The architectural style of Rome was firmly rooted in Hellenistic traditions. However, Roman architecture is probably more accurately reflected in the development of new engineering skills and secular monuments than in the ideas of gods and perfection that birthed Greek architecture.
They introduced not only new ways to construct a more efficient building but also an entirely different purpose for the building to be built. While still holding the beauty that was so masterfully achieved by the Greek culture and adding their own practicality and ingenuity, the Romans developed an architectural style that remains to this day.
The Greeks people had a very good reason, in their minds, to build a beautiful piece of architecture; the worship of gods. Most of the examples of Greek architecture that we know of today were temples. The gods were the driving force behind any major architecture of the Hellenistic period. This is not true of the Roman culture. Though the Romans did build temples for their gods, the Roman style was more predominantly seen in public dwellings and social gathering areas, such as basilicas and forums, than in their temples.
In fact, a majority of the temples that the Romans built were nothing more than copies of Greek temples, with the exception of the domed Pantheon which will be discussed later. Also, the Romans included their emperors in the temples along with the gods and sometimes the temple was just for the emperor himself. Another major difference between Greek and Roman architecture was the purpose behind the building. Greek architecture was meant to be viewed as a piece of artwork that was dedicated to the gods.
This is easy to see from the ornateness of the outside of the building with the pediments and metopes and the rather drabness of the inside with the exception of the friezes. The Greeks designed it as a sculpture in a sense, with all of the beauty to be viewed from the outside. This way of thinking is turned completely around in the Roman architectural style.
Although the Roman building is beautiful on the outside, the true art lies on the inside with the many-colored walls and paintings that gave a sense of depth to the room. Also, the Roman architect was concerned with the lighting of the room so that the interior decorations could be seen clearly. These things were important to the Romans because their buildings were meant to be gathering places for the public.
The basilica was one such of these types of buildings that were intended to be a gathering place for Roman citizens to hold meetings and perhaps even courts. Bathhouses and marketplaces known as forums are yet other examples of the types of building that the Romans focused on making pleasing to the eye on the inside rather than the outside. Not only did the Romans differ on why to build a building but they also made drastic differences on how to build it.
The Greeks used what is known as a “post and lintel” system for designing a building. This is basically the idea of standing two columns up and placing a beam across them. A very simple and easy construction but on the other hand, not a very strong one. As the Roman civilization grew larger and larger the buildings they used for meetings and markets of course had to grow too. This presented a problem with the use of columns, because the big the building, the more columns needed to hold it up.
Thus the Romans turned to engineers for the solution and the arch was born. By using arches instead of columns and beams, the weight of the structure was spread evenly out and toward the ground rather than directly down on the beam. This increased the amount of weight that could be supported in a single area and thus giving more room on the inside by taking away previously necessary columns, though they did keep some around for decoration.
This invention, of course, changed the mindset of the construction of regular buildings that would have relied on columns, but it also was a stepping stone to another invention. The dome is nothing more than a network of arches that form an enclosed building. This is the theory that created the Pantheon, a circular dome that was the temple to the gods. It is one of the first of its kind and has stood for thousands of years while other buildings designed strictly with columns have turned into nothing more than ruins.
The superior engineering skills of the Romans truly played a major role in their architecture and set it apart from their Greek counterparts. Though the origin of their ideas came from Greek architecture, the Romans were brilliant in the ways in which they organized and improved those ideas. They pioneered innovations in architecture, produced ground-breaking designs, and altered the very way we view buildings. They have left an everlasting impact on architecture by combining their way of life with the architecture that begins long before them.