Introduction | Architecture | Painting and Mosaic Work | Sculpture | Conclusion | Bibliography


Romans worked with old archiectural styles and made them their own. To the original orders of columns, they added Tuscan and Composite. The tuscan is very much like the doric order, save for it having a base. The composite combines the leafiness of the corinthian with the volutes of the ionic. Though Greeks had concrete, the Romans were able to create slow-drying concrete. This meant that they could make more things out of concrete, instead of just bases of temples. These innovations allowed the Romans to build huge buildings, unlike other public buildings from the past. Aqueducts and huge bath houses sprung up throughout the empire. The Coliseum, for instance, was able to hold thousands upon thousands of people comfortably. This is just one of many massive public structures pioneered by the Romans. Living quarters being several stories tall and very much like today's apparentment buildings were also first utilized by the engineers of this time.

The basilica was a public building used for legal and business doings. What was innovative about them is that instead of being a huge, windowless barrel or filled with columns, there is a large open space in the middle. This ended up being a perfect structure for churches and sermons could be heard, and mostly seen, by everyone in the building. There was also the ability to have stained-glass windows or other religious decoration.

Roman society was very much fixated on blood-sports. Though activities other than gladitorial combat did take place, everything that went on seemed to be rooted in violence. Mock battles, executions, or violent plays. Both people and animals would fight and kill eachother for the entertainment of Rome's citizens.The hugest buildings were devoted to such activities, such as the massive and impressive Colosseum, the most well-preserved of its kind.

Circus Maximus was both the first, and the largest circus built in ancient Rome. It was a hippodrome, or horse racing track. It, and many others were built throughout the Roman empire for public entertainment. a very typical Roman circusThese were outdoor venues where chariot races, horse races and other massive performances were performed. It could even be flooded for water-themed events. The course itself would be rectangular and seating would be arranged in a stretched circle around it. Prominent individuals would be given special seating, middle-class people could buy shaded seats, and the poor were given free seating. In total, over 150,000 people could be held. As this was essentially the only place where the emperor would appear in front of the populace, it was an integral part of Roman culture. These buildings would also be highly decorated, with pillars, obelisks, and carvings throughout. This decoration eventually became so prominent that it began to block the view of the spectators.



Apollodorus of Damascus (likely architect responsible for the rebuilding)
concrete, Egyptian granite
tall, 43m dome diameter
rebuilt in 125 AD
originally built ~25 BC

Subject: The original pantheon was built to honour the ancient Roman gods. Literally, it means 'temple of all the gods'. It was, however, destroyed by a huge fire and a new one built in its place approximately 50 years later. It is unknown exactly what the new building was used for, but it was converted to a Christian church in medieval times. This probably accounts for why it is so well preserved. Unlike other buildings from this time, the Pantheon was kept up by the church. It has since been used as a tomb, and many famous people were buried there such as Raphael. It continues to be used as a church to this day, with masses still held regularly.

The Artist's Work: The Pantheon is basically circular, with a facade built onto it. This facade contains 3 rows of 14m tall Corinthian columns. These hold up an entablature which bears the inscription "M.AGRIPPA.L.F.CONS.TERTIUM.FECIT" which is, of course, in Latin. It translates to "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built this." At the top, a huge oculus, or eye, allows light inside to make up for the windowless walls of the barrel. It also adds strength to the structure. Objects, such as empty pots may have been embedded in the upper portions of the building to further the lightness and stability of the dome.

Reaction: When I first saw this building, I instantly thought it looked VERY Greek. However, the dome behind it looks far more Roman. It also seems to well preserved that it almost looks like a recreation. I thought back to the Parthenon in Nashville. I also love the look of the floor and Corinthian pillars. When I realized how far away all of the stone came from, it made me appreciate the extreme undertaking it would have been to ship it all. Also, keeping in mind how difficult it is to build a circular building it is more impressive still. After learning all of this, my appreciation for the building became more and my overall opinion became glowingly positive.


Though Byzantinian designers mostly worked with Roman techniques and ideas, they did have their own contributions as well. Central plan churches, which had their origins in Roman bath houses, became popular. pendentive in Aya SophiaAs a circle has no begining or end, it is considered to be a very spiritual shape. However, it is very difficult to make a perfectly circular and rounded foundation for a building. For this reason, octagons became a more common shape. This 8-sided plan could be topped with a dome, thus keeping the spiritual element of the circle intact. Though some of these buildings may have looked plain from their brick exterior, their interiors tell a different story. Veined marble, mosaics and striking architectural structues combine to make these churches incredibly ornate and fancy looking. A very important innovation to note of the Byzantine ages is pendentives. These are used to connect a non-circular building to a dome. They look like a triangle stretched to a long point at each corner. These act as supportive legs to hold up massive, shallow domes. These were first successfully utilized when building Aya Sophia in Istanbul. Not only was this important because the dome was placed over a square base, but this dome was the largest of its kind that had been built. Built by Emperor Justinian, this truely massive building went completely unrivaled for many centuries.Aya Sophia, with added minarets