The Forum was the hub of major activity in Ancient Rome.
(Photo By: Alex Ranaldi)
9 Incredible Feats of Roman Architecture
Romans have been at the forefront of architecture since Ancient Roman times. We’ve toured some incredible Roman architecture and museums in my previous blog posts. What started out as grandiose, ego-driven building dictated by emperors determined to outshine each other, has turned into groundbreaking modern-day engineering technology from which the entire world will benefit. Let’s take a look at nine incredible feats of Roman architecture.
Feat Number 1: The Colosseum
Completed in 80 AD, the Roman Colosseum is one of the most recognized pieces of architecture in the world. The Colosseum is also called the Flavian Amphitheatre, and it is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The Colosseum was erected for the great Roman Emperor Titus Vespasian. It is constructed of stone and concrete, and originally housed up to 55,000 Romans, who gleefully watched the battles between man and beast in gladiator fights. Despite its age, the Colosseum remains the largest colosseum in the world today. Seems like nobody has been able to match this architectural feat yet!
Feat Number 2: The Arch of Constantine
Sitting just outside the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine is an example of using “spolia” in architecture. Spolia is the practice of literally taking pieces from existing architecture and incorporating them into the new project, in this case, an arch. The Arch of Constantine was built in 315 AD to memorialize Emperor Constantine the Great into architectural history. While building Constantine’s arch, the Romans “spolia’d” items from previous Roman Emperors Trajan’s, Hadrian’s, and Aurelius’ monuments. Talk about recycling!
Feat Number 3: The Piazza Navona
The Romans know colosseums, they know arches, and they know piazzas. Not pizza – piazza! The Piazza Navona is a 1st century town square built where the Stadium of Domitian once stood. Street artists will entertain you as you wander around the Piazza Navona, and if you’re interested in some classic art, this square does not disappoint. Located in the Piazza is Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers. Other incredible feats of Roman architecture include the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and the Pamphilj Palace. See what a town square is all about by visiting the Piazza Navona.
Feat Number 4: The Trevi Fountain
Another thing Romans do arguably better than anyone else is fountains. The Romans love their fountains, and they have some glorious ones that will blow you away. The Trevi Fountain is not only a beautiful water structure measuring 85.3 by 65.6 feet and adorned with grandiose statues, it is also a bringer of good luck. Architect Giuseppe Pannini’s treasure, completed in 1762, is believed to grant safety to all who toss coins in its water. Beautiful and magical; you simply cannot miss this baroque masterpiece.
Feat Number 5: Trajan’s Column
Trajan’s Column is an interesting piece of Roman architecture that bears seeing. Trajan’s Column is a victory column, if you will, as it is sculpted with depictions of the Roman/Dacian wars. Inscribed upon this 98-foot cylindrical structure is a Roman history lesson dating from 101 to 102 and 105 to 106 AD, which you will simply be wrapped up in as you view the impressive column. The building of Trajan’s Column was under the direction of the Roman Senate, and architect Apollodorus of Damascus supervised the project, which was completed in 113 AD.
Feat Number 6: The Pantheon
If you’re traveling on a tight budget, my next installment in this post is right up your alley because entrance into Hadrian’s Pantheon is free! Woo-hoo! The Pantheon is also the best preserved of our incredible feats of Roman architecture, so you’ll get to see it more like it was initially than any of the other sites. It is believed the Pantheon was finished in 25 BCE. The Pantheon is a glorious structure with a huge dome and eight Corinthian style granite columns. It’s a building worthy of the gods, and was dedicated to twelve of them upon its completion.
Feat Number 7: The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was the heart of the Ancient Roman Empire. Unfortunately, what’s left of this magnificent place is mostly ruins, but you still need to go see it and imagine yourself in a toga wandering the bustling marketplace during Ancient Roman times. Found amongst the ruins are arches, basilicas, and temples. The structures facilitated the Forum’s business exchanges, political rallies, and religious ceremonies. Some unmentionable activity also littered the forum for a time. The Roman Forum was home to brothels until 2nd century BC. Much like the Piazza Novona, the Roman Forum was an engineered marketplace far ahead of its time.
Feat Number 8: The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter
Let’s step into Vatican City for just a moment to view possibly one of the most magnificent basilicas the world has to offer. The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is a Renaissance architectural feat that began construction in 1506, and finished construction in 1626. Renaissance geniuses by the likes of Bernini, Bramante, Maderno, and the one and only Michelangelo all had a hand in the design and decor of St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Peter’s Square outside the building is also a breathtaking feat of Roman Architecture, adorned with countless statues and colonnades.
Feat Number 9: Ancient Roman Concrete
It won’t surprise you that we learn a ton of history from Ancient Roman architectural feats, but it might surprise you that we are also learning how to build things now from the Romans thousands of years ago. Ancient Roman concrete is freakishly durable, and nothing we have formulated in modern time can even come close to the lasting power of some of Ancient Rome’s harbor breakwater constructions. Italian and American scientists have been studying this super-powered material, and are learning the secret formulas behind it, including Lyme and volcanic ash – something the ancient Romans had plenty of. These natural earth resources are easily harvested without environmental damage, durable, and part of what has held Ancient Roman ruins intact for so long. What we’ve learned from Ancient Roman concrete is perhaps the most incredible architectural feat of all.