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Roman Art And Architecture
Roman art and architecture had a profound impact on the world we live in today by influencing modern city planning, architecture, and art. The early Roman structures were copies of Greek architectural forms, however, the Romans soon established their own identity by developing new building material and constructing unusual shapes and forms. The Roman Empire's most impressive contribution is their architecture. They created numerous structures, blending utility with beauty. Quarried stone, used in conjunction with timber beams, terra-cotta tiles and plaques, as well as marble, was the essential Roman building material from Republican times on ("Roman" Encarta'96). They also developed a totally new type of material which they called caementum (cement) and concretus (concrete). Cement is a fine, gray powder which is mixed with water and materials such as sand, gravel, and crushed stone to make concrete. Concrete is fireproof, watertight, and comparatively cheap and easy to make. When first mixed, concrete can be molded into almost any shape. It quickly hardens into an extremely strong material that lasts a long time and requires little care. The cement that was used by the Romans had such great durability that some of their buildings, roads, and bridges still exist. Concrete vaulting made possible the construction of the great amphitheaters and baths of the Roman world, as well as the dome of the Pantheon ("Roman"). They used huge vaulted halls, called basilica., for courtrooms and civic activities. Many of their most impressive buildings were constructed during the imperial period, from 27 B.C. to A.D. 476. Roman theaters first appeared in the late Republic. They were semicircular in plan and consisted of a tall stage building abutting a semicircular orchestra and tiered seating area. The earliest known amphitheater (75 BC) is at Pompeii, and the grandest, Rome's Colosseum (AD 70-80), held approximately 50,000 spectators, roughly the capacity of today's large sports stadiums ("Roman"). The Pantheon is the only building of Imperial Rome to have withstood successfully the ravages of time and man (Morore 14). The porch reminds us of the Parthenon, but one can clearly see that the columns are Corinthian rather that Doric (Morore). The great vaulted dome is 142 ft in diameter, and the entire structure is lighted through one aperture, called an oculus, in the center of the dome ("Pantheon" Encarta'96). The Pantheon was erected by the Roman emperor Hadrian between AD 118 and 128, replacing a smaller temple built by the statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 27 BC. In the early 7th century it was consecrated as a church, Santa Maria ad Martyres, to which act it owes its survival ("Pantheon"). Another great achievement, attributed to the Romans, was the layout of cities and the construction of apartment buildings. The typical Roman city of the later Republic and empire had a rectangular plan and resembled a Roman military camp. It had two main streets; the main north-south thoroughfare was called the cardo and the east-west thoroughfare, the decumanus (Adam 54). A grid of smaller streets divided the town into blocks, and a wall with gates encircled the city. Recreational buildings, buildings for homes, and shops were dispersed throughout the area ("Roman" Encarta'96). The shops were usually one-room units opening onto the sidewalks. Large cities and small towns alike also had public baths. Under the Republic, they were generally made up of a suite of dressing rooms and bathing chambers with hot- , warm- , and cold-water baths alongside an exercise area, the palaestra. The city plan also included libraries, lecture halls, and vast vaulted public spaces elaborately decorated with statues, mosaics, paintings, and stuccos ("Roman"). In the second century A.D., Rome had nearly a million inhabitants (Adam 58). The rich dwellings of the aristocracy and the emperors' palaces stood close to the communal apartment houses that were several stories high (about 60 feet). These apartment houses were hastily built, "supported only by beams as long and thin as flutes," wrote Juvenal. Sometimes they fell down, and they were an easy prey for the fires that periodically swept through the capital (Adam). As Rome established herself as the center of civilization, it became clear that her destiny in the arts was to be realistic in sculpture, as she had been imperialistic in government (Craven 43). Throughout the Roman world, statues and reliefs were regularly displayed in, on, and around public and private buildings ("Roman" Encarta'96). The style of the imperial relief sculptures ranges from the conscious neo-Greek classicism of the Ara Pacis friezes to the late antique the schematic, frontal, and hieratic style of the new reliefs of the Arch of Constantine. Statues were erected of deities, heroes, and mortals alike in a wide variety of contexts. Every temple had a cult Statue; marble and bronze images of the gods and heroes ("Roman"). In the Roman Imperial Period, portrait painting is best represented by a series of wooden panels recovered from sites throughout Roman Egypt. These works, traditionally called "Fayyum portraits," after the agricultural district in Egypt where they were first discovered, were painted in the encaustic technique, a method that uses pigment contained in a medium of hot wax ("Roman"). These panels are the only portraits that have survived in any number, and even though they are provincial works, they testify to a high level of accomplishment on the part of Roman painters. These images reflect the prevailing tastes of the times and provide a chronological overview of the development of portraiture during the Roman Imperial Period. Mural painting is, by contrast, well documented, especially in Pompeii and the other cities buried in AD 79 by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius ("Roman"). Wherever painted murals existed, colored floors were likely to be present. They were often simply painted in solid colors, but in many instances they were made up of marble slabs of many hues or of thousands of tiny mosaic cubes ("Roman"). Roman art and architecture has had a profound impact throughout the ages by influencing modern city planning, architecture, and art. From our city streets to our football stadiums, and even our tile floors, Roman art and architecture has provided important examples and has been emulated.


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