INTRODUCTION



[B41]

[B42]

[B43]

[B44]

(B41, B42) Greece and Rome constitute the primary components of the classical world of antiquity. These two Mediterranean societies, roughly contemporary, shared much, and built on each other's strengths a civilization we now call the Classical. If the Greeks are admired for creating an architecture of noble lines and harmonious proportions, based, essentially, on the load-bearing system of column-and-lintel (post-and-beam), Romans created an architecture of daring spans and soaring spaces through the structural and visual manipulation of arches, vaults and domes. Greece gave us the classical language of the Orders - Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian -- integrated into a rationally conceived system of columns carrying beams. It taught us to enjoy the refinement of materials and quality of construction; elaborately and exquisitely cut and shaped masonry, often in gleaming marble. Rome used the classical orders sparingly, and often, non-structurally. In some of its most inspired attempts at enclosing space, majestically composed decorative orders of Greece were fully subsumed by the dynamics of a bold, vaulted architecture.

(B43, B44) Against the perfection of the Parthenon (5th c. B.C.) on top of the Athenian Acropolis, we have the Pantheon's 144-foot diameter dome, or the daring vaults of the Basilica of Maxentius (c. A.D. 310), both in Rome. Romans excelled in creating vaulted and domed spaces of vast breadth and height that had not been tried before, and hardly surpassed since then through the development and exploitation of concrete. "Roman concrete," an artificial material and a technical breakthrough, can be said to have revolutionalized the course of western architecture.


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