Both Greek and Roman architecture have been attributed with some of the most amazing and iconic images and pieces of art in history which were embedded on walls and other day-to-day items. Cities played a significant role in the discovery and preservation of various architectural designs and ideals. For instance, Athens, which was built chiefly as a security fortress, has high walls embodied with Greek architectural designs. Gates and secret passages were also unique. Notably, Greeks favored the use of post and lintel in their constructions while Romans preferred true arch constructions. This essay shall investigate the role of Roman and Greek architecture in past era and analyze their impacts on the urban way of life.
Greek Architecture was distinctly extinct between the Mycenaean period (around 1200 BC) and the 7th Century. Beyond this period, the Greek cities’ economies improved significantly to allow construction of modern buildings. However, most of these buildings, which were constructed in the Archaic Era, were made of mud-brick and wood, hence, few ground plans remain to date. The Classical and Hellenistic periods ushered in an era of stone construction, which was later copied and advanced by the Romans. Nonetheless, a strong bias exists towards temples since they are the only buildings that have survived depreciation over time. The Parthenon, built during the Doric order, is the most commonly known example of Greek architecture. The fact that high quality marble, which was only used for sculptural decoration, was used in its structural construction illustrates the prosperity and the thriving urban life at the time. As the economy continued to thrive, the Greeks adopted the Ionic order, which was more decorative and expensive, can be depicted by the present day ruins of the Erechtheum.
On the other hand, Roman architecture dominated later day cultures. Romans advanced on the Greek architecture through the Corinthian order. The Pantheon, built under Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century, is very influential on Western architecture. Most European cities still bear the semblance of the Roman architecture. Roman cities reflected their power and innovation. Romans are credited with the construction of roads with bridges, large temples and basilicas. Whereas roads unified the empire and provided a means of communication among the cities, aqueducts, such as the Pont du Gard, ensured adequate water supply in the cities. City walls were chiefly for protection though they were also beautifully designed so as to preserve their architectural designs. The Romans established cities as administrative centers, a fact that reflected their power across Europe. London and Paris served this purpose.
There are several influences of the Greek and Roman architecture in modern day America. Basilicas, just as modern court houses in the United States, served as town halls and court houses. A projection, the apse, served as the magistrate’s seat. An image of the emperor would be hung above the magistrate’s seat. This can be compared to today’s courts whereby the court of arms and relevant symbols of authority must be hung before commencing a session. Just like the Roman temples, American courthouses are raised on a podium and have a formal front staircase. There are also free-standing columns. This signifies authority and power. Monumnets, too, can be linked to the Roman architecture. For instance, the Washington Square Arch’s design heavily borrows from Roman Triumphal Arches.
In addition, the Roman architecture introduced amphitheaters, which are still common across European cities. These served as arenas for entertaining the general public. The Colosseum, which was built around 72 AD, was the grandest and most famous of the amphitheaters. It was more of a political statement. It signified the coup against Nero and Emperor Vespasian’s appeal to the Roman citizens.
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