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Distinctively Roman Architecture

For the Romans, the center of the town with its definite axis between the religious and the civic centers, and an open space between them, was symbolic of the nature of the state. In their colonies abroad, the Romans' "repertory of institutional architecture," played a major role in their "civilizing mission and [was] a sure means of establishing Roman visibility." The selection of architectural styles for public buildings was, therefore, extremely important. The Romans wished to refer to the glorious Greek past (and to their own ability to surpass it) while also developing an architectural iconography more suited to their own purposes. In turning from the exteriority of Greek architecture, as exemplified by the openness of the Parthenon, the Romans looked inward and created the monolithic, centered interiors that came to characterize Roman architecture. They could, thereby, have buildings that were centered, reflecting the centralized nature of the empire, and which, by maintaining at least the decorative aspects of Greek design, also referred to the idealized past.

Most aspects of Greek architectural tradition underwent considerable changes in being adapted by the Romans. The domestic architecture uncovered at the buried city of Pompeii, which was always a crossroads between Greek and Roman influences, offers some of the clearest examples of the differences between Roman and Greek architecture. Here the earliest examples can be found of the Roman "feeling for inwardness" as well as for the highly regimented composition that distinguishes Roman layouts from even the most formal of Greek or Hellenistic designs. Roman houses, for example, were constructed as rectangles with rigid central axes and when the Greek peristyles were added to the houses they were merely added onto the axes and, instead of being paved, they became the back kitchen gardens.

This idea of bringing nature inside was also peculiar to the Romans. The G...

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Distinctively Roman Architecture. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:37, August 18, 2017, from
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