This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
Plan of Roman Temples. The Romans followed, in their temples, the general form already used in the Greek work, although they seemed more partial to circular buildings than were the Greeks. The circular temples may have been suggested by the Etruscan tombs, and the system employed for their roof vaulting does something to strengthen this idea. The simple, rectangular Greek plan they also varied and elaborated by adding and combining other rectangles into larger groups, with the result that the Greek simplicity of effect was soon entirely lost.
In Rome, on account of the restrictions in location occasioned by the small area of the city available for the purpose, and the over-crowding of this area with monumental buildings of every kind, the principal temples seldom attain the development of plan given by the Greeks to their temple structures. The Roman building is almost invariably seen only from a point directly in front; and this accounts for the greater importance given by the Romans to the entrance portico, its increased depth and greater number of columns, and the comparatively slight attention bestowed on the sides and rear of the building. The plan also, in depth, very seldom attains to the dimensions of the less restricted Greek temple plans; and it is important, in estimating the effect of the Roman temple architecture, to comprehend not only the restriction of its plan, but also its relation to the surrounding architecture, and especially to the natural or artificial restrictions imposed by the contour of the ground where it was placed.
Fig 103. Exterior of Pantheon.Rome.
Pig, 103. Interior of the Pantheon, Rome.
The Romans often employed the lintel principles of the Greeks in their use of columns for porches at the entrance to their buildings and temples, or to support a wall over a recess. Both of these cases are well shown in the exterior and interior treatment of the Pantheon at Rome (Figs. 102 and 103), in which are combined the circular temple, at a gigantic scale, with the pedimented porch or cella of a columnar, rectangular edifice,.
The portico of the Roman temple was generally approached by a flight of steps, and probably it was the lack of space in front of the building that first occasioned these steps being carried in under the portico itself and between the columns. This would occasion a sort of buttress, or projection of the platform, in order to support the column with its base on a level with the main floor of the porch, and would suggest (in front elevation) the effect of a pedestal placed under the column.
The Roman Theater. The Greek theater and stadium, situated as they always were on the natural slope of some hill, demanded no consideration of exterior treatment, but rather a nice selection and use of the natural contour of the ground. The Romans, on the other hand, disregarded entirely the setting of their buildings in such a natural amphitheater, and built them without any consideration of their conformation to the landscape. This custom required a treatment of some sort for the enormous screen of wall used to support and enclose the tiers of seats for the spectators. As a result we have such impressive monuments as the Colosseum in Rome and the Amphitheaters at Aries and other places.
The Greeks erected some buildings of considerable size, evidently intended to be used as gymnasiums and having baths as a minor part of the plan. These buildings may in turn have served as the first suggestion for the enormous Baths afterwards constructed by the Romans. Some of the most interesting Roman remains are the ruins of these Baths, of which it is almost impossible to gain any adequate idea of their immense size and magnificence, even from the careful restora-of the archaeologists.
The Basilica. The plan of the basilica or Roman law court was afterwards adopted by the Christians as the arrangement best suited tor their places of worship,and it is most instructive to trace the gradual growth of this simple plan into the colonnaded cross form that afterwards became customary.
Character of Roman Architecture. Roman architectural monuments are all imbued with a feeling for tremendous size, a straining at magnificence, almost a theatrical effect; and are pompous and grandiose in contrast to the work of the preceding civilization, in which refinement and taste, instead of a feeling for size or display, were the most distinguishing characteristics.
Interior of Roman Theater. Restored by P. Andre and H. d'Espouy.
Interior of Baths of Diocletian, Rome. Restored by E. Poulin.
This difference in character caused a corresponding difference in the effect of Roman architecture, which was emphasized by the greater inclination of pediment and steeper pitch of the roof; an impression which was further strengthened and defined by the totally different character and treatment in plan and of Roman carving and detail.
The first Roman buildings were undoubtedly erected by Greek workmen, under the supervision of Greek architects, to meet the demands of their conquerors. This is easily proved by the character of all these early remains, such as those at Cora, at Pompeii,and in the other early Roman cities. Later, however, when the actual workmanship was perhaps left to the execution of slaves, sometimes Greek and sometimes of other origin, without proper supervision, and when the architectural precedents furnished by the Greeks had become more remote, as to distances of both time and place; a general decadence in architectural purity, exemplified by the lack of refinement in design, became everywhere prevalent throughout the Roman Empire and the countries under its influence.