The term Roman architecture refers to the architecture of the Romans during the Roman republic and the imperial period. This means that the history of Roman architecture covers a period of roughly nine centuries (500 BC to 400 AD).
Roman architecture adapted elements of classical Greek architecture to its own needs, which were different enough from the Greek that a separate architectural style was created. In the field of classical architecture, both styles are often seen as a unit. This point of view can sometimes be useful, but may also influence appreciation of Roman buildings by judging them on Greek standards.
Roman architecture diverged late on from the Greek, as during the entire period of the Republic it was almost an exact copy of the Greek – with the exception of Etruscan arches and, later, domes. The only two meaningful developments were the Tuscan (Roman–Doric) and the Composite classical order: the first consists of a shorter, simplified form of the Doric column, while the other is a tall column with the floral decoration of the Corinthian and the volutes of the Ionic column.
An innovation occurred in the first century BC with the discovery of concrete, a strong and readily available substitute for stone. Tiled concrete soon replaced marble as the most important building material. More adventurous buildings resulted, with great columns that carried broad arches and domes instead of closely spaced rows of columns with architraves. The architectural freedom provided by concrete also led to the colonnade, long rows of purely decorative columns placed before a load–bearing wall. For smaller buildings the load–bearing capacity of concrete removed the necessity for a quadrilateral ground plan, allowing a more fluid method of construction.
Sulla returned from his campaign in Greece with probably the best–known element of the Roman Empire: the mosaic, a picture made from coloured stone chips fixed in concrete. This mode of decoration took the Roman Empire by storm at the end of the 1st and start of the 2nd century and complemented the up until then known mural in the decoration of floors, walls and vaults.
Concrete is often seen as Rome’s most important contribution to the modern world. But the architectural style of the Roman Empire is still to be seen in the arches and domes of many government buildings and churches in Europe and North America.
This article is based on the article Römische Architektur of the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. You can find a list of the authors at Wikipedia.