The great Roman architectural innovations were the load-bearing arch and the use of concrete, brick, and stone
The Romans made use of certain Greek innovations, particularly architectural ideas. The first to be adopted was post-and-lintel construction—essentially, a weight-bearing frame, like a door. Later came adaptation of Greek columns for supporting buildings, following the classical orders of Doric column capitals (the plain ones) on the ground floor, Ionic capitals (with the scrolls on either end) on the next level, and Corinthian capitals (flowering with acanthus leaves) on the top.
Romans thrived on huge complex problems for which they could produce organized, well-crafted solutions. Roman builders became inventive engineers, developing hoisting mechanisms and a specially trained workforce. They designed towns, built civic centers, raised grand temples and public baths, and developed the basilica, a rectangle supported by arches atop columns along both sides of the interior and with an apse at one or both ends.
Basilicas were used for courts of justice, banking, and other commercial structures. The design was repeated all over the Roman world, beginning around the AD 1C. Later, early Christians adapted the architectural style for the first grand churches, still called basilicas.
Although marble is traditionally associated with Roman architecture, Roman engineers could also do wonders with bricks or even prosaic concrete.
Where to find Roman buildings
One of the best places to see Roman architecture, of course, is Rome itself, where examples of most major public buildings still exist. These include the sports stadium of the Colosseum (AD 1C), which perfectly displays the use of the Classical Orders; Hadrian's marvel of engineering the temple of the Pantheon (AD 1C); the public brick Baths of Caracalla (AD 3C); and the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum (AD 4C; these basilica buildings were rectangles supported by arches atop columns along both sides of the interior, with an apse at one or both ends, and served as law courts, but the style was also adopted by early Christians for their first grand churches).
The Colosseum isn't the only well-preserved Roman amphitheater. Other notables are in Verona (still used for concerts), Santa Maria Capua Vetere and Pozzuoli (both near Naples), and at Pompeii and Ostia Antica.
But the best places to see Roman houses, public buildings, and all the rest mroe or less frozen in time for nearly 2,000 years is at the ancient Roman ghost cities:
Where to see entire Roman ghost towns
Three Roman cities have been preserved with their street plans and in some cases even buildings and villas intact, including the famous Pompeii and its neighbor Herculaneum (both buried by Vesuvius's AD 79 eruption), as well as Rome's ancient seaport Ostia Antica.
Where to find Roman street plans
Their urban planning still stamps the street layouts of cities from Florence (whose central street grid is so rigidly east-west/north-south it doesn't bother following the actual flow of the Arno River, which is a few degrees off east-west) to Aosta (which preserves a gate and theater stage) to Brescia (with an ancient temple and theater remaining in the city center) to Verona (which preserves a magnificent ancient amphitheater still used for performances).
Identifiable Classical architecture features
- Classical Orders. Usually simplified into types of column capitals: Doric (plain) on the ground floor, Ionic (with the scrolls on either end) on the next level, and Corinthian (flowering with acanthus leaves) on the top.
- Brick and Concrete. Although marble is traditionally associated with Roman architecture, Roman engineers could also do wonders with bricks or even prosaic concrete[md]concrete seating made possible such enormous theaters as Rome’s 6-acre, 45,000-seat Colosseum.