The Roman Empire


The Roman Empire Essay, Research Paper

The Roman Empire, founded by

Augustus Caesar in 27 B.C. and lasting in Western Europe

for 500 years, reorganized for world politics and economics.

Almost the entirety of the civilized world became a single

centralized state. In place of Greek democracy, piety, and

independence came Roman authoritarianism and practicality.

Vast prosperity resulted. Europe and the Mediterranean

bloomed with trading cities ten times the size of their

predecessors with public amenities previously unheard of

courts, theaters, circuses, and public baths. And these were

now large permanent masonry buildings as were the

habitations, tall apartment houses covering whole city

blocks. This architectural revolution brought about by the

Romans required two innovations: the invention of a new

building method called concrete vaulting and the organization

of labor and capital on a large scale so that huge projects

could be executed quickly after the plans of a single master

architect. Roman concrete was a fluid mixture of lime and

small stones poured into the hollow centers of walls faced

with brick or stone and over curved wooden molds, or

forms, to span spaces as vaults. The Mediterranean is an

active volcanic region, and a spongy, light, tightly adhering

stone called pozzolana was used to produce a concrete that

was both light and extremely strong. The Romans had

developed potsalana concrete about 100 B.C. but at first

used it only for terrace walls and foundations. It apparently

was emperor Nero who first used the material on a grand

scale to rebuild a region of the city of Rome around his

palace, the expansive Domus Aurea, after the great fire of

AD 64 which he said to have set. Here broad streets,

regular blocks of masonry apartment houses, and continuous

colonnaded porticoes were erected according to a single

plan and partially at state expense. The Domus Aurea itself

was a labyrinth of concrete vaulted rooms, many in complex

geometric forms. An extensive garden with a lake and forest

spread around it. The architect Severus seems to have been

in charge of this great project. Emperors and emperors’

architects succeeding Nero and Severus continued and

expanded their work of rebuilding and regularizing Rome.

Vespasian (emperor AD 63-79) began the Colosseum.

Which I have a model bad of. Built by prisoners from the

Jewish wars the 50,000 Colosseum is one of the most

intresting architectural feets of Rome. At its opening in 80

A.D. the Colosseum was flooded by diverting the Tiber river

about 10 kilometers to renact a naval battel with over 3,000

participants. Domitian (81-96) rebuilt the Palatine Hill as a

huge palace of vaulted concrete designed by his architect

Rabirius. Trajan (97-117) erected the expansive forum that

bears his name (designed by his architect Apollodorus) and

a huge public bath. Hadrian (117-138) who served as his

own architect, built the Pantheon as well as a villa the size of

a small city for himself at Tivoli. Later Caracalla (211-217)

and Diocletian (284-305) erected two mammoth baths that

bear their names, and Maxentius (306-312) built a huge

vaulted basilica, now called the Basilica of Constantine. The

Baths of Caracalla have long been accepted as a summation

of Roman culture and engineering. It is a vast building, 360

by 702 feet (110 by 214 meters), set in 50 acres (20

hectares) of gardens. It was one of a dozen establishments

of similar size in ancient Rome devoted to recreation and

bathing. There were a 60- by 120-foot (18- by 36-meter)

swimming pool, hot and cold baths, gymnasia, a library, and

game rooms. These rooms were of various geometric

shapes. The walls were thick, with recesses, corridors, and

staircases cut into them. The building was entirely

constructed of concrete with barrel, groined, and domical

vaults spanning as far as 60 feet (18 meters) in many places.

Inside, all the walls were covered with thin slabs of colored

marble or with painted stucco. The decorative forms of this

coating were derived from Greek The rebuilding of Rome

set a pattern copied all over the empire. Nearby, the ruins of

Ostia, Rome’s port (principally constructed in the 2nd and

3rd centuries AD), reflect that model. Farther away it

reappears at Trier in northwestern Germany, at Autun in

central France, at Antioch in Syria, and at Timgad and

Leptis Magna in North Africa. When political disintegration

and barbarian invasions disrupted the western part of the

Roman Empire in the 4th century AD, new cities were

founded and built in concrete during short construction

campaigns: Ravenna, the capital of the Western Empire from

492-539, and Constantinople in Turkey, where the seat of

the empire was moved by Constantine in 330 and which

continued thereafter to be the capital of the Eastern, or

Byzantine, Empire. Christian Rome. One important thing had

changed by the time of the founding of Ravenna and

Constantinople; after 313 this was the Christian Roman

Empire. The principal challenge to the imperial architects

was now the construction of churches. These churches were

large vaulted enclosures of interior space, unlike the temples

of the Greeks and the pagan Romans that were mere

statue-chambers set in open precincts. The earliest imperial

churches in Rome, like the first church of St. Peter’s erected

by Constantine from 333, were vast barns with wooden

roofs supported on lines of columns. They resembled

basilicas, which had carried on the Hellenistic style of

columnar architecture. Roman concrete vaulted construction

was used in certain cases, for example, in the tomb church in

Rome of Constantine’s daughter, Santa Costanza, of about

350. In the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, erected in

526-547, this was expanded to the scale of a middle-sized

church. Here a domed octagon 60 feet (18 meters) across is

surrounded by a corridor, or aisle, and balcony 30 feet (9

meters) deep. On each side a semicircular projection from

the central space pushes outward to blend these spaces


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