettes into small panels which are filled with medallions, plaques and figured scenes surrounded by elegant scrolls studded with blue glass. One vault is finely decorated with octagonal coffers in white relief stucco. This small complex reflects Nero’s taste for refined opulence and hints at future extravagance. The palace was probably unfinished when it was destroyed by the great fire of ad 64.

The fire was the most terrible Rome had ever experienced. It began on 19 July in the Circus Maximus and in nine days completely destroyed three regions of the city, caused great damage to seven and spared only four. Nero was at Antium when the fire broke out and he returned to the city only when the fire was approaching the Domus Transitoria. The flames could not be prevented from overwhelming the Palatine, including his palace. It also seems to have destroyed a number of old and venerable buildings.

The Julio Claudian | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)

The Julio Claudian | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)


An immense number of mansions which had belonged to famous generals, still decorated with the spoils of war, were burnt; and temples of the gods, vowed and dedicated by the kings of Rome, and later in the Punic and Gallic wars; everything memorable and worth seeing from a former age that had survived (Suet., Nero 38).

Nero constructed emergency accommodation, threw open Agrippa’s public buildings, and even his gardens for the destitute, and brought food from Ostia and neighbouring towns.

However he earned no gratitude for this because there were rumours that the emperor himself had started the fire, and a story circulated that he watched the conflagration from the Tower of Maecenas and sang the Destruction of Troy on his private stage (Tacitus, Ann. 15.39). Although the rebuilding of Rome and the removal of refuse from the Ostian marshes took many years, it had a very positive effect on Roman architecture. First, brick-faced concrete emerged as a cheap and rapid method of building; and second, the new regulations enacted after the fire altered the city’s appearance for the better. Tacitus describes Rome at the time of the Great Fire (ad 64) as a city of ‘narrow winding passages and irregular streets’ which had encouraged the progress of the fire (Ann. 15.38). Now the dimensions and alignment of street fronts were regulated, the streets were broad, and the houses spacious. Their height was restricted, the fireproof stone was used, there were to be no party walls between buildings, and frontages were protected by colonnades. Vaulting was used instead of timber for ceilings, water was to be everywhere available, and fire fighting equipment was mandatory. Even so, some people lamented the lack of shade in the new city with its broad streets and reflected nostalgically on the narrow streets and high-built houses of the old city which were not so easily penetrated by the rays of the sun. All of this gives the impression that Nero’s new Rome resembled Ostia in terms of its building style and orderly layout. Tacitus praises Nero’s work of restoration (Ann. 15.43), although it was not completed on his death four years later or even on Domitian’s accession in ad 81 (ILS 3914).

Nero was not slow to take advantage of the destruction caused by the fire and immediately made plans for a vast new palace, the notorious Domus Aurea or Golden House. Suetonius’ description of it gives some impression of its splendour. A focal point of the park in which the Domus Aurea stood was the lake: ‘A lake, more like the sea than a lake, was surrounded by buildings looking like cities; as well as countryside with ploughed fields, vineyards, pastures and woods, filled with every type of domestic and wild animal’ (Suet., Nero 31). The grounds of the Domus Aurea covered 50 hectares (125 acres) and extended over the whole valley between the Esquiline, Caelian and Palatine hills. The park was so vast that a comic verse ran around Rome: ‘Rome will become a palace; migrate to Veii, citizens, unless the palace has reached Veii too’ (Suet., Nero 39). Such extensive grounds, which make it sound more like a villa than a palace, perhaps suggest as its model the Ptolemaic palace at Alexandria which occupied a quarter or a third of the city (Strabo, Geo. 17.1.8). Lucan’s description of its gilding and rich inlays is also reminiscent of the Domus Aurea (Lucan, Phar. 1.111–130). The park was approached from the Forum along the Sacred Way, which was straightened and lined with collonaded porticoes. At the end was a vestibule in which stood a gilt bronze statue with Nero’s features, 120 feet (35.52 metres) high, the work of the Greek sculptor, Zenodorus. The vestibule was so extensive that it was surrounded by a triple portico 1,000 feet (296 metres) long (Suet., Nero 31). After Nero’s death, the statue was not destroyed along with his other works, but was dedicated to the sun and became a sacred object’ (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 34.18.45).

A row of fountains was built against the west side of the platform of the unfinished Temple of Claudius, whose waters, supplied by a branch of the Aqua Claudia, cascaded into the lake. The most remarkable survival is an entire wing of the palace which was later incorporated into the foundations of the Baths of Trajan built largely on the high ground to the north (Figure 8.1). Its existence was not suspected until it was stumbled upon by accident in the late 15th century. Its discovery had a profound effect on Renaissance art and many famous artists climbed down to visit it, notably Pinturicchio, Raphael and Michelangelo, all of whom carved their names onto its walls. Raphael’s Vatican loggia was particularly influenced by the frescoes of Famulus, who was responsible for most of the paintings in the Domus Aurea.

He always wore his toga while painting and because he worked only a few hours each day practically his whole output is in the Domus Aurea (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 35.37.37). Nowadays the rooms are damp and gloomy, the walls mildewed and the paintings faded. In these dimly lit rooms, it is difficult to imagine the former splendour of the great palace. Yet in terms of art and architecture, the building was undoubtedly revolutionary.

Its exterior must have resembled the many villas depicted in Pompeian paintings, because one or two column bases still survive (no. 1 in Figure 5.7) indicating that, like them, it had a columnar facade. A glance at the ground plan shows up many of the building’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, the octagonal room (16) is undoubtedly a piece of architectural ingenuity. However, its bold shape creates an architectural jumble behind it. Similarly, the main suites opening off the big five-sided courtyard in the middle of the façade (12) are well-designed and in each case, the middle room is given greater prominence than the flanking rooms. Yet once again there is a jumble of awkward-shaped rooms behind. The architects/engineers, called Severus and Celer (Tacitus, Ann. 15.38-43), showed their skill in good groupings, rhythms and novel solutions, but not in overall planning. However, it may be that they had to contend with an earlier building on the site which may be represented by the oblique wall running at a NE angle from the centre of room 9. The block of seven rooms south of courtyard (6), which were perhaps bedrooms, show the best organisation. The shapes and sizes of the rooms repay close attention. They are alternately wide (2 and 4) and narrow (5) with a particularly wide room in the middle (3). This room and the two rooms next to it have a square-sided recess, presumably for a bed. The recesses in rooms 2 and 4 face south, whereas the recess in rooms 3 faces north towards the courtyard. The rhythm continues in the lapsed room (5) and the room corresponding to it on the west side. There is a further rhythm in the way the rooms are alternately short and long. The cryptoporticus (7) on the north side of the courtyard (6) is also interesting. Because it was built against the hillside it had the dual function of the corridor and sustaining wall.

Also opening off courtyard (6) was a large barrel-vaulted triclinium or dining room (8) whose lunette would have towered over the peristyle of the courtyard to light the rooms behind. At both ends, it had a screen of columns. At the far end was a nymphaeum, a barrel-vaulted room (9) much smaller than the triclinium with a fountain at the end. Covering the upper parts of the walls and extending to the springing of the vault was a mosaic frieze, 2.20 metres high, which ran unbroken around the walls of both the larger and the smaller barrel-vaulted rooms, a total length of 65.84 metres. It was bordered at the top and bottom by a row

Figure 5.7  Rome, Domus Aurea or Golden House of Nero, ad 64–68: plan

of cockle shells. The vault of the smaller barrel-vaulted room was covered in brown pumice to give the appearance of a rustic grotto. In the centre of the vault is an octagonal panel filled with a mosaic of polychrome glass tesserae showing Odysseus offering wine to the Cyclops. The idea of a cave glimpsed through a garden peristyle is not new, but the ensemble, like Tiberius’ grotto at Sperlonga, is another outstanding example of the skill of Roman architects in introducing nature into a domestic setting

The five-sided courtyard (12) used to be seen as the focal point of the wing as a whole. However, a second courtyard has been found to the east which suggests that the wing was longer than previously thought and that the octagonal room (16) was its centre. The colonnade may have continued around the courtyards or perhaps the courtyard contained a building with somewhat taller columns in the manner of villas depicted in Pompeian wall paintings, for example, the House of Lucretius Fronto. Immediately behind the centre of the five-sided courtyard is a large vaulted room (11) flanked on each side by a symmetrical suite of lesser rooms. The large room was called the room of gilded ceiling because of the painted and gilt coffered panels made of moulded relief stucco which decorated its vault. The vault is the one Raphael and other artists clambered through to make the drawings which inspired so much Renaissance stucco work.

The group of rooms to the east of the five-sided courtyard is centred around a large octagonal domed room (16). Here the architect had two problems. The octagonal room and the rooms which opened off it created a series of awkwardly shaped triangular and irregular rooms behind. Second, the building ran very much closer to the hill on the east side than on the west. The result was that there was no room for a courtyard to balance that on the west side. Instead, the cryptoporticus (14) abutted directly onto the rooms behind the octagonal room. These rooms were therefore not only awkwardly shaped but also badly lit. The architect to some extent overcame the problem by ingeniously piercing downward sloping light wells into the upper part of the northern wall of the cryptoporticus and opening a corresponding set of light wells lower down in the southern wall opposite. In this way shafts of light were directed from the edge of the hill into the rooms immediately south of the cryptoporticus. An equally ingenious device was used to convey water for the waterfall in a room (15) which opened off the octagonal room. Water from the top of the hill was ducted across the cryptoporticus via an arched bridge.

The octagonal room (16) is perhaps the most revolutionary architectural concept in the whole house. Its domical vault, which was cast in horizontal layers of opus caementicium, is supported on eight brick-faced concrete piers, originally adorned with stucco and marble pilasters (Figures 5.8 and 5.9). Although it begins as a domical vault, it becomes a hemispherical calotte higher up, with an unusually wide oculus. The dome is stabilised by the five radial rooms surrounding it, whose sides form a series of triangular pillars connected to the dome by prismatic wedges. The surrounding radial rooms are lit from five light wells over the extrados of the dome (Figure 5.8). The result is that, if one stands under the dome, the radial rooms are bathed in light, although the oculus appears to be the only light source.

For a long time, there was speculation that the upper storey of this room was the circular dining room described by Suetonius whose roof revolved slowly, night and day like the heavens (Suet., Nero 31). However, in 2009 a tower-like room was found in the Vigna Barberini on the slopes of the Palatine Hill overlooking the Colosseum, which may be the room in question. The room is circular, 16 metres in diameter, and surrounded by a wall more than 2 metres thick. The dining part is reconstructed as a circular open-air room whose roof is supported by eight columns and whose circular floor is rotated. The mechanism is below the floor.

Figure 5.8  Rome, Domus Aurea of Nero, octagonal room, ad 64–68

Figure 5.9  Rome, Domus Aurea of Nero, ad 64–68, octagonal room: axonometric view from below, section and plan. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970]).

In the centre stands a 4-metre-wide pillar with two sets of eight masonry arches connecting it to the wall, one above the other. Combined with the outer walls the two sets of arches create a very stable structure. The structure survives only to this height because the upper part, the dining room itself, has been dismantled and everything of value removed. A close examination of the tops of the upper eight arches, which radiate like the spokes of a wheel, reveals that exactly in the centre there is a cavity 0.30 metre deep and 0.16 metre wide. This is thought to have held the pivot around which the floor above revolved. On the top of each alternate arch are five cavities, making 20 in all. These are thought to have encased bronze spheres, in effect the ancestors of modern ball-bearings. Very fine clay found in the cavities served as a lubricant so that the spheres could turn without coming out of their slots. This suggests that there was a circular moving floor above that could rotate around the central pivot. The moving floor is reconstructed as a complex work of carpentry, covered perhaps with marble paving. To make the floor rotate some sort of mechanism would have been required. The excavators claim to have found traces of this mechanism and suggest that water was the power source, as lime deposits were found on certain stones. Certainly, a branch of the Claudian aqueduct, called the Aqua Neronis, reached the Palatine near here and part of it is still visible where it crosses Via di S. Gregorio. It is therefore conjectured that a large water wheel was activated by the aqueduct and its force was transmitted using shafts and gears to the mobile floor, turning it at a slow and regular speed. Little survives of this mechanism apart from imprints of metal objects and an iron fixture set into the masonry, because any metal was salvaged when the building was abandoned. This ingenious complex was uncovered by a team of French and Italian archaeologists.

The Domus Aurea was Nero’s greatest architectural achievement and one which was to have a profound influence on future Roman concrete structures. The work was done in haste, as the poor quality of the bricklaying and the thick mortar joints shows. Ironically it is noticeable that the brick facing of the substructures of Trajan’s Baths, which frequently cut across the Neronian walls, is easily distinguishable because it is more finely laid, even though it was never intended to be seen. Significantly, the builders of the Domus Aurea chose brick as a facing material instead of opus reticulatum because it was recognised as a material suited to rapid construction. Second, the Domus Aurea is significant because of its novel, some would say revolutionary, use of concrete. It is an architecture in which interiors become more significant than exteriors and, to use an expression of John Ward Perkins, ‘the emphasis has suddenly shifted from the solids to the voids.’7 It was an architecture where space, light and dramatic effects were of the greatest importance. Third, Nero’s reign was of great significance because of the methods used in the rebuilding of Rome after the fire of ad 64. The new fire regulations produced an urban landscape very different from the old one, with its tortuous alleys and precarious tenement blocks which once provoked the ridicule of the Campanians (Cicero, De lege Agraria, 2.96). Although very little is known of the appearance of Nero’s new Rome it can perhaps be imagined by looking at the tall apartment blocks of brick-faced concrete built a few decades later in Ostia. These buildings with balconies, open courtyards and rooms with vaulted concrete ceilings, ranged along broad straight, paved streets may give some impression of the appearance of the newly rebuilt capital. In Rome itself, the only street which gives some idea of Nero’s new Rome is Trajan’s Markets (Figure 8.5).

The career of this extraordinary emperor ended abruptly in ad 68 when his Domus Aurea was scarcely complete and the reconstruction of Rome cannot have progressed very far. He was forced to flee the city and only a few kilometres away on the Via Cassia he committed suicide. His dying words, ‘What an artist dies in me!’ (Suet., Nero 49), are perhaps a fitting epitaph for his reign. The caprices of Nero and his predecessors had fostered much innovation in art, architecture and engineering. Indeed the architectural developments which took place during the reign of Nero could well be described as revolutionary, and as such had far-reaching consequences for the future of Roman architecture.




Building Techniques and Materials | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Building Techniques and Materials | Roman Architecture | Second edition


Building Techniques and Materials | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Roman architects worked for the army or the civil service or were in private practice. The names of several architects are known, but unfortunately they are usually associated with a single building, for example M. Artorius Primus, the architect who rebuilt the theatre at Pompeii in the Augustan period (CIL 10.841). Decimus Cossutius, who designed the Olympieion at Athens in 174 bc, was a Roman citizen (Vitruvius, de Arch. 7, Praef. 15), but little more is known about him.

A further complication is that although the names of celebrated architects, such as Apollodorus of Damascus (Dio, 69.4.1), survive, the buildings they designed are usually known by the name of their builder, not their architect, hence the Forum of Trajan. Little is known about the background of named architects such as Severus and Celer, architects and engineers of Nero’s Golden House (Tac., Ann. 5.42), and Rabirius (Martial, Epigr. 7.56), architect of the Flavian palace on the Palatine.

Trajan’s architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, may well have been Greek to judge by what the emperor himself had to say. In an exchange of letters with Trajan, Pliny the Younger requested that an architect be sent from Rome to inspect the unfinished theatre of Nicaea. Trajan in his reply drily noted that the architects in Rome usually came from Greece anyway (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 10.39–40). As for portraits of famous architects the evidence is slight and conjectural.

A bust in the Munich Glyptothek is often thought to be that of Apollodorus of Damascus, but the attribution is far from certain. Otherwise ancient architects are rarely commemorated, except on funerary monuments, such as the Hadrianic one of T. Statilius Aper, now in the Capitoline Museum, Rome. It shows Statilius himself, his wife, a child and, as a pun on his name, a boar. There are also some tombstones of builders, showing set-squares and plumb bobs.

Although we do not know a great deal about individual architects the Roman architectural profession seems to have been held in high regard. In Cicero’s eyes architecture was as important a profession as medicine and teaching (de off. 1.151). He recommends that jobs which incur people’s ill-will, like tax gathering and usury, are to be avoided. Some jobs are too vulgar for words, like those of fishmongers, butchers, cooks and poulterers.

But it is quite acceptable to engage in a profession where a higher degree of intelligence is required, like architecture. To Vitruvius architecture was an admirable profession: “Since it is so great a profession encompassing many diverse accomplishments, I think that the only ones who can claim to be architects are those who have climbed the ladder from childhood, had a liberal education in the arts and sciences and have reached the pinnacle, the temple of architecture” (de Arch. 1.1.11).

Hero of Alexandria, who is thought to have lived in the later first century ad, is one of our most important sources for ancient technology. Pliny the Elder (ad 23-79) worked indefatigably on his encyclopaedic work, Naturalis Historia, which covers in 37 books everything from the planetary system to metals and stones.

Frontinus, who was put in charge of Rome’s water supply (cura aquarum) in ad 97, gives a detailed account of every aspect of the subject, including reservoirs, aqueducts and piping. Our most detailed source for architecture is Vitruvius (fl. 27–23 bc), whose entire treatise has survived.

In ten books he takes us through every aspect of an architect’s repertory: laying out a city, building walls of stone or concrete, designing a basilica, in particular his own at Fanum (de Arch. 5.1.6-10), and constructing temples in any of the three orders, Doric, Ionic or Corinthian. Elsewhere in his book he tells us about harmonics, especially when it comes to designing a theatre.

He explains how to build baths, shipyards and harbours; how to decorate a ceiling with stucco; and what colour to paint your dining room. He tells us how to design aqueducts, sun-dials, water-clocks, water-mills, water-wheels and water-pumps, and if trouble is brewing how to build a ballista and a siege engine. Among other things he explains how a Roman architect draws up plans, elevations and shaded perspective drawings. A skilled draftsman, he says, ought to be able to produce coloured drawings to convey an impression of the work proposed.

Geometry also is a great help in architecture. It teaches us the use of the rule and compasses, and facilitates the layout and planning of buildings by the use of the set-square, level and plumb-line. Moreover by means of optics the light in buildings can be correctly drawn from fixed quarters of the sky. Also it is by arithmetic that the total cost of buildings is calculated and measurements are computed, and difficult questions of symmetry are solved by means of geometrical theories and methods. (Vitruvius, de Arch. 1.1.4)

To draft his plans an architect used dividers, folding foot-rules and calipers. The initial plans were probably made on wooden boards, parchment or papyrus, all perishable materials. Apart from the odd drawing on papyrus, such as the elevation of a portable shrine now in the Petrie Museum in London, the only actual plans to survive are those on marble or in mosaic, for example a marble plan of a tomb complex now in the Archaeological Museum at Perugia.

A mosaic plan of a bath building, now in the Capitoline Museum at Rome (Figure 4.1), indicates the dimensions of the rooms in Roman feet (a Roman foot = c. 0.295 metre). It uses a number of conventions, most of which are still current, such as the way unbonded walls are indicated. Windows are shown as a pair of solid lines in the uninterrupted wall area, while doorways are shown as breaks in the wall.

Plunge baths are shown in blue to represent water. The angle of the lettering in each case indicates the dimension meant. Thus in the room marked VII and XII, the VII indicates the width of the apse and the XII the overall length of the room along the other axis. Architects’ drawings included a whole range of conventions, such as triangles for staircases and dots for columns, seen on the Marble Plan of Rome. The Romans were of course well used to abbreviations and conventions, as a study of their inscriptions reveals.

A set of architect’s tools was found in the shop of Verus, an instrument maker at Pompeii (I.6.3), now in the Naples Archaeological Museum. For surveying, an instrument called a groma was used (Figure 4.2a). It consists of a pole driven vertically into the ground, with a horizontal bar at the top, at the end of which is a pivot. Attached to the pivot is a cross with four arms of equal length, which can revolve freely in an arc of 360o.

From the end of each arm hangs a plumb-line and a fifth one hangs down from the centre of the cross. The surveyor aligned this fifth plumb-line to a cylindrical cippus on the ground which provided a fixed point from which to measure. By sighting across two opposite plumb-lines the surveyor could lay out either one or a number of squares or rectangles. Another indispensable aid in surveying, particularly by Roman engineers involved in laying out aqueducts, was the water

Figure 4.1  Mosaic plan of a bath building (Capitoline Museum, Rome): drawing.
Figure 4.2  Diagram to illustrate surveying instruments: (a) a groma; (b) a chorobates (water-level).


level (chorobates) (Figure 4.2b). It is described by Vitruvius (de Arch. 8.5.1–3), who says its wooden frame should be about 20 Roman feet (5.92 metres) long with cross-pieces to make it rigid. Then vertical lines should be drawn on the crosspieces and plumb-lines hung over each of them, so that when the plumb-lines correspond exactly to the vertical lines the instrument will be perfectly level.

Once the ground plan had been laid out, building the foundations could commence, followed by the floors and walls. It was only when some of the walling or flooring was in place that architects had an expanse wide enough to make the first large-scale detailed drawings of the architectural elements. The earliest come from the east. Full-scale profiles of the apophyge of a column shaft and the upper torus of the base can be seen incised into the platform of the second century bc Temple of Dionysus at Pergamum, renovated by Caracalla (Figure 4.3).

Similar drawings have been found in the Temple of Athena at Priene and the Temple of Artemis at Sardis. A full-sized drawing of part of the pediment of the Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek (early first century ad) was found on one of the foundation stones (the socalled trilithon). The most complete examples of such drawings were found in 1979 on the podium walls of the adyton of the unfinished Temple of Apollo at Didyma, whose construction began at the end of the fourth century bc and continued into Roman times.1

The lines, which cover an area of about 200 square metres, are so fine as to be barely visible and were originally covered with red chalk to make them stand out. An examination of the drawings for the column bases shows that the first draft was usually geometrically perfect, but the drawings were then modified and refined on the wall by the architect. Parts of the columns

Figure 4.3  Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey), profile of the apophyge of a column shaft and the upper torus of the base, incised into the platform of the second century bc Temple of Dionysus.

were drawn at full size, although the full column was also shown at one sixteenth scale, thus allowing the entasis (a slight swelling in the middle of the shaft) to be set out. To do so on a full-scale drawing would have been impossible. These drawings, which survive only because the temple was never finished, give us an insight into how the details of large-scale buildings were designed.

If the building had been finished the drawings would doubtless have been erased in the final polishing of the adyton walls. A similar drawing of the bottom storey of the façade was incised on the pavement in front of the amphitheatre at Capua. Mostly these drawings were incised onto the fabric of the building involved, but full-sized drawings of the Pantheon pediment were incised on the travertine pavement in front of the Mausoleum of Augustus about 700 metres away.

Perhaps there was no comparable expanse of pavement on the site of the Pantheon itself, and in any case the Mausoleum of Augustus was much closer to the Tiber wharfs where the stone would have been landed.2

The next stage would have been to translate the drawings into the finished product. First the stone had to be brought from the quarry. Ancient quarrying was wasteful of stone, to judge by the archaeological evidence. First the block had to be freed on all four sides by means of drilling or picking, and then extracted by means of wedges placed under it.

Equally laborious was the process of conveying the block to the building site. Squared blocks or columns could be dragged on a sled, on rollers or inside a device invented by Chersiphron, architect of the Archaic temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and his son, Metagenes (Figure 4.4b). This consisted of enclosing the block inside a large wooden wheel which could then be rolled to its destination without the risk of it getting bogged, as a cart’s wheels might. Vitruvius


Figure 4.4  (a) Device for transporting a column; (b) device for transporting a squared block: drawing.

records that in his own day Paconius used a similar device (de Arch. 10.2.11–14). Columns could be rolled (Figure 4.4a). To save weight, as much stone as possible was removed from the block in the quarry. However the block could not be finished completely, as this might involve damage to fragile mouldings in the course of transportation to the building site.

To prevent damage and perhaps to aid handling, bosses were left projecting from the stone, to be removed once the building was complete. In the Temple of Apollo at Didyma both complete and incomplete column bases can be seen. On the unfinished column shafts lines were incised indicating the exact width of each fluting. In addition the depth and profile of each flute was incised into both ends of the shaft. These details were probably checked against the drawings on the wall of the adyton.

Several types of crane used on Roman building sites are described by Vitruvius (de Arch. 10.2.1–10). The simplest types used a jib consisting of two inclined beams joined at the top, with a capstan between them near the bottom (Figure 4.5). A pulley block with two wheels was hung from a stay-rope which passed over the two inclined beams.

A rope from the capstan passed over the top wheel of the pulley block. The rope then ran down to a lower pulleyblock with a single wheel, around the wheel and back up to the lower wheel of the upper pulley block. It then ran down again to be attached to an eye on the lower block to which the load was attached.

A simple system of this type was called trispaston, meaning that the ropes gave a reduction ratio of 1:3, so that a cable which could lift a tonne could be used to lift three tonnes. The beams were held in position by a stay-rope, but the jib could not exceed an angle of 30o from the vertical or it would topple. A more complicated type of crane could be


Figure 4.5  Crane with a reduction ratio of 1:3, called a tripaston


swung sideways, but its lifting power was limited. Multiple capstans were used for very large blocks, as shown on the base of the obelisk of Theodosius in Istanbul. The most powerful type of crane used a large tread-wheel to work the hoisting cable. Both the stay-ropes and the hoisting cable also used pulleys. This type of crane is illustrated in a remarkable relief from the tomb of the Haterii, now in the Vatican Museum.

Several methods were used to attach the lifting-rope to the block, including the bosses mentioned earlier, U-shaped channels carved into the ends of the block, the ‘lewis’, and pincers of various designs. Once in position the blocks were joined together, not with mortar, but by metal clamps. The medieval practice of burrowing into the joints between blocks to extract the metal explains the pock-marked appearance of many ancient buildings, for example the Colosseum.3

Metal tie-bars seem to have been used as early as the time of Augustus according to the theory of Bauer, who examined a number of blocks from the Horrea Agrippiana (33–12 bc).4 Although the actual metal has disappeared the L-shaped cuttings survive and it is upon these that Bauer reconstructed tie bars at the base of the springings of the vaults.

An architect undertaking a big Imperial project would have had a large staff working under him. Frontinus records that as curator aquarum he had about two dozen specialist administrators in his headquarters, the statio aquarum (de Aquis 2.99–100, 116–119).

These included engineers, architects, assistants, secretaries and clerks. There were also measurers, levellers, pipe-makers, keepers of reservoirs, inspectors and men to re-lay the streets which had been torn up to replace water mains. One can imagine that the architect in charge of an important imperial building project would have had at his disposal a similarly large staff to carry out his instructions.

A mosaic, dating to the fourth century ad, in three registers from Wadi Ramel (now in Le Bardo Museum, Tunis) shows the construction of a building.5 At top left the architect holds a 5-foot (1.48 metres) measuring stick and to the right an assistant is shaping a small column with a hammer and chisel. Between them is a column capital, a set square, a plumb-bob and a stake for setting out lines. Below, a man brings mortar while another mixes it. At the bottom a horse-drawn cart is bringing another column to the site.

When the plans had been drawn up and the site selected the ground had to be prepared for the building. The Romans did not necessarily remove all buildings from the site. Often earlier foundations were encased or vaulted over, or an older building was filled with rubble and incorporated into the foundations. For example, the Esquiline wing of the Nero’s Domus Aurea was used in the foundations of the Baths of Trajan (Figure 8.1).

At Ostia the galley which brought Caligula’s obelisk to Rome was filled with concrete and used as the foundation for Claudius’ lighthouse (Suet., Claud. 20). While the Greeks tended to take advantage of natural features when planning their temples and theatres, avoiding large-scale alterations to the terrain, the Romans did not hesitate to make immense excavations to lower the ground level or pile up mountains of earth to create artificial terraces.

To build Domitian’s palace on the Palatine in Rome large amounts of earth were excavated to create a flat platform for the lower part of the building and earth was then piled up behind concrete retaining walls to level the upper part. Domitian’s engineers and later those of Trajan must have been skilled in the art of excavation because they cut away the spur of land which linked the Capitoline and Quirinal hills, the site of the later Forum and Markets of Trajan.

The sheer scale of the enterprise can be judged by the inscription which records that the column was built ‘to show how high a mountain … had been cleared away’ (Figure 8.2). When the ground was ready foundation trenches were dug, either to bedrock or to an adequate depth, sometimes as much as 5 or 6 metres.

Foundation walls were mainly of unfaced concrete, but stone was used where loads were particularly heavy. Under the Colosseum there is a ring of concrete footings 8 metres deep. The Pantheon rests upon a solid ring of concrete, c. 7 metres wide × 4.5 metres deep.


At this point something should be said about Roman concrete. The Romans did not possess easily accessible quarries of marble or smooth limestone, as did the Greeks. The most common building materials in the vicinity of Rome were mainly soft, volcanic stones.

It was probably this factor above all which caused the Romans to adopt a mortared rubble construction which was to develop into a durable concrete. Campania was probably the place where the first mortared walls were built. A framework of limestone blocks with rubble between, held together by lime and clay was used in walls at Pompeii as early as the fourth century bc.

By the third century bc the Pompeians had developed a strong mortar using lime and pozzolana (pulvis Puteolanus), a volcanic dust found in the region of Pozzuoli.6 The use of pozzolana enabled them to dispense with the framework and build walls entirely of mortared rubble, except for the quoins where stone and later brick were used.

Today the term ‘pozzolana’ is a generic term for volcanic ash, but the Romans did not think of what we call pozzolana as a single substance. They found that they could make a strong mortar using a local pozzolana which they called harena fossicia (Vitruvius, de Arch. 2.5.1). However, they believed that pulvis Puteolanus was better for breakwaters and harbours.

The walls of early structures consisted of a filling of small stones (caementa) between two facing walls. The binding material was a simple lime mortar, which was made by burning limestone (CaCO3) to obtain quicklime (CaO), which was slaked to produce calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2). Sand was then added and on evaporation crystals of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) formed, thus completing the cycle.

The Romans classified their concrete according to the facing used. The three main facings, in chronological order, are: opus incertum, an irregular facing of small stones; opus reticulatum, a neater facing of small pyramidical-shaped stones with the square face laid diagonally; and opus testaceum, brick or tile facing (Figure 4.6).

The term opus incertum was applied to the earliest concrete facing because of the irregular stones used. For a long time it was dated to the time of Sulla, because Delbrueck, in an authoritative publication, dated opus incertum to 100–80 bc.7 More recent work suggests that the technique began much earlier.

However, the substantial remains of concrete walling in Via Marmorata, which have long been regarded as belonging to the Porticus Aemilia, an enormous warehouse known to have been built in 193 bc with restorations in 174 bc (Figure 1.13), have recently been identified as navalia (ship-yards), which for the moment throws the whole question of early opus incertum into doubt.8

If the old identification can be maintained it is clear that highly advanced concrete structures were being built nearly a hundred years before the time of Sulla, and that therefore the period experimentation with concrete must be moved back to the third century bc (Figure 4.7).

A notable example of the use of opus incertum is the Temple of Magna Mater on the Palatine, which is known to have been built in the years 204–191 bc (Livy, 29.3.2) and twice rebuilt after fires in 111 bc and ad 3 (Valerius Maximus, 1.18.11).

On excavation three building phases were revealed, the earliest using opus incertum, the next opus quasi-reticulatum and the latest belonging to the surviving building. Yet the excavator, P. Romanelli, following Delbrueck, maintained that a temple could not possibly have been built of opus incertum at such an early date, and that therefore the opus incertum must date to the rebuilding of 111 bc.9 F.

Coarelli, in an article written in 1977 warning against the ‘myth of Sulla’ whereby so many Republican buildings were dated to the time of the dictator, noted that there was a shortage of money to finance the building of the temple in 204 bc and that opus incertum may well have been an economy.10

However, Coarelli’s work is also being revised.11 In 1940 remains of opus incertum walling were discovered at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. These have been identified as a terrace wall near the Aequimalium erected by the Censors in 189 bc

Figure 4.6  Diagram to illustrate Roman concrete facings. Top left: opus incertum, second century bc; top right: opus reticulatum, mainly later first century bc and first century ad; below: opus testaceum, mainly mid first century ad onwards.

to support the hill. Here the opus incertum has a facing of small irregular pieces of stone in grey mortar. Another structure of the same period is the viaduct extending from the Temple of Saturn to the Capitolium built in 174 bc. Another example of opus incertum is the Porticus Metelli, which was built in 146 bc around the Temples of Juno Regina and Jupiter Stator. One of the most celebrated examples of the use of opus incertum is the Sanctuary of Fortuna at Palestrina, which was rebuilt in the late second century bc (Figure 1.20).

The transition to opus reticulatum may also have begun much earlier than was previously believed, perhaps in the late second century bc. This was a time when the facing stones became squarer and were laid along almost straight diagonal joints.

The term opus quasireticulatum is applied to this technique and examples of it can be seen in the rebuilding of the Lacus Iuturnae in the Roman Forum (117 bc), the Horrea Galbana (c.108 bc) and the House of the Griffins on the Palatine (c. 100 bc). Its development in Rome during the late second century bc may have been accelerated by the need to provide amenities for a rapidly growing population.

Coarelli suggests that building methods may have been industrialised during these years, perhaps as a method of standardising components in order to speed construction work. Certainly the time of the Gracchi seems to have been a period of extraordinary expansion and energy both in Rome and Italy.

The earliest example of true opus reticulatum, a network of perfectly regular facing stones laid diagonally, is found in the Theatre of Pompey in Rome, which was built between 61 and 55 bc. The technique became extremely common at the time of Augustus, indeed universal according to Vitruvius (de Arch. 2.8.1), who with

Figure 4.7  Rome, Porticus Aemilia.


typical conservatism says that opus reticulatum walls are apt to crack along their joints and that opus incertum is stronger. The sides of the tesserae which composed opus reticulatum varied in size from 5.00 to 6.50 centimetres in late Republican and early Augustan work to 8.00–10.00 centimetres in Tiberian work. The quoins were usually tufa until the middle of the first century ad, when they were regularly of brick.

Reticulate work of the later Augustan period shows a high degree of precision despite the fact that it was mostly hidden under a veneer of marble, limestone or stucco (Figure 4.8). However, particularly outside Rome, many examples of polychrome opus reticulatum have turned up which do not seem to have been concealed by a veneer.

The high survival rate of Roman concrete monuments is largely explicable in terms of the great strength and durability of lime-pozzolana cement which reacts in a much more complicated way than a simple lime mortar. Its active ingredients were amorphous and vitreous silicates and aluminates which combined with lime to form hydrated silicate of calcium and other aluminate/silicate complexes.

The fact that these did not need to lose water by evaporation, but incorporated it into their structure, enabled lime-pozzolana cement to set under damp conditions or even under water. Vitruvius recognised the remarkable properties of pozzolana: “When it is mixed with lime and rubble it not only lends strength to buildings of other kinds, but even when piers are constructed in the sea, they set hard under water” (de Arch. 2.6.1).

The next major development in Roman concrete was the introduction of brick or tile facing (opus testaceum). At this point a distinction should be drawn between baked bricks (testae) and unbaked bricks (lateres). Vitruvius mentions two types of brick, baked (coctus) and unbaked (crudus), when discussing city walls (de Arch. 1.5.8). Unbaked brick, according

Figure 4.8  Pompeii, wall of polychrome opus reticulatum.

to Vitruvius, was used from the earliest times in the Mediterranean region and continued to be used throughout the Roman Empire. An imposing stretch of late fourth century bc walling, 8.25 metres high in parts, found at Gela in Sicily is of unbaked brick on a stone foundation.12

According to Vitruvius (de Arch. 2.3.3) there were three sizes of unbaked brick. One size, pentedoron or five palms square, was used by the Greeks in public buildings. Unbaked bricks, measuring 44 centimetres square × 6 centimetres high, found in sites such as Berenice (Benghazi, Libya), are presumably of this type.

He goes on to say that a somewhat smaller brick, tetradoron or four palms square (c. 35 centimetres), was commonly used by the Greeks in domestic or private buildings. The third type, which the Greeks called Lydian, was a foot and a half long (0.444 metres) and one foot wide (0.296 metres) and was used by the Romans.

Although the type of brick normally referred to by Vitruvius was unbaked, he mentions a regulation in Rome which restricted the thickness of walls abutting public property to one and a half feet (de Arch. 2.8.17). As this thickness of unbaked brick will support only one storey, he concludes that baked brick must instead be used in these circumstances, given the need for tall buildings to cope with population pressure in Rome.

These were not the only factors involved in the change from unbaked to baked brick. Unbaked brick was not a material able to withstand the frequent Tiber floods. A building collapsed in the flood of 54 bc, because the unbaked bricks became soaked through (Dio, 39.62.2). Whether of baked or unbaked brick apartment blocks in Rome frequently collapsed in any case or caught fire during the Late Republic.

Publius Licinius Crassus, the richest man in Rome in his day, made his money by buying them up (Plutarch, Cras. 2.4). Collapsing apartment blocks remained a hazard in Rome in imperial times to judge by Juvenal, who complained of rental conditions in Rome: “The manager of the apartment building stands in front of the collapsing structure and, while he conceals an old gaping crack, he tells you to sleep soundly even though collapse is imminent” (Sat. 1.3.194–6).

Cicero, who like many other senators depended upon rental property for income, jokes: “Two of my shops have fallen down, and the rest have cracks; and so not only the tenants, but even the mice have moved out” (Cicero, Att. 14.9).



Vitruvius notes that the best opus testaceum was made out of old roofing tiles (de Arch. 2.8.19). When tiles like these were used for walls the flanges were removed and the tile cut into four triangles. Roof tiles were rarely more than 3.5 centimetres thick and were of very fine grain, and bright red because they were baked very hard to make them waterproof.

Examples of tile facings are found at Pompeii from 80 bc, the Praetorian camp in Rome built by Tiberius (ad 14–37),13 and the Domus Tiberiana on the Palatine. Baked bricks, which appear as early as 13 bc in the Theatre of Marcellus, were more yellowish because they were not baked for so long; they were 3.5–4.5 centimetres thick, and more porous to absorb the mortar and give a better bond.

Not only could bricks be more easily handled than the somewhat clumsy pyramidical-shaped stones used to face opus reticulatum, but they were convenient to manufacture and to transport. Brick-faced concrete also offered considerable advantages over opus reticulatum in terms of speed and convenience of construction.

The bricks came in three main sizes: bessales, 19.7 centimetres square; sesquipedales, 44.4 centimetres square; and bipedales, 59.2 centimetres square. The bricks were cut into triangles for wall facings and rectangles for arches. Bessales were cut into two triangles with sides approximately 26 × 19 × 19 centimetres.

They were used especially at the time of Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Trajan and Antoninus Pius. Sesquipedales were cut into eight triangles, 31 × 22 × 22 centimetres. They were used especially under Domitian and Hadrian. Bipedales, cut into 18 triangles, measuring 28 × 19 × 19 centimetres, were used only under Domitian.

The resultant triangles were of very similar dimensions to those of bessales and can be recognised only by the two cut sides, instead of one. Various cutting methods were used. They could be scored and then broken, in which case the visible surface was uneven.

From the time of Claudius up to the time of Hadrian the edges were often smoothed. They could also be sawn into two, a more accurate method of cutting which was mainly used under Domitian and Hadrian. In any kind of cutting much brick was lost, but it was an economical material in that any waste could be used in the mortar fill.

Bricks were produced in vast quantities in factories throughout Italy, as brick-stamps attest. Recently the factory was found of the two brothers, Tullus and Lucanus Domitius, whose stamp appears on bricks in the Colosseum and the Pantheon. In it were two furnaces and thousands of bricks, as well as dolia (large earthenware containers for oil or wine) which were exported all over the Mediterranean.

The factory was located near Bomarzo, 80 kilometres north of Rome, not far from the Tiber, allowing the bricks to be easily transported by barge to Rome and Ostia. Bricks can often be dated by the stamp on them. Tiles and bessales were stamped as early as the first half of the first century bc. Bigger bricks were stamped from the time of Claudius. Stamps became more frequent in Flavian times and very frequent under Hadrian; as many as one in two or three were stamped in some cases.

More bricks have been found from the year ad 123 than any other. The earliest stamps were rectangular with a one-line inscription, giving the name of the figulus (brick manufacturer); later they extended to two lines, adding the name of the factory and perhaps the names of the consuls of the year.

Semicircular stamps appeared at the time of Claudius. Under Vespasian the shape became a half-moon, with a very wide internal circle (Figure 4.9). This internal circle became smaller and smaller until by the beginning of the third century ad it sometimes disappeared entirely.

The inscription could be one line running around the circle of the stamp, or two or even three. By the time of Diocletian (ad 284–305) stamps could be octagonal or circular. Under Theodosius I (ad 379–395) stamps were circular or rectangular with the name of the emperor


Figure 4.9  Roman brick-stamps. From left to right: time of Vespasian (ad 69–79); Hadrian (ad 123); Severan (ad 193–211).

and his titles. A painting in the tomb of Trebius Justus shows a scene at a building site with masons at work erecting a wall of brick-faced concrete (Figure 4.10). The brick facing has reached about 3 metres in height and two masons are at work, standing on a scaffolding, each building one face of the wall, while a third brings up the mortared rubble to be deposited in the core of the wall. He is climbing a ladder carrying it in a split amphora, while another follows behind. A fifth is mixing a heap of mortar.

The normal procedure seems to have been for a pair of masons to lay a few courses of facing bricks followed by the fill, which consisted of mortar and fist-sized pieces of stone

Figure 4.10  Rome, painting from the tomb of Trebius Justus showing Roman builders at work. (By courtesy of the German Archaeological Institute, Rome).

(caementa). When about 25 courses of brick facing had been laid the wall was capped with a bonding course of bipedales (two-foot bricks) which extended through the entire thickness of the wall. In Domitian’s palace on the Palatine there are between 25 and 28 courses of bricks between bipedales courses with the holes for the next level of scaffolding immediately above.

The bricks are on average 4 centimetres high and the mortar joints between 1.30 and 1.40 centimetres thick. Therefore the scaffolding levels were about 1.33–1.50 metres above each other, presumably a comfortable working height for the average mason. The caementa used in the fill vary in density depending on where they were used. The drum and dome of the Pantheon provide a particularly instructive example (Figure 8.9).

The fill in the lower part of the drum, which was 6.15 metres wide, was travertine and tufa, and higher up tufa and brick. The fill of the dome also changed as it rose, from brick to brick and pumice, and finally tufa and volcanic material near the oculus. At the same time the envelope of the dome diminished in thickness until it was only 1.50 metres thick near the oculus.

Although baked bricks and tiles were used as early as the first century bc, they did not oust opus reticulatum as the principal method of facing concrete walls until the time of Nero (ad 54–68).

The main factors in this change were Nero’s great haste to complete the Golden House and the fire of Rome of ad 64, which created an urgent demand for a cheap, fireproof building material. Brick columns became increasingly common, although they were used as early as the first century bc in Pompeii. Some brick façades were designed to be seen and were not covered with veneer.

The upper parts of the hemicycle of Trajan’s Markets, built in the first decade of the second century ad, are a case in point. The Tomb of Annia Regilla, built in the middle of the second century ad, is a particularly splendid example of polychrome brickwork and there are numerous examples at Ostia, notably the Horrea Epagathiana (Figure 4.11). Under Hadrian there was a partial return to opus reticulatum,

Figure 4.11  Ostia, Horrea Epagathiana.

often interlaced with bands of brick and called opus mixtum. The term opus vittatum or opus listatum is given to facings of squared blocks of tufa or limestone, varying in size from 10 to 16 × 22 to 29 centimetres, laid in regular horizontal bands.

The technique was commonly used instead of opus reticulatum in the cities of central and northern Italy, for example in the Amphitheatre at Pola (Figure 10.17), the Baths at Fiesole, and the Basilica at Trieste, and in theatres such as those at Iguvium (Gubbio), Volterra, Verona and Saepinum (Sepino). In later work the blocks alternated with bands of brick. Examples include the Palace and Circus of Maxentius in Rome.

Of the various types of vault used by the Romans the simplest is the barrel- or tunnelvault, which is a continuous vault of semicircular section (Figure 4.12a). A cross-vault is produced by the intersection at right angles of two barrel-vaults (Figure 4.12b).

The cloister or pavilion vault is also the product of the intersection of two barrel-vaults, but in this case the two barrel-vaults rest on the sides of the square which defines the plan (Figure 4.12c). This type of vault can also be described as a four-sided domical vault.

Cloister vaults are used in the so-called Tabularium at Rome. A dome is a vault of semicircular section erected upon a circular base, for example the dome of the Pantheon. A shallower dome of segmental section is called a calotte or saucer dome.

If the base is square an intermediate member, a squinch or pendentive, must be inserted to effect the transition between square and circle. A squinch is an architectural member inserted across the four corners of the square to create an octagon on which the dome rests, for example in the Arch of Marcus Aurelius at Oea (Tripoli) (Figure 9.17).

A pendentive is a spherical triangle whose curvature is that of a dome whose diameter is the diagonal of the square on which it rests. A sail vault (Figure 4.12d) is related to the pendentive. It is an incomplete dome whose diameter is the diagonal of the square on which it rests.

The first true pendentives occur in very late Roman and in Byzantine work, although there is a rough approximation to a pendentive in one of the octagonal rooms on the perimeter of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. A domical vault is not a dome strictly speaking. Its webs

Figure 4.12  Roman vaults and domes: (a) barrel- or tunnel-vault; (b) cross-vault; (c) cloister vault or four-sided domical vault; (d) sail vault; (e) octagonal dome or eight-sided domical vault; (f) umbrella dome.

rise from a polygonal base and are separated by groins (Figure 4.12e), as in the lower part of the domical vault covering the octagonal room in Nero’s Domus Aurea (Figures 5.8 and 5.9). An umbrella dome is divided into webs which are convex in section (Figure 4.12f). There are many examples in Hadrian’s villa and in some, such as the dome of the Serapeum, convex webs alternate with flat ones.

Roman architects had a remarkable understanding of engineering principles when it came to building arches and vaults. They became aware that stone has great strength in compression, but is not strong in tension. Therefore a horizontal lintel, which puts stone into tension, cannot span great distances, whereas an arch, which puts stone into compression, is capable of far wider spans.

A stone arch is composed of separate wedge-shaped blocks, termed voussoirs, struck from a common centre (Figures 1.11 and 1.12). The fact that each voussoir is wider at the top than the bottom prevents it from falling vertically under the action of gravity, and forces it to transmit its thrust to its nearest neighbour.

Provided that the foundations are sound, the voussoirs are of compatible stone and lateral thrust has been contained, the arch should not fail. Thus a series of arches, as in an aqueduct, can buttress each other and will need consolidation only at the ends of the series. An arch can be flat or nearly flat and will still stay up because of the shape of its elements.

Flat or nearly flat stone lintel arches occur, for example, in the Colosseum and although the thrust is almost totally horizontal these arches will remain stable provided there is adequate consolidation at the sides. However, an arch is made more stable by its curve and the larger the curve the stronger the vertical component of the thrust.

An arch has to be supported until the last voussoir (the keystone) is in place, and therefore in Roman times arches could not be erected without the use of wooden centring. In the case of a concrete vault the centring had to be capable of meeting two separate demands.

One is the need for a continuous surface to give the vault its shape, and the other is the construction of scaffolding sufficiently strong to support the formwork and the weight of the vault above. In the case of the first problem, a continuous surface which corresponds to every curve of a complex vault would have required highly skilled carpentry.

It is often said that when Roman concrete set it formed a ‘monolithic mass’, but this does not mean it was resistant to tensile stresses which can cause cracking. Many writers, including some recent ones, discuss Roman concrete as if it were ‘devoid of any lateral thrust, and covered its space with the rigidity of a metal lid’.14

On the contrary, in creating concrete an artificial building stone has been produced with the attendant problems of weakness in tension. As Mark points out15: “Roman pozzolana concrete, despite its outstanding properties, could not be counted on to exhibit tensile strength.” This could be overcome in Roman times only by using a curved surface. Because of its double curvature a dome is subject to two types of stress.

One is meridional or longitudinal stress of the type encountered in arches, which is mainly compressive and increases towards the base. The resultant lateral thrusts can be countered by consolidating the haunches. The supporting drum of a domed room had to be correspondingly substantial; for example, the drum of the Pantheon is 6.15 metres thick.

The other stress is circumferential hoop stress, which nearer the crown is compressive and nearer the haunches tensile. The change theoretically occurs at 51.8o from the crown, but much will depend upon the thickness of the envelope of the dome and the arc of embrasure (i.e., whether the dome is perfectly semicircular or not). Domes will develop cracks near the haunches when they are no longer able to resist these tensile forces.

This happened in the case of the Pantheon where eight fine vertical cracks, which developed as a result of hoop stress, have been detected.16  The envelope could not be too thin or bending stress would result. It has now been established that if a semicircular arch spans a distance greater than 17.6 times its thickness it will fail.17

Buckling was also a problem, especially near the crown where the envelope approaches the horizontal. This may be the reason the crown was omitted in earlier domes and the oculus was the preferred method of lighting. For the same reason architects at first avoided inserting large windows in the drum. Sometimes a dome of double curvature was used to counteract buckling. Examples of this can be seen in the Mausoleum of Galerius at Thessalonike (before ad 311) and in the baptistery at Nocera (fourth century ad).

In the case of a coffered concrete dome like that of the Pantheon, the curved dome shape and the coffers had to be reproduced in wood. This process would have consumed prodigious amounts of time as well as timber. A simple method later adopted in an attempt to cut down the amount of timber was to line the vault with brick tiles.

Rows of bessales, or later, bipedales were laid on the timber scaffolding instead of a full timber planking (Figure 4.13). The concrete was then laid on top of the bricks which remained in place when the timber supports were removed. Brick lining would also have permitted reuse of the timber because the formwork would no longer adhere to the concrete.

Brick-lined vaults first appeared in Trajan’s markets, and became common up to the time of Caracalla. Good examples of them can be seen in the Severan structures on the Palatine and the Baths of Caracalla (ad 212–216). They were not used in the dome of the Pantheon, although the small half-domed rooms in the drum are lined with bipedales.

Ribs in vaults derive from Republican use of relieving arches in walls, a technique which continued for many centuries. Ribs of bipedales as reinforcement occur for the first time in Colosseum and they appear to have been used in the Domitianic vestibule in the Forum as stiffening to counteract bending stress.

Brick ribs, unlike brick linings, were a structural element in buildings, although they may also have acted as constructional aids. The use of ribs along the groin of a cross-vault first appeared in the Villa at Sette Bassi on the Via Latina which belongs to the second century ad.

These ribs did not act in the same way as the ribs in medieval vaulting, as used to be asserted. By the second century ad the ladder rib, with mortar and caementa-filled compartments between the bipedales, became common. By the early third century ad solid bipedales ribbing was being superseded by lattice ribbing which

Figure 4.13  Diagram to illustrate tile-clad vaulting.
Figure 4.14  Diagram to illustrate lattice ribbing. (After G. Lugli, La Tecnica edilizia romana, Rome 1957, p. 667).

consisted of a series of ladder ribs next to each other (Figure 4.14). Found in the Baths of Diocletian (ad 298–306) and the dome of the ‘Temple of Minerva Medica’ (early fourth century ad), it seems that the main purpose of lattice ribbing was to distribute load evenly within the vault (Figure 4.15).

The insertion of amphoras into a concrete fill seems to have been a method of cutting down weight, as in the early fourth century ad octagonal hall of the ‘Villa of the Gordians’. Although they are occasionally found in buildings of the second century ad, amphoras were not frequently incorporated into vaults and domes until the late third/early fourth centuries ad.

Enormous numbers were used in the vaults of the Circus of Maxentius on the Via Appia. They are also found in the dome of the ‘Minerva Medica’, where they were placed above the windows presumably to channel weight away from them. They were used in combination with lattice ribbing and pumice in the upper part of the dome (Figure 4.15).

Wooden roofing was employed by the Romans up to the end of the Empire, and is described by Vitruvius (de Arch. 4.2.1). An early example of a building roofed in wood is the theatrum tectum at Pompeii (c. 70 bc) which is 26.25 metres wide internally, suggesting that the principle of the truss may have been known to the builders.

The truss is a system of binding roofing timbers together in a triangle or series of triangles so as to obtain a rigid, selfsupporting structure. Tie beams more than 27 metres long may have been used, although the timbers do not have to be of the full length; shorter pieces can be spliced and fitted together.

The widest nave of any Roman basilica is that of the early fourth century ad basilica at Trier, which had a clear internal span of 27.2 metres, while both the Basilica Ulpia and Old St. Peter’s at Rome had a nave c. 25 metres wide. Documents exist giving the length of the tiebeams in St. Paul’s Outside the Walls as 24.25 metres.

The wood used was fir. The widths of the Aula Regia and the triclinium of Domitian’s palace were even greater; the dimensions of the Aula Regia are 31.44 × 38 metres and of the triclinium 29.05 × 31.64 metres. In both

Figure 4.15  Rome, ‘Temple of Minerva Medica’, showing the brick ribs in the dome
Figure 4.16  Diagram to illustrate a king-post truss.

cases internal architectural features would have reduced the clear span. Wood of this length was available to the Romans. The largest tree ever seen in Rome was a larch beam, 120 Roman feet (35.52 metres) long and 2 feet thick, exhibited by Tiberius in the naumachia at Rome (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 16.76.201). The Diribitorium, where the votes were counted, finished by Augustus in 7 bc, was the largest building with a timber roof and one of the marvels of Rome (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.24.102). A beam from it, left by Agrippa in the portico, was 100 Roman feet (29.6 metres) long and one and a half feet thick.

A word should be said about the stones and marbles traded and used throughout the Roman period.18  Alban stone or peperino was one of the oldest stones used for squared masonry (opus quadratum). It is a grey stone whose colour and softness make it unsuitable for subtle carved detail. Although easily worked it became friable if exposed. Gabine stone had a long history as a building material.

Found at Gabii, about 10 kilometres from Rome, it is both lighter in colour and denser than peperino, and fireproof, as Tacitus affirms (Ann. 15.43). It is perhaps for this reason that it was used for the offices on the SW side of the Forum Julium and in combination with peperino for the back wall of the Forum Augustum. Cappellaccio is the term commonly given to the grey volcanic stone which is composed of ash from the earliest volcanic activity in the Rome region. It is a poor crumbly stone used monumentally only in Rome’s early period, for example in the substructures of the Capitoline temple.

Later it was seldom used for anything above ground, its main use being in foundations and sewers. Tufa or tuff is a soft volcanic rock, easily worked, but weak under concentrated loads. Of the various tufas, that from Fidenae was one of the earliest to be used by the Romans, the quarries being opened after the fall of Fidenae in 426 bc. It is of a dark yellowish colour and contains ugly inclusions.

The more attractive greyish-yellow tufa of Grotta Oscura was clearly preferred by the Romans who began to exploit it shortly after the fall of Veii (396 bc) in whose territory the quarries lay. An early example of the use of Grotta Oscura tufa is the socalled Servian wall (Figure 1.5). It was one of the commonest of all building stones until the late Republic.

By the Augustan period the finely grained lithoidal tufa from the Anio region was used almost exclusively. It was used in conjunction with travertine in the platforms of temples, such as that of Deified Julius Caesar, Apollo Sosianus and Apollo Palatinus. In the platform of the Temple of Castor travertine piers supported the columns and the casing was in Anio tufa.

In the second century bc the first travertine quarries were opened in the plains below Tivoli. Travertine is a sedimentary limestone, very hard with a creamy texture and recognisable by its lightly pitted surface. It was used a great deal during the late Republic, especially to carry heavy loads. It was also used decoratively, particularly on the façades of buildings like theatres and amphitheatres, such the Theatre of Marcellus (Figure 3.9) and the Colosseum (Figure 7.1), where durability was important.

From the time of Augustus travertine took second place to marble as a decorative material. Its main disadvantages were that it calcinated in fire and tended to split when set vertically. It was also expensive to quarry.

The finest decorative stone as well as the strongest in tension is marble. The first marble temple of Rome was that of Jupiter Stator (146 bc). Another early marble temple, dating to the late second century bc, was the circular Temple of Hercules Victor in the Forum Boarium (Figure 1.16).

Although there was much criticism of such luxury, architectural sculptures began to be imported by wealthy individuals during the first century bc, for example Lucullus, who even had a type of marble (africano) named after him. The Dictator, Sulla, brought Pentelic marble columns from the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens (Figure 11.2) for use on the Capitoline Hill (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.4.45). By 48 bc the marble quarries of Carrara in northern Italy began to be exploited.

These marbles were at first landed along with other commodities at the Emporium near the Aventine. By the time of Augustus marbles of every kind became a common sight in Rome and a special wharf was built for them near the later Pons Aelius. There is evidence that the whole area of the Campus Martius was filled with workshops of stone masons and sculptors.

The poet Tibullus (2.3.43–4) comments upon the din and bustle of that part of Rome. Of the white marbles Carrara was the most commonly used in Rome. Its colour is pure white, sometimes tending to bluish. Its crystalline structure is extremely compact which gives it a somewhat duller appearance than the Greek white marbles. It was mainly its cheapness which made it popular and its popularity lasted throughout Roman history.

Of the Greek white marbles Pentelic is first found in Rome in the Temple of Hercules Victor by the Tiber (Figure 1.16). Later it was used in the Arch of Titus (Figure 7.9). It has the somewhat looser crystalline structure typical of Greek marbles. When chipped the micaceous particles of its structure flash and glow in the light. The iron in its composition makes it weather to a soft golden tone, as can be seen in the Parthenon at Athens. Parian is a pure white marble, composed of large crystalline particles. Architecturally its use was largely confined to roof ornaments, perhaps because of its translucent quality.

Coloured marbles came into use in the Hellenistic period, as shown by wall paintings at Delos and a little later by walls in Pompeii decorated in the First Style, which imitated walls encrusted in polychrome marble. In Rome coloured marble was rare until the time of Augustus. The Forum Augustum made extensive use of Carystian marble from Euboea (cipollino).

As its Italian name implies it has something of the texture of an onion because of its strong veining. It is off-white or pale green in colour and is heavily striated with mica. It tends to split easily along the veining. In Augustan times and throughout the Empire it was commonly used for columns, for example in the exedras of the Forum Augustum and in the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in the Roman Forum.

It was used in sculpture for a crocodile at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli. The greenish hue of the marble and its strong veining make it a particularly appropriate stone from which to carve the creature. Hadrian seems to have had a taste for sculptures in strongly-coloured marbles, examples of which, such as the two centaurs carved out of black Tunisian marble and the satyr in red marble from Laconia, can be seen in the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

Numidian marble (giallo antico), a yellow marble with red or dark veining from Tunisia, was frequently used in inlay work. The red stone quarried in the Peloponnese near Cape Matapan is called rosso antico. Of the breccias or variegated conglomerate stones pavonazzetto was commonly used for decorative purposes, flooring and sometimes columns.

Found in Phrygia, it has a violet base with irregular white limestone inclusions. Other breccias are portasanta from Chios with red or yellow patches on a soft grey or pinkish ground, and africano from Asia Minor, with black, grey and bright red patches.

Unfluted monolithic columns of granite became more common as the Empire progressed (Figure 9.15). Granite is an extremely hard granular crystalline rock, and both the pink and the grey types used in Roman construction were quarried in Egypt. Porphyry is a very hard igneous rock with an extremely compact crystalline structure. It came from the Red Sea area of Egypt. It was used for inlay, flooring and columns, although generally for smaller ones than those made of granite.

In the late Empire and into Byzantine times it was used for sculpture and for sarcophagi, such as those of Helena and Constantina in the Vatican Museum. Its deep maroon colour, near to purple, gave it imperial connotations in the late Empire. A Byzantine emperor, born in a room in the imperial palace veneered with porphyry was called Porphyrogenitus (‘born in the purple’). Green porphyry or serpentino is a bright green stone speckled with light green crystals. Quarried near Sparta, it was used in conjunction with red porphyry and other stones to produce a cut-stone wall or floor inlay (opus sectile).


The Age of Augustus | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Age of Augustus | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Age of Augustus | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The age of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor (27 bc–ad 14), represents the coming of age of Roman architecture. During the late Republican period ideas flooding in from Greece and the East altered the appearance of Roman buildings, but their basic layout changed little. It was not until the time of Augustus that these contradictory elements were fused together into a single style of architecture identifiably Roman in character, forged in the massive building programme Augustus undertook in the centre of Rome. However, he was not the first to realise the importance of buildings as a permanent reminder of his achievements. Before turning to Augustus a word should be said about the three great leaders who shaped Rome’s destinies in the earlier first century bc, and who to some extent anticipated Augustus in the imprint they made on the fabric of Rome.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was appointed dictator with no time limit in 82 bc. It was unusual for the Romans to give so much power to one man, and the appointment set the precedent for the dictatorship of Julius Caesar. With Sulla a new phase in Rome’s building history began, one which foreshadowed the grand building programmes of the emperors.

Now that Rome was under the control of a single individual who had amassed a considerable fortune as a result of his eastern campaigns, a start could be made of redesigning the city as the worthy capital of a great empire. Sulla’s focus was the heart of Rome, the Capitol and the Forum. During the civil wars in 83 bc the Temple of Jupiter had been destroyed and Sulla brought marble columns from the unfinished Olympieion in Athens for the temples on the Capitol (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.5.45). Sulla did not live to see the completion of the great temple, which was finally consecrated by Q.

Lutatius Catulus in 69 bc. Sulla also planned to unite the two peaks of the Capitol by building the so-called Tabularium which still dominates the Roman Forum (Figure. 3.1 and 12.2). It was 70 metres high, built of Gabine stone with superimposed orders and with pavilion vaults used internally. It too was left for Catulus to complete. Sulla also restored and enlarged the old Curia Hostilia in 80 bc (Dio, 40.50.3).

After the death of Sulla in 78 bc Pompey began his rise to power and by 70 bc was all powerful in Rome. In 55 bc, after years of senatorial opposition to permanent theatres, the Theatre of Pompey was completed, its opening accompanied by lavish games. It was a new type of civic building, a totally integrated and unified structure, independent of its surroundings because of its exploitation of concrete vaulting.1 It belonged to the largest category of theatre, 150 metres (500 Roman feet) wide, a size never subsequently exceeded. One of the methods Pompey used to disarm the criticism of his opponents was to place the theatre under the protection of Venus Victrix, whose temple he built at the top of the cavea (seating area), claiming that the cavea was merely seating subordinate to the temple (Tertullian, de Spect. 10.5). The cavea seems to have been supported on alternately annular and radial vaults like the later Theatre of Marcellus. Today it is entirely embedded within the later fabric of Rome,


Figure 3.1  Rome, Tabularium, c. 78 bc

although its outline is visible from the air. Some of its passageways are accessible from the basements of the buildings later incorporated into it. The complex is known to have been lavishly decorated with statues, especially the enormous quadriporticus behind it, measuring 180 × 135 metres, which was filled with famous paintings by Greek artists (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 35.11.40). Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 bc in a hall opening off this portico (Suet., Caes. 80). The theatre and quadriporticus together covered an area greater than that of the Forum of Trajan. Perhaps this was what Tertullian meant when he said that ‘only his theatre was greater [than Pompey]’ (Tertullian, de Spect. 10.5). Even after two other large theatres had been built in Rome the Theatre of Pompey remained the largest and most celebrated, sometimes being referred to simply as ‘the theatre’.

Julius Caesar defeated Pompey in the Battle of Pharsalus (48 bc) and as a result was appointed dictator for ten years. He was the first to have had an overall vision for Rome and to have made the first ambitious plans for its urban development. Little of that vision was realised because of his untimely assassination in 44 bc, and as a result many of his projects were completed by his adopted son, Augustus. One of his unaccomplished projects was to divert the Tiber from the Pons Mulvius (Milvian bridge) along the Vatican Hill and to build over the Campus Martius. The Vatican plain was to be a sort of Campus Martius (Cicero, Att. 13.33a). In 54 bc he planned to replace the old voting place in the Campus Martius, the Ovile (‘sheep pen’), with a grand new building, the Saepta Julia, with a colonnade a thousand paces long (Cicero, Att. 4.17.7). He also had plans to drain the Pontine marshes and to build a new theatre rising up to the Tarpeian rock. The Circus Maximus, which must have been a very simple affair in the Republican period, may have been given its canonical shape with two long sides and a semicircular end (sphendone) by Julius Caesar (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.24.102). In 33 bc Agrippa added the eggs and dolphins to count the laps (Dio, 49.43.2).

By the Augustan period the Circus Maximus measured 621 × 118 metres and could hold 150,000 spectators (Dion. Hal., Ant.Rom. 3.68.2–3).

Julius Caesar also began extensive alterations to the Forum. The monumental centre of Rome had grown haphazardly for the first three centuries of the Roman Republic and gradually two distinct areas evolved (Figure 1.14): the Forum, a long tapering rectangle running roughly east/west, whose sides were defined by the Basilica Fulvia/Aemilia (179 bc) and the Basilica Sempronia (169 bc), and a smaller area to the north around the Comitium and Curia (senate-house). The Comitium, where the popular assembly met, was an open area dominated by the Curia Hostilia and nearby was the Basilica Porcia built in 184 bc.

The Rostra, on which were hung the prows of the ships captured at the Battle of Antium (338 bc), faced both the forum area and the comitium. In a letter written to Atticus in 54 bc (Att. 4.17.7) Cicero mentions that Caesar had recently spent 60,000,000 sesterces acquiring land to lay out a new forum (Figure 3.2). The Forum Julium is a rectangular enclosure, dominated on its NW side by the temple of Venus Genetrix, the mother of Aeneas and founder of the Julian family (Figure 3.3). Architecturally the forum is a fusion of Hellenistic and Roman.

The open space, measuring 45 × 124 metres, surrounded by an E-shaped stoa 16 metres wide, was inspired by Hellenistic civic architecture of the type found in the Sanctuary of Athena at Pergamum (Figure 11.7) and the North Agora at Miletus (Figure 11.8). The main difference is that, unlike in Hellenistic complexes, the temple was axially dominant. As the complex encroached upon the area of the comitium, Julius Caesar began to build a new senate-house, to be called the Curia Julia, south of the old Curia Hostilia which had burnt down in the riots of 52 bc (Dio, 44.5.1–2).

In conjunction with this he rebuilt the Rostra, inaugurated in 44 bc, in a new position at the west end of the Forum (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). On the south side of the Forum he began building the Basilica Julia to occupy the site of the Basilica Sempronia. On the north side of the Forum the aedile L. Aemilius Paullus used money from Caesar to begin rebuilding the Basilica Fulvia, henceforth called the Basilica Paulli. The work was well

Figure 3.2  Rome, Imperial fora: plan.


Figure 3.3  Rome, Forum of Julius Caesar, showing the columns of the flanking porticoes, and three columns of the Temple of Venus Genetrix. Planned c. 54 bc and completed by Augustus. Rebuilt by Trajan.

Figure 3.4  Rome, Forum Romanum looking SE. From left to right:

(foreground) Arch of Septimius Severus, steps of the Rostra with the column of Phocas behind, Basilica Julia, Temple of Saturn and Temple of Vespasian and Titus; (middle distance) the podium of the Temple of Deified Julius Caesar; (to the right of it) the three columns of the small circular Temple of Vesta, the three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Palatine Hill; (far distance) the Arch of Titus.

Figure 3.5  Rome, Forum Romanum: plan.

advanced by 54 bc (Cicero, Att. 4.17.7), but it was dedicated only in 34 bc by his son, Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus, who was consul that year (Dio, 49.42.2).

Gaius Octavius, born into a wealthy equestrian branch of the gens Octavia in 63 bc, was the great nephew of Julius Caesar. He was adopted into the Julian family upon the death of Julius Caesar and became known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. After their victory in the Battle of Philippi (42 bc) against the conspirators who had killed Julius Caesar, Octavian and Mark Antony became the two most powerful Romans. However, Antony’s involvement with Cleopatra brought about a split between the two victors, and the defeat of Antony at Actium in 31 bc assured Octavian unchallenged control over Rome’s destinies. After his triumphant return to Rome in 29 bc he set about establishing that control on a more permanent footing, yet avoiding the overt dictatorship which had cost Julius Caesar his life. He claimed to have restored the Republic (Mon.Anc. 34) and chose to be called ‘princeps’, or first citizen, while subtly concentrating all power into his own hands. After taking the honorific title Augustus, in 27 bc he dominated the Roman state until his death in ad 14. He was later honoured as the first Roman Emperor, having established a system of government that was to last for more than 300 years and endure in one form or another for nearly one and a half millennia.

The style in which the emperor is said to have lived was simple, if not austere (Suet., Aug. 73). To the amazement of Suetonius he reputedly slept in the same room for 40 years and when he wanted to be alone retreated to his study, which he called ‘Syracuse’ because Archimedes had a similar one. At first he lived near the Roman Forum in the house of the orator Calvus and later moved to a modest house on the Palatine that had formerly belonged to the orator Hortensius, which he acquired in 41–40 bc (Suet., Aug. 72). This may be the house commonly called the ‘House of Livia’, which had an atrium on the SE side with small cells underneath for the household slaves and four rooms on the NW side, all with frescoes belonging to c. 30 bc. On the other side of the street running along the SW side of the house are the remains of a small tufa peristyle. Below is a lower terrace with a complex of rooms, decorated in the Second style, which are older than those in the ‘House of Livia’. Augustus bought further land intending to extend the house, but because it was struck by lightning after the Battle of Naulochus against Sextus Pompey (36 bc) he vowed to build a Temple of Apollo there. Completed in 28 bc (Dio, 53.1.3), the temple was considered one of the most magnificent Augustan buildings (Velleius Paterculus, 2.81). It was hexastyle pseudo-peripteral with Corinthian columns of white Carrara marble almost 50 Roman feet (14.85 metres) high, standing on a podium measuring approximately 24 × 45 metres. Nearby was a portico of Numidian marble with statues of the 50 Danaids, and opposite a Greek and a Latin library large enough for meetings of the senate (Suet., Aug. 29).

The emperor’s activities spanned practically every aspect of Roman life, but like Sulla, Pompey and Julius Caesar before him, he recognised the importance of buildings as permanent reminders of his legacy. As a result he did more than any of his predecessors to add to the splendour of the capital. His building programme is described in the Res gestae, an account of the achievements of his reign, which was inscribed on two bronze pillars set up in front of his mausoleum. The pillars have long gone, but a copy was engraved onto the walls of the Temple of Augustus and Rome at Ancyra (Ankara). In it he records:

I built the Curia [Julia, 29 bc] … the Temple of Divine Julius [29 bc] … I completed the Forum Julium and the Basilica [Julia] … I rebuilt eighty-two temples of the gods in the city during my sixth consulship [28 bc] in accordance with a decree of the senate … On [my] private land I built the Temple of Mars Ultor and the Forum of Augustus from the spoils of war … I built the theatre which was to bear the name of my son-in-law M. Marcellus.

(Mon.Anc. 4.19–211)

During the 40 years of his reign Augustus practically rebuilt the monumental centre of Rome, and his ambitious building programme almost certainly resulted in a major influx of foreign craftsmen and architects.

The old Republican magistracies, such as the censorship, were unsuited to carrying out Imperial building projects because the terms of office were too short to plan large-scale works. Besides, the censors were amateurs without a professional staff of advisors.2 In order to implement his programme Augustus had to make a number of administrative reforms. He created the 14 regions of Rome and placed a magistrate in charge of each. In 31 bc he personally took charge of the road building programme, and in 20 bc, to mark the terminus of all roads, had the Golden Milestone (miliarium aureum) erected near the Temple of Saturn in the Forum (Tacitus, Hist. 1.27). It was a column sheathed in gilt bronze on which the names of the principal cities of the Empire and their distance from Rome may have been inscribed. In the same year he set up the first of his curatorial boards, dealing with roads. He also established a board of commissioners to administer Roman construction, as well as commissioners of public buildings and sacred shrines, of aqueducts, and for the upkeep of the banks and bed of the Tiber (Suet., Aug. 37). The emperor was also concerned about fire danger (Suet., Aug. 30.1) and established a new height limit of 70 feet (20.72 metres) for buildings erected along the public ways (Strabo, Geo. 5.3.7). In 6 bc he appointed street commissioners and put them in charge of the slaves who had formerly worked under the aediles to put out fires

Figure 3.6  Rome, Forum Romanum, looking north. From left to right: (foreground) Basilica Julia, the three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Deified Julius Caesar, with the small circular Temple of Vesta in front, and the Regia, under the roofing; (middle ground) Arch of Septimius Severus, Curia Julia, Basilica Paulli, part of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina; (in the distance) Trajan’s Column (behind the Curia), three columns of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus.


(Dio, 55.8). He cleaned the Tiber channel which had been choked by rubbish and encroaching houses (Suet., Aug. 30.1), and paved the Via Flaminia as far as Ariminum (Rimini), encouraging others to follow his example.

The Augustan system survived with modification throughout the Empire, but gradually more control came into the hands of the emperor. The growth of imperial palaces and villas meant that the emperors commanded an increasingly large staff of architects and masons to maintain them. From the time of Claudius, who took a personal interest in maintenance works, the boards operated with imperial rather than senatorial authority. Imperial control became even more direct under Nero, who took charge of the rebuilding of the city after the great fire. The Opera Caesaris, established under the Flavians, became a powerful office involved in the whole field of public works. Under Domitian, who built on an unparallelled scale, it became the dominating influence in Roman architecture. By the time of Trajan all building projects had to be referred to the emperor, who had a large staff to deal with all aspects of building and planning. The emperors had by then taken complete control of one of the most vital instruments of propaganda.

Augustus also urged leading citizens to embellish the city with monuments (Suet., Aug. 4–5). He himself restored the Theatre of Pompey, but stipulated that the name of Pompey was to remain, although usually a building was renamed after the person who paid for the restoration. In 42 bc the rebuilding of the Temple of Saturn was started by Munatius Plancus, an Antony supporter, in honour of his triumph over the Alpine people (Figures 3.4 and 12.2). In 36 bc C. Domitius Calvinus, who had supported Octavian, rebuilt the Regia, which had recently burnt down. In 34 bc the Temple of Apollo was rebuilt by G. Sosius, although he too had supported Antony. This was a particularly splendid temple whose cella could boast a statue of the dying children of Niobe, a work of either Scopas or Praxiteles (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.4.28). Statilius Taurus built the first stone amphitheatre in Rome, which he inaugurated in 29 bc. However, it was not used for great spectacles and Caligula found it inadequate, probably because it was too small (Dio, 59.10.5). It was burnt down in the fire of ad 64. Gladiatorial games were commonly held in the Roman Forum until fire damage caused them to be transferred to the Saepta Julia in 7 bc. Augustus projected an amphitheatre in the middle of the city (Suet., Vesp. 9.1), but he never built it, perhaps because he wanted to avoid large-scale confiscations of the type that Nero later made.3  In 33 bc L. Cornificius agreed to rebuild the Temple of Diana of the Plebs on the Aventine. It was an old temple and the most important on the Aventine, built in imitation of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Martial, Epigr. 7.73.1, 12.18.3). It is shown on the Marble plan (frag. 22) as octastyle dipteral and set within a temenos surrounded by a double colonnade.4  Asinius Pollio rebuilt the Atrium Libertatis, which contained the offices of the censors, and in it installed the first public library in Rome which contained a magnificent collection of statuary (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 35.2.10). L. Cornelius Balbus celebrated the dedication of his new theatre with spectacles (13 bc), but because the Tiber had flooded he was unable to enter it except in a boat (Dio, 54.25.2).

The Porticus Metelli, built after 146 bc to enclose the temples of Juno Regina (179 bc) and Jupiter Stator (131 bc), was rebuilt not long before 23 bc and named after Octavia, the sister of Augustus. This new Porticus Octaviae is not to be confused with the nearby (unexcavated) Porticus Octavia, which was originally built by Cnaeus Octavius in 168 bc and called the ‘Corinthian’ because of its double colonnade with bronze capitals (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 34.7,13). The Porticus Octaviae, measuring 119 × 132 metres, continued to enclose the two temples, both of which were rebuilt along with the porticus. The architects of the complex were two Spartans, called Sauras (lizard) and Batrachos (frog), and on the base of the columns they had a lizard and a frog sculpted (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.4.42). There is a space of only 2.4 metres between the porticus and the Theatre of Marcellus, showing that the theatre took up the maximum space possible. The surviving remains of the gateway, which had four freestanding and two engaged Corinthian columns, belong to a Severan rebuilding of ad 203. In 29 bc Marcius Philippus restored the Temple of Hercules and the Muses in the Circus Flaminius and built a porticus around it (Tacitus, Ann. 3.72). It is shown as being adjacent to the Porticus Octaviae on the Marble plan (frag. 31).5

Augustus went far beyond Julius Caesar in rebuilding the centre of Rome. The old Roman Forum had been transformed over the centuries from being the focus of a moderate-sized city to the hub of a great empire where all the main institutions of the city were concentrated (Figure 3.5). During the principate of Augustus this highly significant part of Rome was radically transformed. Early in his reign, he completed the Basilica Julia which Julius Caesar began in 54 bc (Figure 3.6). The basilica served as the court of the Centumviri, the Chancery court, whose 180 members sat in four panels and dealt with matters of wills and inheritance. The building was 101 metres long and 49 metres wide and its NE side opened onto the Forum. Internally it had a large central area surrounded on all four sides by two aisles. The central area was divided into four separate courts by partitions, which could be removed when a more important case required the whole area (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 6.33). The building was damaged by fire in 12 bc and had to be rebuilt once again. This time Augustus dedicated it in the name of his two grandsons, Gaius and Lucius, whom he hoped to be heirs to the Empire (Mon.Anc. 4.20). However, the old name, Basilica Julia, persisted.

The building was once again burnt by fire in ad 283 and the present brick arcading belongs to a reconstruction by Diocletian.

In 29 bc Augustus celebrated a triple triumph after the battle of Actium and dedicated the Curia Julia and the Temple of Deified Julius Caesar which had been vowed in 42 bc. Sulla’s curia had been replaced by his son, Faustus. That building too had been destroyed and the Curia Julia was begun by Julius Caesar to replace it (Dio, 44.5.1–2). The present building dates to the time of Diocletian, who rebuilt it in brick-faced concrete, but the original Curia Julia appears to have had a similar ground plan (Figure 3.6). As rebuilt by Diocletian, it is a very tall building externally, 31.6 metres high to the top of its gable, in which was placed a winged Victory on a globe. The lower part of the façade with its great bronze door in the middle was veneered in marble and the upper part with its three large windows was covered in stucco moulded to imitate marble ashlar masonry. Recent excavations have disproved the theory that the Curia formed part of a larger complex of buildings, but there does seem to have been a colonnade in front of the building. In the interior of the building, which measured 17.61 × 25.20 metres × 21 metres high, were three rows of broad shallow steps paved in pavonazzetto on each side, on which could have been placed seats for about 300 senators. At the far end was a podium for the speaker and a statue-base, presumably for the statue of Victory which Augustus brought from Tarentum and placed in the Curia (Dio, 51.22.1–2). The floor paving, in opus sectile, dates to the fourth century ad and is considered a fine example of its type.

The temple of Julius Caesar, begun in 42 bc (Dio, 47.18.4) and dedicated in 29 bc, was erected on the spot where Julius Caesar’s body was cremated in 44 bc (Figures. 3.4– 3.6). In the middle of the podium, which rose a sheer 3.5 metres from the ground, was a semicircular recess containing a circular altar which corresponded to the cremation place. As there was no frontal staircase, the podium was used as a rostra or speaker’s platform and hung with the prows of the ships captured from Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium (31 bc). This would have been the family rostra of the Julian family from which private funerary orations would have been given. It faced the public rostra, hung with the prows of the ships captured at the Battle of Antium (338 bc) at the other end of the Forum (Figure 3.4). This would have reminded the populace of the glories of the old Republic and the more recent triumphs of the restored Republic under its new leader, Augustus.

In 14 bc a fire consumed the Basilica Paulli along with the row of shops in front of it and spread to the nearby Temple of Vesta (Figure 3.6). Ostensibly the basilica was rebuilt at the expense of a certain Aemilius Paullus, but in reality the project was financed by Augustus and friends of Paullus (Dio, 54.24). Another Aemilius Lepidus Paullus undertook to restore and decorate the Basilica Paulli at his own expense in ad 22 (Tacitus, Ann. 3.72). This restoration seems to have consisted mainly of reinforcing the upper order with wooden beams from column to column. The nave columns on both levels were of africano or Lucullan marble, the lower order Ionic and the upper Corinthian. Sections of the entablature have been reconstructed and placed on view. The central nave was paved in Numidian yellow (giallo antico), Carystian green (cipollino), Phrygian white and purple (pavonazzetto), black, grey and red breccia (africano) and pinkish grey breccia (portasanta). There were also statues of barbarians, alternately in giallo antico and pavonazzetto. The building must have been an extremely rich one and this may be the reason that Pliny (Nat.Hist. 36.24.102) places it among the three most beautiful buildings of his day. The shops in front of the basilica, which were also burnt in the fire of 14 bc, were rebuilt as a magnificent two-storey porticus of 15 bays, dedicated in 2 bc to Gaius and Lucius, the grandsons of Augustus. The Doric arcade and triglyph frieze of the lower storey was drawn by Sangallo in about 1480 (Figure 3.7). The

Figure 3.7  Rome, Basilica Paulli, after 14 bc. Drawing by Giuliano da Sangallo. (By courtesy of the German Archaeological Institute, Rome).

porticus must have masked the basilica, although three doors connected the two buildings. At the SE end a small arch projected from the porticus towards the Temple of Julius Caesar on the opposite side of the Via Sacra. The large, beautifully lettered inscription naming Lucius presumably belonged to this arch.

On the other side of the Temple of Julius Caesar stood the Arch of Augustus, built in 19 bc to replace an earlier arch built on the same spot in 29 bc after the victory at Actium. It celebrated the Parthian victory of Augustus in which he recovered the legionary standards lost by M. Crassus in the Battle of Carrhae (53 bc). Although the new arch (Figure 3.8) was larger and had three openings, it is unusual when compared to later triple arches, because the flanking openings had horizontal entablatures capped by pediments and only the central opening was arched. There were two statues of Parthians over the pediments, and a statue of Augustus in a quadriga over the central opening. Near the arch were found the Fasti Consulares or lists of Roman consuls dating back to the beginning of the Republic (now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome). They were engraved on marble panels which originally fitted into the sides of the minor openings of the arch. These lists emphasised Augustus’ claim that the Republic was being perpetuated under his rule. The positioning of these three monuments, the temple and the two arches, is not accidental.6 In the centre is the Temple of Julius Caesar, to whom Augustus owed his claim to power. On the SW side of the Temple is the Arch of Augustus, the present ruler, which shows his victory at Actium, his defeat of the Parthians and through the Fasti Consulares his position as defender of the Republic. Finally, on the NE side of the temple is the arch of Gaius and Lucius, the heirs presumptive.

Figure 3.8  Rome, Arch of Augustus, 19 bc: restored elevation.


Much of Augustus’ building programme was carried out by Marcus Agrippa, a close friend of Augustus who had fought alongside him in the civil wars. He later became his son-in-law when he married the emperor’s daughter, Julia, in 21 bc. After the Battle of Actium Agrippa was rewarded with an estate (horti) in the western part of the Campus Martius, which he linked to another estate he owned on the other side of the river by means of a bridge. On the Campus Martius estate he built a rambling bath complex, which measured a comparatively modest 70 × 120 metres. Its exact appearance is unknown because it was replaced by the present Severan structure of which the best-known element is the circular domed hall part of which survives in Via del Ciambello. He also drained the marshy land west of the Saepta, the Palus Capreae, where Romulus disappeared, and in its place built a lake (stagnum) supplied with water by the Aqua Virgo. Also on his estate he built the Basilica of Neptune and the first Pantheon (29–19 bc), facing each other across a circular pavement, parts of which have been found under the floor of the Hadrianic Pantheon. The Pantheon was perhaps a dynastic monument associated with the gens Julia because it contained statues of Mars, Venus and Divus Julius. The earrings of the statue of Venus were made from one of the famous pearls of Cleopatra. However, some think that Agrippa’s Pantheon was a temple of Mars, a twin of the Basilica or Temple of Neptune (Dio, 53.27.1, 66.24.2), which together represented Agrippa’s victories on land and sea. In 26 bc Agrippa completed and adorned with marbles and pictures the Saepta Julia in the Campus Martius, an enormous enclosure, 310 × 120 metres, designed to accommodate the lines of voters and to replace the old Ovile or ‘sheep pen’ (Varro, Rust. 3.2). Projected by Julius Caesar, but built by M. Aemilius Lepidus (Dio, 53.23.1), it could be used for gladiatorial games (Dio, 55.10.7). Immediately to the south was the Diribitorium, 120 × 43 metres, where the votes cast in the Saepta were counted. Begun by Agrippa and finished by Augustus in 7 bc (Dio, 55.8.3), it was one of the marvels of the city, the largest building in Rome with a timber roof (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.24.102).

Although he had already been consul some years before (Dio, 49.43), Agrippa was persuaded in 33 bc to stand as aedile by the then Octavian, who believed that the maintenance of public buildings was being neglected. Agrippa agreed and refused any remuneration. His programme was vast and included repairing the public buildings and the streets. For his work on the aqueducts alone he established a permanent staff which numbered 240 at his death. He repaired the channels of the Aqua Appia, Old Anio and Marcia, which had almost worn out, and provided the City with a large number of fountains (Frontinus, de Aquis 1.9). He also built the Aqua Julia, and the Aqua Virgo which supplied his own baths. He sailed down the cloaca maxima in a boat and did the necessary cleaning. When Agrippa died in 12 bc, he left his estates as well as his baths to Augustus, who opened them to the public.


The Age of Augustus | Roman Architecture | Second edition | (Part-02)


In 28 bc at a time when he was much influenced by the trappings of Hellenistic monarchy Octavian, as he then was, began building his own mausoleum, an enormous cylindrical structure, 87 metres in diameter and about 45 metres high, covered with a mound of earth (tumulus). The burial chamber, formed by the innermost of five concentric walls, held the cinerary urns of Augustus, his relatives, and friends. The mausoleum is described as having a bronze statue of Augustus on top with a large grove behind (Strabo, Geo. 5.3.8). It stood in an isolated position with 300 metres of open parkland between it and Augustus’ horologium (sundial) to the south. The gnomon of the sundial was the sixth century bc obelisk of Psammetticus II which now stands in front of Palazzo Montecitorio. Part of the meridian line which indicated the day of the month was discovered in a nearby cellar in 1979. The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace), now re-erected on a new site alongside the Mausoleum of Augustus, was originally built adjacent to the Via Lata (Via del Corso) facing west towards the horologium. It was vowed in 13 bc on Augustus’ return from his successes in Spain and Gaul and dedicated in 9 bc. The altar itself stood inside a walled precinct. Flanking the west door, are panels showing on the north side the Lupercal with Mars, Faustulus, the twins and the wolf, and on the south Aeneas sacrificing to the Penates at Lavinium with his son Ascanius or Iulus. The processional scene on the south side shows Augustus preceded by lictors and followed by flamines. Then comes Agrippa, who was still alive when the altar was vowed in 13 bc, but died the following year. Next comes his son Gaius, who was to be the heir to Augustus, his daughter Julia, and his stepson Tiberius, the son of Livia, who was in fact to succeed him, and other members of the imperial family. The Ara Pacis is very Classical in feeling, especially the allegorical figures on the short ends, and its very form is inspired by altars like the Altar of the Twelve Gods in the Athenian Agora.

Another project was the completion of the theatre said to have been begun by Julius Caesar (Suet., Caes. 44.1) and built on part of the Circus Flaminius (Figure 3.9). With a diameter of 129.8 metres, it is smaller than the Theatre of Pompey. However, it was built on a restricted site near a bend of the river opposite the Tiber Island. The façade, 32 metres high,7  is of travertine and had 41 bays flanked by half-columns. The lowest storey is Doric, the middle Ionic, and the upper, now occupied by Peruzzi’s early 16th century Palazzo Savelli/Orsini, was a plain wall pierced by rectangular windows and flanked by Corinthian pilasters. This arrangement, with modifications, became the norm in countless theatres and amphitheatres, including the Colosseum. The cavea was supported on a series of alternately radial and annular vaults, which offered great structural stability as well as facilitating access to all parts of the seating. In 17 bc the ludi saeculares (games held once every century) were held there, although the theatre was not finished until 13 bc (Dio, 54.26.1) or 11 bc

Figure 3.9  Rome, Theatre of Marcellus, dedicated in 13 or 11 bc. To the right is the Temple of Apollo in Circo (Sosianus) begun 34 bc and finished before 20 bc.

(Pliny, Nat.Hist. 8.25.65). It was dedicated by Augustus to the memory of his son-in-law, Marcellus. The brick used in the radial passageways was probably Augustan and is one of the earliest examples of its use in the capital.

Outside influences, particularly Eastern and Greek, are a major factor in Augustan art and architecture. It seems that after an early experimental period at the beginning of his principate Augustus had determined that Classical and Hellenistic architecture and art was to be his model. One reason for the powerful influence which Augustan architecture exerted upon later periods is that Augustus used only the best materials for his building programme, which may explain his boast that he ‘found Rome of brick and left it in marble’ (Suet., Aug. 28.3). Under Augustus a flourishing marble trade was established and it soon extended throughout the Empire. The trade, not only in marble but also in statues and architectural elements, explains the later rapid diffusion of sculptural and architectural styles throughout the Empire.

Augustus’ greatest monument in Rome, the Forum Augustum (Figures 3.2, 3.10, and 3.11), was the second of the Imperial Fora, dominated by the enormous Temple of Mars Ultor and paid for ex manubiis (Figures 3.2, 3.10, and 3.11). It was finished only in 2 bc, although it was vowed at the Battle of Philippi in 42 bc (Suet., Aug. 29.2). According to Macrobius (Sat. 2.4.9), Augustus himself joked about the slowness of the architect. When the forum was actually started is a matter of debate. As it was built ex manubiis, it has been argued that it must date to after his Spanish and German Wars. A date in the last decade bc, suggested by Strong, is an attractive one because the architectural details of the forum are in very much the same style as the Ara Pacis, which was inaugurated in 9 bc.8 He is said to have built it because the existing two law courts were unable to cope with the increasing number of lawsuits caused by population increase. Public prosecutions as well as the selection of jurors

Figure 3.10  Rome, Forum of Augustus, showing the surviving columns of the Temple of Mars Ultor.

also took place there (Suet., Aug. 29.1). Because it was dominated by the Temple of Mars the senate met there to decide upon declarations of war or claims for triumphs (Figure 3.11). It was also the place where military governors set off and where they deposited triumphal trophies when they returned. Like the Forum Julium the open space is bordered by colonnades, except that in the Forum Augustum the 115-metre-long long colonnades run along two sides only and have no columns down the middle. The open space is 50 metres wide, compared to the 45 metres of the Forum Julium, but only 78 metres long from the foot of the staircase to the end wall on the SW side, compared to c. 110 metres in the case of the Forum Julium. This may explain the statement that the forum is rather constricted (angustius) because Augustus was unable to purchase all the land he wanted in order to lay it out (Suet., Aug. 56.2), although the statement is usually explained in terms of the irregularities on the NE side behind the Temple of Mars Ultor. Augustus did not want to offend people by demolishing private property as Julius Caesar had (Dio, 43.49). That did not, however, prevent him from building the high wall of Gabine stone behind the Temple of Mars Ultor, which is such a striking feature of his forum today.

The colonnades each side of the forum were supported by cipollino columns, 9.5 metres high with white marble Corinthian capitals and entablature. In the attic were copies of the caryatids of the Erechtheum at Athens, and between each pair were shields with heads of Jupiter Ammon and other divinities (Figure 3.12). The Erechtheum underwent drastic repairs in 27 bc and the circular Temple of Rome and Augustus on the Acropolis, built a few years later, was heavily based on the Erechtheum in its capitals and other details. It would be no surprise if some of these same craftsmen were at work on the Forum of

Figure 3.11  Rome, restored view of the Temple of Mars Ultor, dedicated in 2 bc, and part of the Forum Augustum. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)


Figure 3.12  Rome. Forum of Augustus, c. 10–2 bc: Caryatids from the flanking colonnades. Photo © Deutsches Archaologisches Institut, Rome/ Hartwig Koppermann. D-DAI-ROM-61.1059.

Augustus. Cipollino half-columns flanked a row of niches in the back wall of the porticoes and around two curved exedras, 40 metres wide. In the niches of the NW exedra stood large statues of Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius, and in the opposite exedra was a statue of Romulus. In the niches on Aeneas’ side were statues of members of the Julian gens and the kings of Alba Longa, while on Romulus’ side were great men of the Republic. Augustan propaganda was, as ever, stressing the duality of Rome’s foundation by Romulus, prefigured centuries before by Aeneas, and their divine links with Mars and Venus, foundress of the Julian gens. Thus the Empire under Augustus was the logical conclusion to the Republic. Augustus himself presided over this portrait gallery in the form of a bronze statue on a pedestal in the middle of the forum. The two curved exedras provided a ‘discreet cross-accent’9 shown to be less discreet by the latest excavations (1998–2000), which seem to have turned up evidence for another exedra on the NW side, 30 metres wide. Meneghini has supplied a corresponding one on the SE side.10

The forum was dominated by the enormous Temple of Mars on its NE side, measuring 36 × 50 metres overall, with 8 × 8 white marble columns, 17.8 metres (60 Roman feet) high, the largest class of Roman column. The columns did not run around all four sides of the temple because it was built against the back wall of the forum. Even in the Temple of Mars Ultor the Corinthian Order has not yet achieved full orthodoxy. The modillions still have a Hellenistic S-shaped profile (Figure 3.13b). In the pediment was a statue of Mars flanked to left and right by Venus and Fortuna; in the left corner was a seated Romulus and a reclining personification of the Palatine; and in the right corner was the goddess Roma and the Tiber god. A double order of columns lined the walls of the cella and the floor was richly paved in pavonazzetto, africano, and giallo antico. At the end was an apse in which stood statues of Mars, Venus and perhaps Divus Julius. Augustus placed the Parthian standards in the temple and later a colossal statue of Nero the same size as that of Mars was put there to commemorate his successes against the Parthians (Tacitus, Ann. 13.8.1). Not surprisingly, the Forum Augustum was regarded by Pliny as one of the three most beautiful buildings in Rome (Nat.Hist. 36.24.102).

Whereas Hellenistic Greece had been a powerful influence in late Republican architecture11  fashionable Augustan buildings incorporated ideas first from Egypt and later on from Classical Greece. Hellenistic Greek orders had been used in Roman buildings since the late second century bc, and even in the early Augustan period Vitruvius could recommend either a Doric or Ionic entablature above a Corinthian column (de Arch. 4.1.2), seen, for example, in the Arch of Augustus (25 bc) at Augusta Praetoria (Aosta), with its Doric entablature over Corinthian columns. However Vitruvius was a traditionalist and his book does not take into account the changes that had been taking place in the 20 years before he published it. Some early Augustan buildings featured a Corinthian entablature based upon the Ionic but with a bracket or modillion placed under the cornice, an early example being the Arch at Ariminum (Rimini) of 27 bc. However, the modillion had appeared in the early first century bc in Roman stucco and wall-paintings, such as those in the House of the Griffins on the Palatine. According to D.E. Strong, the orthodox Corinthian entablature was created by an architect or architects working on Julius Caesar’s building programme or shortly afterwards:

The general form of the entablature which was to become the orthodox Corinthian of the Roman Empire was … created, like so much more in Roman art and architecture, between the death of Julius Caesar [44 BC] and the Battle of Actium [31 bc].12

Although the general form of the Corinthian entablature had been created in the first century bc, the refinement of the order continued throughout the Augustan period. Strong

Figure 3.13  Modillions: (a) the lower order of the Basilica Paulli, Rome; (b) the Temple of Mars Ultor, Rome; (c) the Temple of Concord, Rome; (d) the north doorway of the Erechtheum, Athens.


Figure 3.14  The Corinthian Order of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, Rome. (A. Desgodetz, Les édifices antiques de Rome, Paris, 1682, p. 129).

Figure 3.15  Rome, Temple of Concord, dedicated in ad 10; cornice fragment, now in the Tabularium.

common feature in the Republic, but by the end of the Augustan period they were usually carved from one block. The lower half of the bell was decorated with a row of 16 acanthus leaves alternately high and low. The overlapping lobes of the leaves formed pear-shaped cavities, while in later Corinthian capitals the cavities became wedge-shaped and near vertical. From the leaves sprang the cauliculi to support the volutes which ran up to the corners of the abacus. From the same cauliculi sprang the helices, which were unusual in this case because they interlocked. The abacus was decorated, a fairly uncommon feature later on, but frequent in this period. It is worthwhile to examine the entablature too, as the temple of Castor may be regarded as the first fully orthodox Corinthian Roman temple. The architrave was divided into three horizontal fascias by elaborate mouldings. Above the plain frieze were the dentils, framed by egg-and-tongue below and cyma reversa above. The corona, supported by the scrolled modillions, was richly decorated and capped by an unadorned sima with lions-head spouts at intervals along its length.

The Temple of Concord is the last great monument of the Augustan period. First built in 367 bc to celebrate the reconciliation between patricians and plebeians, Tiberius undertook in 7 bc to rebuild the temple with the spoils from Germany (Dio, 55.8.2). However, it was built so lavishly that it was not completed until ad 10 when, like the Temple of Castor, it was dedicated in the name of Tiberius and his brother, Drusus (Suet., Tib. 20). It occupied a cramped site at the foot of the Capitoline hill with the result that it had a transverse cella with a porch of six columns facing towards the Forum (Figure 3.5). The cella measured 43.40 × 22.7 metres, almost a double square. Windows in the walls provided good lighting to show off Tiberius’ collection of famous Greek sculptures which filled the temple. Part of the cornice, now housed in the Tabularium (Figure 3.15), shows how rich the mouldings were, so rich that for a time they were thought to have belonged to a later rebuilding. Above the architrave and frieze was a row of dentils capped with an egg and tongue moulding. The corona was supported by richly decorated double-scroll modillions with coffered panels in the soffit between (Figure 3.13c). The sima in this case was decorated with a rich acanthus leaf pattern. The capitals and entablature of both temples came from the same workshop, although a distinction must be drawn between architects, masons and sculptors.14

To recount all the influences of the Augustan period is beyond the scope of this book. Suffice it to say that in this highly formative period of Roman architecture much more was achieved than the evolution of a new architectural order. The sound proportions, good materials and high level of workmanship in Augustan buildings established a tradition of fine building which was to endure until the end of the Roman Empire and beyond.






Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition

A purely chronological and geographical approach neglects the development of particular building types. Therefore their historical and geographical development is summarised in this chapter.

Town planning

A surveyor (mentor or agrimensor) used a surveying staff (groma)1 to sight along the line to be laid out (Figure 4.2a). This method was used to survey the two main axes of a city, the documents Maximus (main EW street) and the Cardo Maximus (main NS street), which usually intersected in the middle. From these, the lesser streets, parallel to them, could be surveyed.

The groma was also used to survey the territory around the city, commonly in squares measuring 2400 × 2400 Roman feet, theoretically the equivalent of 100 small holdings. Levels were also used by surveyors, especially when laying out aqueducts (Figure 42b). In the center of the city were the basilica, forum, and main temple, often built as a single complex over three city blocks, the so-called ‘tripartite forum’.2

The temple, surrounded on three sides by colonnades, faced across the forum to a basilica built across one short side.

Early examples include Augusta Bagiennorum (Benevaggiena), 5–4 bc; Lugdunum Convenarum (St.-Bertrand-de-Comminges), Augustan or Tiberian; and Velleia near Modena, Augustan or Tiberian. Other examples are Augusta Raurica (Augst in Switzerland) (Figure 2.1), Virunum (Zollfeld in Austria), Bagacum (Bavay in France), Lutetia (Paris), Conimbriga (Portugal) and Herdonia (Ordona), while a variation of the plan can be seen at Leader (Zadar in Croatia).

Religious buildings

Frontality, a feature of Etruscan temples, was assimilated into Roman temple design (Figure 1.1b). For example, in the fifth-century bc Belvedere temple at Orvieto dominated the rectangular enclosure in front of it and had columns only at the front. Large temples like the late sixth century bc Capitoline temple in Rome had columns along the sides as well (Figure 1.1a).

Etruscan temples usually had overhanging wooden roof beams decorated with brightly painted terracotta revetments, often with terracotta statuary on the roof. Up to the second-century bc, the Romans followed the Etruscan design and building methods.

The Capitolium (c. 150 bc) at Cosa, a Roman colony in Tuscany founded in 273 bc, had three cells at the rear, with the staircase and all of the columns at the front (Figure 1.8). It was usually reconstructed with overhanging wooden roof beams in the Etruscan fashion.

In 146 bc Greece became part of the Roman Empire and, in the words of Horace, ‘conquered Greece took her conqueror captive and introduced her arts into rustic Latium’ (Epist.

Figure 2.1  Augusta Raurica (Augst, Switzerland), restored view of the center of the town, mid-second century ad with later modifications. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970], figure 131.)


2.1.156–7). However, although the Romans adopted the Classical orders, the temple layout remained traditional. The Greeks preferred a low stylobate, usually with three steps, whereas Roman temples still stood on a high podium. In Greek temples, the columns and steps ran all around the building so that every side had equal value and there was no strong emphasis on the façade.

A good example is the Parthenon in Athens. When first seen through the Propylaea (entrance gateway) the back of the temple faced the viewer; the entrance was at the other end. Also, it is noticeable that the Parthenon was not set axially within its enclosure.

As in many other Greek temples, the first view of it was a three-quarter view. The Romans, on the other hand, almost invariably continued to emphasize the frontal aspect of temples in the old Etruscan manner, even though they were now using the Classical Greek orders. A common layout was to have columns only at the front, an arrangement termed ‘prostyle’.

For example, the Temple of Hercules at Cora (Cori), built around 100 bc, was a prostyle temple with a high podium but used a pure Hellenistic Doric order (Figure 1.18). The late second-century bc Temple of Portunus in the Forum Boarium (Figure 1.16) used the Ionic order but was also a prostyle temple, although it did have half-columns attached to the cella walls all round, a system called ‘pseudo-peripteral’.

The circular temple of Vesta at Tivoli, ancient Tibur (Figure 1.17), used an Italic version of the Corinthian order, but the columns stood on a high podium. In each case the Classical order was Greek, but the layout of the temple was Etruscan or what is often termed ‘Italic’.

The Maison Carrée at Nemausus (Nîmes), one of the best-preserved of all Roman temples, is a fine example of this (Figure 2.2). A material associated with Greek temples, particularly in Athens, was marble. It came into use in Rome in the second-century bc, for example, in the Temple of Hercules Victor in the Forum Boarium dating to about 120 bc (Figure 1.16). Once the Luna (Carrara) quarries were opened by Julius Caesar, the white marble was used on a large scale, especially at the time of Augustus.

The Roman temple was not adopted as a model by the early Christians for their places of worship because, like the Greek temple, it was designed to house only cult images, not congregations. Christian worship required a great deal of interior space to accommodate the

Figure 2.2  Nemausus (Nîmes, France), Maison Carrée, begun c. 19 bc.

the congregation, which led to the Roman basilica being chosen because it could be most easily adapted to Christian needs. This does not mean that there were no congregational buildings before Christianity.

The underground basilica near Porta Maggiore in Rome was built for a neo-Pythagorean sect in the first-century ad and has a nave flanked by two aisles with an apse at the end, an arrangement reminiscent of the Christian church. Temples of Mithras (mithraea) followed a similar pattern. A long nave flanked by banqueting couches terminated in a recess containing a sculpture or painting of Mithras slaying the bull in the cave.

Public buildings

As Rome grew from a small town into the capital of a great empire her institutions became increasingly complex. Law courts, money exchanges, treasuries, record offices, and assembly places had to be built in provincial towns as well as in the capital.

These and other public buildings stood in the forum (marketplace), an open space usually rectangular in shape and often surrounded by colonnades on one story or two, as at Pompeii (Figure 6.2). Official weights and measures were often kept there, as at Pompeii.

Important temples faced it, as well as various public offices and the meeting places of the curia (town council) and securities (councilors). Shops (tabernacle), bars (Thermopolis), and sometimes a macellum (provisions market) were built nearby.


The basilica, an aisled building with clerestory lighting and a high, roofed nave, acted both as money exchange and a law court. It was surrounded by aisles, usually on all four sides and the tribunal for the magistrate’s court faced the entrance.

Its position depended upon whether the long or short side faced onto the forum area. Examples of both types of the basilica are common, the Pompeii one (Figure 2.3) presenting its short side to the Forum, and the two in the Roman Forum their long sides (Figure 3.5).

Vitruvius tells us he designed a basilica of the latter type at Fanum (Vitruvius, de Arch. 5.1.6–10). Trajan’s Basilica Ulpia with its twin apses (Figure 3.2) and positioned across the main axis of the Forum represents a striking variation of the normal basilican plan, and one which was followed by Septimius Severus in his forum at Lepcis Magna (Figure 9.13).

The Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum (Figures 12.17 and 12.18) was unusual in that its layout was based on the frigidarium of a Roman bath. However, Christian churches, such as St. John Lateran (begun ad 312), were based on the conventional Roman type.

The word basilica is a Greek adjective meaning ‘kingly’ and the noun it originally qualified is likely to have been stoa (Strabo, Geo. 5.3.8). Although several Roman basilicas in some ways resembled stores, they were quite different internally.

They had the advantage of being a covered hall where magistrates could conduct their cases uninterrupted, unlike stoas, which are porticoes open to the weather and the noise of the street. Despite the Greek name, the earliest known basilicas are found in Rome.

However, it is often assumed that the Romans encountered them in a Greek context and adopted them because they had no other building so well suited to their legislative and commercial needs. There is no reason why the Greeks should not have developed such a building. Buildings of the same general type were known in Delos and Alexandria, and Vitruvius’ Egyptian oecus has a similar layout (De Arch. 6.3.9).

Figure 2.3  Pompeii, basilica, 100–90 bc.

Commercial buildings

The oldest known warehouse was the early second century bc Porticus Aemilia (Figure 1.13), a vast building composed of row after row of barrel vaults pierced with arched openings to create a roofed enclosure measuring 48.7 × 87 meters.3

Numerous warehouses have been found at Ostia, of which the best known is the Horrea Epagathiana (c. ad 145–150) with its fine dressed-brick doorway which opens into a courtyard with storage rooms on all four sides (Figure 4.11). Later warehouses at Ostia were more compact and had rows of rooms back to back (Figure 6.22c).

The simple one-roomed shop (taberna) had a wide opening to the street, almost as wide as the shop itself, which could be closed using removable slats and a wooden door. It was lit by a window above the door. Inside there was often a mezzanine floor for storage or sleeping, accessible using a staircase.

A wide variety of shops survive in Pompeii and Ostia, such as bakeries, which had counters near the street where the bread was sold, while at the back of the shop there was storage space for the grain, mills for grinding it, tables for kneading the dough and ovens for baking the bread.

Fish shops found at Ostia had marble slabs for preparing the fish, water tanks, and sometimes facilities for cooking them. Fulleries (fullonica) had presses and complex systems of washing tanks. Shops that sold food and drink were called Thermopolis.

They had solid masonry counters with wide-mouthed jars (dolia) sunk into them, where the foodstuffs were kept (Figure 2.4). The counters were usually L-shaped for sales both on the street and in the shop. Although Roman writers, such as Juvenal (Sat. 3.8.171–8) or Horace (Sat. 2.4.62), stressed the squalor of such places and delighted in a gluttonous emperor like Vitellius frequenting Thermopolis (Suet., Vit. 13.3), the importance of such outlets in the story of the Roman city has recently been pointed out.4

Figure 2.4  Pompeii, Pompeii, bar where hot food and drinks were sold (Thermopolis).

Shops were often built in rows facing the Forum or could occupy ground floor rooms in a house or insula, like the one at Terracina (Terracina) (c. 100 bc), which had a row of shops at street level and apartments above. The House of the Lararium at Ostia is a well-designed complex combining shops on the ground floor and apartments above.

Early shopping centers built around 100 bc can be seen at Tivoli, and at Ferentinum (Figure 1.15), which has a row of five shops opening off a barrel-vaulted concourse. In the early empire, when the Forum became a focus of civic pride, there was a tendency to remove shops, especially those which sold fish or animal products, to a macellum, an enclosure containing counters for the sale of fish or meat, with a circular pavilion in the middle equipped with a pool or fountain.

The first macellum seems to have been built by M. Aemilius Lepidus and M. Fulvius Nobilior in 179 bc (Livy, 40.51.5) and occupied the area where the Templum Pacis and the Forum of Nerva were later built. Good examples of macella can be seen at Pompeii, Puteoli (Pozzuoli), Lepcis Magna, Hippo Regius (Annaba), Cuicul (Djemila) and Thamugadi (Timgad).

The most important planned shopping center in the Roman world was the Markets of Trajan, a multi-story complex built behind Trajan’s Forum (Figures 8.3–8.6) which contained about 150 shops, as well as a substantial warehouse and administrative center.

Domestic buildings

The Romans at first borrowed heavily from both Etruscans and Greeks when it came to domestic buildings. Etruscan houses probably resembled rock-cut tombs such as the Tomb of the Shields and Thrones at Caere (Cerveteri) or the Tomb of the Volumnii at Perugia (Figure 1.2a). Excavations along the Sacred Way in Rome have shown that large aristocratic houses of cappellaccio stone were built on the north slopes of the Palatine at the end of the sixth-century bc.

At Pompeii, the focal point of the house was a large room (atrium) with an inward-sloping, rectangular opening in the middle of its roof (compluvium). A shallow rectangular basin (impluvium) was set into the floor immediately below the compluvium to catch the rainwater from the roof, which then ran into a vaulted underground water cistern (Figure 6.7).

At the edge of the impluvium was a cistern head from which the water could be drawn. However, excavations in the oldest atrium houses at Pompeii, such as the House of the Surgeon, have shown that the impluvium is a secondary feature, dating to the second-century bc. This fact has given rise to considerable controversy about the origin of the atrium.

Whether this means that the original atrium was testudinate, completely roofed over like the Tomb of the Volumnii at Perusia (Perugia), and had a hearth in the middle of the floor, or was an open courtyard is a matter of debate. The opening or compluvium may have been a practical step to allow the smoke from the hearth to escape, which is, incidentally, an argument for connecting the word ‘atrium’ with the Latin ater (black). Seneca (Epist. 44.5) remarked that an atrium ‘crammed with smoke-blackened images’ was a sign of the old nobility.

There were three other types of atrium apart from the testudinate and complicate types: the diluvial atrium, where the roof around the opening in the roof sloped out rather than in; the tetrastyle, with a column under each of the four corners of the compluvium; and the Corinthian, with a row of columns which gave it more the character of a small peristyle than an atrium (Vitruvius, de Arch. 6.3.1–2).

The main external feature of an atrium house was the front door, which was often of great height and singled out for special decoration. The passageway (fauces) into the atrium did not normally give access to the rooms on each side. These were usually either service rooms opening into the atrium or shops (tabernae) opening onto the street (Figure 2.5). As the principal rooms drew most of their light from the atrium (Figures 1.2b and 6.7), windows

Figure 2.5  Pompeii, House of the Painted Capitals, second-century bc: plan.

seldom found on the street facade, and those which did exist were usually high up or barred. There were two or three bedrooms on each side of the atrium and at the far end was a pair of recesses or wings (alae) which gave extra prominence to the three rooms opposite the front door.

Usually, the outer ones were dining rooms (triclinium), while the central one was the principal room of the house, the tablinum, and the main reception room, which was also used for records and personal documents.

Roman kitchens were small, rather dingy rooms, containing a large masonry bench on top of which the cooking was done, and underneath which the cooking pots were stored. There was usually a water basin in a corner and the overflow often flushed the lavatory, which was in an adjoining room.

Until the second century, bc Roman houses must have greatly resembled Etruscan ones. However, they developed a great deal during the second-century bc, a time when the Romans were very much involved in Greece and many Italian merchants set up businesses there, particularly on the island of Delos. It was then that peristyles of the kind found in houses at Rhodes and Delos were introduced to Italy.

However, the peristyle did not take the place of the atrium, which was a venerable room showing the wealth of the owner by the area (money chest) which was kept there; the lararium, where the owner’s household gods were kept; and the imagines, which indicated pedigree.

Instead, the peristyle was built behind the atrium, as in the House of the Faun (Figure 6.5) or the House of the Painted Capitals (Figure 2.5), both of which had two peristyles. Whereas the center of the Greek peristyle was usually paved or covered with mosaic, the Romans preferred to make it a frigidarium (garden), as in the House of the Gilded Cupids (Figure 6.6).

Like many other building types, the Roman house was the product of outside influences, but the result was unmistakably Roman. The atrium became the public part of the house ‘which anybody could enter’ while the bedrooms and bathing rooms were kept more private (Vitruvius, de Arch. 6.5.1–2). The peristyle, a peaceful oasis far from the bustle and din of the atrium, was open to the public, but surely a more select public.

The slaves, on the other hand, were crammed into dark and dingy parts of the house. This can be seen in the House of M. Aemilius Scaurus near the Arch of Titus, built around 58 bc. Although the house itself was considered the height of luxury, the dark basement underneath contained 50 tiny cells with beaten floors and a stone bench for a bed.

In the second-century bc House of the Faun at Pompeii looked more egalitarian (Figure 6.5). There were two atria, Tuscan on the left and tetrastyle on the right. The latter was the slaves’ quarters, but behind the atrium, they rapidly tapered off, with the result that they occupied only a small fraction of the space available to the family.

The same pattern can be seen in the enormous villa at Oplontis, where the slaves were concentrated in a dingy area around the kitchen, which is distinguished by the simple zebra-stripe decoration of the walls.

In the House of the Menander at Pompeii the slaves’ quarters, shown hatched (Figure 6.8), were discreetly tucked away behind the main rooms so that the slaves would always be on hand to appear and disappear. It will be observed that their quarters occupied only a fraction of the total area of the house.

By the first-century ad pressure on land led to many large mansions being divided up into apartments. At the same time, the disastrous fire of ad 64 dramatically changed the appearance of the city of Rome. The old winding alleys lined with dangerous and dilapidated tenement houses were swept away and replaced by broad straight avenues of brick and concrete apartment blocks (insulae).

The use of timber was discouraged, and concrete vaulting became more common. Ostia underwent a transformation similar to that of Rome in the prosperous years following the opening of the Trajanic harbor, so that by the end of the second-century ad the majority of its inhabitants lived in apartments.

The Marble Plan (Figure 12.1) reveals a similar pattern in Rome, confirmed by the Regional catalogs, which show that by the fourth-century ad there were only 1,790 Domus in Rome compared to 46,602 insulae. Ostia is the best place to see insulae, with their plain, austere facades of brick-faced concrete, sometimes relieved by balconies over ground-floor rooms (Figure 6.20).

They rarely exceeded four or five stories, probably to comply with regulations governing building height, 70 Roman feet (20.72 meters) under Augustus and 60 feet (17.76 meters) under Trajan. Ground-floor rooms either faced an inner courtyard or were open to the street as shops, and staircases led directly to the upper rooms (Figure 6.21). A water cistern in the courtyard served all the residents of the block, and there was usually one lavatory on each floor.

Country residences ranged from working farms to large luxury villas used by their owners as an occasional retreat. The Villa Sambuco at San Giovenale is an example of the simplest type of farmhouse with timber and mud brick walls and earth floors.

Intermediate types include the late Republican villa Rustica at Boscoreale, which had a small, but luxurious residential section adjoining a large industrial area used for oil and winemaking, and the San Rocco Villa at Francoise in Campania (50–25 bc) with separate residential and working quarters of roughly equal size.

The Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii was a suburban villa with a very small industrial section, which had many features of a large atrium/ peristyle house, except that it had more outward-facing porticoes, especially to the west, which commanded splendid views over the sea. Several villas at Tivoli were built on a series of terraces climbing the hill with fine views of Rome.

The Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum revived as the J. Paul Getty Villa at Malibu was purely a pleasure villa built close to the sea. Another was Tiberius’ Villa Jovis at Capri (Figures 5.2 and 5.3). Seaside villas, illustrated in many Pompeian wall paintings, could be of the peristyle or the porticus type.

The Damacuta villa at Capri, with rooms opening off a long colonnade overlooking the sea, is an example of the latter. Pliny gives a detailed description of his seaside villa at Laurentium, near Ostia which contained a bath and a ‘hippodrome’ with a stadium (curved dining couch) at one end (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 2.17 and 5.6).

The very large Villa San Marco at Castellammare had an atrium, porticus, and peristyle with a large piscina in the middle. The enormous villa at Oplontis, whose full extent is still unknown, had a vast piscina, bathing suit, and seemingly endless porticoes.

Nero’s Golden House, set within a huge park that contained vineyards, woodlands, and a large lake, was essentially a villa, despite its urban surroundings. The surviving Esquiline wing (Figure 5.7) had a combination of features belonging to the terraced, the peristyle, and the porticus villa.

Even more complex was Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli (Figure 8.13), whose baths, pools, libraries, nymphaea, and pavilions followed several unrelated axes and were scattered over an area that measured 1,000 × 500 meters. During the second century ad, there was a tendency to reject the sprawling landscape villa in favor of a more tightly planned complex following the pattern of the rather tower-like villa of Domitian at Albano.

Examples include the Villa at Sette Bassi and the Villa of the Quintilii on the Via Appia. However, the landscape villa never died out, as can be seen in the early fourth-century ad Villa at Piazza Armerina in Sicily (Figure 12.16). Outside Italy, the atrium is rarely found, but some splendid peristyle houses have been found at Visio (Vaison-la-Romaine) in France, and peristyle villas have been found at Glanum (St. Rémy).

There are some enormous villas in northern Europe, such as the late first-century bc villa at Fishbourne, with rooms ranging around a vast peristyle courtyard (Figure 10.14). Most British villas were later in date, such as the beautiful and extensive villa at Chedworth, which belongs mainly to the third and fourth centuries ad.

A large residential villa at Anthée near Namur was part of a large estate with rows of small working farm buildings nearby. One of the largest villas of northern Europe is at Nennig in Germany (third-century ad) with its tower-like wings enclosing a colonnaded central section.

Recreational buildings

Gymnasia provided facilities for exercise and sometimes for swimming. One of the largest is the Augustan palaestra at Pompeii, which measures 141 × 107 meters. There were also facilities for ball games, running, and wrestling in the Campus Martius (Strabo, Geo. 5.3.8).

The best-known recreational buildings were baths, which offered facilities for exercise as well as for bathing. Women attended the baths in the morning and men at about the eighth hour (2:00 p.m.), which was considered the best time to bathe (Martial, 10.48.1–4), although some were forced by the pressure of business to bathe later (Suet., Aug. 76.2).

The normal bathing procedure was for bathers to change in the apodyterium, oil themselves and exercise in the palaestra (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 9.36.4). They then passed into the sweating rooms (sudatorium), after which they took a hot bath in the caldarium, cooled down in the tepidarium and passed into the frigidarium and notation (swimming pool) for a cold dip.

However, the bath was not so pleasant for those who had to live nearby. Seneca lived over a public bath and talked of the noise made by people exercising and swinging weights, the groans they made, their hissing and gasping, the noise of flesh being slapped, and the shouts of people splashing in the water.

He describes the hair plucker with his shrill, high-pitched voice and the shrieks of clients when their armpits were being plucked. In addition, there were the cries of people selling drinks, sausages, and pastries (Seneca the Younger, Epist. 56.1–2).

Greek baths were very simple, consisting of rows of sitz baths filled and emptied by hand. An important link between Greek and Republican Roman baths has been revealed by excavations in the Stabian baths at Pompeii, where a row of sitz baths dating to the fourth-century bc was found on the north side of the palaestra. The water for these early baths came from a deep well and was raised by a water wheel.

The baths were enlarged in the later second-century bc when a tepidarium (warm room), caldarium (hot room), and apodyterium (changing room) were added along the east side of the palaestra (Figure 2.6). The hot rooms were fitted with hypocausts, or underfloor heating, an invention attributed by Pliny (Nat. Hist. 9.79.168)

Figure 2.6  Pompeii, Stabian Baths, second-century bc: plan.


to Sergius Orata, a Campanian who lived in the late second-century bc. At the same time, the walls of the hot rooms were lined with tegulae mammae which created a hollow space through which the hot air from the hypocaust could rise, providing an additional source of heat.

Hot rooms usually faced south to take advantage of the sun and the furnaces heated metal tanks behind the plunges. The hot water flowed into the plunge while the cold water settled back into the tank to be reheated.

Despite these improvements, heat transfer was still poor and windows remained small to conserve heat. The result was that Republican baths were poorly lit even on bright days, as Seneca observes, comparing the small dark bath in the villa of Scipio Africanus with the luxurious ones of his day (Seneca the Younger, Epist. 86.6–12).

Scipio’s baths would probably have looked rather like the Stabian Baths in Pompeii, which were small and dark compared with the later Imperial baths. The complex (Figure 2.6) consisted of a palaestra, although Vitruvius points out that this was not in the Italian tradition (de Arch. 5.11.1), an apodyterium (changing-room), a frigidarium (cold-room), a tepidarium (warm-room) and a caldarium (hot room).

In older baths, the caldarium had an apse with a stone basin for cold water (schola labri). Vitruvius says (de Arch. 5.10.5) that a laconicum (dry hot-room) should adjoin the tepidarium. It should be circular with a hole in the dome which should be hung a bronze disc suspended on chains.

This could be raised or lowered to regulate the temperature of the room. Such circular rooms are found in the Stabian and Forum baths at Pompeii but are thought to have become cold rooms because there is no trace of underfloor heating in them.

Three remarkable transformations altered the appearance of bath buildings in the first-century ad: the growing number of aqueducts that provided the running water essential for plunge baths and swimming pools; the invention of window glass; and the introduction of hollow wall tubes, which allowed more hot air to circulate than tegulae mammatae (tiles with lugs or nipples).

Hot gases were drawn under the hollow floor, up the tubes lining the walls, and out through chimneys in the vault (Figure 2.7). As the tubes heated up more quickly than the floor, which was usually 0.40–0.50 meters thick, the walls became a significant source of radiant heat.

The importance of these developments cannot be understated as they caused almost a revolution in the appearance of Roman baths in the late first-century ad. Many of these changes were taking place at the time of Nero (ad 54–68) when so much else that was novel was happening in architecture.

Unfortunately, Nero’s baths in Rome (ad 62–64) were later rebuilt, a great loss because they may well have been the first to take advantage of these technical innovations, and may have pioneered the double-circulation system used in the Baths of Titus 15 years later.

Although little survives, the plan of the Baths of Titus is known from Palladio (Figure 8.1). The main block was symmetrical about its shorter axis and the rooms were arranged in the axial sequence later to become standard: caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium.

The frigidarium was flanked on each side by a palaestra and the caldarium projected from the block to take full advantage of the sun. The Baths of Trajan (ad 109) covered over six times the area of those of Titus and the bathing block was surrounded by a walled precinct containing libraries, halls, gardens, and a running track.

The addition of a swimming pool (natation) to the sequence of bathing rooms resulted in the two main axes of the building intersecting in the frigidarium. The third-century ad Baths of Caracalla (Figure 12.4) and of Diocletian (Figure 12.7) mark the culmination of the development of the double-circulation type of baths. Both followed much the same layout as the Baths of Trajan, except that the bathing block was completely detached from the surrounding precinct.

Baths of the double circulation type sometimes appeared in large provincial cities, some of the finest examples being the Hadrianic Baths at Lepcis Magna (Figure 9.12), the Antonine Baths at Carthage, and the Imperial Baths at Trier (Figure 12.13).

Greece and Asia Minor followed a different tradition from that of the west, with the main bathing block being planned on rectilinear lines. Usually, a considerable portion of the complex was taken up by a gymnasium, frequently featuring a marmoreal, a room lined on three sides with tiers of columns and niches with

Figure 2.7  Diagram to illustrate the heating system of a Roman bath.

an open columnar screen on the fourth. A good example can be seen in the Harbour Baths at Ephesus. Lucian gives a detailed description of a bath house of the eastern type designed by Hippias (Lucian, Hippias 5–8).


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

Roman Building Types | Roman Architecture | Second edition

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.



Republican Rome | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Republican Rome | Roman Architecture | Second edition




In writing this book I often found myself mentally explaining and discussing difficult points with the students I have taught in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Adelaide and Melbourne, who always find Roman architecture more difficult than Greek – perhaps not surprisingly because it covers such a large time span and is the product of such culturally and ethnically diverse people. The fact that the Romans were also skilful engineers makes it an even more complex subject. Bearing this in mind I have aimed to be clear rather than comprehensive. I avoid or briefly summarise contentious theories in order to present the actual material as clearly as I can. I have selected what I regard as the most significant buildings of each era or province, and have in each case attempted to put then into their historical or cultural context. Another author may have chosen different buildings – the choice is a subjective one, and I will not pretend that I have not included many of my own favourite buildings.

The first eight chapters are mainly concerned with Italy, Rome in particular, and I have selected the end of the Antonine period as a suitable place to break off to discuss the provinces in three chapters. The Late Empire, when provincial cities were as important as the capital, draws all the threads together and is a fitting subject for the last chapter. Rather than constantly interrupting the narrative with explanations about materials and techniques I have devoted a separate chapter to these matters. I was also aware that a purely chronological and geographical approach neglects the development of particular buildings, such as theatres, houses and baths. Therefore I have summarised building types in a separate chapter.

My first contact with architectural history was when as an undergraduate I was reading Classics at Cambridge with Dr. Hugh Plommer and Prof. R.M. Cook. I was fortunate to have as my research supervisor Prof. D.E. Strong, whose many perceptive articles on Roman architectural ornament have greatly added to our understanding of the subject. The Director of the British School at Rome, John Ward Perkins, enlarged my knowledge of Roman buildings when I was a Rome Scholar there. I was lucky enough to accompany him on several of his trips around the Roman Campagna, and once to the top of the Pantheon dome. I would also like to mention my former student, Dr. Janet DeLaine of Wolfson College Oxford, whose grasp of engineering principles has saved me from many a pitfall in my chapter on building methods. That chapter also owes a great deal to Prof. Lynne Lancaster of Ohio University, who has read it and offered many useful comments. Another former student of mine, Prof. Andrew Wallace Hadrill, who later became the Master of my Cambridge college, also very kindly read some of the manuscript. Finally I would like to thank the many others, too numerous to mention, who have offered useful help.


This edition is a new one, almost completely rewritten. Much of it was written in the library of the British School at Rome, which prompts me to pay tribute to its librarians, particularly Valerie Scott, who provided a perfect working environment for me. In writing a work of such a historical sweep I am sure I have made many errors. These are of course all my own.





The author and publishers are grateful to the following for their permission to reproduce illustrations in this book: Brockhampton Press (215), Fototeca Unione, Rome (208), and the German Archaeological Institute, Rome (41 and 46). Figures 9, 33, 36, 42, 50, 55, 65, 78, 89, 92, 95, 96, 97, 102, 108, 122, 132, 154, 155, 157 and 189 were all originally drawn by Janet DeLaine, although most have been altered or redrawn for this edition by the author. The remaining illustrations are by the author.

Every effort has been made to contact copyright-holders. Please advise the publisher of any errors or omissions, and these will be corrected in subsequent editions.



1     Republican Rome


Etruria was the area north of Rome, bounded on the south and east by the river Tiber and on the north by the Arno Valley and the Apennines. Its land was very fertile, it was excellent cattle country and its forests abounded in deer and wild boar. Its many lakes, such as Lake Bracciano, and the sea gave good fishing. Perhaps most importantly, it had metal resources: iron, copper, silver, tin and lead. The Etruscans seem to have become dominant in the region by the eighth century bc. Their origins are still unknown, but they were clearly a gifted people. They built road cuttings to improve communications; they were efficient metallurgists and built open-cast mines, shafts and galleries; they were good agriculturalists who understood something of crop rotation; and, they were skilful at building drainage tunnels to prevent their land from flooding. By 750 bc they were making contact with the newly arrived Greeks of Cumae. Soon a number of powerful cities dominated: Caere (Cerveteri), Veii, Tarquinia, Vulci, Volsinii (Bolsena), Clusium (Chiusi), Perusia (Perugia) and Volterra. As these cities grew stronger, they began to expand outside Etruria, establishing the towns of Verona, Mantua and Cremona. By the late seventh century bc there was an Etruscan dynasty ruling Rome, and Etruscan influence began to be felt in Latium, for example at Praeneste (Palestrina). By 600 bc the Etruscans had established Capua, their first colony, and by about 540 bc expanded as far south as Salerno. In 535 bc they allied with the Carthaginians to oust the Greeks from Corsica and in 524 bc they attempted to invade Cumae. However, they were defeated and thereafter Etruscan power in the south declined.

Etruscan temples probably derived from the simple hut form but began to be influenced by Greek architecture in the sixth century bc, when a columnar porch was added in front. Etruscan temples usually rested on a podium and the emphasis was frontal. The back wall was closed and usually there were columns only at the front (Figure 1.1b). To judge by rockcut tombs, especially at Caere, large Etruscan houses had the rooms grouped around a large hall or atrium. The second century bc tomb of the Volumnii at Perusia (Figure 1.2a) had a layout reminiscent of that of a Roman atrium house like the House of the Surgeon at Pompeii (Figure 1.2b), except that it had a staircase leading down into the tomb instead of a doorway and fauces (entrance passage). The main rooms were symmetrically grouped around a hall with a beamed ridged roof, which in a house would be termed a testudinate atrium. Opposite the doorway was the tablinum (reception room) with a coffered ceiling. As for Rome itself, Cicero praises the natural advantages of its site (de Rep. 11). It is only 25 kilometres from the coast, and because of its river combines the advantages of a safe inland position with easy access to the sea (Figure 1.3). The river Tiber, rising in northern Etruria, as well as the river Anio provided easy communications with the centre of Italy. An island in the middle of the Tiber facilitated the crossing, and the hills of Rome, especially the Palatine and Capitoline, offered good natural defence (Figure 1.4).



Figure 1.2  (a) Perusia (Perugia), Tomb of the Volumnii, second century bc: plan. (b) Pompeii, House of the Surgeon, fourth/third century bc, plan.



Figure 1.3  Central Italy showing the position of Rome and the rivers Anio and Tiber: plan. (After M. Grant, The Roman Forum [London: Spring Books, 1974], 31.)


The traditional date for the foundation of Rome is 753 bc, although there were settlements there before that date. The Palatine, a steep naturally defensive hill at the centre of the hills on which Rome is built, has from time immemorial been associated with the legendary foundation of Rome by Romulus. The importance of the foundation legends is that, whether Romulus existed as a historical figure or not, the Romans themselves believed in them and venerated the places associated with them. The story of Romulus became part of folklore, and in the 4th and 3rd centuries bc, following contact with Greece, the Romans began to assimilate the legends of Romulus with those of Troy. The result was that in the minds of the Romans the foundation of their city was one of the turning points of history. As Livy put it: ‘The Fates decreed the founding of this great city, and the beginning of the mightiest Empire next to that of the gods’ (Livy, 1.4.1).

It may be useful here to summarise these legends, which have so much bearing upon the building history of Rome and which shaped the subsequent development of the city. Livy began his history with the flight of Aeneas after the fall of Troy, an event which archaeology places at the beginning of the 12th century bc. Aeneas, whose mother was the goddess Venus, had a son, Ascanius or Iulus, who founded Alba Longa and established a dynasty. Many generations later Rhea Silvia, a daughter of one of the kings of Alba Longa, was ravished by Mars and gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus. The twins were suckled by a she-wolf in a cave (lupercal) at the foot of the Palatine Hill and were found under a fig-tree (ruminal). Romulus, following a quarrel which resulted in the death of his brother Remus, founded Rome. This legend was an axiom of Roman belief and assumed particular importance at the time of Augustus, who, as the adopted son of Julius Caesar, claimed descent from Venus through his familial links with Iulus.

The discovery in 1948 of Iron Age huts on the Palatine Hill confirms the statement of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Ant.Rom. 1.79.11) that one of them still survived in his day (late first century bc) and was constantly kept in repair. The largest of the huts measured 4.90 × 3.60 metres and its floor was excavated into the tufa along with the post-holes. The huts were supported on seven posts, one at each corner and one in the middle of three of the walls. On the fourth side there was an entrance porch, as shown by four smaller post-holes. There was also a post-hole in the middle of the hut, to support the roof. The walls were probably made of reeds and mud, and the roof of thatch. The town was laid out according to religious rites within a sacred boundary, the postmoenium or pomerium (Varro, Ling.Lat. 5.143). The earliest pomerium of Rome seems to have taken in only the Palatine and a generous space around, so that the sacred area was almost a square, perhaps the Roma Quadrata of tradition (Tacitus, Ann. 12.24). Soon walls were built around the base of the hill and later extended to include the Capitoline. The construction of drains began which made the valley bottoms habitable, and under the early kings the city grew to include the Caelian, Velian, Viminal, Quirinal and Esquiline hills. Tradition attributes the Temple of Vesta in the Forum, a circular building perhaps originally a thatched hut where the sacred fire was kept, to the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius (715–674 bc). He is also said to have built the first Regia (royal palace).

The reign of Ancus Marcius (640–616 bc) was of great importance for the early growth of the city, which he expanded to include the Aventine (Livy, 1.33.1–2). He also built the first bridge over the Tiber, the Pons Sublicius, to connect the city to the Janiculum Hill, on the other side of the Tiber (Figure 1.4), which had been annexed, not for expansionary reasons,

Figure 1.4  Rome showing the hills, the Tiber and the roads leading out of the city: plan. (After M. Grant, The Roman Forum [London: Spring Books, 1974], 30.)


but to deny Rome’s enemies a stronghold (Livy, 1.33.6). The bridge was built on wooden piles or sublica, its religious significance reflected in the name of the College of Pontiffs who were in charge of it (pontifex means ‘bridge-builder’). The period around 630 bc marked the beginning of the transformation of the Forum into a public and political area. It was also a period during which public buildings began to be built of more permanent materials. In the period 625–620 bc hut after hut was pulled down and the area which was to become the Forum was levelled and then paved in pebbles.

In the period 616–509 bc Rome was ruled by three Etruscan kings whose military, engineering and architectural achievements raised Rome to be the leading city of Latium. It was also the largest city in central Italy, the ‘great Rome of the Tarquins’.1 Tarquinius Priscus (616–578 bc) began the vital work of dredging the Cloaca stream and its tributaries, which crossed the low-lying, swampy area destined to become the Roman Forum, into a stone-lined culvert. Priscus then apportioned building sites in the Forum (Livy, 1.35.10) and surrounded it with shops and porticoes (Dion.Hal., Ant.Rom. 3.67.4). He marked out the ground for the Circus Maximus and presumably made some provision for drainage there too, as the area is prone to flooding. Retaining walls were built around the Capitoline Hill because of its steepness and it was levelled for the building of a huge temple, but Priscus died before he could begin it (Dion.Hal., Ant.Rom. 3.69.2).

Rome’s population had grown rapidly, and in 578 bc, when Servius Tullius became king, the pomerium was extended to include the Quirinal, Viminal and Esquiline hills. He built a defensive wall around the extended city with an agger (embankment) between the Esquiline and the Quirinal (Dion.Hal., Ant.Rom. 4.13). The substantial remains of tufa walling which can be seen near Rome’s railway station (Figure 1.5) were thought to belong to the Servian Wall, until it was discovered that the blocks were made of Grotta Oscura tufa from Veii, which was available to the Romans only after the fall of Veii in 396 bc. Therefore, the wall must have been built after that date. However, some parts of the wall in the vicinity of the Palatine and Capitoline seem to have incorporated portions of an older circuit in cappellaccio, a material which was available from the seventh century bc. This opens up the possibility that the fourth century bc wall was partly following the course of a sixth century bc wall. Servius Tullius is known to have built a number of temples, one of which, the Temple of Mater Matuta, has been uncovered near the church of St. Omobono in the Forum Boarium (Livy, 5.19.6). It was square in plan (10.30 × 10.30 metres), resting on a tufa podium 1.70 metres high, and had a cella of mud-brick flanked on each side by alae (wings). There were two columns in-antis in front, and the entablature was of wood sheathed in decorated terracotta plaques, exemplifying the richness of temples of this period.

The last Etruscan king, Tarquinius Superbus (534–509 bc), finished many of the projects of his predecessors, completing the Circus Maximus, draining the Forum and uniting the various drains into one enormous sewer, the Cloaca Maxima (Livy, 1.56.2). The drain seems to have still been an open channel in the middle of the second century bc, when the philosopher Crates of Mallus broke his leg falling into it (Suetonius, de gramm. 2.1). The temple of Mater Matuta was burnt in a fire and restored by Tarquinius Superbus, who rebuilt it on a rectangular plan, 13.20 × 11.20 metres, with four columns in the pronaos. The entablature was of wood, with terracotta plaques showing a procession of carriages. In the pediment were two panthers of terracotta and at the angles two sphinxes. The acroterion was an almost life-size terracotta group of Heracles brought to Olympus by an armed female deity, perhaps Athena. The king’s greatest achievement was building the huge Temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva on the Capitoline Hill, the largest Etruscan temple ever built (Figure 1.1a). For this immense project workmen were brought in from all over Etruria and local labourers were conscripted into service. During these works a human head (caput in Latin) was unearthed, showing that ‘here was to be the citadel of the empire and the head of the world’ (Livy, 1.55.5). The dimensions of the temple were astonishing, comparable to those of the truly enormous archaic temples at Ephesus and Samos.2 Built of cappellaccio blocks, it had the typically Etruscan high podium, parts of which still survive under Palazzo dei Conservatori. The remains measure 53.50 × 62 metres with foundations about 8 metres deep, which conforms fairly closely with the description of it given by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Ant.Rom. 4.61.3–4). It had a ground plan more elaborate than that of any surviving temple of the Etruscan type, with the three cellas which Vitruvius prescribes for the Tuscan temple (de Arch. 4.7.1–2), but instead of two rows of four columns in the pronaos it has three rows of six columns, with further columns running down the sides. The temple was of the type called sine postico, with no columns along the back. In 179 bc the columns were coated with a white substance, which may suggest that they were of stone (Livy, 40.51.3), but their spacing suggests that the entablature must have been of wood, probably covered with brightly painted terracotta revetments like those of other Etruscan temples of the period. Vitruvius mentions this temple by name in connection with its heavy statues of terracotta (de Arch. 3.3.5). Its eaves would have been widely spread and the roofline crowned with large-scale terracotta sculptures, such as the enormous clay four-horse chariot made in Veii and mentioned by Plutarch (Publicola, 13). For the central cella, Vulca of Veii was commissioned to make a seated clay statue of Jupiter (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 35.12.45). Superbus probably made himself unpopular by instituting forced labour on his big projects, with the result that, according to a tradition which places the event at about the same time as the Athenians overthrew the Peisistratid tyranny, the Etruscan kings were expelled in 509 bc (Livy, 1.60.3).

Once free of Etruscan control the Romans began to shape their own destinies. The new Roman Republic was governed by elected magistrates and a senate. There was also a popular assembly (comitia) with limited powers. The civic life of the new state was centred on the Forum. The Temple of Jupiter was dedicated in the first year of the Republic (Dion. Hal., Ant.Rom. 5.35.3) and the Temple of Saturn, begun by Superbus, was finished in 497 bc (Livy, 2.21.1–2). The Regia, which had been destroyed by fire, was rebuilt. There was a great flowering of temple architecture in Rome and Etruria in the early fifth century bc, for example, the temples of Mercury (495 bc), Ceres, Liber and Libera on the Aventine (493 bc), Fortuna Muliebris (486 bc) and Castor and Pollux (484 bc), built in honour of the Dioscuri, who appeared on the side of the Romans in the battle of Lake Regillus (496 bc) against the Latin League led by Tarquinius Superbus. These temples had been funded from booty gained after victory (ex manubiis), but at this time Rome started to suffer a number of military defeats. After 484 bc no further building is mentioned in the records until the end of the century, except the Temple of Apollo in 433 bc, which was a special case because it was built following a plague (Livy, 4.25.3).

During the fifth century the Romans won over the Sabines, and their chief, Attus Clausus, became head of a new gens, Claudia, and Latinised his name to Claudius. They drove back the neighbouring Volsci and the Aequi, and in 405 bc entered into a war with the Etruscans aimed at their subjugation. In 396 bc after a ten-year siege the dictator Marcus Furius Camillus captured Veii, the first Etruscan city to fall to the Romans. He celebrated his victory with a triumphal military parade along the road from Veii to Rome, later called the Via Triumphalis. There was, however, a great setback in 391 bc when a large force of Gauls invaded Etruria and defeated a Roman force sent out to meet them. They captured and sacked Rome in 386 bc, withdrawing only when the Romans had paid them a ransom in gold. Archaeological evidence does not suggest major destruction to monuments such as the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, the Forum or the Comitium (place of popular assembly). Livy’s description suggests that houses were the Gauls’ main target (Livy, 5.55). After the withdrawal of the Gauls, the inhabitants, who had fled at their approach, slowly returned to their damaged city and began rebuilding at once (Livy, 6.4.6), aided by a grant of free tiles. The layout of the city was haphazard, probably because the streets were unplanned before the invasion. People simply reclaimed their land and built on the same plots.

The next essential was to fortify the city against future attack. In 378 bc money was levied to build a new wall circuit and the censors contracted for it (Livy, 6.32.1), the first recorded contract let out by the censors. This remarkable project involved an enormous circuit, 11 kilometres long, which enclosed an area of 426 hectares, making Rome the largest city in Italy (Figure 1.4). The ‘Servian Wall’, laid in uniform blocks of Grotta Oscura tufa, measuring 0.59 × 0.59 × 1.77 metres, was punctuated by towers (Livy, 7.20.9; 22.8.6–7; 26.55.8). Wherever possible it followed defensive features, mostly the edges of the hills, but along a flat section on the Esquiline, a sloping embankment (agger), 42 metres wide, had to be built for a distance of 1,350 metres. It was contained between an outer wall, about 10 metres high and an inner one, 2.6 metres high. The best-preserved portion of the wall, in front of Rome’s main railway station, is 94 metres long and preserved to a height of 17 courses, or ten metres (Figure 1.5). An examination of this section reveals that it was built entirely of tufa blocks laid alternately in headers and stretchers and had a total thickness of nearly 4 metres. The blocks bear masons’ marks using the rectilinear letters of the Greek alphabet, the closest analogies of which are fortification blocks in Sicily or south Italy.

Seeking to establish a buffer against any future enemy attack, Rome formally assumed leadership of her Latin allies (358 bc), but in 341 bc the great Latin war broke out, in which

Figure 1.5  Rome, so-called Servian Wall, c. 378 bc.

Rome defeated the Latin forces at Antium (Anzio) and dissolved the Latin League (338 bc). Between 343 and 290 bc Rome was also involved in three wars with the Samnites, who occupied the mountainous area to the SE, in which Rome ultimately triumphed. Meanwhile the Etruscans had resumed hostilities, but by 351 bc Rome had overrun Falerii Veteres (Civita Castellana) and Tarquinia. The other Etruscan cities one by one met the same fate, with the result that by the beginning of the third century bc Rome dominated central Italy. As her power spread over Italy Rome consolidated her conquests by a network of colonies and garrisons defended by imposing fortifications. Some were for coastal defence, such as Ostia (mid fourth century bc), Pyrgi (third century bc) and Minturnae (296 bc), all surrounded by rectangular walls. Others were on the coastal plains, for example Ardea (c. 300 bc), with walls built of square tufa blocks, in a style similar to that of the co-called Servian Wall of Rome, or in the hills, where the walls were built of well-cut polygonal work. Examples of the latter include Arpinum with walls of polygonal masonry and a corbelled gateway (Figure 1.6); Circeii with fortifications composed of big polygonal blocks (393 bc); Norba (second half of fourth century bc) with walls built of beautifully fitting polygonal work; and the enormous citadel of Alatrium (late third century bc) built of huge polygonal blocks with a big lintelled gateway. The citadel of Ferentinum (mid second century bc), built on a terrace measuring 165 × 80 metres, changes as it rises from polygonal work to limestone opus quadratum and finally to smaller blocks of peperino (Figure 1.7). Near the top is a row of small arched windows lighting a cryptoporticus (covered passage) behind, and below them is a long inscription indicating that the citadel was built by the censors Aulus Hirtius and Marcus Lollius.


Figure 1.6  Arpinum, polygonal walls and corbelled gate, c. 300 bc.

Figure 1.7  Ferentinum (Ferentino), the citadel, mid second century bc.

The Romans also established colonies to keep watch over recently conquered territory. Two colonial cities are of particular importance, Cosa and Paestum, both established in 273 bc. Cosa, north of Rome, is built on the plain and surrounded by 2 kilometres of well-cut polygonal walls. On the highest points, one to the north and one to the south, are situated the most important temples. The higher point is dominated by the Capitolium (c. 175–150 bc), which in style must have been similar to the old Etruscan temples with its high podium, three cellas and deep tetrastyle pronaos taking up approximately half the area of the stylobate (Figure 1.8). The roofline too must have been reminiscent of Etruscan temples with rich terracotta revetments and overhanging eaves. By the second century bc the long, rectangular forum seems to have been completely surrounded by buildings, the most important being the group on the NE side (Figure 1.9). The circular comitium surrounded by steps/seats seems to date from the earliest building period (c. 270–250 bc). Behind the comitium is a rectangular building which has been identified as the curia or senate-house. Access to it was by way of the steps/seats of the comitium, an arrangement which may have imitated that in Rome. The other important colonial city is Paestum, a refoundation of the old Greek city of Poseidonia in south Italy. It was surrounded by a wall circuit of squared limestone blocks, and a circular building similar to that at Cosa has been found facing a rectangular forum, perhaps also a comitium. Next to it was a temple with an Italo-Etruscan ground-plan. It had a high podium, steps at the front and a deep columnar porch. The columns also ran along the sides of its single cella but not around the back. It is thought to have been built shortly after the foundation of the colony, but remodelled about 100 bc with unorthodox Corinthian capitals supporting a Doric entablature.


Figure 1.9  Cosa (Ansedonia), buildings on the north side of the forum as they appeared in the late

second century bc, plan. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

Roads were one of the greatest building achievements of the Romans (Strabo, Geo. 5.3.8). A number of local roads, whose origins are largely unknown, led out of Rome in all directions (Figure 1.4). One of the oldest of these, the Via Salaria, was the old salt road (sal = salt) used by the Sabines from early times. It ran to Fidenae and was later extended across the Apennines to Asculum (Ascoli Piceno). Another was the Tiburtina which linked Rome and Tibur (Tivoli). It was extended by the censor M. Valerius Maximus in 308 bc as the Via Valeria, and again by Claudius as far as Aternum (Pescara) on the Adriatic. The Via Praenestina originally ran to Gabii but was later extended to Praeneste (Palestrina). Other early roads followed Rome’s military expansion throughout Italy, such as the Via Latina, probably built in the course of the second Samnite war to connect Rome with Cales (Calvi Risorta), the first colony to be founded after the great Latin war (334 bc).

Other roads bore the names of the magistrates who built them, such as the Via Flaminia, begun by the censor C. Flaminius in 220 bc, which eventually reached Ariminum (Rimini). The most famous road of all was the Via Appia, ‘the queen of the long roads’ (Statius, Silv. 2.2.12). Because the censor Appius Claudius Caecus had to cut through hills and fill ravines the road consumed the entire revenue of the state, but ‘he left behind an immortal monument to himself’ (Diodorus Siculus, 20.36.4). Begun in 312 bc (Livy, 9.29.5), it was at first a gravel road, but eventually it had camber and drainage ditches on each side and was paved in large, well-fitting polygonal blocks of basalt, which are still partly visible along its first few kilometres out of Rome (Figure 1.10). At first it ran as far as Capua, but it soon became the principal route to south Italy and was extended to Beneventum (Benevento) and then to Brundisium (Brindisi) in 264 bc. Roman roads, notable for their straightness, ran through cuttings and tunnels and over bridges and viaducts, the longest of which, 31 kilometres long, was built for the Via Appia across the Pontine marshes. Eventually 29 roads radiated from Rome, including the Via Aurelia to Genua (Genoa), probably the work of the censor C. Aurelius Cotta (241 bc); the Cassia to Luna (Carrara), where it joined the Aurelia; and the Flaminia which crossed the river Nera at Narnia (Narni) by the largest Roman bridge ever built.

In 312 bc the first aqueduct, the Aqua Appia, was built by the same Appius Claudius Caecer who built the Via Appia (Livy, 9.29.6). It brought water through an underground

Figure 1.10  Rome, Via Appia, 312 bc onwards: the first few kilometres of the road.


Republican Rome Part 02 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Republican Rome Part 02 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

conduit from a point between the eighth and ninth milestones on the Via Praenestina to the Aventine. It entered the city near the locality called ad spem veteran, which is close to the later Porta Praenestina (Porta Maggiore), one of the highest points of the city. It then ran across the Caelian and Aventine hills to its termination near Porta Trigemina in the Forum Boarium, where local distribution began. The second aqueduct was the Anio Vetus built by the censor Manius Curius Dentatus in 272 bc. With a capacity of 176,000 cubic meters a day at the intake, it brought water from the river Anio at a point between Vicovaro and Mandela, 64 kilometers away. It entered the city in the same place as the Aqua Claudia and crossed the Esquiline in an underground conduit to terminate near where Rome’s main railway station (Stazione Termini) now stands. The water it delivered was not rated very highly at the time of Frontinus, Nerva’s water commissioner (curator aquarium), and it was recommended only for watering gardens and ‘dirty uses’ (Frontinus, de Aquis 2.92).

By the mid-second century bc, these two aqueducts did not supply enough water for Rome’s burgeoning population. Besides, the Aqua Appia and Anio Vetus had started to leak and water was being diverted from them before they reached the city. It is interesting to note that at the end of the first-century ad Frontinus measured the Aqua Appia and found that its capacity was 1,825 quinacrine, the equivalent of about 73,000 cubic meters a day, but it was discharging only 704 quinacrine or 28,000 cubic meters (Frontinus, de Aquis 2.65). As a result, an even bigger aqueduct, the remarkable Aqua Marcia, had to be built at great expense by the praetor, Q. Marcius Rex, in 144–140 bc. Its source was the river Anio at a point upstream of the Anio Vetus. It was carried in an underground channel, and for 11 kilometers on heavy arches, over a total distance of 91.3 kilometers (Frontinus, de Aquis 1.7), making it the longest aqueduct supplying Rome. It entered the city at the same place as the earlier aqueducts and ran along the course of the later Aurelianic wall to Porta Tiburtina. From there it arrived at the point where Stazione Termini now stands and split into several branches, one of which went as far as the Capitol. Its capacity was 187,600 cubic meters (Frontinus, de Aquis 2.67, 81), and its water was considered to be of high quality (Vitruvius, de Arch. 8.3.1; Pliny, Nat.Hist. 31.24.41). Martial says its waters were so clear as to be invisible (Epigr. 6.42). The last Republican aqueduct (125 bc), called the Aqua Tepula because its waters were so warm, brought water from near Marino in the Alban hills and had a capacity of only 17,800 cubic metres.

An inscription of ad 365–366 lists 13 bridges over the Tiber, which means that Rome had more river crossings than any other city in the world at that time. The Pons Aemilius, probably the oldest stone bridge, stood a little upstream from the wooden Pons Sublicius. It has been connected with the opening of the Via Aurelia, which may have taken place in 241 bc. However, the first reference to it states that the pylons were built in 179 bc by the censor M. Fulvius Nobilior and the arches by the censors Publius Scipio Africanus and Lucius Mummius in 142 bc (Livy, 40.51.4). It crossed the river just after the island at a point where the stream becomes a little wider. The next bridge, the Pons Mulvius, carried the Via Flaminia across a bend in the Tiber, 5 kilometres to the north. It probably dates to about 220 bc, when the road was built (Livy, Periocha, 20), and it certainly existed in 206 bc (Livy, 27.51), but the censor M. Aemilius Scaurus replaced it in 109 bc with the present six-arch stone bridge, 132 metres long. In 62 bc the Pons Fabricius was built by L. Fabricius, the roads commissioner (curator viarum), as inscriptions over each arch affirm (Figure 1.11). An elegant bridge, it was built to link the southern Campus Martius with the island. It has two arches, each 24.5 metres wide, with pilasters flanking a smaller flood arch, 6 metres wide, over the abutment in the middle. Faced in brick in 1679, it was originally faced in travertine, which survives only over the arches and in the pilasters. Inscriptions on each side above

Figure 1.11  Rome, Pons Fabricius, 62 bc.

the central arch affirm that its solidity had been tested by Fabricius, and further inscriptions record that it had been tested again by M. Lollius and Q. Lepidus, the consuls of 21 bc, who probably had to repair it after the flood of 23/22 bc. The Pons Cestius was built to link the island with Transtiberim (Trastevere), the plain between the Janiculum and the river, either by C. Cestius, who was praetor in 44 bc, or L. Cestius, who was praetor the following year. It was 48.4 metres long and originally had a single depressed arch in the middle and two smaller flood arches at the sides. In 1888 it was partly demolished; the smaller arches were replaced by larger arches and the central one was rebuilt.

Corbelled gateways, such as the late fourth century bc gate at Arpinum (Figure 1.6), have a long history dating back to before the Mycenaeans. They do not embody the principle of the true arch, but instead consist of horizontal courses of stone, each corbelled out a little further than the last.3 The true arch was said by Seneca (Epist. 90, 32) to have been invented by Democritus at the end of the fifth century bc. The oldest arched gate in Italy is the Porta Rosa at Velia, which seems to date to the mid fourth century bc. The gate at Falerii Novi (c. 240 bc), composed of well-cut voussoirs with a hood moulding running around the top, shows how quickly the Romans grasped the potential of the arch (Figure 1.12). Other early examples include the Porta Marzia and the so-called Arch of Augustus with its double voussoirs, both at Perusia (Perugia); the gates at Volaterrae (Volterra) and Cosa; and the twin-arched gateway, the Porta dei Leoni at Verona, in its original first century bc form. The arched emissary of the Cloaca Maxima, also belonging to the first century bc, has triple voussoirs. Arches with voussoirs cut to bind into the wall surface became common by the time of Augustus.

Roman concrete evolved during the third and second centuries bc. Early examples are mortared rubble, such as, for example, in the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii (mid third

Figure 1.12  Falerii Novi (S. Maria di Falleri), gate, c. 240 bc.

century bc), and behind the polygonal walls of Alba Fucens (303–302 bc). Some early Pompeian walls consist of rows of orthostates with smaller rough stones between and a cement/rubble core, a system developed by the Carthaginians in North Africa and called opus africanum. During the second century bc concrete was faced with irregular stones, usually of tufa, a system called opus incertum (Figures 4.6 and 4.7). It was soon used in large-scale projects like the Porticus Aemilia (Figure 1.13), built in 193 bc (Livy, 35.10.12) and restored in 174 bc (Livy, 41.27.8).4 By the last decades of the second century bc a more regular facing began to be used, opus quasi-reticulatum, with squarer stones laid along diagonal joints. Concrete facings may have developed faster in the late second century bc to provide buildings for a rapidly growing population. Rome’s population may have been about 300,000 by 125 bc , which explains the need for better sewerage and water supply. It is thought to have reached a maximum of 440,000 at its peak.5

The Roman Forum contained buildings whose ancestry goes back to remote antiquity (Figure 1.14). The circular Temple of Vesta was perhaps first built at the time of Rome’s second king, Numa Pompilius (715–673 bc). In it the sacred flame was tended by the Vestal Virgins and the Palladium, the wooden statue of Pallas Athena brought from Troy by Aeneas, was kept there (Ovid, Tr. 3.1.29). Nearby was the frequently rebuilt atrium Vestae, where the Vestals lived. Close to the atrium Vestae and also said to go back to the time of Numa is the Regia (royal palace), a building sacred to Mars where the Pontifex Maximus and the College of Pontiffs met. The most important Republican temples in the Forum were the Temple of Saturn, dedicated in 497 bc; the Temple of Castor and Pollux, vowed in 496 bc; and the Temple of Concord, which was said to have been vowed by L. Furius Camillus in 367 bc at a time of unrest when the plebeians wanted to elect a consul from their own ranks (Ovid, Fast. I.641–644; Plutarch, Cam. 42).


Figure 1.13  Rome, Porticus Aemilia, 193 bc, restored in 174 bc: axonometric plan. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

Figure 1.14  Rome, The Forum in the second century bc: plan.

Opening off the north side of the Forum was a smaller square dominated by the Curia Hostilia (the old senate-house) called after Tullus Hostilius, a seventh century bc king. It had been a meeting place of the senate from a very early date. The area in front of the curia was the comitium dominated by the rostra (speakers’ platform), called after the ships’ prows that were hung there after the Battle of Antium in 338 bc. The comitium was reconstructed in 263 bc, perhaps as a circle surrounded by steps/seats which gave access to the curia, like the comitia at Paestum and Cosa (Figure 1.9). There are some clues as to the shape of the Roman comitium and its relationship with the Curia Hostilia. Midday was announced by an official standing in front of the senate-house when he could see the sun between the Rostra and the Graecostasis (a platform from which foreign ambassadors, mainly Greek, addressed the senate). The final hour of the day was announced when the sun sloped from the Maenian column to the prison (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 7.60.212). As the positions of the Rostra and the prison are known, the location of the Curia Hostilia can be worked out (Figure 1.14). Business and law were at first conducted in atria and around the prison (carcer) area. Only one atrium survived, on the site where the Temple of Divus Julius was later built, the Atrium Regium, which may have acted as a vestibule to the house of the high priest, called Rex Sacrorum, which formed part of the Regia (Figure 3.5). It was perhaps analogous to the vestibules of Hellenistic royal palaces (aulai basilikai) where the kings conducted public affairs. The Atrium Regium was rebuilt after the fire of 210 bc, and an attempt has been made to identify it as the basilica which Plautus mentions (Curc. 472), at a time when, according to Livy, there were no basilicas (Livy, 26.27.2–5).6 The nearby Lapis Niger is an area measuring 3 × 4 metres paved with the black marble slabs which give it its name. Underneath is a U-shaped altar, a truncated cone of tufa and a block of Grotta Oscura tufa inscribed on all four faces using an alphabet of the seventh or sixth centuries bc. It was thought to have been a burial place, either of Romulus or Faustulus the shepherd, but no burial has been found. Another theory is that it was a boundary stone of the comitium.

The Etruscans built the first shops (tabernae) in the Forum. These shops, called the Tabernae Lanienae, were used from Etruscan times for the sale of all sorts of goods, especially meat. In 310 bc the butchers were confined to the south side of the Forum, while bankers and brokers (argentarii) had their shops on the north side (Livy, 9.40.16). The Tabernae Argentariae were destroyed in the fire of 210 bc and when rebuilt in 193 bc were usually called the Argentariae or Tabernae Novae (new shops). The tabernae on the south side of the Forum were often called Tabernae Veteres (old shops) and the two names were regularly used to designate the north and south sides of the Forum. There were galleries over the tabernae which were used as viewing places for the games which were held in the middle of the Forum. They were called maeniana after C. Maenius, the victor in the Battle of Antium (338 bc). On the north side of the Forum, near the later temple of Antoninus and Faustina (Figure 3.2), was the Forum Piscarium or Piscatorium built probably in order to remove the fish shops from the middle of the Forum. It burnt in the fire of 210 bc, and in the rebuilding the following year a macellum is mentioned (Livy, 27.11.16). This seems to be a new type of building which in its later manifestations consisted of a circular kiosk for the sale of meat or fish within a square or rectangular colonnaded enclosure containing shops. At Ferentinum (Ferentino) a remarkable shopping arcade, built entirely of concrete and dating to c. 100 bc, contains five barrel-vaulted shops opening off a concourse (Figure 1.15). In many ways it foreshadows on a small scale the enormous market complex built in Rome by Trajan in the early second century ad.

Many temples were built close to the triumphal route (Via Triumphalis), and no less than 18 out of 30 victory monuments were erected there.7 Triumphs were held in honour of victorious generals and the processions followed a more or less set route through Rome.

Figure 1.15  Ferentinum (Ferentino), shopping arcade, c. 100 bc.

The troops were probably massed in the Circus Flaminius, a vast open area in front of the Porticus of Octavia in the Campus Martius. The procession then entered the city, passed through the Forum Boarium and sometimes skirted the Velabrum, as we know because, on the day of his Gallic triumph, Caesar’s chariot broke an axle there (Suet., Caes. 79.2). It continued through the Circus Maximus (Plutarch, Aem.Paul. 32.1). The route must then have led along the valley towards the Colosseum, entering the Forum where the Arch of Titus now stands. The exact route along the Sacred Way is in dispute, but it certainly passed the curia because Caesar was angry when a tribune did not rise as he passed near it in his triumphal procession (Suet., Caes. 79.2). It then passed the prison, where captives were dropped off for execution (Josephus, BJ. 7.5.6; Cicero, Verr. 2.5, 77), finishing at the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. The third century bc was a time of frenetic public building by those celebrating triumphs, especially during the Second Punic War (218–201 bc). The temples not on the Via Triumphalis were either erected on sites dedicated to a certain god a long time ago, or at a crossroads, or at a place where the family had erected monuments earlier.

Close to the Curia Hostilia stood the first basilica, the Basilica Porcia (Figure 1.14), built by the censor M. Porcius Cato in 184 bc (Livy, 39.44.6). The Basilica Fulvia/Aemilia, built in 179 bc by the censor M. Fulvius Nobilior and completed by his colleague, M. Aemilius Lepidus, and the Basilica Sempronia built in 170 bc by T. Sempronius Gracchus, the father of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, occupied respectively the north and south sides of the Forum, giving it the shape of a long, tapering rectangle. A fourth basilica, the Opimia, was built next to the Temple of Concord, probably when L. Opimius rebuilt the temple in 121 bc. The basilica was used both as an exchange for businessmen and to accommodate the law courts.

According to Vitruvius (de Arch. 5.1.4–10) there were two types of basilica, one with two tiers of columns, the lower one supporting the upper storey of the aisles, the other with a single giant order of columns which carried the upper floor on brackets half-way up their shafts. The latter was the type found at Pompeii as well as in the basilica at Fanum which Vitruvius himself designed. There are indications that magistrates started holding their courts in basilicas, because tribunals appear in the basilicas at Pompeii and Alba Fucens, and Vitruvius mentions them in connection with his basilica at Fanum (de Arch. 5.1.7). In the case of the basilica at Pompeii (see Figure 6.4), the tribunal is at the end of the long axis of the building, and its short side faces the Forum. The Basilica Sempronia and the Basilica Fulvia/Aemilia, on the other hand, have their long sides facing the Forum.

After it was rebuilt following the Gallic invasion of 390 bc, Rome was still a city of tortuous alleys and tall, dingy apartment blocks. Livy tells the story of an ox falling from the third floor of an apartment building in the Forum Boarium in 218 bc (Livy, 21.62.3) and in 191 bc two tame oxen reached the roof of another block (Livy, 36.37.2). The house of the Scipio family is described as being behind the butchers’ shops on the south side of the forum, on the site later occupied by the Basilica Sempronia (Livy, 44.16.10). Temples still had a wooden superstructure covered in painted terracotta and the heavy overhanging eaves of their Etruscan antecedents. Certainly Rome of the third century bc was not ‘a gladdening or a reassuring sight’ (Plutarch, Marc. 21). Even in the early second century bc it must have been a most unprepossessing place, to judge by remarks made by members of the court of the Macedonian king, Philip V, who despised the city for its lack of adornment either in public or private places (Livy, 40.5.7). Cicero imagined the Campanians laughing at the situation of Rome situated between hills and valleys, with its garrets, poor roads and narrow alleys, compared with Capua which was beautifully laid out on an open plain (Cicero, de lege agr. 2.96).

However, change was in the air. In the course of their expansion the Romans came into contact with the sophisticated centres of Hellenistic culture. At that time most Roman generals were little more than looters, but the works of art they brought back with them slowly shaped the taste of generations to come. Rome was allied with Syracuse during the First Punic War (264–241 bc) and there are examples of a purer handling of the Greek orders, such as the sarcophagus of L. Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, now in the Vatican Museum. Dating to after 250 bc, it was probably inspired by Sicilian models, with its Hellenistic combination of Doric triglyph frieze and Ionic dentillated cornice. According to Livy, the fall of Syracuse in 211 bc marked the beginning of Roman admiration for Greek works of art (Livy, 25.40.1–3). Referring to the Roman general Marcellus, he says that he ‘carried away to Rome the adornments of the city, the statues and paintings which Syracuse possessed in abundance … from that came the very beginning of enthusiasm for Greek works of art and consequently licence for this general to despoil all kinds of buildings, sacred and profane’. Marcellus for his part declared that ‘he had taught the ignorant Romans to admire and honour the wonderful and beautiful productions of Greece’ (Plutarch, Marc. 21).

In the critical last years of the Second Punic War (218–201 bc) the Sibylline books advised the Romans to bring the ‘Mother’ to Rome. This was taken to mean the Great (‘Megale’ in Greek) Mother, Cybele, and ambassadors were sent to Pessinus in Asia Minor, then ruled by the Attalids, to request her image, an aniconic silver statue with a piece of black stone instead of a face. It was brought to Rome in 205 bc and in the following year the censors began building a Temple of Cybele on the Palatine. As Cybele was the protectress of Aeneas, the site chosen was particularly hallowed, next to the Temple of Victory and close to the ‘Hut of Romulus’. The Temple of Cybele was not finished until 191 bc, but the Ludi Megalenses began in 194 bc before the temple was finished, using its steps as a viewing place for the games. In the SW corner of the podium are traces of the original structure in squared blocks (opus quadratum). The conquest of Asia in 188 bc brought further change to Rome. ‘The beginnings of foreign luxury were introduced into the city by the army from Asia’ (Livy, 39.6.7). The victory also put an end to wooden or terracotta statues in Roman temples (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 34.16.34). However, despite the great influence of Greek art and architecture during the second century bc, the ruling class still lived austerely and many of them regarded Greek ways as frivolous. The classic example was Cato the Elder, who detested Greek luxury and called for a return to traditional Roman values. In 195 bc he said that he feared the consequences of bringing statues from Syracuse. He had heard too many people praising and marvelling at the artistic achievements of Corinth and Athens while laughing at the terracotta images in Roman temples (Livy, 34.4.1–4).

The praetor Q. Caecilius Metellus defeated the Macedonians in the Fourth Macedonian War (148 bc). In 146 bc Greece became a Roman province following the capture of Corinth by the consul L. Mummius, who then razed the city to the ground. Later Romans looked back with shame at this action and the boorishness of Mummius. According to Velleius Paterculus (1.13.4),

Mummius was so uncultivated that after the capture of Corinth while he was contracting for the transportation to Italy of paintings and statues, which were masterpieces by the greatest artists, he warned the contractors that if they lost any of the statues and paintings they would have to replace them with new ones.

Not all Romans were so tasteless. In 143 bc, as consul Metellus built the first marble temple in Rome, the Temple of Jupiter Stator designed by Hermodorus of Salamis, one of the first Greek architects to work in Rome (Vitruvius, de Arch. 3.2.5). He enclosed it along with the temple of Juno Regina in the Porticus Metelli, which was embellished with a group of equestrian statues by Lysippus (Velleius Paterculus, 1.11.3–5).

The circular temple of Hercules Victor (later second century bc) in the Forum Boarium was built of Pentelic marble (Figure 1.16). It has a stepped krepidoma, a cella with drafted marble walling and Corinthian columns of Pentelic marble from Greece. This was a period of intense Hellenization in Rome and compared to the old temples, these buildings must have been as surprising in second century bc Rome, as was the Palladian architecture which Inigo Jones introduced to early 17th century London. However, in a pattern which was to become familiar, Roman architects quickly assimilated the new style and soon temples were built combining an Italic layout and Hellenistic architectural detail. Examples include the temple of the Sibyl at Tibur, a circular temple with a typically Italic high podium and walls of opus incertum (Figure 1.17). The famous Corinthian capitals, copied by Sir John Soane in ‘Tivoli corner’ of the Bank of England in London, show a distinct south Italian influence with their lush, shaggy leaves, corkscrew volutes and a large flower on the upper part of the bell. Another example is the temple of Portunus in the Forum Boarium at Rome, a typically Italic prostyle temple, but using a purely Hellenistic Ionic order (Figure 1.16). It may be noted that the order continues around the sides and back of the temple in the form of attached half-columns, a system known as pseudo-peripteral. Another prostyle temple, this time using a Hellenistic Doric order, is the temple of Hercules at Cora (Cori) near Rome (Figure 1.18).

The sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia at Praeneste (Palestrina), one of the most important in Latium, was totally rebuilt in the late second century bc (Figure 1.19). A magnificent piece of late Republican architecture, it exemplifies Roman skill at adapting a building of Hellenistic type to Roman needs and building it with Roman materials. The enormous

Figure 1.16  Rome, Temple of Hercules Victor, c. 120 bc (left) and Temple of Portunus, late second century bc (right).

Figure 1.17  Tibur (Tivoli), Temple of the Sibyl, early first century bc.

Figure 1.18  Cora (Cori), Temple of Hercules, c. 100 bc.

Figure 1.19  Praeneste (Palestrina), Temple of Fortuna Primigenia, late second century bc: axonometric plan. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)


complex was built against a steep hillside which commands striking views across the plains below. In terms of planning, the problem was to unite into a single complex the two centres of the cult, the temple of Fortuna, where the olive tree exuded honey, and the statue of the infants Jupiter and Juno being suckled by Fortuna, which stood next to the place where the lots were drawn by a young boy (Cicero, de divin. 2.41). Both were of great importance, but uniting them in a single symmetrical complex required great ingenuity in terms of planning. The solution was an elaborate complex built on a series of linked terraces, culminating in the temple at the top. A double ramp led up to the first main terrace of the sanctuary. Here the statue of Jupiter and Juno and the place where the lots were drawn were marked by a hemicycle of columns (Figure 1.20), but as the spot had to be several metres to the east of the main axis of the sanctuary a similar hemicycle had to be built on the west side of the terrace for the sake of symmetry. The place where the lots were drawn was a monopteros of seven Corinthian columns standing on a podium capped by a triglyph frieze. The upper part of the sanctuary which focusses upon the temple of Fortuna consists of a vast terrace closed on three sides by a double colonnade of Corinthian columns and a hemicycle of steps/seats which form a theatre cavea, 59 metres in diameter. Around the top of the cavea runs another double row of Corinthian columns and behind is the circular temple itself. The inspiration for the complex was probably the great terraced sanctuaries such as those at Lindos and Cos, although at Praeneste only the columns and parts of the facade are of stone while most of the substructures are of concrete faced in opus incertum. There were other large sanctuaries in the vicinity, including the mid-first century bc Sanctuary of Hercules at Tivoli, with concrete Tuscan porticoes flanking the temple (Figure 1.21). Mention should also be made of the

Figure 1.20  Praeneste (Palestrina), Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia, late second century bc, one of the two hemicycles with Ionic columns supporting a coffered concrete barrel-vault.

Figure 1.21  Tibur (Tivoli), Sanctuary of Hercules, c. 50 bc: detail of the arcade flanking the temple


spectacularly situated Temple of Jupiter Anxur at Tarracina (Terracina), built on a flat terrace buttressed by a vaulted concrete cryptoporticus.

During the second century bc the great families still continued to build large houses (domus), although styles were beginning to change. Contact with the Hellenistic east resulted in a remarkable transformation of the somewhat austere atrium house through the adoption of the peristyle, a pleasant open space enclosed within colonnades. Although the peristyle was a much admired feature of Hellenistic houses at Rhodes, Delos and Priene, in Italy it did not supplant the atrium. Instead it was usually added behind it, as in the House of the Painted Capitals at Pompeii (Figure 2.5), and whereas the area enclosed by the Greek peristyle was paved or covered with mosaic the Romans preferred to plant it as a garden (viridarium) (Figure 6.6). The peaceful peristyle surrounded by summerhouses (diaetae), reception rooms (oeci), summer dining rooms (triclinia aestiva), libraries (bibliothecae) and small baths (balnea) soon became an oasis of seclusion. These new houses maintained the tradition of admitting a host of visitors to the atrium, but they could only glimpse the rest of the house which was partly concealed by folding doors and curtains. The fact that few were admitted to the peristyle affirmed the distinction between work and leisure.8 The Romans also built large villas in the countryside, the hills or along the coast, largely to escape the heat of summer. They range from large luxury villas to farms, and everything in between. Many large villas were built in the late Republic and extended in the first century ad, such as the enormous Villa of Poppaea at Oplontis and the extensive villas of Stabiae (Castellammare). Tivoli was also a prestigious place to build a terraced villa, preferably with views of Rome in the distance.

The first century bc was a period of connoisseurship and great wealth for a small number of individuals. Cicero himself was an avid collector and had villas at Tusculum, Pompeii and Arpinum, his birth-place (Cicero, Att. 2.1.11). Sometimes he spent enormous sums to acquire works of art and often talked of other rich men’s villas, which were filled with Greek and Hellenistic art-works. Famous Greek sculptures were on also on public display in Rome, although they caused great distress to Greek visitors. Cicero speaks of ambassadors from Greece and Asia Minor weeping as they looked at their own gods in the Roman Forum (Cicero, Verr. 2.1.59). The first century bc was a time when connoisseurs came to realise that the supply of Greek masterpieces was not inexhaustible and copies of Greek originals came under heavy demand. For a century or more victorious generals had brought foreign sculptors back with them. The immensely wealthy Lucullus brought over an artist called Arcesilaus, while Mark Antony and Cicero patronised a Greek sculptor called Evander who set up a shop in Rome. Evander was probably part of a group of neo-Attic sculptors who specialised in copying classical Greek statuary for the Roman art market in the first century bc. Another well-known artist of the period was Pasiteles, a Greek from south Italy who came to live in Rome.

Theatres are the last category of buildings to be discussed in this chapter because it was not until 55 bc that the first stone theatre in Rome was inaugurated. Temporary theatres had been put up for the games (ludi) since 240 bc and were closely connected with sanctuaries.9 The games were religious festivals and included plays (ludi scaenici). Both the seating and stage were temporary, presumably built of wood, and had to be pulled down when the festival was over because there was strong senatorial opposition to theatre building. For example, in 154 bc the senate ordered a theatre to be demolished on the grounds that it would be injurious to public morals (Livy, Periocha 48.25). In the Republican period buildings, especially theatres and amphitheatres, were constructed either by the censors from money (pecunia censoria) allocated to them by the senate (Polybius, 6.13.3) or by the aediles, as part of their cura urbis, their duty to look after public and private buildings and also to stage the games (Varro, Ling.Lat. 5.81). Unfortunately, although the censors had great authority they were amateurs without any advisory staff and could be misled by unreliable contractors.10 The censor as locator let out the contracts and performed the inspection (probatio), and if the project was lengthy a request was made for the term of office to be extended to 18 months (Livy, 45.15.9). It is important here to note the restrictive nature of Republican magistracies, which indicates that they would not have been able to cope with great Imperial projects. Despite senatorial disapproval of them, temporary theatres became very lavish by the first century bc. The painted scenery in the theatre of Claudius Pulcher (99 bc) was so realistic that crows flew towards the roof tiles represented on the scenery, thinking they were real (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 35.7.23). Soon revolving stages appeared, actors wore exquisite costumes, channels of water cooled the spectators and awnings shaded them from the sun (Valerius Maximus, 2.4.6). Finally, in 63 bc Valerius of Ostia roofed an entire theatre (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.24.102–103). However, the most magnificent temporary theatre was that built by Marcus Scaurus in 58 bc. Its lowest storey was of marble, the middle one of glass, and the top storey of gilded planks. Pliny, with mounting disapproval, describes it: ‘Even the madness [of Caligula and Nero] was outdone by the resources of a private individual, Marcus Scaurus, whose aedileship may perhaps have done more than anything to undermine morality’ (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 36.24.113–115). These extraordinary structures were just a prelude to the magnificence which was to follow.





Fort and Palace Architecture

Fort and Palace Architecture

Fort and Palace Architecture

There are many references to forts and fortifications in ancient and medieval literature dating from the Vedic times. In the Ṛgveda, the word pur refers to a large settlement that was protected by fortifications or other means.

The Aitareya Brāhmaṇa refers to the three Agnis (fires) as three forts that prevent the asuras (demons) from disturbing the sacrifice.

Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra gives a detailed account of an ideal fortified city. Durg is the Indian term for ‘fort’, and means ‘difficult to trespass’, signifying the importance of a strategic site, a strong wall, and a moat to make it an impregnable bastion.

There are six types of forts: the dhania durg (desert fort), the Mahi durg (the mud fort), the jala durg (the water fort), the girl durg (hill fort), the vṛkṣa or vana durg (the forest fort) and the Nara Durg (fort protected by men).

India is dotted with forts built by various rulers, such as the Rajputs and then Muslim dynasties. In northern India, fort architecture was a combination of traditional architecture and Central Asian and Persian influences. The South being geographically isolated, its architecture was not influenced to that level and generally retained its styles.

The Rajputs were creative builders and erected some of the most illustrious and impressive forts and palaces. Some of the forts are at Kangra, Rai Pithora, Chittorgarh, Gwalior, Kumbhalgarh, Jaisalmer, Meharangarh, Junagarh, and Amber, Jaigarh, and Shrirangapatnam. These forts and palaces have complex compositions.

The Kangra Fort (Himachal Pradesh) was built by the royal Rajput family of Kangra (the Katoca dynasty) and traces its origins to the ancient Trigarta kingdom mentioned in the Mahābhārata.

It is the largest fort in the Himalayas and probably the oldest dated fort in India. The fort was first mentioned in Alexander the Great’s war records, which would bring it to the 4th century BCE.

Left: Chittorgarh Fort, Right: Vijaya stambha (source: Wikipedia) Chittorgarh, the oldest surviving fort, is said to have been constructed by the Mor kings between the 5th and the 8th centuries and is named after one of them, Chitrangada Mori, as inscribed on the coins of the period.

The fort complex comprises 65 historic built structures, among them four palace complexes, nineteen main temples, four memorials, and twenty functional water bodies. The first hill fort with one main entrance was established in the 5th century and successively fortified until the 12th century.

The second, a more significant defense structure, was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of the Sisodia Rajputs.

Besides the palace complex, located on the highest and most secure terrain to the west of the fort, many of the other significant structures, such as the Kumbha Shyam, Mira Bai, Adi Varah, and Shringar Chauri temples, and the Vijaya stambha (pillar of victory) memorial were constructed in this second phase.

Another important surviving fort is at Gwalior. This fort, bounded by solid walls of sandstone, is sprawled over a hilltop measuring over 2 km in length.

The fort complex includes temples, palaces, and several water tanks. Moreover, the southern path is bounded by intricately carved rock-cut temples of Jain tīrthāṅkars.

The Telī-kā-Mandir the temple follows the Drāviḍa style of architecture, as does the 9th-century Caturbhuj A mandir is an example of a Vaiṣṇavite shrine. The Man Singh Palace is a famous early 16th-century palace built by Raja Man Singh Tomar.


The Kumbhalgarh fort is located on the banks of the Banas River and is the second most important fort after that of Chittorgarh. Both were built under the rule of Rana Kumbha.

The Kumbhalgarh fort is accessed through a series of seven gateways named Aret Pol, Halla Pol, Hanuman Pol, Ram Pol, Vijay Pol, Nimboo Pol, and Bhairon Pol. The fort’s perimeter walls extend to 36 km.

The frontal walls are three meters thick; the ramparts reach a height of 3 to 5 m, reinforced by circular structures. All gates leading toward the palace compound on the western side of the fort are roofed and flanked by additional structures.

There are over 360 temples within the fort, 300 ancient Jain, and the rest are Hindu.

Jaisalmer Fort, built-in 1156 by Rawal Jaisal, a Bhati Rajput ruler, stands on the stark stretches of the great Thar Desert, on the Trikuta Hill. Architecturally, the Jaisalmer fort consists of three layers of wall.

The outer wall (the lowest) is composed of solid stone blocks. From the inner wall, Rajput warriors used to throw boiling water, oil, and massive blocks of rocks at the enemies, when they got trapped between the inner and the middle walls.

Mehrangarh Fort is an architectural marvel that stands proudly on a 125-m-long hill in the historic city of Jodhpur. Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, started the construction of this fort in the 15th century, but it was completed during the reign of Maharaja Jaswant Singh two centuries later. The fort wall spreads over some 5 km.

The fort is situated 120 m above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. The Jaypol or the gate of victory is the starting point of the fort.

Maharaja Man Singh who ruled Jodhpur in the 19th century used this gate to commemorate his victory over the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner.

Apart from this gate, there are six other gates. The Iron Gate preserves the handprints of the wives of Maharaja Man Singh who immolated themselves

on their husband’s funeral pyre. The area within this fort is covered with spacious courtyards and decorated palaces.

The main palaces of the fort include Motī Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phūl Mahal (Flower Palace), Śīśa Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khānā, and Daulat Khānā. Some artifacts of the era like musical instruments and royal attire are also
preserved in the palaces.

The Junagarh fort, located in Bikaner, is one of the most impressive fort complexes in India. It was built by Raja Rai Singh in 1588. It is one of those few forts that are not built on a hilltop.

There are 37 red sandstones (Dulmera) and marble inside the premises of the fort, which include palaces with intricately carved windows, beautiful balconies, towers, temples, and pavilions.

The highlights of the fort are the Candra Mahal, decorated beautifully with mirrors, paintings, and carved marble panels, the Phūl Mahal, the Karan Mahal, and the multi-storeyed Anūp Mahal, which was once used as the governance chambers for the rulers.

Gaṅgā Niwās, Dūngar Niwās, Vijai Mahal, and Raṅg Mahal is also fine example of splendid architecture. Amber Fort, is set in a picturesque location, a little away from Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state was built by the Kacchawāha Raja Man Singh in 1592.

Its architectural style is a blend of Hindu and Mughal architecture. Huddling on the hilltop, the fort showcased some unique work of delicate glass mirrors on the walls and ceiling that reflect the golden rays of the sun all over the premises.

The fort is built in red sandstone and white marble. The entrance to the fort is through the Sūraj Pol which opens into the Jaleb Chowk, the main courtyard.

The most prominent structures inside the Amber fort are the Diwān-i-Ām (the hall of public audience) and the Diwān-i-Khās (the Hall of private audience).

The magnificent Jaigarh Fort or ‘victory fort’ was constructed near Jaipur by Sawai Jai Singh in 1726 and is rugged and similar in structural design to the Amber Fort.

The fort is built with thick walls of red sandstone and is spread over a vast range of 3 km in length, with a width of 1 km. The fort houses an enormous 50-ton cannon on wheels known as ‘Jaivana Cannon’ and a huge palace complex. This includes the Laxmī Vilās, Lalit Mandir, and the Vilās Mandir.

In contrast to the complex compositions of forts and palaces built by Rajputs, the Islamic forts and palaces, like Purānā Quilā (‘old fort’) and Lāl Quilā (‘red fort’) in Delhi, tend to be symmetrical. The architecture of these forts is a blend of Islamic, Persian, and Indian styles of architecture.

These were built of sandstone or marble and were endowed with jharokhās (a type of overhanging balcony), chatrīs (elevated, dome-shaped pavilions), chajjās (projecting eaves or cover usually supported on large carved brackets), and jālīs (perforated stone or latticed screen used for ventilation as well as decoration).


The Purāna Quilā was constructed by Humayun and Sher Shah. The walls of the fort rise to a height of 18 m, traverse about 1.5 km, and have three arched gateways: the Humayun Darwāzā, Talāqī Darwāzā, and Barā Darwāzā. All the gates are huge, double-storeyed, and built with red sandstone.

They are flanked by two huge semi-circular bastion towers, decorated with white and colored-marble inlays and blue tiles. They are also replete with ornate overhanging jharokhās (balconies) and are topped by pillared chatrīs (pavilions).

Another important fort is Agra’s majestic Red Fort built by Emperor Akbar. It contains numerous impressive structures like the Jahāngīr Mahal, Khās Mahal, Dīwan-i- Khās, Dīwan-i-Ām, Macchī Bhawan and Motī Masjid. This Agra fort is enclosed by a double battlemented massive wall of red sandstone.

Most of the buildings added later used marble as the chief construction material. Delhi’s Lāl Quilā (Red Fort) and Agra’s Tāj Mahal were built in the mid-17th century by Emperor Shahjahan is the pinnacle of Mughal architectural achievement.

The Lāl Quilā, built of red sandstone is octagonal, with two longer sides on the east and west.
The perimeter of its strong ramparts is about 2.4 km. The Red Fort rises to a height of 33.5 m on the town side and 18 m along the river.

A wide moat surrounds the fort, which was originally connected with the Yamuna and was always filled with water. The two main gateways, known as Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate (so named as they face Lahore and Delhi respectively) are three-story-high and flanked by semi-octagonal towers.

The main entrance to the Lāl Quilā is through the Lahori Gate. Beyond the gate, there is a roofed passage, flanked by arcaded apartments leading to the palaces, known as Chattā Chowk. Some of the main buildings within the fort are the Dīwān-i-Ām (hall of public audience) the Dīwān-i-Khās (hall of the selective audience), the Hamām (bathroom set), the personal mosque of Aurangzeb, Motī Masjid (Pearl Mosque) and Mumtāz Mahal.


Golconda Fort, originally a mud fort founded by the Kākatiyā dynasty of Warangal during the 13th century, was later reconstructed into a massive fort by various Qutb Shahi rulers during the 16th century, on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

The fort, on an isolated granite hill, rises about 120 m above the surrounding plain. The contours of the fort blend with those of the hill. Nowadays the ruins have a desolate majesty amid an arid plain.

The fort has eight gates (darwāzās), the main gate being Fateh Darwāzā (Gate of Victory). The door is 4 m wide and almost 8 m high and studded with steel spikes to protect it from charging elephants.

The fort also includes a palace, a mosque, a parade ground, and an armory among many other buildings. The famous Srirangapatna fort, also called Tipu’s palace, in Mysore, Karnataka, was built in 1537 in Indo-Islamic style. This magnificent fort is considered to be the second toughest fort in India.

It has a palace, Lāl Mahal, which was the then residence of the most audacious king of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. The fort was built on a double-wall defense system and has four entrances, namely Delhi, Bangalore, Mysore, and Water and Elephant gates.

Most of these forts had ingenious water structures designed for harvesting and storage, including step-wells, elaborate reservoirs, and channels. (See module Other Technologies for more details.)

Read more:

Select Bibliography | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Select Bibliography | Roman Architecture | Second edition


J.C. Anderson, Roman Architecture and Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1997).

  1. Andreae, The Art of Rome (London: Macmillan 1978).
  2. Bianchi Bandinelli, Rome, the Centre of Power: Roman Art to AD 200 (London: Thames and Hudson 1970).
  3. Bianchi Bandinelli, Rome, the Late Empire (London: the Thames and Hudson 1971).
  4. Boethius, Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1978).
  5. Canina, Gli edifizii di Roma antica e contorni, 6 vols (Rome: Canina 1848–56).
  6. Choisy, L’Art de bâtir chez les Romains (Paris: Ducher et Cie 1873).

J.C. Coulston, H. Dodge (eds), Ancient Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal City (Oxford: Oxford University School of Archeology Press 2000).

  1. Cressy, G.L. Taylor, The Architectural Antiquities of Rome, 2 vols. (London: Longman 1821).

A.B. Desgodetz, Les édifices antiques de Rome (Paris: Jean Baptiste Coignard 1682).

  1. Gros, L’architecture romaine, 2 vols. (Paris: Picard 1996).
  2. Lyttelton, Baroque Architecture in Classical Antiquity (London: Thames and Hudson 1974).

W.L. MacDonald, The Architecture of the Roman Empire, I: An Introductory Study (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1982).

W.L. MacDonald, The Architecture of the Roman Empire, II, An Urban Appraisal (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1986).

  1. Rakob, Römische Architektur in Th. Kraus, Das römische Weltreich, vol 2 of Proplyaën Kunstgeschichte (Berlin: Proplyaën Verlag 1967).

N.H. Ramage and A. Ramage, Roman Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991).

J-O. Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998).

J.B. Ward Perkins, Roman Imperial Architecture (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981).

Reference Books

  1. Claridge, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998).
  2. Coarelli (ed), Guide archeologiche Laterza, Vols. 1–14 (Rome/Bari: Gius. Laterza & Figli Spa 1980–5).
  3. Crema, L’architettura romana (Turin: Società Editrice Internazionale 1959).

D.R. Dudley, Urbs Roma: a Source Book of Classical Texts on the City and its Monuments (London:

Phaidon 1967).

M.I. Finley, Atlas of Classical Archaeology (London: Chatto and Windus 1977).

  1. Grant, The Roman Forum (London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group 1974).
  2. La Regina, Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae: Suburbium (Rome: Edizioni Quasar 2001–2008).
  3. Lugli, Roma Antica: il centro monumentale (Rome: G.Bardi 1946).
  4. Lugli, Itinerario di Roma Antica (Rome: G. Bardi 1975).
  5. Nash, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Thames and Hudson 1968).

S.B. Platner, T. Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press 1929).

  1. Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1992).
  2. Stein, Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, 5 vols. (Rome: Edizioni Quasar 1993–1999).
  3. Stillwell, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1976).

Architectural Ornament, Interior Decoration and Minor Art

K.M. Dunbabin, Mosaics in the Greek and Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999).

K.M. Dunbabin, The Mosaics of Roman North Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1978).

  1. Gnoli, Marmora romana (Rome: Edizioni dell’Elefante 1971).

D.B. Harden, Glass of the Caesars[Catalogue] (Milan: Olivetti 1987).

W.D. Heilmeyer, Korinthische Normalkapitelle (Heidelberg: Kerle 1970).

  1. von Hesberg, Konsolengeisa des Hellenismus und der frühen Kaiserzeit (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern 1980).
  2. Ling, Ancient Mosaics (London: British Museum Press 1998).
  3. Ling, Roman Painting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991).
  4. Mielsch, Römische Stuckreliefs (Heidelberg: Kerle 1975).

F.B. Sear, Roman Wall and Vault Mosaics (Heidelberg: Kerle 1977).

D.E. Strong, Greek, and Roman Gold and Silver Plate (London: Methuen & Co 1966).

J.B. Ward Perkins, ‘Quarrying in Antiquity: Technology, Tradition and Social Change, Proc.British Academy, 57 (1972) 1–24.

  1. Delbrueck, Hellenistische Bauten in Latium, 2 vols. (Strassburg: Trübner 1907–12).
  2. Republican Rome
  3. Zanker, Forum Romanum: Die Neugestaltung durch Augustus (Tübingen: Ernst Wasmuth 1972).

2. Roman Building Types

Town Planning

  1. Castagnoli, Roma Antica: profilo urbanistico (Rome: Jouvence 1978).
  2. Grimal, Roman Cities, rev. G.M. Woloch (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press 1983).
  3. Gros, M. Torelli, Storia dell’urbanistica: Il mondo romano (Rome-Bari: Laterza 1988).
  4. Laurence, S.E. Cleary, G. Sears, The City in the Roman West c. 250 BC–c. AD 250 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011).

J.B. Ward Perkins, Cities of Ancient Greece and Italy: Planning in Classical Antiquity (London: Sidgwick and Jackson 1974).

Religious Buildings

  1. Gros, Aurea Templa. Recherches sur l’architecture religieuse de Rome à l’époche d’Auguste (Rome:

École française de Rome 1976).

  1. Kähler, Der römische Tempel (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag 1970).

Public Buildings

J-C. Balty, Curia Ordinis (Brussels: Académie Royale de Belgique 1991).

  1. Ohr, J.J. Rasch, Die Basilika in Pompeji (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter 1991).

Commercial Buildings

  1. De Ruyt, Macellum. Marché alimentaire des romains (Louvain: Institut supérieur d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’art, Collège Érasme 1983).

S.J.R. Ellis, The Roman Retail Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018).

Domestic Buildings

I.M. Barton (ed.), Roman Domestic Buildings (Exeter: University of Exeter Press 1996).

A.G. McKay, Houses, Villas and Palaces in the Roman World (London: Thames and Hudson 1975).

  1. Percival, The Roman Villa (London: Batsford 1976).

Recreational Buildings

  1. Krencker, E. Krüger, Die Trierer Kaiserthermen (Augsburg: Dr. Benno Filser Verlag 1929).
  2. Yegül, Baths, and Bathing in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1995).


  1. Beare, The Roman Stage (London: Methuen 1950).
  2. Bieber, The History of the Greek and Roman Theater (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1961).
  3. Futrell, The Roman Games: a sourcebook (Oxford: Blackwell 2006).

J-C. Golvin, L’amphithéâtre romain (Paris: Diffusion de Boccard 1988).

  1. Graefe, Vela Erunt, Die Zeltdächter der römischen Theater und ähnlicher Anlagen (Mainz: P.v. Zabern 1979).

J.H. Humphrey, Roman Circuses: Arenas for Chariot Racing (London: Batsford 1986).

  1. Sear, Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008).
  2. Traversari, Gli spettacoli in acqua nel teatro tardo-antico (Rome 1960).

K.E. Welch, The Roman Amphitheatre, from its Origins to the Colosseum (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007).

Honorific Monuments

  1. De Maria, Gli archi onorari di Roma e dell’Italia romana (Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider 1988).

Utilitarian Buildings

  1. Ashby, The Aqueducts of Ancient Rome (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1935).
  2. Gazzola, Ponti romani (Florence: Leo Olschki 1963).
  3. Herschel, Frontinus and the Water Supply of the City of Rome (Boston: Dana Estes and Company 1899).

Harbors and Lighthouses

  1. Trevor Hodge, Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply (London: Duckworth 1991).
  2. Bartoccini, Il porto romano di Leptis Magna (Rome: Boll. del centro studi per la storia dell’architettura, 13 1958).

Military and Defensive Architecture

  1. Ramsay, in W. Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray 1875) 244–56.

D.B. Campbell, Fortifying a Roman Camp: The Liber de munitionibus castrorum of Hyginus (Glasgow: University of Glasgow 2018).

M.D. Reeve (ed), Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Epitoma rei militaris (Oxford: Clarendon Press 2004)

3. The Age of Augustus

  1. Favro, The Urban Image of Augustan Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1996).
  2. Wallace-Hadrill, Augustan Rome (Bristol: Bristol Classical Press/Duckworth 1993).
  3. Zanker, Forum Augustum: Das Bildprogramm (Tübingen: Wasmuth 1968).

4. Roman Architects, Building Techniques, and Materials

  1. Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Michigan: University of Michigan Press 1990).

J.-P. Adam, La construction romaine: matériaux et techniques (Paris: Picard 1984).

  1. Blake, Ancient Roman Construction in Italy from the prehistoric period to Augustus (Washington

D.C.: Carnegie Institution publication, 570 1947).

  1. Blake, Roman Construction in Italy from Tiberius through the Flavians (Washington D.C.: Carnegie Institution publication 616 1959).
  2. Blake, Roman Construction in Italy from Nerva through the Antonines (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society 1973).
  3. Bloch, I Bolli laterizi a la storia edilizia romana (Rome: Comune di Roma 1947).
  4. Cozzo, Ingegneria romana (Rome: Multigrafica Editrice 1970).

L.C. Lancaster, Concrete Vaulted Construction in Imperial Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2005).

J.G. Landels, Engineering in the Ancient World (London: Catto and Windus 1978).

  1. Lugli, La tecnica edilizia romana con particolare riguardo a Roma e Lazio (Rome: Eredi Dott. G. Bardi 1957).

Vitruvius, The Ten Books of Architecture, transl. by M.H. Morgan (New York: Dover Publications 1960).

K.D. White, Greek and Roman Technology (London: Thames and Hudson 1984).

  1. Wilson Jones, Principles of Roman Architecture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2000).

5. The Julio-Claudians

L.F. Ball, The Domus Aurea and the Roman Architectural Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003).

L.B. Dal Maso, R. Vighi, Lazio Archeologico (Florence: Bonechi 1975) 242–250.

  1. Jacopi, L’Antro di Tiberio e il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Sperlonga (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato 1965).

6. Two Roman Towns: Pompeii and Ostia

  1. Segala, I. Sciortino, Domus Aurea (Milan: Electa 1999).

R.C. Carrington, Pompeii (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1936).

J-P. Descoeudres (ed), Ostia, port et porte de la Rome antique (Geneva: Musées d’art e d’histoire et Georg Editeur 2001).

  1. Eschebach, Die städtebauliche Entwicklung des antiken Pompeji mit einem Plan (Heidelberg: Kerle 1970).
  2. Eschebach, Die Stabianer Thermen in Pompeji (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 1979).
  3. Jashemski, The Gardens of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Villas Destroyed by Vesuvius (New York: Caratzas 1979).
  4. Kraus, Pompeii, and Herculaneum (New York: Harry N. Abrams 1975).
  5. Laurence, Roman Pompeii: Space and Society (Abington: Routledge 2007).
  6. Ling, Pompeii: History, Life, and Afterlife (Stroud: Tempus 2005).
  7. Mannucci (ed), Il Parco Archeologico Naturalistico del Porto di Traiano, metodo e progetto (Rome:

Ministero per i Beni Culturali ed Ambientali 1992).

  1. Meiggs, Roman Ostia (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1973).
  2. Pasini, Ostia Antica: insule e classi sociali (Rome: Multigrafica 1978).
  3. Richardson, Pompeii: An Architectural History (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press 1988).
  4. Wallace-Hadrill, Herculaneum, Past, and Future (London: Frances Lincoln 2011).
  5. Wallace-Hadrill, Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1994).

J.B. Ward Perkins, A. Claridge, Pompeii AD 79 (Bristol: Imperial Tobacco Ltd 1976).

  1. Zanker, Pompeii: Public and Private Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1998).

7. The Flavians

  1. von Blanckenhagen, Flavische Architektur und ihre Dekoration (Berlin: Verlag Gebr. Mann 1940).

B.W. Jones, Emperor Domitian (Abingdon: Routledge 1993).

  1. Pearson, Arena: The Story of the Colosseum (London: Thames and Hudson 1973).
  2. Pfanner, Der Titusbogen (Mainz: Von Zabern 1983).
  3. Villedieu, Il giardino dei Cesari (Rome: Quasar 2001).

8. Trajan and Hadrian

  1. Cozza, Tempio di Adriano (Rome: De Luca 1982).
  2. De Fine Licht, The Rotunda in Rome (Copenhagen: Jutland Archaeological Society VIII 1968).
  3. D’Onofrio, Castel S.Angelo, immagini e storia (Rome: Romana Società Editrice 1984).
  4. Kähler, Hadrian und seine Villa bei Tivoli (Berlin: Mann 1950).

W.L. MacDonald, The Pantheon, Design, Meaning, and Progeny (London: Allen Lane 1976).

W.L. MacDonald, J.A. Pinto, Hadrian’s Villa and Its Legacy (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1995).

  1. Meneghini, R.S Valenzani, I Fori Imperiali: Gli scavi del Comune di Roma (1991–2007) (Rome: Viviani Editore 2007).

J.E. Packer, The Forum of Trajan in Rome. A Study of its Monuments (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1997).

9. North Africa

  1. Caputo, Il teatro Augusteo di Leptis Magna. Scavo e restauro 1937-1951 (Monografie di archeologia libica, 3 Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider 1987).
  2. Caputo, Il teatro di Sabratha e l’architettura teatrale Africana (Monografie di archeologia libica, 6 Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider 1959).
  3. Di Vita et al., Libya: The Lost Cities of the Roman Empire (Cologne: Könnemann 1999).

P.A. Février, Djemila (Algiers: Sous-Direction des Arts, Musées, Monuments historiques, Antiquités 1968).

R.G. Goodchild, Kyrene und Apollonia (Zürich: Raggi Verlag 1971).

C.H. Kraeling, Ptolemais, City of the Libyan Pentapolis (Chicago: Chicago University Press 1962).

  1. Lézine, Architecture romaine d’Afrique (Tunis: Université de Tunis 1963).
  2. Luquet, Volubilis (Tangier: Editions Marocaines et Internationales 1972).
  3. McKenzie, The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2007).
  4. Poinssot, Les Ruines de Dougga (Tunis: Ist. Nationale d’Archéologie et d’Arts 1958).
  5. Raven, Rome in Africa (London and New York: Routledge 1993).
  6. Romanelli, Topografia e Archeologia dell’Africa romana (Turin 1970).
  7. Stucchi, Architettura Cirenaica (Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider 1975).

J.B Ward Perkins et al., ‘The Hunting Baths at Leptis Magna’, Archaeologia 93 (1949) 165–95.

J.B Ward Perkins, The Severan Buildings of Lepcis Magna (London: Society for Libyan Studies 1993).

10. The European Provinces

  1. Amy, L’Arc d’Orange (Paris: (XVe supplément à Gallia) 1962).
  2. Amy, P. Gros, La Maison Carrée à Nîmes (Paris: 38e supplément à Gallia 1979).
  3. Brogan, Roman Gaul (London: G. Bell and Sons 1953).
  4. Bromwich, The Roman Remains of Southern France: A Guidebook (London and New York:

Routledge 1993).

  1. Cunliffe, Fishbourne: A Roman Palace and its Garden (London: Thames and Hudson 1971).
  2. Cunliffe, Roman Bath Discovered (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1971).
  3. von Elbe, Roman Germany (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern 1977).

S.J. Keay, Roman Spain (London: British Museum 1988).

  1. King, Roman Gaul and Germany (London: British Museum 1990).
  2. Laur-Belart, Führer durch Augusta Raurica (Basel: Historische und Antiquarische Gesellschaft 1988).
  3. MacKendrick, The Dacian Stones Speak (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina 1975).
  4. Marsden, Roman London (London: Thames and Hudson 1980).
  5. Ottaway, Roman York (London: Batsford 1993).
  6. Salway, The Oxford Illustrated History of Roman Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1993).

H.H. Scullard, Roman Britain: Outpost of Empire (London: the Thames and Hudson 1979).

  1. Washer, The Towns of Roman Britain (London: Batsford 1975).
  2. Wilkes, Dalmatia (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1969).

R.J.A. Wilson, A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain (London: Constable 1996).

  1. Woolf, Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998).

11. The Eastern Provinces

  1. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (Istanbul: Headset Kitabevi 1973).
  2. Browning, Palmyra (London: Chatto and Windus 1979).
  3. Browning, Petra (London: Chatto and Windus 1973).

C.H. Kraeling, Gerasa, City of the Decapolis (New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research 1938).

  1. Lankester Harding, The Antiquities of Jordan (Lutterworth: Lutterworth Press 1974).
  2. McKenzie, The Architecture of Petra (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1990).
  3. Odenthal, Syrien (Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag 1982).
  4. Ragette, Baalbek (London: Chatto and Windus 1980).
  5. Wood, Palmyra (London: [Robert Wood] 1753).
  6. Wood, Balbec (London : [Robert Wood] 1757).

12. The Late Empire

  1. Ahrens et al., Trier, Führer zu vor- und frühgeschichtlichen Denkmälern (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern 1977).
  2. Aurigemma, The Baths of Diocletian and the Museo Nazionale Romano (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato 1963).
  3. Carettoni et al., La Pianta marmorea di Roma Antica, 2 vols. (Rome: Comune di Roma 1960).
  4. DeLaine, The Baths of Caracalla (Portsmouth, Rhode Island: JRA Supp. 25 1997).
  5. Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1979).

I.A. Richmond, The City Wall of Imperial Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1930).

  1. Rodríguez Almeida, Forma Urbis Marmorea. Aggiornamento generale 1980 (Rome: Quasar 1981).
  2. Pisani Sartorio, R. Calza, La Villa di Massenzio sulla via Appia (Rome: Istituto di Studi Romani 1976).
  3. Todd, The Walls of Rome (London: Elek 1978).

E.M. Wightman, Roman Trier and the Treveri (London: Hart-Davis 1970).

R.J.A. Wilson, Piazza Armerina (London: Granada Publishing 1983).




Visual Glossary | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Visual Glossary | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Visual Glossary | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Adyton:     Inner sanctuary of a temple

Aedicule:               An opening framed by columns or pilasters supporting an entablature and pediment, often used ornamentally

Agger:     Rampart

Agora: A marketplace of a Greek town

Alae:     Wings or alcoves opening to the left or right of the atrium of a Roman house

Annular vault:     A vaulted passage running around a circular space

Antefix:   Ornament at the eaves of a roof to conceal the end of a tile

Apodyterion:    Changing room of a Roman bath

Apogee:    Concave moulding between the shaft and the base of a column

Architrave: Horizontal element spanning two columns and forming the lowest part of the entablature. In the Doric Order, it is normally plain; in the Ionic and Corinthian it is divided into three horizontal fasciae

Arcuated lintel:   A  single  arched  entablature  flanked  by  horizontal  entablatures,  often  in  the centre of a facade under the pediment

Ashlar masonry:     Regular cut-stone masonry

Astragal: A small convex semicircular moulding often ornamented with a bead-and-reel ornament

Atrium: The main hall of a traditional Roman house. It could be completely roofed (testudinate) or have an opening (compluvium) in the middle of its roof and a water tank (impluvium)  on  the  floor  beneath.

Bead-and-reel: A moulding consisting of circular or lozenge-shaped elements alternating with cylindrical ones

Belvedere: A roofed open-sided building which commands a view

Bipedal:    Square Roman bricks measuring two Roman feet on each side

Bucrania:    A decorative motif consisting of ox-heads shown frontally

Cabled fluting:  Fluting  filled  with   a vertical  convex  moulding,  usually  confined  to  the  lowest third of the shaft

Caldarium:    The hot room of a Roman bath

Careers:     The starting gates for the chariots of a Roman circus

Catenary:   The  shape  formed  by   a chain  hanging  freely  from  two  fixed  points

Cauliculus:           The stalk from which spring the volutes and helices of a Corinthian capital Cavetto:         A concave moulding

Cella: The central chamber of a temple where the image of the deity was placed

Clerestory: Upper part of a wall above the level of adjacent aisles, pierced with windows to light a central room or nave

284       Glossary  

Coffer:       A sunken panel in a ceiling or vault

Compluvium:        See Atrium

Composite capital:             A capital which consists of two rows of acanthus leaves at the bottom and a diagonal Ionic volute above

Consoles: Brackets supporting the projecting part of a Corinthian cornice. The term is often used for the two-stepped brackets common in the East, and Rome from the time of Hadrian onwards, to distinguish them from modillions

Corbel:       A supporting bracket projecting from a wall or sometimes a column shaft

Corinthian Order: The richest of the three Greek Orders, recognizable by its acanthus capitals


Cornice:       The top, projecting part of the entablature

Corona:       The vertical face of the projecting part of a cornice, below the sima

Cryptoporticus: A ground-level or semisubterranean vaulted corridor, usually lit by openings in the vault. Its primary function is normally to buttress an adjacent structure, and

secondarily it is used as a shady place to walk or store goods

Curia: Meeting-place for the Senate or local Council of a Roman town

Cyma recta:       A double moulding, concave above, convex below

Cyma reversa:       A double moulding, convex above, concave below

Decastyle:       Consisting of ten columns

Dentils: A series of rectangular blocks under the cornice of an Ionic or Corinthian entablature. In the Corinthian Order, they are below the modillions

Data:       A summer-house

Dipteral:       A term applied to a temple with a double row of columns around the cella

Domus:       A large, single-family house, as distinct from an apartment house

Doric Order: The most austere of the three Greek Orders, distinguished by its plain capital and triglyph frieze

Drafting: A plain recessed band around the edges of a block or at the bottom of the riser of a step

Echinus: A swelling, cushion-shaped element under the abacus of a Doric or Ionic capital. In the case of the Ionic capital, it is ornamented with egg-and-tongue

Egg-and-dart: An ornament similar to egg-and-tongue, preferred to the latter in Flavian and Severan times

Egg-and-tongue: An ornament consisting of oval elements alternating with downward pointing tongues, normally applied to an ovolo moulding

Entablature:       A collective term applied to the architrave, frieze and cornice

Exedra:        A recess, usually semicircular or rectangular

Extrados:      The outer curved face of an arch

Fascia:       A plain horizontal band

Fauces:      A passageway in a Roman house, leading from the front door to the atrium

Fluting: Concave grooves of curved sections running vertically up the shaft of a column. In the Doric Order, they are broad and shallow and meet in a sharp edge, termed an arris.

In  the  Ionic  and  Corinthian  Orders,  are  deeper  and  divided  into  flat  fillets  or  strips

Fornix:   A  Republican  term  for  an  arch.    It is sometimes  used  as  an  arch  flanked  by  half-columns which carry an entablature over the top of the arch

Forum:      The marketplace or main square of a Roman town

Frieze: The middle section of the entablature. In the Doric Order, it is divided into triglyphs and metopes; in the Ionic and Corinthian it is continuous and often has either relief sculpture or an inscription

Frigidarium: The cold room of a Roman bath


Guilloche: A pattern of interlacing bands which form a plait, commonly found on the upper torus of a column base

Guttae: Originally the wooden pegs were used to secure the beam ends of timber structures and later translated into stone in the Doric Order. There are 6 under each triglyph and 18 on the underside of each mutule.


Heliocaminus: A room, usually in a bath, oriented to take maximum advantage of the sun’s heat

Helix: A spiral ornament. The term is often used to denote the two inner tendrils which spring from the cauliculus of Corinthian capital and meet under the abacus

Medium:     The small garden behind a Republican house

Hexastyle:     Consisting of six columns

Hypocaust:   A  floor  raised  on  small  columns  to  allow  the  circulation  of  air  underneath

Impluvium:     See Atrium

Insula:    A tenement or apartment house

Interaxial:    The distance between the centres of two adjacent columns

Intercolumniation:    The distance between the sides of two adjacent columns

Intrados:   The  inner  face  or  underside  of  an  arch.  Also  called  soffit

Ionic Order: One of the three Greek Orders, recognizable by its volute capitals

Economic:     A term applied to masonry with courses of uniform height

Laconicum:    The hot, dry room of a Roman bath

Lararium:    A shrine to the household gods of a Roman house

Later:     Roman bricks, either baked (cactus) or unbaked (crude)

Lunette:   A  semicircular  flat  surface  or  opening

Macellum: A meat or provisions market

Megaron:    A rectangular hall in Cretan and Mycenaean architecture

Merlon:     The raised portion of battlements

Meta: The turning point for chariots in a Roman circus. There was one at each end of the spine,  the  first  turn  (meta  prima)  being   at the  curved  end  of  the  arena,  the  second  (meta  Secunda) at the career end

Metope:   The  space  between  two  triglyphs,  either  left  plain  or  filled  with  relief  sculpture

Modillion: A double-scrolled bracket supporting the projecting part of a cornice

Mutule:   Rectangular  panels  under  the  soffit  of   a Doric  cornice,  adorned  with  18  pegs  or  guttae. They represent the projecting rafters in the original timber construction

Narthex:    An antechamber to the nave of a Christian church

Nation:     The swimming pool of a Roman bath

Nymphaeum:    A grotto with a natural water supply dedicated to the nymphs—later an arti-

facial  grotto  or  fountain  building

Octastyle:     Consisting of eight columns

Oculus:     Circular opening in the apex of a dome

Odeum:     A small roofed theatre for musical entertainment

Oecus: The main living room of a Greek house, introduced to Roman architecture along with the peristyle. Often used for dining

Orchestra: The circular dancing area of a Greek theatre, which developed into the semicircular area in front of the stage of a Roman theatre

Orthostat:      A slab of stone laid vertically

Ovolo:     A convex moulding

Palaestra: An open area surrounded by covered porticoes used for wrestling and exercise, often forming part of a Roman bath complex

286       Glossary

Palmette: A fan-shaped ornament consisting of lobed or pointed leaves, often found in Roman architecture on the sima of a cornice

Peripteral: A term applied to a cella surrounded by a single row of columns

Peristyle: An open courtyard or garden surrounded by columnar porticoes

Pilaster: A rectangular column projecting only slightly from a wall, used to suggest struc-

Tue.   It can  be  plain  or  fluted  and  have  the  base  and  capital  of  any  Order

Plinth:       The projecting base of a wall, or a column pedestal


Podium:       The raised platform on which the columns and cella of a Roman temple stand

Pomerium: The area left free of buildings immediately inside and outside the walls of a Roman town

Pozzolana: A reddish volcanic ash found in central Italy, especially around Pozzuoli, which gave Roman concrete its strength

Praetorium:   The  official  residence  of   a legionary  commander  or  provincial  governor  in   a Roman fort

Principia: The headquarters building of a Roman fort where the legionary standards were kept, speeches made and councils held

Pronaos:       Porch in front of the cella of a temple

Propylaeum: Monumental entrance gateway to a sanctuary

Propylon:       A simpler version of a propylaeum

Prostyle:         A term used for a temple with free-standing columns at the entrance side only

Pseudodipteral:        A dipteral arrangement of columns with the inner row omitted

Pseudoperipteral: A term applied to a temple with some of the columns engaged into the cella wall

Pulvinated:   Convex  in  profile.   A term  usually  applied  to   a frieze

Quadriga:       A four-horsed chariot

Quoins:        Dressed stones at the corner of a building

Rotunda:        A building circular in plan, often domed

Schola labri: The place where the cold water basin stood in the hot room of a Roman bath

Sciagraphy:       The art of projecting shadows onto a drawing of a building

Scotia: A concave moulding, usually between the two torus mouldings of a column base

Sima:        The crowning moulding of a cornice, originally the gutter

Socle:       The lower part of a wall

Soffit:      The underside of an architectural member

Spandrel:              The triangular space described by the side of an arch, the horizontal line drawn from its apex and the vertical line from its springing

Spina:       The dividing strip running down the arena of a Roman circus

Stylobate: The three-stepped platform on which the columns and cella of a Greek temple stand

Sudatorium:       The sweating room of a Roman bath

Taberna:       A small shop or workshop

Tablinum: The central room at the end of the atrium of a Roman house, originally the master bedroom, later used for storing records Temenos: Sacred area around a shrine or temple

Tepidarium:      The warm room of a Roman bath

Tetrakionia: Monument consisting of four columns or groups of columns placed at the intersection of two major streets

Tetrapylon: A monument consisting of four pylons, often erected at the intersection of two main streets. It can also refer to a four-sided arch


Tetrastyle:     Consisting of four columns

Torus:     A convex moulding, usually on a column base

Tribunal:    The raised platform from which a general or emperor addressed the troops

Triclinium: The dining room of a Roman house, so called because of the three banqueting couches (klinai) arranged around the walls

Triglyphs: Upright rectangular panels with vertical grooves alternating with the metopes of a Doric frieze. They represent the ends of the ceiling beams in the original timber construction

Peripheral: Columns three deep

Volutes:     The spiral scrolls at the corner of an Ionic or Corinthian capital

Voussoirs:            The wedge-shaped stones which compose a masonry arch



The Late Empire | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Late Empire  | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The historian Dio Cassius wrote: ‘After the death of Marcus [Aurelius] history passed from a golden empire to one of rusty iron’ (Dio, 72.36.4). In ad 192, 12 years later, Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, was murdered and there followed a brief period of struggle between several candidates. The final victor was Septimius Severus, born in Lepcis Magna in North Africa. His reign (ad 193–211) marked the end of the power of the great Roman families and of Rome as the centre of imperial power.

It also marked the beginning of a rigid state bureaucracy that was to control every aspect of Roman life. In art there was a break from classicism and the pompous official art of the Antonines; in architecture, the Severans were more active builders than the Antonines. The first task that confronted the new emperor on his accession was to restore a large area of the Forum between the House of the Vestals and Vespasian’s Temple of Peace, which had been swept by fire in ad 191.

He rebuilt the Temple of Vesta, the House of the Vestal Virgins and the Correa Vespasian, and reinforced the Clivus Victoriae with arches. While rebuilding the area a Marble Plan of Rome (Forma Urbis Romae) was prepared at a scale of about 1:240 (ad 203–211). Carved on 151 slabs of marble and measuring 18.10 × 13 metres overall, it was fixed to the wall of one of the halls of the Temple of Peace and shows the ground plan of practically every temple, bath, insula and street in the city.

More than 10% of the total survives, some parts showing quarters of Rome that are completely unknown today. It gives fascinating glimpses of streets lined with insulae and horrea of the Ostian type as well as the occasional atrium/peristyle house (Figure 12.1). Like Ostia, Rome must have changed profoundly in the course of the second-century ad and most of the sprawling private dwellings must have given way to tall apartment blocks.

The Late Empire  | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Perhaps the best-known monument of the Severan period is the large triple arch over the Sacred Way in the Forum, built to commemorate the emperor’s Parthian victories (Figures 3.4 and 12.2). A gigantic structure, 23.27 × 11.20 × 20.88 metres high, it was the largest arch erected up to that time and probably followed the pattern of some lost Antonine arches. Its position, on sloping ground at the foot of the Capitoline hill, added to its imposing effect.

It has also been noted that it was built diagonally opposite the Arch of Augustus (Figures 3.5 and 3.8), but was much higher and bigger, thus linking the emperor’s achievements with those of Augustus while suggesting that he was greater. The arch is finely proportioned with three passageways flanked by free-standing Composite columns on high plinths supporting sections of projecting entablature.

The inscription in the attic dates it to ad 203. On top of the attic was a massive bronze quadriga carrying the emperor. While the arch itself was conventional in its arrangements the sculptures rejected the Classical tradition and looked toward the late Empire. This is particularly evident in the four big relief panels above the side arches which represented episodes in the Parthian campaigns of 195–199 ad. The soldiers were carved as an undifferentiated mass, the folds of their garments indicated by the heavy use of the

Figure 12.1  Rome, Marble Plan. (After G. Carettoni, La Pianta Marmorea di Roma antica. Forma Urbis Romae [Rome: Comune di Roma, 1960], pl. LIII 453 a b c d.)

Figure 12.2  Rome, Forum Romanum looking NE. From left to right: Temple of Saturn, Column of Phocas, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, Arch of Septimius Severus; in the background, the Tabularium.

drill, while the emperor stood above them, a larger, more majestic figure. The Arch of the Argentario, dedicated by the money-lenders and cattle merchants to Septimius Severus is not strictly an arch at all because its passage was covered with a lintel, but it is an interesting and well-preserved little monument, 5.86 metres wide × 6.90 metres high.

Today only the sculpted upper part with its poorly executed reliefs is above ground. One panel showed the emperor sacrificing, while his wife had her arms upraised in the eastern manner of prayer. The composition was awkward as if the spectators were no longer glimpsing a real event, but something posed for their benefit.

Severan ornament is usually extremely rich, harking back to the Flavian period. This is perhaps because Septimius Severus made so many repairs and additions to the Flavian Palace on the Palatine. He completed the projected bath building and made massive extensions to the SE corner of the palace supported on concrete substructures which are still a conspicuous feature of the hill.

Travellers arriving at Puteoli (Pozzuoli) and Brundisium (Brindisi) would have reached Rome along the Appian Way which terminates close to this corner of the Palatine. The Severans were greatly interested in developing this part of the city, and no doubt with an eye to visitors from Libya Severus built a large and imposing structure to stand in front of this new wing, the Septizodium (SHA, Severus 19.5). Although it was entirely demolished in 1588–1589, it is known from 16th-century drawings (Figure 12.3).

These show a massive screen wall with a single niche in front of which stood a three-storey high screen of columns, which makes it look very much like a free-standing version of the scaenae frons of a Roman theatre. Two niches are shown in fragments 7a and b of the Marble Plan.1 Because the word ‘SEPTIZODIUM’ runs a long way beyond the two niches on the plan, it has been suggested that the Septizodium may originally have been longer, perhaps with seven niches, the outer ones semicircular and the middle one rectangular like the Septizodium at Lambaesis.2

A fountain spout belonging to the Septizodium, now in the Palatine Museum, may suggest it was a nymphaeum, which raises the possibility that the urban function of the Septizodium was similar to scenic monuments like the nymphaea at Miletus and Lepcis Magna.

Figure 12.3  Rome, engraving showing the Septizodium (E. Du Pérac, I vestigi dell’antichità di Roma … Rome 1575).

During the later second century ad there had been a growing awareness of the spiritual consolation to be found in eastern cults. Exotic religious practices were not in themselves unusual, as the numerous temples of Isis and Mithras at Ostia show, but official imperial patronage of such cults was rare at this time. Not surprisingly Eastern cults were promoted by Septimius Severus, who came from Lepcis Magna in North Africa and whose wife was the daughter of a Syrian priest of Baal.

A temple in Rome was dedicated by Septimius Severus to Serapis, who protected his two sons and whose image he adopted in his final portraits. It is sometimes identified as the gigantic and dramatically sited temple, measuring 56 × 84 metres, which occupied part of the Piazza del Quirinale. Including the vast monumental staircase, 21 metres high, which led up to it from the Campus Martius, it was the largest temple ever built in Rome.

Parts of it still survive in the gardens of Palazzo Colonna and the Pontifical Gregorian University. If the drawings of Palladio are correct the temple is the only one with 12 columns on its façade, each one of which was 21.17 metres high. The drawings also show Asiatic ornament of the kind found in late Hadrianic and early Antonine buildings.

In ad 211 Septimius Severus died in Eburacum (York) and was succeeded by his sons, Caracalla and Geta. In the following year Caracalla had his brother killed and his name removed from all monuments. In order to gain tax revenue he extended Roman citizenship to all freeborn inhabitants of the Empire, gave orders for a new bathing complex to be built and then embarked upon a series of campaigns with the aim of extending the Roman Empire eastward.

The Baths of Caracalla, built between ad 212 and 216, were at the time the largest in Rome and remained one of the three largest (Figure 12.4). They were situated in the

Figure 12.4  Rome, Baths of Caracalla (ad 212–216), bathing block: plan.

same southern part of the city favoured by his father, and accessible from a new road, the Via Nova, parallel to the Via Appia (SHA, Caracalla 9). Opposite was the Mutatorium Caesaris, the place where the horses and chariots used by the emperor were kept for his journeys within the city (wheeled vehicles were not allowed in Rome during daylight hours).

This part of Rome, beyond the Colosseum and called in the 17th century the disabitato (the uninhabited, elevated part of the city away from the Tiber) is still largely verdant. The massive gaunt walls of the baths are an impressive sight, unencumbered as they are by later structures. Set within a high enclosure, measuring 328 × 400 metres, which provided facilities such as a running track, gardens and libraries, is the main bathing block which measures 220 × 114 metres (138 metres including the projecting caldarium).

Unlike the earlier Baths of Trajan, the bathing block is entirely detached from the perimeter wall. Its rather austere NE wall is punctuated by eight doors and an occasional window, which give little indication of the ingenious spatial effects of the interior. However, a study of the ground plan reveals that the complex is a masterpiece of design clarity, in spite of its functional complexity. A key factor in the design is the intersection of the two major axes in the middle of the frigidarium.

The longer axis embraces the frigidarium and its adjoining exercise yards (palaestrae), while the shorter indicates the normal bathing sequence: caldarium (hot room), tepidarium (warm room), frigidarium (cold room) and natatio (swimming pool). The building is symmetrical around the short axis, so that all facilities were duplicated.

There are four sets of entrances on the NE side flanked by columns, the outer ones leading to a set of three rooms which give direct access to the palaestrae, and the inner ones leading to rooms at the sides of the nation, which give access to five rooms containing the apodyterium (changing rooms). The high NE wall was designed to shield the open-air swimming pool from the sun.

The interior side of the wall, facing the nation, was decorated with two storeys of colonettes which framed niches encrusted with marble and polychrome glass mosaic. The niches were divided into three groups of three by four giant order columns.

The glittering incrustations, mirrored in the sparkling water of the unroofed swimming pool, measuring 25 × 50 metres, must have been dazzling when glimpsed by the bathers entering from the frigidarium. The central room of the complex was the frigidarium, originally roofed with three cross-vaults buttressed on each side by three barrel vaults (Figure 12.5).

The cross-vaults, covered with polychrome glass mosaic, must have glowed in the light of the eight clerestory windows with the same exotic splendour as the mosaics of a Byzantine church. There were plunge baths under the four outer barrel vaults, while the middle ones offered a vista from the patio on one side through to the caldarium on the other. At the ends of the other axis were the palaestrae, onto which opened large semicircular exedras, once paved with the athletes’ mosaic now in the Vatican Museum.

The tepidarium was a small room with the dual function of transition and insulation between the cold rooms on one side and the hot rooms on the other. As such, it formed a suitably modest prelude to the enormous circular caldarium, a huge domed room, 35 metres wide, lit not by an oculus, as was the Pantheon, but by windows. Over half of the rotunda projected from the perimeter wall of the block to gain full advantage of the afternoon sun. There are seven hot plunge baths in the thickness of the drum, each heated by its own furnace.

Flanking the caldarium were hot rooms, probably both Laconica (dry heat) and sudatorium (sweating rooms) with vast windows facing SW to absorb as much of the sun’s heat as possible. Two of the rooms opening off the palaestrae were partially heated and may have been used for massage. Behind the hot rooms, staircases led up to terraces on the roof of the porticoes.

The baths were stripped of most of their furnishings over the years and columns found their way to Pisa cathedral and S. Maria in Trastevere during the 11th and 12th centuries.3 In

Figure 12.5  Rome, Baths of Caracalla, cold room (frigidarium), looking SE.

1545–1546 the excavations of the Farnese Pope Paul III uncovered some enormous pieces of sculpture, including the Farnese Bull, which stood in the middle of the SE palaestra; also the Farnese Hercules and the Latin Hercules, which stood between the columns on the SE side of the frigidarium, all now in the Naples Archaeological Museum. This rich decoration extended to every part of the baths. It has been calculated that there were 108 sculpture niches in the main bathing block.

Furthermore, the planners of this remarkable complex not only had to take into account the bathing facilities, but also services, water supply, drainage and heating. It has been estimated that to build the baths a workforce of 6,000 would have been required, working 300 days per year over a period of four years.4 The architect not only had to plan a labyrinth of rooms, each of which imposed its own functional and aesthetic demands but fitted them remarkably skilfully into an almost perfectly rectangular enclosure. The result is a masterpiece of planning and possibly the most successful of all the major Roman bath buildings.

Caracalla was murdered in ad 217 and in the brief reign of his successor, Macrinus, formerly Prefect of the Praetorian guard, the Colosseum was struck by lightning. This caused a fire which consumed the wooden seating of the summa cavea as well as the wooden flooring of the arena. The damage to the building was so great that it had to be closed for many years and the games transferred to the Circus Maximus.5 Macrinus was succeeded by Elagabalus, a 14-year-old cousin of Caracalla, who encouraged the worship of the sun-god, with whom he identified, and hence spread the oriental cult of the living sovereign.

He built a large temple of Sol Invictus (SHA, Elagabalus 3.4–5) in the area known as ‘Vigna Barberini’ where a succession of buildings have been found: a rich house of the Augustan period; Nero’s revolving dining room; and the Gardens of Adonis, which formed part of the Flavian Palace. The temple, measuring 40 × 60 metres, was peripteral with 8 × 12 columns and faced NW towards the Palatine. It was inside a collonaded enclosure, measuring 110 × 150 metres.

In it Elagabalus assembled many of the most sacred pagan relics in Rome, the aniconic statue of Cybele, the fire of Vesta, the Palladium and the shields of Mars, in a syncretistic attempt to assimilate all these aspects of paganism into the worship of the sun.

Elagabalus built himself a palace on the site of a large imperial property near St. Croce in Gerusalemme, complete with a circus, in which Elagabalus liked to drive his chariot (SHA, Elagabalus 6.3). It was originally c. 565 metres long × 125 metres wide, compared with c. 620 metres for the Circus Maximus and 520 metres for the Circus of Maxentius.

He also built the Amphitheatrum Castrense, a small amphitheatre, measuring only 88 × 75.80 metres and later incorporated into the Aurelianic wall. Its façade originally consisted of three storeys of openings framed by Corinthian half-columns and pilasters.

The western end of the circus, cut by the wall, was excavated in 1959 and it was found that the part of the circus outside the wall was 450 metres long. In the early fourth century ad the palace was the favourite residence of Constantine’s mother, St. Helena. Constantine turned a basilical hall into the church of S. Croce to house a fragment of the True Cross which Helena had brought from Jerusalem. The complex was known from the sixth-century ad as the Sessorian palace.

Several monuments are ascribed to his successor, Alexander Severus (ad 222–235), such as a monumental public fountain just outside the Esquiline gate, supplied by a branch of the Aqua Claudia or the Anio Novus. Although stripped of its marbles and sculpture, the brick-faced concrete ruins, 18 metres high, are still an impressive sight. The water entered at the back of the building, about 10 metres above the ground, and divided into five streams which flowed into an upper basin.

It then ran through further jets down to a semicircular basin where people could draw their water. The Baths of Nero, which also seem to have been rebuilt by Alexander (SHA Alex. Sev. 25, 3–4), are described as one of the most beautiful buildings in Rome (Philostratus, Apollo. 4.42). The murder of Alexander Severus in ad 235 brought to a close the last stable dynasty for the next 50 years of anarchy and civil war.

On several occasions, the Empire and even Italy itself were invaded. In this bleak period one building stands out, the baths on the Aventine built by the emperor Decius in his short reign of 22 months (ad 249–251). Measuring 44 × 70 metres, they were only one-eighth the size of the central block of the Baths of Caracalla, and their layout probably followed that of North African baths rather than the great imperial Thermae of Rome. Although designed as public baths, by the fourth century they seem to have been mainly used by the senatorial aristocracy whose villas filled the nearby area.

It is significant that by far the most substantial building project in the 40 years after the death of Alexander Severus was the construction of a 19-kilometre-long wall circuit for Rome, mostly built by Aurelian between ad 271–275. The very scale of the project and the fact that Rome now needed such protection must have added greatly to the sense of insecurity which began to make itself felt in the middle of the third-century ad.

The new wall, 7.8 metres high × 3.5 metres thick, enclosed an area of 1,400 hectares (3,500 acres), over three times as much as the fourth century bc ‘Servian Wall’ which enclosed only 426 hectares (1,065 acres). The line of the wall followed defensive features whenever possible and left large, indefensible buildings outside.

The number of earlier monuments incorporated into it, such as the Praetorian Camp, the Amphitheatrum Castrense, the Pyramid of Cestius (Figure 2.13), the Porta Praenestina (Figure 5.4), as well as stretches of aqueduct on both sides of it, are evidence that the wall was thrown up in haste. Built of brick-faced concrete capped with merlons, it had rectangular towers every 100 Roman feet (29.60 metres) projecting 3.5 metres and rising higher than the wall.

The most important roads, such as the Via Ostiensis and the Via Appia, originally had gates with two arched stone openings, with a gallery above to house the mechanism of the portcullis and the garrison, and were flanked by large semicircular towers which rose to the same height.

A well-preserved gate is the Porta Asinaria, close to St.John Lateran, from which issued the Via Asinaria which joined the Tuscolana (Figure 12.6). In the early fourth century ad Maxentius began digging a ditch outside the circuit. In ad 402–403 Arcadius and Honorius raised the towers and gates a storey and the height of the walls to 16 metres.

The two entrances through the gates were made into one by Belisarius (c. ad 530–540). The wall was repaired by Theodoric in the sixth century and in the ninth century and extended by Pope Leo IV to include the Vatican. Despite many subsequent alterations, the wall served as the city’s principal defence for 1,600 years and most of the circuit still stands.

Aurelian’s other large project, the Temple of the Sun, is known from drawings of Palladio to have had a rectangular forecourt with apsidal ends. The temple itself was circular and was placed in the middle of a rectangular precinct. This feature and the fact that the funds for its building came from Palmyra, following the defeat of Zenobia in ad 273, links it with eastern temples, such as the Temple of Bel at Palmyra (Figure 11.17). The monotheistic dedication also suggests the eastern influence.

The half-century of troubles came to an end, temporarily at least, when Diocletian was proclaimed emperor in ad 284 in Nicomedia, which he declared to be the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. He quickly associated himself with a co-emperor, Maximian, appointing in ad 293 two subordinates or Caesars, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius, as designated successors, an arrangement known as the Tetrarchy.

Each of the four was given control over a portion of the Empire, which necessitated the creation of new imperial capitals. The consequent decentralisation of power was a further indication of Rome’s diminished position within the Empire. Diocletian expended much of his building energy at Nicomedia, where he had built a palace and circus by ad 304 (Lactantius, de mort.per sec . 17.4–5).

It remained the most important city in the eastern Empire until the foundation of Constantinople in ad 324. Diocletian also spent time at Antioch whereby ad 303 he had built a palace alongside the large and important circus, which was c. 520 metres long, excluding the careers, and had a capacity of 80,000, making it one of the largest known.6


Figure 12.6  Rome, Aurelianic wall (ad 271–275), Porta Asinaria.

The buildings of Rome also required considerable attention following years of neglect and decay. In ad 283 a fire had swept the area between the Forum Julium and the Basilica Julia, with the result that much of Augustus’ work has been transmitted to us in brick-faced concrete.

The Basilica Julia was reconstructed by Diocletian as well as the Curia Julia whose austere brick-faced concrete façade can be seen today, relieved only by the large entrance doorway and the three windows higher up (Figure 3.6). The lower part was originally covered with marble veneer and the upper stuccoed. It was an extremely tall building, internally 21 metres high, 18 metres wide and 27 metres long, following approximately the proportions prescribed by Vitruvius.

The marble paving and wall decoration with statue niches framed by colonettes belong to the reconstruction. Recent studies have shown that there were no adjoining buildings, that it abutted directly onto the Forum Julium behind it and that there was a columnar portico in front of it.

In ad 303 Diocletian visited Rome to inaugurate a set of five pink Aswan granite columns erected upon the rostra to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Tetrarchy. Four of the columns, 36 Roman feet (10.66 metres) high, bore statues of the tetrarchs and the fifth, 40 Roman feet high, a statue of Jupiter.

The base of one of them, the Decennalia base, carried relief sculptures, one of which shows the emperor being crowned by a victory as he pours a libation at a suovetaurilia (bull, ram and pig sacrifice). The sculpture has been described as ‘a pale, almost ghostly, reflection of the great achievements of Roman historical relief’.7

This was one of Diocletian’s projects which can be seen as harking back to the glory days of Rome. As too are a pair of bases in the Boboli Gardens of Florence, one of them showing a Victory in high relief with fussy classicising drapery, which may come from a triumphal arch erected by Diocletian (ad 294).

Diocletian’s greatest single project in Rome is the enormous bath building on Viminal hill which bears his name (Figure 12.7). Built of brick-faced concrete throughout, it seems to have been begun in ad 298 and completed in ad 305. Such a gigantic project implies a massive reorganisation of the brick industry. The outer enclosure, measuring 316 × 356 metres, was slightly smaller than that of the Baths of Caracalla, but its main bathing block, c. 144 × 244 metres, was considerably larger.

Unlike the Baths of Caracalla, it is in the heavily built-up centre of Rome with the result that many parts of the building have been incorporated into later structures. For example, the great curve of the outer circuit wall has transmitted its shape to the Piazza della Repubblica.

The octagonal hot room covered with an umbrella dome in the NW corner of the main bathing block was for a long time the Planetarium cinema, and the NW circular room in the outer circuit was turned into the church of St. Bernardo, making any attempt to trace the entire complex on foot a lengthy business. The layout of the main bathing block was similar to that of the Baths of Caracalla, with the two controlling axes intersecting each other in the middle of the frigidarium, and the block entirely detached from the perimeter wall.

Figure 12.7  Rome, Baths of Diocletian (ad 298–306), bathing block: plan.


But there the similarities end. First, the perimeter wall of the Baths of Diocletian was punctuated by a regular series of curved and rectangular exedras, giving it the appearance of a defensive wall akin to that of Diocletian’s palace at Split. This impression is confirmed by the severe rectilinearity of most of the rooms and their regular, even monotonous disposition, for example, the six rectangular rooms on each side of the frigidarium.

Instead of a great domed rotunda, one of the architectural triumphs of the Baths of Caracalla, the caldarium was a rectangular cross-vaulted room with four semicircular apses. However, the greatest splendor must have been the nation which measured c. 48 × 86 meters and covered over three times the area of that in the Baths of Caracalla.

At the sides were vaulted halls encrusted in polychrome mosaic, while high screen walls, decorated with a triple order of columns in the manner of the scaenae frons of a Roman theatre, shut the pool off from the surrounding enclosure and adjacent frigidarium. Michelangelo’s transformation of the tepidarium and part of the frigidarium into the church of St. Maria Degli Angeli means that some of the spatial effects of the interior can still be appreciated (Figure 12.8).

The eight granite columns under the triple cross-vault stand in their original positions and the room is still lit by its eight lunette windows. It must be borne in mind however that the vaulting was originally encrusted in polychrome mosaic and that the interior would have had more the jewel-box character of a Ravennate church than the cool Mannerist appearance it has today.

In 1749 Vanvitelli was commissioned to enlarge the church and added a choir extending into part of the nation, thus transforming Michelangelo’s nave into a transept. The two architects thus exploited the two major axes of the baths, Michelangelo choosing the long axis and Vanvitelli the short. The 16th-century church and its 18th-century enlargement illustrate the dual axiality inherent in the fully developed imperial bath building.

Figure 12.8  Rome, Baths of Diocletian, cold room (frigidarium), looking NW.

The same rigid planning can be seen in the great palace Diocletian built for his retirement at Spalatum (Split) on the Croatian coast (Figure 12.9). More like a fortified camp than a palace, it reflected the uncertainties of the times and the need to enclose the comfortable Roman world within stout walls. Built between ad 300–306, it lay on the sea coast and was defended by a rectangular wall circuit measuring c. 180 × 216 metres.

At each corner was a square bastion with two further square bastions on each of the three landward sides. In the middle of each of these three sides was a gate, flanked by octagonal towers. On the seaward side, there was a landing stage and a single entrance to the palace at water level. Higher up, facing the sea, was a long colonnaded corridor where the emperor could stroll.

Two intersecting colonnaded streets divided the complex into four sections. The northern two sections were perhaps barracks, while almost half of the southern sections are taken up by the residential quarters. The route into the latter consists of three successive rooms: a ceremonial courtyard measuring 24 × 13.25 meters, whose sides are formed by 14 arches supported on 12 columns, 5.25 meters high with re-used marble Corinthian capitals.

A large octagonal mausoleum opens off the courtyard to the east, and to the west is a small temple whose barrel-vaulted ceiling is adorned with fine stone coffering. The end wall of the courtyard consists of an arcuated lintel within a pediment supported by four taller red granite columns; south of this is a circular domed vestibule; and finally, a suite of palatial rooms with a rectangular hall in the center, flanked by each side by six small rooms.

To the west is an lapsed basilical hall, perhaps a throne room, and what looks like a bathing suit. To the east is a large square room with three smaller square rooms opening off it, probably a triclinium (banqueting room). The actual rooms do not survive, but their layout can be clearly traced in the substructures below (Figure 12.10).

The shapes of the rooms and their arrangement have much of the regularity we have already seen in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. The palace also has similarities with Romuliana, the palace of Galerius at Gamzigrad in northern Serbia, and the third/fourth-century ad Palatiolum at Melinda. Its outer fortifications echo those of the early fourth-century ad fortified villa at Mogorjelo in Bosnia Herzegovina.

Figure 12.9  Spalatum (Split, Croatia), Palace of Diocletian, ad 300–306: plan.


In ad 286, because of its greater proximity to the dangerous Rhine/Danube frontier, Diocletian moved the capital of the western Roman Empire from Rome to Mediolanum (Milan), while he himself resided in Nicomedia. Milan remained the capital until ad 402 when it was besieged by the Visigoths and the court moved to Ravenna. Various Roman remains to survive, notably parts of the Roman wall circuit enlarged by the western emperor, Maximian.

The new circuit, built of brick, was about 4.5 kilometers long × 11 meters high and punctuated by eight gates and a number of towers, of which one, with 24 sides, survives to its full height of 16.60 meters. The cardo intersected the decumanus at the forum, west of which was the imperial palace, which seems to have been a very extensive complex covering a large area on the western side of the Roman city.

One excavated part consists of a large circular building, 20.70 meters in diameter, which may have been covered by a dome supported on a ring of columns and surrounded by a vaulted annular corridor. Preceding the circular building was a rectangular lobby with apses at each end and north of it a building with three apses and a hypocaust. To the west was a set of three rooms, the central one lapsed with perhaps a similar set of rooms opposite.

The SE arm of the decumanus, the road which led to Rome, was colonnaded for a distance of one Roman mile outside the walls. Near the NW branch of the decumanus, well outside the city walls, was the Mausoleum of Maximian. Near the palace was a circus, 470 meters long × 85 meters wide, partly incorporated into the defensive wall. One of its towers survives as the bell tower of S. Maurizio.

Also nearby was the theatre, a large building raised entirely on substructures and built in the mid to late first-century bc. An amphitheater has been partially excavated to the SW of the city and the large Baths of Hercules to the NE, including parts of a large frigidarium, 50 × 22 meters, with its apse set within the south side of a colonnaded palaestra.

Figure 12.10  Spalatum (Split, Croatia), Palace of Diocletian, substructures.

The other Tetrarchs had their own capitals. Trier (Augusta Treverorum) in Germania Superior was the capital of Constantius Chlorus, whose empire included Spain, Gaul, and Britain. Trier was an old-established city on the banks of the Moselle which already possessed a number of imposing monuments, including the amphitheater and the St. Barbara Baths built in the later second-century ad. However, its greatest period of prosperity dates from the time it became Constantius’ capital.

His son, Constantine, resided there for a time and completed the palace and basilica begun by his father, as well as building the cathedral, the Imperial Baths, and probably the circus.8 He also built a number of warehouses in the harbor district and the famous Porta Nigra (Figure 12.11). For a hundred years Trier remained the most important city in the west apart from Rome itself. Many of these buildings have survived and taken their place among the most conspicuous architectural remains in the Roman provinces.

The basilica stood on the site of a smaller basilical hall which probably formed part of the residence of the regional procurator (Figure 12.12). It was a large hall with a double square ground plan measuring 100 × 200 Roman feet (29.6 × 59.2 meters) with an apse at one end. There were no internal columns and it had the widest nave of any Roman basilica.

The building was lit by two rows of round-headed windows that continued around the apse. The upper windows of the apse were just over a metre lower than the corresponding ones of the nave and were shorter. Also, the two central windows of the apse were narrower than the outer ones. These subtle optical devices give the impression that the apse is higher and wider than it in fact is.

These refinements and the unusual construction of the building, which was composed entirely of brick, not brick-faced concrete, are signs of the sophistication of Tetrarchic architecture. Externally the building had a strongly vertical accent because of the blind arcading framing the windows.

However, nails and impressions in the brick show that continuous wooden galleries originally ran beneath each row of windows, adding a compensating horizontality. There was a colonnaded courtyard each side of the basilica and the building itself had underfloor heating.

Externally it was stuccoed and the window frames were decorated by painted putti and vine scrolls in yellow on a red field. The rich interior was very much in contrast to its rather stark grandeur today. The floor was paved in black and white opus sectile and one of the niches contains traces of mosaic tesserae with blue and green scroll patterns on a gold ground.

It also formed part of a larger palace complex of which only a transverse narthex survives. Whether or not the basilica joined up with the complex found a little to the north, under the cathedral, must be resolved by excavation.

Figure 12.11  Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Germany), Porta Nigra, early fourth century ad.

Figure 12.12  Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Germany), basilica, early fourth century ad: reconstructed view of exterior (left), and plan (right). (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins,

Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

The great Imperial Baths were among the largest outside Rome and raise the question of why they should have been built at all when Constantius had only recently finished rebuilding the equally large St. Barbara Baths. The answer may be that they were not for public use, but were connected with the imperial palace, which occupied a large portion of the eastern town. They were designed to occupy two city blocks, half as a gymnasium and half for bathing purposes (Figure 12.13). The main bathing block was much more compactly planned

Figure 12.13  Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Germany), Imperial Baths, early fourth-century ad: restored view (above), plan (below). (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and

Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

than that of the second-century ad St. Barbara Baths, and betrays the hand of a court architect, trained perhaps in north Africa to judge by the ground plan. In the event, it was never finished according to plan because of Constantine’s departure for the east in ad 316, and finally, the entire frigidarium area was scrapped.

The Porta Nigra was probably built by Constantine, but for whatever reason never finished, which explains its somewhat crude surface treatment (Figure 12.11). It owes its preservation to the fact that the hermit, St. Simeon, lived in it and later a church was erected over the gate incorporating most of the Roman structure. The two arched passageways had garrison rooms above and were flanked by two projecting semicircular towers.

It followed a well-established Roman type exemplified by the magnificent first-century ad Porta Palatina at Augusta Taurinorum (Turin) which had four arched passageways, two for traffic and two for pedestrians, and was flanked by imposing 16-sided towers. Other Augustan and early imperial gates were of a similar type, such as those at Augusta Praetoria (Aosta), Hispellum (Spello), and Augustodunum (Autun).

A feature of these gates is the separate entrance and exit, and the courtyard, where no doubt visitors to the town and their merchandise would be checked. The Trier gate, like the others, was designed to impress. Towers and guard rooms were decorated with rows of half-columns supporting continuous horizontal entablatures, but the effect is clumsy and the work bears signs of haste. Confirmation of this is the fact that inscriptions in the masonry show that the third story went up in three weeks.

Diocletian’s other Caesar, Galerius, who controlled the Danube provinces, made his capital at Sirmium in Diocletian’s province of Pannonia Secunda (northern Serbia). He also built a fortified palace at Gamzigrad in northern Serbia where he was later buried. Perhaps his greatest building achievement was the enormous palace at Thessalonica where he resided, much of which has been uncovered.

The city was already well-established by this date and lay on the strategically important via Egnatia which linked Asia and Italy. Galerius built his palace to the east of the old town. The palace proper and an adjoining circus lay to the south of the via Egnatia and his own mausoleum to the north. The via Egnatia was colonnaded at this point and another colonnaded street ran north to the mausoleum (Figure 12.14).

The intersection of the colonnaded streets was marked by a four-sided arch. The sides which faced the via Egnatia had three openings, a large one for traffic and two lesser ones for pedestrians. On the other two sides, there was a single opening. As the colonnades abutted against the arch it could not be decorated in the same way as a free-standing structure. This may partly explain the unusual nature of the reliefs, which consist of a series of long, rectangular panels, reminiscent of sarcophagus reliefs, set one on top of the other.

The mausoleum (Figure 12.15) is well-preserved mainly because it was converted into the church of St. George (c. ad 400). It is a domed rotunda with eight barrel-vaulted recesses in the thickness of the drum. Above each recess is a round-headed window, because, although the walls were massively thick, windows rather than an oculus had by then become the established method of lighting a domed room.

The structure of the vaults is of interest because pitched brick and mortar rubble is used, a technique that became common in Byzantine times. It also had a double curvature dome, which means that the lower part followed the normal curvature of a hemispherical dome, but, at a point 2.5 meters from the wall, changed to a steeper curvature, adding considerably to the stability of the structure.

The crown was a point of weakness in a dome, and it was the shallowness of the crown which caused the dome of Hagia Sophia to collapse barely 21 years after it was completed in ad 537.

At this point, mention should be made of the large Roman villa at Piazza Armerina in Sicily (Figure 12.16). Now dated to the period ad 310–320 it cannot have been built by Maximian as originally thought. It had a loose, rather rambling layout in contrast to the taut planning of Diocletian’s palace at Split. The polychrome mosaics in practically every

Figure 12.14  Thessalonica (Thessaloniki, Greece), Mausoleum of Galerius and monumental approach to it, including the Arch of Galerius across the main colonnaded street of the city, before ad 311: reconstruction. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

Figure 12.15  Thessalonica (Thessaloniki, Greece), Mausoleum of Galerius and the Arch of Galerius.


Figure 12.16  Piazza Armerina, Roman villa, ad 310–320: plan.

room, covering an area of nearly 0.4 hectares (an acre), link it stylistically with North Africa, but its layout is more reminiscent of Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli. Furthermore, in North Africa both villas and townhouses were of the single-story peristyle type. The main groupings of the entrance courtyard (2 on Figure 2.13), peristyle/audience hall (15 and 30), baths (8–12) and triclinium (46) were loosely related and on differing axes. Like other buildings of the period, the interior dictated the shape of the exterior.

The bathing suit, for example, was planned as a series of related interiors, resulting in a jumble of irregular spaces outside. Now that other villas of similar character, but seemingly smaller, have been found at Patti Marina and Caddeddi, both belonging to the fourth-century ad, the Villa at Piazza Armerina is no longer an isolated phenomenon.

When Diocletian went into voluntary retirement he compelled his fellow emperor, Maximian, to do the same (ad 305). Unfortunately, the orderly succession he planned did not materialise. A further round of civil war ensued, this time between Maximian’s son, Maxentius, and Constantine, the son of Constantius Chlorus. Maxentius held power in Italy for six troubled years and built prodigiously during that time.

He began work on a large imperial palace for himself on the Appian Way, which included a large circus and a mausoleum. The external length of the circus is 520 meters, less than the 620 meters of the Circus Maximus or the 565 meters of the Circus Varianus of Elagabalus, but it displays many of the refinements to be expected in a building of so late a date.

The starting gates (careers) were set out in a tight curve between two tall towers (oppida) built flush with the banks of seats on each side of the track. The dividing strip (spina) was short in relation to the arena as a whole and was angled, as was the seating between the meta Secunda and the careers, a sophisticated device to allow the spectators a closer view of the crucial start of the race.

The structure itself was of opus listatum with enormous numbers of amphorae incorporated into the fill of the vaults. His Mausoleum was a domed rotunda with a pedimental columnar porch in front, an arrangement that harks back to the Pantheon. It was set in the middle of a large columnar quadriporticus and was designed to be viewed on all sides.

The residential quarter, of great antiquity and only partially excavated, exhibits at least four main building phases. Situated on a low hill, its platform was supported by a late Republican cryptoporticus, 115 metres long, consisting of two parallel vaulted galleries.

A very capacious water cistern, 63 × 4.30 meters, was installed in the second-century ad, which fed a bath building and two nymphaea below the terrace. On the terrace various buildings can be seen, in particular a great basilical hall, measuring 33.10 × 19.45 meters, with terracotta heating tubes in the wall, installed when the original villa was turned into an imperial palace by Maxentius.

In ad 307 fire swept the area around Hadrian’s Temple of Venus and Rome, and although it left the outer colonnade undamaged, the twin cells had to be rebuilt by Maxentius. The new cells each terminate in an apse and were roofed with coffered barrel vaults supported on porphyry columns, a material much used in the Late Empire because its color had imperial connotations.

Maxentius also began building the adjacent Basilica Nova in ad 308, a colossal building with a broad nave, 25 × 80 × 35 meters high, covered by three cross-vaults buttressed at each side by three barrel vaults (Figure 12.17). The cross-vaults sprang at the level of the top of the barrel vaults and were given visual support by eight Corinthian columns of Proconnesian marble, the only surviving one of which was transported to the piazza in front of St. Maria Maggiore where it still stands.

The huge hall was well lit both by windows in the walls of the aisles and by a clerestory of eight lunettes under the cross-vaults. Both the lateral barrel vaults and the cross vaults were decorated with deeply sunken coffers, once elaborately colored and painted. The sheer bulk of the building is still impressive even after the collapse of one set of barrel vaults and all the high vaults. The basilica was an unorthodox building that broke the tradition of its great antecedents like the Basilica Paulli

Figure 12.17  Rome, Basilica of Maxentius (ad 306–312), looking NE.

and Basilica Ulpia, which were divided into nave and aisles by a double order of columns, had clerestory lighting and were covered by wooden roofs. The plan of the Basilica Nova is clearly derived from the frigidarium of one of the large imperial thermae, and as such, it had two major axes. In its original form, its main axis was to be the longitudinal one, and an apse was built at the far end opposite the entrance (Figure 12.18).

After the death of Maxentius the basilica was named after Constantine (Aurelius Victor, Caes. 40.26) who finished it, altering its orientation and inserting a new apse in its NE side. He also created a new entrance opposite, preceded by a porch of porphyry columns, in accordance with his policy of promoting buildings on the Via Sacra. A colossal statue of Constantine, parts of which are now in the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum in Rome, was placed in the original apse.

Another monument on the Via Sacra, immediately west of the Basilica Nova and probably of similar date, is a circular domed building, 50 Roman feet (14.8 meters) in diameter, with a concave façade flanked each side by wings, known as the ‘Temple of Romulus’ (Figure 3.2). It had a pair of porphyry columns framing the doorway, whose original bronze doors have been preserved. Pairs of cipollini columns framed each of the lapsed chambers which flanked the central rotunda.

The identification of this building has provoked many disputes. It used to be identified, on coin evidence, as a temple erected by Maxentius in honor of his young son, Romulus, who died and was deified in ad 307. A more recent suggestion is that it is the Temple of Jupiter Stator, flanked by shrines of the Penates, whose temple stood at the highest point of the Velia (Livy, 45.16.5).

If the original building had to be destroyed owing to the erection of the Basilica Nova, this was the nearest place to rebuild it. More mundanely the temple acted as a vestibule to the Temple of Peace and concealed its alignment, which

Figure 12.18  Rome, Basilica of Maxentius: reconstruction. (After H. Leacroft, The Buildings of

Ancient Rome [Leicester: W. R. Scott, 1969].)

differs from that of the Basilica Nova. The room of the Temple of Peace it gives access to now houses the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian built by Pope Felix IV (ad 527–530).

Constantine was proclaimed emperor by his troops at Eboracum (York) in ad 306 on his father’s death. This brought him into conflict with Maxentius whom he defeated in battles at Turin, Verona and near the Milvian bridge at Rome (ad 312). Constantine later built an arch over the Via Flaminia on the spot where he had marshaled his army for the battle. The Arch of Constantine near the Colosseum was built between ad 312-–315 and also commemorated his victory over Maxentius (Figure 2.11).

It was a triple arch similar to the Arch of Septimius Severus, although somewhat wider, measuring 25.9 × 7.4 × 21 meters high. Like the latter, it had three openings, a large central one flanked by two smaller ones, framed each side by four tall, free-standing columns supporting projecting entablatures. Its sculptural ornament was rich and varied, some of it Constantinian, but much of it removed from earlier buildings.

Over the lateral passageways were pairs of roundels of Hadrianic date showing hunting scenes set into a porphyry ground and below them narrative reliefs of Constantinian date. The attic was divided each side into three panels by four standing Dacian prisoners perhaps from the Forum of Trajan.

The central and largest panel contained the dedicatory inscription, and the lateral ones were filled with pairs of rectangular reliefs of Marcus Aurelius, whose features were replaced by those of Constantine. In the passageways and at the sides of the attic were sections of a magnificent frieze, showing a battle scene. The sculptures in the spandrels and on the column plinths were Constantinian and followed traditional themes.

The Baths of Constantine on the Quirinal (ad 320) are known from drawings by Palladio to have been of the imperial type with the usual succession of the caldarium, tepidarium, frigidarium, and natatio. The frigidarium was covered by three cross-vaults, the central one wider than the other two, with the usual four plunge baths in the corners.

Unusually, the frigidarium was prolonged at each end by two further rooms covered with three cross-vaults, each terminating in an apse and each almost as big as the main room. The caldarium has reverted to a circular plan like that of the Baths of Caracalla. Palladio’s plan shows a large curved wall south of the caldarium, with rows of seats.

The so-called ‘Temple of Minerva Medica’ (early fourth-century ad), in the gardens owned by the Licinian family, was a domed pavilion, 25 meters wide with ten sides; one was the entrance and the other nine had projecting semicircular apses (Figures 4.15 and 12.19).

The building is a good illustration of some of the building techniques used by late imperial architects. There were large windows in the drum and the envelope of the dome was comparatively thin. Lattice ribbing can be seen in the dome and 18th-century engravings show several of the ribs still standing independently of their filling. This led many to conclude that the ribs were designed to channel stresses in the same way as Gothic ribs.

However, the purpose of the ribs was probably to distribute load evenly within the dome. There were also amphorae in the dome above the windows, presumably to channel weight away from them. The ‘Temple of Minerva Medica’ may well have been built by Licinius who had been raised to the rank of Augustus by Galerius in ad 308.

After Galerius’ death in ad 311 and following the defeat and death of Maxentius in ad 312 Constantine met Licinius in Milan and the two promulgated the Edict of Milan, granting toleration to Christianity (ad 313). The edict was a masterstroke in a world that was increasingly seeking spiritual consolation and silenced Constantine’s most vocal critics.

In ad 324 Constantine inaugurated a new city to be called Constantinople on the site of Byzantium, an old Greek city on the European side of the Bosphorus, which stood at a critical geographic point between the Balkans and Asia Minor, close to both the Danube and Euphrates frontiers. It also stood at a major intersection of E/W trade. The site itself had many advantages. Roughly triangular in shape, it was surrounded on two sides by the sea,

Figure 12.19  Rome, ‘Temple of Minerva Medica,’ model in Museo della civiltà romana

and had a good harbor in the Golden Horn, whose mouth could be shut off by a chain. Like Rome, it had seven hills and there was plenty of room for expansion. In ad 330 Constantine made it the capital of the Roman Empire. This, more than any other action, spells the end of the old Roman Empire and the change to a new era. The final break the Classical tradition makes this an appropriate point to terminate the story of Roman architecture.





The Eastern Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Eastern Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Eastern provinces comprise Asia Minor (Asia, Bithynia/Pontus, Lycia/Pamphylia, Cilicia, Galatia, and Cappadocia), Greece (Achaea, Macedonia, Epirus, and Thracia), the Levant (Syria, Arabia and Judaea), the Balkans and some of the Danube provinces (Chapter 10) and Egypt and Cyrenaica (Chapter 9).

Until the Roman conquest most of the eastern Mediterranean had been part of the Hellenistic world and the columnar Orders, which had their origins in Classical Greece, remained enormously significant. Even under Roman rule, the columnar style remained so deep-rooted that the architecture of the Eastern Empire can be viewed as the final development in an unbroken Hellenistic tradition.

Such buildings as the Temple of Zeus at Athens (Figure 11.2), the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10), the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek (Figure 11.14), and the Temple of Bel at Palmyra (Figure 11.17) all owe their effect to skillful handling of the columnar Orders, with concrete playing no significant role until the late Empire. Clearly, Roman architectural styles were nowhere near as influential here as they were in the west.

The Eastern Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition

In the Republican period generals took their own Greek or Asiatic architects back to Rome with them. Augustus used Greek columnar Orders to build his marble city. Trajan declared that architects in Rome usually came from Greece (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 10.39–40) and Hadrian may have imported architects from Asia Minor for his building projects. It can be argued that Rome’s main contribution to architecture lay in the realm of engineering and the development of concrete, while eastern architects continued to develop the Classical Orders.

In the words of Lyttelton: ‘While it is certainly true that it was the architects in Rome who first realized the exciting potentialities of building in concrete … it appears that throughout the first two centuries of imperial rule it was the architects of the eastern provinces of the Empire who remained pre-eminent in the evolution and exploitation of the traditional column-and-lintel style.’1

Here a few words should be said about Hellenistic architecture and the Classical orders on which it is based. The Classical tradition of trabeated columnar architecture was developed in Greece during the period 600–400 bc and two highly sophisticated styles of architecture developed, the Doric and the Ionic. Both these systems depended on a clear and logical relationship between the constituent parts of the building and equal value was given to each part.

Thus in a Classical Greek temple, no single side of the building was treated as the façade, and precincts were often planned so that the first view of a temple was from a three-quarter viewpoint. Indeed one’s first view of the Parthenon upon entering through the Propylaea is the rear of the temple not the entrance façade. Moreover, the appearance of a temple closely reflected its structure.

That is to say, not only did the columns support the horizontal entablature which spanned them, but they appeared capable of supporting them. Therefore they had to be of adequate thickness to take the weight, and sufficiently close together so that the entablature did not appear to be in danger of collapsing. In fact that is the basis of Vitruvius’ criticism of the Second Pompeian style of wall-painting (de Arch. 7.5.4).

In the Classical Greek temple structure dictated appearance to the extent that every major element played an essential part in the system. However, as early as the fifth century bc some Classical buildings began to include elements superfluous to any structural requirements, but valuable for their effect. For example, in an orthodox Classical temple, two rows of columns often ran down the cella.

They were to help support the roof, which is to say they were an integral part of the whole structure. However, in the Parthenon, these columns turned to run behind the statue of Athena, showing that they were being used decoratively rather than purely structurally.

In the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, which dates to the later fifth-century bc, the rows of columns ran so close to the cella walls that they were actually joined to them by a series of spur walls. In terms of supporting the roof they would have been of very little value, and one could conclude that their purpose was to deceive the eye by giving the impression that they were complete columns and that there were normal aisles beyond them.

This represents quite a sharp break from previous architectural practice and soon architectural elements began to be used in an unorthodox fashion. Columnar screens and façades were often placed in front of a building without regard to structural logic.

Half-columns and pilasters were used, both of which appear to act as supports while having little independent structural value. Elements that were originally necessary parts of the structure were used decoratively. For example, the pediment, which ought to be the triangle produced at the ends of a building by the sloping roof, was applied decoratively to façades and over niches or aedicules. Sometimes it became segmental in shape, or it could be hollow at the bottom or broken in the middle.

At this point, it may be useful to look at an eastern building and analyze its component parts. The Deir at Petra (Figure 11.19) is a rock-cut tomb with a columnar façade, designed to impress by its sheer size and position. It is worlds away from the graceful Greek temple designed to be viewed from all sides with its surrounding columns regular and even. Here the aim is to overwhelm by piling up the Classical Orders to create a dramatic effect, one that relies entirely upon the façade, in contrast to the small plain interior.

The façade is conceived as an independent screen in front of the building rather than an organic and logical element in the structure as a whole. Note how the central part of the façade is emphasized and the sides build up towards it. The columns are not arranged regularly, reflecting the structures they have to support; instead, they are arranged in terms of rhythms. On the two sides are pilasters, used to articulate rather than act as supports. The two niches and doorway on the lower floor are capped with alternately segmental and triangular pediments, a favorite device of the 17th century Baroque with which this eastern architecture has so much in common.

The outer pairs of columns on each side support a projecting section of the entablature which then breaks off. The third column from the edge on each side supports a shorter projecting section of an entablature, whose only function in projecting is to be supported by the column.

In the upper story, the Orders are used to more dramatic effect. The two pilasters on each end have half-columns engaged in them and support a boldly projecting section of entablature with a triglyph frieze. Once again the only function of these complicated pilasters cum half-columns is to support an entablature, whose purpose is to be supported by them. Their real function is of course not structural at all, but to give a powerful rhythm to the upper story.

Closer to the middle is a pair of columns straddling the two projecting sections of the entablature on the story below. They support the ends of a massive broken pediment with a circular kiosk in the middle. Note, however, the sophistication with which this circular element is handled. Its columns are exactly the same height as the flanking ones and even the rhythm of the triglyph frieze is maintained. Also, the acroterion on the top of its conical roof is in exactly the position it would have been having the pediment complete.

One must conclude that there is nothing crude about this style. It is highly sophisticated handling of the Classical Orders by architects who thoroughly understood their true function and were able to break the rules with a deliberate effect in mind. Incidentally, this also presupposes that the clients of such buildings had the taste and understanding to appreciate such subtleties. In order to understand a building that breaks the rules, one has to know what the rules were in the first place.


Athens had enjoyed a fine architectural past and in the Hellenistic period rulers such as Eumenes and Attalos of Pergamum had made magnificent additions to a city already resplendent with monuments such as the Parthenon, Erechtheum, and the Temple of Hephaestus. However, Athens suffered badly as a result of the Sullan sack of 86 bc and rebuilding was overdue.

The tradition of benefactions begun by the Hellenistic monarchs continued under the Romans, and Athens was favored with much patronage both by the imperial family and by fabulously wealthy individuals like Herodes Atticus. The first Roman contribution to the built environment of Athens was the commercial Agora or Agora of Caesar and Augustus, which was used as a commercial or trading center.

It was planned during the visit of Julius Caesar to Athens in 47 bc, but not begun until the visit in 19 bc of Augustus, who provided the money for it. Finally dedicated in 10 bc, it is situated in what used to be the eastern Agora until the Stoa of Attalos cut the area off from the main or western Agora. The monumental west propylon was utterly conservative if not reactionary in style.

Its four columns and its entablature, with its heavy triglyph frieze, were close copies of the late fifth century bc Classical originals. The propylon led into an open square surrounded on all sides by colonnades of Ionic columns in grey-blue Hymmetian marble. Behind were rows of shops, an arrangement common to buildings of the Hellenistic east.

The west propylon of the new Agora was one of a number of Classical revival buildings erected towards the end of the first-century bc both in Athens and Rome. We know that earlier in the century, the Erechtheum, a Classical building of the late fifth-century bc, was damaged by fire.

In the course of its reconstruction, which was completed in 27 bc, the masons engaged on its repair must have become familiar with the ornate Ionic order employed in the original building because the small circular temple NE of the Parthenon, dedicated to Rome and Augustus in the same year, had nine Ionic columns closely modeled on those of the Erechtheum.

This Classical revival in Athens had important repercussions in Rome of the last decades bc when Augustus was promoting the Classical period as a model for imperial art and architecture. Among the products of this classical revival were the Prima Porta Augustus, based upon the fifth century bc Doryphoros of Polycleitos, the Ara Pacis, completed in 9 bc and based upon Classical and Hellenistic prototypes, and the Forum of Augustus replete with its row of Caryatids based upon those of the Erechtheum.

In a more general sense, the Augustan Classical revival gave purity and discipline to the rash of new architectural forms and styles in vogue in the early years of Augustus’ principate. Thus the Classical revival in Athens, although antiquarian in spirit, had more than a passing effect on the architecture of the Roman Empire.

The old marketplace or Agora also underwent considerable rebuilding during the early Empire. Most notable was the building of a new odeum by Agrippa, in about 15 bc (Figure 11.1). Its enormous bulk must have towered over the elegant stores all around it and

The Eastern provinces comprise Asia Minor (Asia, Bithynia/Pontus, Lycia/Pamphylia, Cilicia, Galatia, and Cappadocia), Greece (Achaea, Macedonia, Epirus, and Thracia), the Levant (Syria, Arabia, and Judaea), the Balkans and some of the Danube provinces (Chapter 10) and Egypt and Cyrenaica (Chapter 9). Until the Roman conquest most of the eastern Mediterranean had been part of the Hellenistic world and the columnar Orders, which had their origins in Classical Greece, remained enormously significant.

Even under Roman rule, the columnar style remained so deep-rooted that the architecture of the Eastern Empire can be viewed as the final development in an unbroken Hellenistic tradition. Such buildings as the Temple of Zeus at Athens (Figure 11.2), the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10), the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek (Figure 11.14), and the Temple of Bel at Palmyra (Figure 11.17) all owe their effect to skillful handling of the columnar Orders, with concrete playing no significant role until the late Empire. Clearly, Roman architectural styles were nowhere near as influential here as they were in the west.

In the Republican period, generals took their own Greek or Asiatic architects back to Rome with them. Augustus used Greek columnar Orders to build his marble city. Trajan declared that architects in Rome usually came from Greece (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 10.39–40) and Hadrian may have imported architects from Asia Minor for his building projects.

It can be argued that Rome’s main contribution to architecture lay in the realm of engineering and the development of concrete, while eastern architects continued to develop the Classical Orders. In the words of Lyttelton: ‘While it is certainly true that it was the architects in Rome who first realized the exciting potentialities of building in concrete … it appears that throughout the first two centuries of imperial rule it was the architects of the eastern provinces of the Empire who remained pre-eminent in the evolution and exploitation of the traditional column-and-lintel style.’1

Here a few words should be said about Hellenistic architecture and the Classical orders on which it is based. The Classical tradition of trabeated columnar architecture was developed in Greece during the period 600–400 bc and two highly sophisticated styles of architecture developed, the Doric and the Ionic. Both these systems depended on a clear and logical relationship between the constituent parts of the building and equal value was given to each part.

Thus in a Classical Greek temple, no single side of the building was treated as the façade, and precincts were often planned so that the first view of a temple was from a three-quarter viewpoint. Indeed one’s first view of the Parthenon upon entering through the Propylaea is the rear of the temple not the entrance façade. Moreover, the appearance of a temple closely reflected its structure.

That is to say, not only did the columns support the horizontal entablature which spanned them, but they appeared capable of supporting them. Therefore they had to be of adequate thickness to take the weight, and sufficiently close together so that the entablature did not appear to be in danger of collapsing. In fact that is the basis of Vitruvius’ criticism of the Second Pompeian style of wall-painting (de Arch. 7.5.4).

In the Classical Greek temple structure dictated appearance to the extent that every major element played an essential part in the system. However, as early as the fifth century bc some Classical buildings began to include elements superfluous to any structural requirements, but valuable for their effect. For example, in an orthodox Classical temple, two rows of columns often ran down the cella. They were to help support the roof, which is to say they were an integral part of the whole structure.

However, in the Parthenon, these columns turned to run behind the statue of Athena, showing that they were being used decoratively rather than purely structurally. In the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, which dates to the later fifth-century bc, the rows of columns ran so close to the cella walls that they were actually joined to them by a series of spur walls.

In terms of supporting the roof they would have been of very little value, and one could conclude that their purpose was to deceive the eye by giving the impression that they were complete columns and that there were normal aisles beyond them. This represents quite a sharp break from previous architectural practice and soon architectural elements began to be used in an unorthodox fashion.

Columnar screens and façades were often placed in front of a building without regard to structural logic. Half-columns and pilasters were used, both of which appear to act as supports while having little independent structural value.

Elements that were originally necessary parts of the structure were used decoratively. For example, the pediment, which ought to be the triangle produced at the ends of a building by the sloping roof, was applied decoratively to façades and over niches or aedicules. Sometimes it became segmental in shape, or it could be hollow at the bottom or broken in the middle.

At this point it may be useful to look at an eastern building and analyze its component parts. The Deir at Petra (Figure 11.19) is a rock-cut tomb with a columnar façade, designed to impress by its sheer size and position. It is worlds away from the graceful Greek temple designed to be viewed from all sides with its surrounding columns regular and even.

Here the aim is to overwhelm by piling up the Classical Orders to create a dramatic effect, one that relies entirely upon the façade, in contrast to the small plain interior. The façade is conceived as an independent screen in front of the building rather than an organic and logical element in the structure as a whole. Note how the central part of the façade is emphasized and the sides build up towards it.

The columns are not arranged regularly, reflecting the structures they have to support; instead, they are arranged in terms of rhythms. On the two sides are pilasters, used to articulate rather than act as supports. The two niches and doorway on the lower floor are capped with alternately segmental and triangular pediments, a favorite device of the 17th century Baroque with which this eastern architecture has so much in common.

The outer pairs of columns on each side support a projecting section of the entablature which then breaks off. The third column from the edge on each side supports a shorter projecting section of an entablature, whose only function in projecting is to be supported by the column.

In the upper story, the Orders are used to more dramatic effect. The two pilasters on each end have half-columns engaged in them and support a boldly projecting section of entablature with a triglyph frieze. Once again the only function of these complicated pilasters cum half-columns is to support an entablature, whose purpose is to be supported by them. Their real function is of course not structural at all, but to give a powerful rhythm to the upper story. Closer to the middle is a pair of columns straddling the two projecting sections of the entablature on the story below.

They support the ends of a massive broken pediment with a circular kiosk in the middle. Note, however, the sophistication with which this circular element is handled. Its columns are exactly the same height as the flanking ones and even the rhythm of the triglyph frieze is maintained. Also, the acroterion on the top of its conical roof is in exactly the position it would have been having the pediment complete.

One must conclude that there is nothing crude about this style. It is highly sophisticated handling of the Classical Orders by architects who thoroughly understood their true function and were able to break the rules with a deliberate effect in mind. Incidentally, this also presupposes that the clients of such buildings had the taste and understanding to appreciate such subtleties. In order to understand a building that breaks the rules, one has to know what the rules were in the first place.


The Eastern Provinces Part 2



Athens had enjoyed a fine architectural past and in the Hellenistic period rulers such as Eumenes and Attalos of Pergamum had made magnificent additions to a city already resplendent with monuments such as the Parthenon, Erechtheum, and the Temple of Hephaestus. However, Athens suffered badly as a result of the Sullan sack of 86 bc and rebuilding was overdue. The tradition of benefactions begun by the Hellenistic monarchs continued under the Romans, and Athens was favored with much patronage both by the imperial family and by fabulously wealthy individuals like Herodes Atticus.

The first Roman contribution to the built environment of Athens was the commercial Agora or Agora of Caesar and Augustus, which was used as a commercial or trading center. It was planned during the visit of Julius Caesar to Athens in 47 bc, but not begun until the visit in 19 bc of Augustus, who provided the money for it. Finally dedicated in 10 bc, it is situated in what used to be the eastern Agora until the Stoa of Attalos cut the area off from the main or western Agora.

The monumental west propylon was utterly conservative if not reactionary in style. Its four columns and its entablature, with its heavy triglyph frieze, were close copies of the late fifth century bc Classical originals. The propylon led into an open square surrounded on all sides by colonnades of Ionic columns in grey-blue Hymmetian marble. Behind were rows of shops, an arrangement common to buildings of the Hellenistic east.

The west propylon of the new Agora was one of a number of Classical revival buildings erected towards the end of the first-century bc both in Athens and Rome. We know that earlier in the century, the Erechtheum, a Classical building of the late fifth-century bc, was damaged by fire. In the course of its reconstruction, which was completed in 27 bc, the masons engaged on its repair must have become familiar with the ornate Ionic order employed in the original building because the small circular temple NE of the Parthenon, dedicated to Rome and Augustus in the same year, had nine Ionic columns closely modeled on those of the Erechtheum.

This Classical revival in Athens had important repercussions in Rome of the last decades bc when Augustus was promoting the Classical period as a model for imperial art and architecture. Among the products of this classical revival were the Prima Porta Augustus, based upon the fifth century bc Doryphoros of Polycleitos, the Ara Pacis, completed in 9 bc and based upon Classical and Hellenistic prototypes, and the Forum of Augustus replete with its row of Caryatids based upon those of the Erechtheum.

In a more general sense, the Augustan Classical revival gave purity and discipline to the rash of new architectural forms and styles in vogue in the early years of Augustus’ principate. Thus the Classical revival in Athens, although antiquarian in spirit, had more than a passing effect on the architecture of the Roman Empire.

The old marketplace or Agora also underwent considerable rebuilding during the early Empire. Most notable was the building of a new odeum by Agrippa, in about 15 bc (Figure 11.1). Its enormous bulk must have towered over the elegant stores all around it and

Figure 11.1  Athens (Greece), Odeum of Agrippa, c. 15 bc: elevation and axonometric view. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970], figure 147.)

added a startling new dimension to the square. Its ground plan took advantage of the site which slopes gently down from south to north. The shallow semicircular banks of seats fitted into the slope, so that the orchestra was directly accessible at ground level north of the building, while the topmost seats were also accessible at ground level south of the building.

The seating was inscribed into a tall, square auditorium whose general arrangements are reminiscent, on a larger scale, of Hellenistic meeting halls, such as the bouleuterion at Miletus, the ecclesiasterion at Priene, and the nearby bouleuterion on the west side of the Agora. Unfortunately, its daring timber roof spanning 25 meters collapsed in the middle of the second-century ad. As a result, a cross-wall was inserted, thus cutting the seating capacity to less than half.

The nearby Temple of Ares is another Augustan addition that should be singled out for special mention. The enigma of this temple is that, although it belongs to the later fifth-century bc, every block bears a Roman mason’s mark. The conclusion of the American excavators was that the temple must have been transported block by block and re-erected in the middle of the Agora.

Its removal to the Agora may be connected with an inscription honoring Augustus’ grandson, Gaius, as the ‘new Ares’. The re-siting of the Temple of Ares is a clear illustration of the Roman use of temples for propaganda purposes, as well as illustrating the changing status of the Agora from the commercial to the civic center of Athens.

The most thorough building program was instituted by Hadrian, who first visited Athens in ad 124–125. His greatest project was the completion of the enormous temple of Olympian Zeus started by the tyrant Peisistratus in the sixth-century bc (Figure 11.2).

Figure 11.2  Athens (Greece), the temple of Zeus, completed by Hadrian in ad 131–132.

Planned as a gigantic Doric temple c. 530 bc, it had lain uncompleted for hundreds of years, until Antiochus Epiphanes resumed building in the Corinthian Order to the designs of a Roman architect called Cossutius (174 bc). The temple, measuring 44 × 110 meters, dipteral on the flanks and peripheral at the ends, was on the same colossal scale as its predecessor but used slender Corinthian columns of Pentelic marble, 16.89 meters high.

This second attempt also failed, and adding insult to injury Sulla, who had sacked Athens in 86 bc, took marble columns from the unfinished temple to Rome for use on the Capitol (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 36.5.45). Finally, in ad 131–132 Hadrian completed the temple and placed in the cella a chryselephantine statue of Zeus.

Near the Olympieion is the Arch of Hadrian (Figure 11.3), which marked the beginning of Hadrian’s new city, Hadrianopolis or Novae Athenae. On the side facing the Olympieion is an inscription meant to be read by anyone passing through it on the way to the old city: ‘This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.’ On the other side is an inscription: ‘This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.’ Flanking the very shallow arched passage stood pairs of free-standing Corinthian columns, which rested upon plinths and supported projecting entablatures.

The upper story consisted of an open, three-bay columnar screen. The outer pairs of columns, now missing, supported projecting entablatures like the corresponding ones below, while the central pair supported a projecting aedicule with a triangular pediment The aedicule was originally screened and on one side was a statue of Hadrian gazing over his city and on the other a statue of Theseus. If the arrangement seems unusual for an honorific arch it may be explicable in terms of the kind of rhythmical columnar facades appearing in contemporary buildings such as the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10).

The plain tetrastyle entrance porch of the Library of Hadrian at Athens was flanked on each side by a finely drafted masonry wall in front of which were seven free-standing Corinthian columns supporting projecting entablatures (Figure 11.4). It is perhaps worth noting that the façade columns support architraves with two, rather than three fasciae and that there are consoles rather than modillions in the cornice, features of Asiatic origin, which also appear

Figure 11.3  Athens (Greece), Arch of Hadrian, c. ad 138.


Figure 11.4  Athens (Greece), Library of Hadrian, façade (ad 117–138).

on Hadrianic monuments in Rome. The porch opened into a sizeable enclosure surrounded by a peristyle of 100 columns of Phrygian stone or pavonazzetto (Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.18.9). In the centre was a pool measuring 58 × 13 metres surrounded by a garden.

The scrolls or books were stored in the rooms along the east side, opposite the entrance.

The second-century ad saw the last notable additions to the city, the odeum and the stadium, both donated by the wealthy benefactor, Herodes Atticus. The odeum, built in memory of his wife, who died about ad 160 (Figure 11.5), was built presumably because the old one was now unserviceable owing to the insertion of the cross-wall. Nestling into the south slope of the Acropolis, it had a semicircular auditorium, c. 81 metres wide, making it as big as a Roman theatre.

In fact, the whole building was largely Roman in layout. The scene building and outer façade rose to a height of 28 metres and were richly veneered with marble, as were the seats for the audience. Philostratus (Vit. Soph. 551) makes special mention of the fine cedar roof, which is evidenced by a layer of ash discovered by the excavators. Meinel argues that the massive buttresses in the outer cavea wall indicate the position of the roof beams of a transverse trussed roof, although the maximum span from the stage building to the back of the cavea is an astonishing 49 metres.2

Philostratus compares the Athenian odeum with the roofed one at Corinth, also built by Herodes Atticus, which he regards as fine, but inferior to the one in Athens. He also mentions the fine stadium of white marble, built in only four years (Vit. Soph. 550). Presumably, the Odeum of Herodes Atticus at Athens was burnt in the Herulian sack of ad 267, which destroyed the buildings of the Agora and devastated the area. A little later the Athenians pulled down many of their ruined buildings to throw up a new city wall which encompassed a small part of the city centre.

Of the other major towns of Greece, Corinth is worth special mention because of the way it was treated in the second-century bc (Figure 11.6). Despite its illustrious history, it was

Figure 11.5  Athens, Odeum of Herodes Atticus, ad 161, heavily renovated in 1950.

Figure 11.6  Corinth (Greece): plan of the central area. (After M.I. Finley, ed., Atlas of Classical Archaeology [London: Chatto and Windus, 1977].)

sacked by Mummius in 146 bc and the destruction which took place is commented upon by Polybius (39.13). Refounded as a colony by Julius Caesar in 44 bc, it became the capital of the Roman province of Achaea. The colonists were Italians and the rebuilt city was distinctly Italian in character. The venerable sixth-century bc Temple of Apollo, built on higher ground to the north of the agora, was redesigned in the Roman style.3

The agora itself was split neatly into two terraces separated by a central row of shops with a bema (speaker’s platform) in the middle. Behind the south stoa were buildings which would have been familiar to Roman eyes: a curia, a basilica and administrative offices for the officials of the Isthmian games. On the east side of the agora was the Julian basilica and just to the north the third basilica. Recent excavations have revealed the fourth basilica to the west of the agora.

These basilicas would have been necessary for conducting the extensive legal business of the province of Achaea, of which Corinth was now the capital. During the first and second centuries ad, six small temples were built along the west side of the agora. Significantly, they are all podium temples with lofty staircases on the entrance side, a type of temple which had its origins in Italy. In the first century ad, the large Temple E may have been built to house the Imperial cult.

The Fountain of Peirene in the NW corner of the agora was entirely remodelled, probably by Herodes Atticus, in the second-century ad. Massive half-domed apses were added to three sides, the floor level raised and the walls revetted in marble, giving it a rather theatrical appearance.

Greek theatres were frequently altered in accordance with Roman fashion. This generally involved creating an integrated Roman auditorium with the stage joined to the sides of the cavea and a tall scaenae frons rising behind. In the process the stage was often reduced in height and extended into the orchestra, sometimes cutting off the parodoi completely.

In some cases, the analemmata were cut back so as to make them parallel to the stage in the Roman manner, as was done in the theatre at Corinth. The new scaenae frons was almost totally Roman in style and followed the second-century ad fashion of having all three doorways enclosed in semicircular niches. By the third century ad many Greek theatres, such as those at Maronea, Philippi, Corinth and Stobi, had been turned into arenas by removing the lowest rows of seating and enlarging the orchestra.

A good deal of evidence has emerged that the orchestras or arenas of theatres such as those in Corinth, Argos and Athens were turned into kolymbethrae which could be flooded for water spectacles. This occurred in the Late Empire from the late third to the early fifth-century ad.

Asia Minor

After his death the Empire of Alexander the Great broke up into a number of kingdoms, heralding the beginning of the age we call Hellenistic. This age lasted until the Battle of Actium in 31 bc when Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra and took over the last of the Hellenistic kingdoms. First, we should look at how town planning developed in the Hellenistic period.

A good way of doing this is to compare the layout of the Acropolis of Pergamum with an older town such as Priene, which was laid out according to the rigid grid plan associated with the Hippodamus. This was particularly surprising in the case of Priene, which was built on a steep slope. On the other hand in Pergamum, built on an even steeper slope, there was no attempt to impose such rigid planning.

The terraces of the Great Altar (1 on Figure 11.7), the Temple of Athena (2), and the Temple of Trajan (3), rise like a series of steps from south to north following the contours of the hill and facing out across the plain over 300 metres below. The theatre, rising 46 metres from the level of its orchestra to the topmost seats, sits beneath them like a giant fan. Under the theatre, a long stoa facing the Temple of Dionysus at one end gives stability to the scheme. In typically Hellenistic fashion it is the overall grouping which dominates, not the individual buildings which are subordinated to the arrangement

Figure 11.7  Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey): plan of the Acropolis.

as a whole. The plan of Pergamum is the masterly exploitation of a difficult site. As Lyttelton says: ‘The terraces of Priene might be said to overcome the difficulties of the terrain, whereas those of Pergamum exploit them.’4 Of the individual buildings of Pergamum the Trajaneum is of immediate interest because its architectural details are so close to those of Hadrian’s Temple of Venus and Rome (Figure 8.23), whose two-fascia architrave, consoles instead of modillions under the cornice, and sima with alternately open and closed palmettes, suggest that it was built by architects trained in the Asiatic tradition.5

The Acropolis consists of many monuments belonging to the second and third centuries bc, but the Temple of Trajan, which is an integral part of the scheme, dates to the early second-century ad. There is nothing surprising in this because in the Eastern provinces Hellenistic building styles continued to develop well into the Roman Imperial period.

Miletus, Priene, Ephesus and Aphrodisias had become leading centres of Hellenistic culture. Miletus was laid out in 479 bc according to a rigid grid system (Figure 11.8). As at Pergamum many of the buildings belong to the Hellenistic period, but it was additions in the Roman period which forged them into an organically related entity. Facing the harbour was the 160-metre-long L-shaped harbour stoa (1 in Figure 11.8).

Behind it were the small marketplace (2) and the north agora (3). Nearby was the circular Temple of Apollo Delphinius in its rectangular columnar enclosure, built in the Hellenistic period and altered in Roman times (4). At the beginning of the Roman imperial period, a gate (10) was inserted between the harbour stoa and the Delphinion, thus uniting the two buildings, marking the entrance into the market area and separating it from the area to the north of it. Further to the

Figure 11.8  Miletus (Turkey): a plan of the city centre. (After E. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey [Istanbul: Haşet Kitabevi, 1973], 212.)

south were the Capito Baths built at the time of Claudius (5) and the gymnasium built in the second-century bc (6). On the other side of the road was the bouleuterion dating to 175–164 bc (7) and squeezed between it and the north agora which may be the sanctuary of the imperial cult (8). In the Roman period these elements were unified by a broad collonaded street, 100 metres long × 28 metres broad, running between the gate (10) and the south agora (9).

At the end of the collonaded street, a new baroque gateway to the south agora with a dramatically broken pediment (12) was the focus of attention. Built in the second half of the second-century ad, it is now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The south agora (9) was built in the mid-second century bc and originally consisted of three separate stoas, two L-shaped and all three in the Doric Order (9).

Together they enclosed a vast open space, measuring 164 × 196 metres, but they were not joined up into a single four-sided stoa until Roman times. Vying for attention with the gate to the south agora (12) was a large and impressive nymphaeum with staggered columns, like the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10), on three storeys (13) set back from the collonaded street.

Another type of terrain presents itself at Ephesus. To the east of the ancient harbour is a flattish area bounded to the south by Mount Koressos and the east by Mount Pion. The enormous theatre (Figure 11.9), 142 metres in diameter, was magnificently sited at the foot of Mount Pion and faced west towards the harbour 600 metres away, linked to it by a collonaded street, 11 metres broad.

The theatre was begun c. 200 bc, but the building continued into Roman times when it attained its maximum diameter in the second-century ad. In the third century ad its orchestra turned into an arena and later into a kolymbethra. North of the street and adjacent to the theatre was the vast Harbour Baths complex, finished in the later second-century ad. The baths were strikingly different in their layout from the conventional Roman

Figure 11.9  Ephesus (Turkey), theatre

imperial type, especially because of the Greek insistence upon columnar and trabeated structure. More than half of the ground plan (202 × 238 metres) was devoted to the gymnasium, which was surrounded by multiple porticoes of columns used as covered running tracks.

The main bulk of the building itself centred around a large peristyle courtyard, on whose north and south sides were two richly decorated rooms with elaborate niches around three sides and columnar screens on the sides facing the peristyle. This type of room (often called a ‘Marmorsaal’) was a recurrent feature of bath buildings in the east.

A road led south from the theatre and then turned eastward to begin the steep ascent up the valley between Mount Koressos and Mount Pion. Along this road can be seen a number of monuments designed to attract the eye and divert attention from the many bends in the sloping street. First, on the right was the second-century ad Library of Celsus in its colonnaded enclosure (Figure 11.10).

Its façade is of interest because of the staggered columns, a feature of the nymphaeum at Miletus, whereby the pairing of the columns in the lower storey did not correspond to the pairing of the columns in the upper storey. Higher up the hill on the left was the Temple of Hadrian, most of whose ground area was devoted to the arresting façade and porch (Figure 11.11).

The temple was tetrastyle, in this case with two columns and two square piers. The two side intercolumniations were installed while the middle one was wider and was spanned by a large arch which broke into the pediment. This ‘arcuated lintel’, seen in the colonnade around the Canopus of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli (Figure 8.20), was a favourite eastern device whose Assyrian origins have been traced back to the eighth-century bc.


The Eastern Provinces Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition


In Asia Minor, there had been a long tradition of theatre building which lasted into Roman times, although several Hellenistic features persisted. For example, the cavea usually exceeded a semicircle, as in the first-century ad theatres at Nysa, Hierapolis and Prusias-ad-Hypium,

Figure 11.10  Ephesus (Turkey), Library of Celsus.

Figure 11.11  Ephesus (Turkey), Temple of Hadrian.

and in the second century ad theatres at Side, Sagalassus and Perge.6 This usually resulted in the width of the stage being greatly reduced compared to western theatres. The cavea was separated from the scene building by open parodoi, as at Myra, Aezani and numerous other theatres of Asia Minor and Greece. Sometimes there was an attempt to roof the parodoi over, as at Perge, and sometimes the scene building ran so close to the cavea as to eliminate them entirely, as at Hierapolis.

The stage was often between 2 and 3 metres high, and there were frequently five doorways in the back wall of the scaenae frons instead of the usual three. In the early third century ad in Asia Minor and Greece, as in Italy and the west, it became fashionable to transform the orchestra into an arena. In Side for example the orchestra, originally c. 29 metres wide, was transformed into an arena by enclosing the lowest four rows of seats in a massive wall, two metres thick.

This practice extended to Sicily: for example at Tyndaris and Taormina; Cyrenaica, as at Apollonia and Cyrene; and Macedonia, as at Dodona and Stobi. The theatres of Asia Minor were exceedingly large, with overall diameters of 139.8 metres (Miletus), 142 metres (Ephesus), 148 metres (Tralles) and c. 150 metres (Smyrna). The regions of Asia Minor most ready to accept Roman fashions were those of the south: Lycia, Pisidia and Pamphylia, which were the least Hellenised parts, but became extremely prosperous under the Roman Empire.

The theatre at Aspendos in Lycia on the south coast of Turkey has several western features, such as the semicircular cavea with seats running flush with the stage building. However, it also has some eastern features such as the division of the cavea into two seating zones instead of three, the large number of cunei (nine in the lower cavea), and the rectilinear scaenae frons with five doorways whose height diminished towards the sides (Figure 11.12). Although lacking most of its columns its scene building is one of the best-preserved in the Roman world.

Figure 11.12  Aspendus (Turkey), theatre, general view.



The Levantine coastline and the fertile areas around the river Euphrates could boast civilizations older than that of Greece. The Phoenician cities of Byblos, Tyre and Sidon could trace their history back for millennia, and the storm god, Baal, had been worshipped from time immemorial at Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. The Greeks had limited influence in what was essentially a Phoenician part of the world and consequently, the architecture of this region was closer to that of Rome than that of Greece.

Further south was Judaea, which was ruled by the enlightened King Herod when it passed under Roman protection, and consequently, the Roman influence was strong. The Decapolis (‘ten cities’) was an important group of cities, mainly in the province of Arabia, including for example Pella and Jerash in Jordan, but also Scythopolis (Beth-Shean) in Judaea (Israel) and Damascus in Syria.

Magnificent towns like Palmyra derived their wealth from the caravan trade and were famous for their collonaded streets, which seem to be an eastern development. Finally on the eastern fringe of the Empire was the town of Doura Europos, which was intermittently under Roman rule.

The sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus at Baalbek in Lebanon is one of the grandest building complexes in the Roman Empire (Figure 11.13). There had been a sanctuary on this site since the sixth-century bc and the foundation of the Roman colony Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana in 16 bc saw the beginning of a great rebuilding. The complex consisted of a monumental propylon, a hexagonal forecourt, and a huge (96 × 86 metres) collonaded courtyard dominated by the impressive bulk of the Temple of Jupiter, which must have been standing to capital height in ad 60 to judge by an inscription on one of the columns.

The temple (88 × 48 metres) was not as large as some giants like the Temple of Zeus at Athens, but it was most impressively sited. Standing on a high podium it measured nearly 44 metres from

Figure 11.13  Baalbek (Lebanon), sanctuary, begun early first-century ad and completed ad 250: reconstructed view. Inset, Temple of Venus, third-century ad: plan and reconstructed view. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)


the floor of the courtyard to the apex of the pediment. The courtyard in front of it was surrounded on three sides by 10 × 19 columns, forming almost exactly a double square ground plan. The columns themselves with their unfluted shafts and Corinthian capitals based on those of Augustan Rome rose to a height of 19.90 metres.

The entablature followed traditional lines except for the bull and lion proteomes which projected from the frieze, presumably an allusion to Baal and Astarte. The sanctuary has obvious signs of Hellenistic and Roman influence, but its layout and many of its characteristics, especially the tower-like altar in front of the temple, are found in earlier Lebanese sanctuaries.

Parallel to the Temple of Jupiter but outside its enclosure was the Temple of Bacchus, begun in the late first and largely built in the second century ad (Figure 11.14). Smaller than the Temple of Jupiter, but nonetheless as big as the Parthenon in Athens (35 × 66 metres), its exceptional state of preservation provides a clear impression of its scale and grandeur. It had 8 × 15 unfluted Corinthian columns, closely spaced and very tall (19 metres high), on a high podium approached by a lofty triple flight of steps.

In terms of detail, the order is similar to that of its gigantic neighbour, the Temple of Jupiter, but the treatment of the coffers above the surrounding columns is much richer. The interior is notable for its fine proportions and sensitive architecture. The cella has a double-square ground plan and its height is equal to its width. Fluted Corinthian half-columns on plinths line the side walls, and between each pair is an arched niche below and a pedimented one above.

At the far end of the cella is a flight of steps at the top of which two piers faced with Corinthian half-columns stand out from the wall and frame the adyton. The scale of the half-columns is identical to those lining the side walls and their distance from the wall is the same as the distance between the columns along


Figure 11.14  Baalbek (Lebanon), Temple of Bacchus, second century ad. the wall. Also, their bases are at exactly the same level as the bases of the wall columns. The retention of scale for the free-standing and engaged orders is a master touch. 7

The rectangular courtyard around the Temple of Jupiter (Figure 11.13) appears to date to the same period as the Temple of Bacchus and there are some similarities in design between the two. The courtyard was surrounded on three sides by porticoes of Egyptian granite columns framing the façade of the temple which filled the fourth side. Behind the granite, columns were alternate round and square exedrae.

The round exedrae were flanked by square Corinthian piers between which stood two granite Corinthian columns, an arrangement reminiscent of the Pantheon at Rome (Figure 8.12), although here the spacing between the columns and piers was kept exactly even so that they corresponded precisely to the granite columns of the façade of the portico. Preceding the rectangular court was a hexagonal court with closely similar details. As Lyttelton points out,8 the hexagonal shape gave a strong forward impetus as the visitor moved towards the court of the Temple of Jupiter.

The propylaea which gave access to the whole sanctuary was the last part of the complex to be finished, perhaps by Caracalla or Philip the Arab. A lofty staircase led up to a row of ten Corinthian columns between a pair of two-storied towers. The central intercolumniation was wider than the rest, perhaps to accommodate an arcuated lintel. The small third-century ad Temple of Venus (Figure 11.13, inset) had a circular cella surrounded by Corinthian columns and a tetrastyle porch with a double row of columns.

The columns rested upon a podium and steps leading up to the porch. Between each pair of columns around the cellar, both podium and entablature receded towards the cella wall in a series of gentle concavities. As a result, the capitals and bases of the columns were five-sided. This fanciful design seems to have had no exact parallel in antiquity, although a remarkably similar scheme was used by Borromini in the 17th century for the lantern of St. Ivo in Rome.

Palmyra was an oasis town mid-way between the Mediterranean ports of Sidon, Tyre and Byblos, and the Euphrates. Caravans bringing products from India, China and Arabia, and merchants with goods from Greece, Rome and other Mediterranean countries found the town a convenient place of exchange and trans-shipment. This arrangement saved the merchants ferrying goods the whole length of the caravan route.

When in ad 137 duties were levied upon imported goods the city entered a period of great prosperity. In the middle of the second-century ad a series of public buildings was begun, starting with the great collonaded street which ran from the Grove temple in the west to the Temple of Bel, a distance of 1,000 metres (Figure 11.15). The columns, mainly Corinthian and unfluted, were 9.5 metres high, most with projecting brackets for statues.

The road changed direction at two points, one marked by a monumental tetrakionia with four huge pedestals each supporting four columns with a statue in the middle. Further to the east, the road changed direction more sharply to turn towards the Temple of Bel. Here the change of direction was masked by an ornate triple arch (Figure 11.16).

The Temple of Bel itself (Figure 11.17) is known from an inscription to have been dedicated in ad 32 and belongs mainly to the first-century ad. In ground plan it was pseudodipteral with a column count of 8 × 15, an arrangement strongly reminiscent of Hermogenes’ celebrated Temple of Artemis Leucophryene at Magnesia (Figure 11.15, inset).

The plinths provided the module, as in the Temple of Artemis, the spacings and plinths being of the same dimensions. The central intercolumniation on each short side was wider than the rest to allow a more impressive entrance. Yet despite its thoroughly Hellenistic layout, the cella was not entered from the pronaos, but through an elaborate doorway engaged into the columns in the west side. The result of the adaptation of a Hellenistic temple layout to a Semitic cult

Figure 11.15  Palmyra (Syria): general plan. Inset, Temple of Bel: plan.

Figure 11.16  Palmyra (Syria), triple arch.

Figure 11.17  Palmyra (Syria), Temple of Bel, dedicated ad 32.

can be seen inside the cella by the two cult chambers or thalami at the ends, one with the famous ‘Zodiac’ or ‘Palmyra ceiling’. The acanthus-clad crow-step merlons which capped the cornice are further signs of eastern influence. Another important temple was the small Corinthian Temple of Baal Shamin began in ad 23.

Dura Europos was a Hellenistic foundation dating to about 300 bc, sited on a plateau on the west bank of the Euphrates. On the east side of the city, sheer cliffs run down to the river, and watercourses have cut out natural defences to the north and south. The city was ringed with walls from its inception, particularly strong on the exposed desert side to the west.

The streets were laid out on strictly Hippodamian lines, with an open agora in the middle. The ruling Seleucids seem to have regarded it as a key defensive site in their struggles with the Parthians, but finally, at the end of the second-century bc, the city fell. In the Parthian period that followed changes were most evident in the Agora area, which gradually became transformed into an oriental bazaar with narrow lanes and crowded shops.

A number of new temples appeared, like those of Atargatis, Bel, Adonis and Azzarathkona. The most common plan for such temples was a walled temenos lined with small rooms and chapels. The main sanctuary, usually located at the end of the temenos was approximately square with the entrance in the centre, leading into a pronaos, and a chamber behind.

This rear chamber usually had two smaller rooms, one on each side. The origins of this type of temple are to be found in Mesopotamia and perhaps came to Dura from Assur or similar cities. Dura came briefly under Roman domination at the time of Trajan but was not permanently part of the Empire until it was recaptured by Lucius Verus in ad 165. At first, the changes were few.

A Mithraeum was built, probably for the Roman troops, and some military buildings appeared in the northern part of the city. The garrison was increased in ad 210 and larger quarters were built for the military, including a praetorium, a bath, an amphitheatre and new temples. A palace, the largest building in Dura, was built for the Dux ripae who commanded the troops on the Euphrates frontier.

Entry was through an imposing peristyle courtyard with a similar courtyard beyond. Around this second courtyard were public rooms, a dining room, an audience hall and servants’ rooms. At the back, overlooking the river, was an imposing suite of rooms which served as the private quarters of the Dux. Although the materials used for this palace were local, the type of building was of Roman origin. Even the unit of measurement reflects its alien nature, the Roman foot instead of the Semitic cubit.


The arid areas east and south of the river Jordan became the province of Arabia Petraea under Trajan. Its most important cities lay in the most northerly part of the province: Bostra (Bosra), the provincial capital (now in Syria), Gerasa (Jerash in Jordan) with its famous colonnades, and Philadelphia (Amman).

The area south of the Dead sea as far as the Gulf of Aqaba was originally the Nabataean kingdom, which lay astride the caravan routes from the Arabian ports to Syria; at one time Petra, which nestles deep within the mountains of Edom, was its capital. Exotic and remote, Petra was unknown to Europeans until Johann Burckhardt discovered it in 1812.

The Nabataeans, formerly a nomadic people, began to settle in the area during the fourth-century bc, and soon Petra became a centre of the flourishing spice and perfume trade conducted with southern Arabia and India. Among the many influences on Nabataean architecture was the architecture of nearby Egypt, which until the death of Cleopatra in 31 bc was part of the Hellenistic world.

Although it declined thereafter, Petra reached the height of its prosperity in the first-century ad, when it was described as peaceful and well-governed (Strabo, Geo. 16.4.21). Because its annexation by Rome did not take place until ad 106 the great monuments of Petra used to be dated to the period of Roman domination. However, recent studies suggest that many important monuments date much earlier and are in Lyttelton’s view ‘a product of the Hellenistic, rather than the Roman baroque style.’9

The city is approached through the narrow Siq gorge, which winds its way through the towering mountains on each side. The gorge narrows and, at the end, the first monument to be glimpsed is a sliver of a rock-cut tomb, known in Arabic as the Khasne (‘treasury’). As one emerges from the gorge the whole tomb is gradually revealed (Figure 11.18).

An enormous monument over 40 metres high, it has two storeys, the lower with six columns, four of them supporting a triangular pediment, the central pair widened for the doorway. The upper storey has a circular tholos in the middle of a massively broken pediment. The four outer columns supporting the ends of the pediment correspond to those of the lower storey and the entablature is exactly horizontal.

Furthermore, the urn at the top of the tholos is precisely where it would be if the pediment were unbroken. The dates for this tomb range widely, but most recent studies tend towards a date at the end of the first-century bc.10 Beyond the Khasne the gorge widens to reveal a large rock-cut theatre, probably dating to the first-century ad. Further on, a collonaded street ran through the centre of the city (Figure 11.19).

Along it ranged the principal monuments of Petra: on the south side, the markets and the ‘Great Temple’, and on the north, the ‘Royal Palace’ and the temple of the ‘Winged Lions’. The street terminated in a triple gate. Beyond the gate was a tall, 28-metre-square Nabataean temple known as the Qasr al-Bint (‘the palace of [Pharaoh’s] daughter’), which dates to before the beginning of the first-century ad. With four columns

Figure 11.18  Petra (Jordan), the Khasne, late first-century bc.

Figure 11.19  Petra (Jordan), the Deir, first-century ad

between the antae, the building was divided internally into three almost equal areas, porch, cella and triple shrine. The outside of the rear wall had an arrangement of half-, segmental and triangular pediments, supported on pairs of pilasters. High up the mountain at the west end of the site is the Deir (‘monastery’) which has already been discussed. Another rock-cut tomb, larger than the Chase, is 50 metres wide and nearly 45 metres high, but of a similar style (Figure 11.20). It is usually dated later than the Chase, to the first-century ad.

Jerash became prosperous as a result of the caravan trade. The city was sited in the valley of the river Chrysorhoas which flowed through the town. The flattish eastern bank of the river probably contained the residential quarter and on the western bank most of the public monuments (Figure 11.21). The long straight cardo, lined with Corinthian colonnades along its full length, runs almost parallel to the river along a roughly N/S axis (Figure 11.22).

On the rising ground to the west is situated the imposing second century ad Sanctuary of Artemis and the adjacent half-domed nymphaeum. In the depressions to the north and south of the Sanctuary run two documents, the southern one being carried over the river by the Southbridge. The intersection between the cardo and the northern decumanus is marked by a tetra pylon.

The intersection with the southern decumanus is marked by a tetrakionia set in the middle of a circular piazza, 43 metres in diameter. The southern part of the cardo terminates in an obliquely aligned oval piazza dominated from the SW by the Temple of Zeus. Jerash had three theatres, the South Theatre, c. 76 metres in diameter; a smaller north theatre (probably a roofed odeum), 59.25 metres in diameter; and outside the city a little cult theatre, known as the Birketein theatre. Outside the south gate were the circus and the Hadrianic arch.

The Sanctuary of Artemis was a masterpiece of planning (Figure 11.23). The Northbridge across the river led up two flights of steps to an arched gate which opened into a short stretch of collonaded street. At the end of the collonaded street was a trapezoidal courtyard, its far end aligned with the east side of the main collonaded street. On the west side of the street

Figure 11.20  Petra (Jordan), colonnaded street, terminating in the triple or temenos gate, with the Qasr el Bint beyond.

Figure 11.21  Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan): general plan.

Figure 11.22  Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan), colonnaded street.

Figure 11.23  Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan), Sanctuary of Artemis: plan.

was the Propylaea of the Sanctuary marked by four giant order columns. The actual temple would have been invisible from the collonaded street as it was masked by a 7-metre-high retaining wall against which was built a row of shops. Beyond the propylaea seven flights of steps led up to a large forecourt, and running its entire width were three further flights of steps which led into the massive (121 × 161 metres) collonaded temenos. The temple itself had twice as much space in front of it as behind and was raised on a 4.32-metre-high podium. Two flights of seven steps led up to its cella around which were 6 × 11 Corinthian columns.

Finally, mention should be made of the magnificent theatre at Bostra (Bosra) which owes its splendid state of preservation to the Ayyubids who turned it into a fortress in 1202–1253 (Figure 2.8). It was a medium-sized theatre, 88.30 metres in diameter with a capacity of about 8,300. It was built of black basalt, partly on hollow substructures and partly excavated into the ground (the orchestra is 5.5 metres lower than the surrounding ground level).

The scaenae frons is extremely well-preserved apart from the two upper levels of the columnated which have been robbed. The seating is almost entirely intact, as is much of the porticus at the top of the cavea. It is arguably the best-preserved theatre in the whole Roman empire.