Etruscan And Roman Architecture
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IN dealing with the early days of Rome it is difficult to distinguish between fiction and truth, between legend and history. There was, no doubt, a good deal of human nature in the early inhabitants, which led them—after the city had gained for itself such a position as to secure the respect of all neighboring nations—to feel that they could not have been fashioned from the same stuff as were other men. We thus find that the early traditions " mixed human things with things divine," and gave a divine origin to the eternal city. Whatever be the true story of the foundation of Rome, it appears certain that at the date assigned to it (753 B.C.) a people called Etruscans were flourishing in a highly civilized state in the immediate neighborhood. The Etruscans appear to have been a race of Asiatic origin, who were possessed of great constructive skill, and had a certain amount of artistic perception, which enabled them to exercise considerable influence upon the earlier architecture of Rome. In fact, during the first 500 years of its existence, Rome, as regards its architecture, was virtually an Etruscan city.
The Etruscan monuments which still remain in Italy consist chiefly of walls and tombs. Of the city walls we find examples at Volterra, Perugia, Cortona, and elsewhere : the masonry is in some cases polygonal ; in others, laid in horizontal courses, and is of the character previously referred to as " Cyclopean," the separate blocks being of an enormous size. A new feature—a true form of arch—was used for the gateways in three walls.
This new constructional principle—the arch—was fully understood by the Etruscans. One of the earliest examples of its use is the Cloaca Maxima, a great work executed during the reign of the Tarquins (about 600 B.C.) for the purpose of draining the lower parts of the city. It is roofed over with an arch of large stones in three concentric rings; and so skillfully did the builders construct their work that in many places the arch remains still intact.
Etruscan tombs, of two kinds, rock-cut and structural, are found in great numbers through-out Central Italy. These contained, as a rule, one chamber only, in the form of an ordinary room; for it appears to have been the object of the constructors to make the dead tenant feel as comfortable as possible in the tomb: the walls were covered with paintings, and the chamber frequently was provided with furniture cut out of the solid rock, and with a number of utensils of use in every-day life.
The tombs have proved more permanent than the temples, for all traces of the latter have disappeared. We gather our information about them chiefly from the works of Vitruvius, a prolific, but not altogether reliable, writer of the first century A.D. In his description he tells us that the ternpies were of two kinds, circular and rectangular the rectangular buildings having three cells and being devoted to the worship of three deities. So far as our records go, the most important of these was the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, on the Capitol, begun by Tarquinius Superbus, and destroyed by fire in 80 B.C. It was adorned with many ornaments and statues of terra-cotta, or baked clay, of which the Etruscans made great use. The terra-cotta vases, for which they were celebrated, are well known in the present day ; on many of these Greek myths were represented, a proof that the designers had come under the influence of the art of the Greeks.
We have noticed that the most important and novel feature in the works of the Etruscans was the intelligent and scientific use of the arch. The architecture of the two great nations of whom the preceding chapters have treated was essentially trabeated " (trabs, a beam)—i.e. the openings were covered, and the superincumbent weight sup-ported, by a flat horizontal beam or lintel. In Roman architecture, which we are about to consider, a new method of construction was employed ; for the principle of the arch, adopted from the Etruscans, soon revolutionized the art of building. The Romans received this new feature, and learnt their early lessons in building, from Etruria ; but their architecture developed little until conquering Rome came into contact with the treasures and masterpieces of Greece.
The taste for the architecture of Greece first manifested itself in Rome in the time of the Scipios, about 200 B.C. Greece had become practically a province of Macedonia, and the victory of Paulus over the Macedonians, in 168 B.C., brought her under the influence of Rome. At a later period, when some dispute had arisen between the Achaeans and the Spartans, the latter applied to Rome for help, and in response the Consul Mummius settled the question by landing in Greece and taking possession of Corinth (146 B.C.). After carrying off all the art treasures, and stipulating—in his ignorance as to their value—that if any were lost by the carriers they should be replaced by others of equal value, he set fire to the city. From this time Greece became the happy hunting-ground for works of art ; the artistic treasures were freely pillaged, and their importation naturally had immense influence upon the buildings which were springing up in Rome ; Greek architects also were introduced into Italy, and under these circumstances there was soon evolved that modified form of Grecian architecture known as " Roman."
We see, then, that Roman architecture was not an independent creation. Broadly speaking, it may be said to have resulted from the fusing of the styles of the Greeks and the Etruscans. Upon the architecture of the Greeks was grafted the new constructional principle, the arch, which at once enlarged its scope; but the refined, intellectual work of the Greeks was out of place in a city such as Rome was destined to be. " Rome had no time for the cultivation of the arts of peace, and as little sympathy for their gentler influences. Conquest, wealth, and consequent power, were the objects of her ambition; for these she sacrificed everything, and by their means she attained a pinnacle of greatness that no nation had reached before or has since. Her arts have all the impress of this greatness, and are characterized by the same vulgar grandeur which marks everything she did." That such an authority as Fergusson can apply the term " vulgar grandeur " to the architecture of Rome is sufficient evidence that, despite the fact that one was derived from the other, there was, between the two, a great gulf fixed.
Before dealing with the forms which architecture assumed in the hands of the Romans, we must say a few words about one special feature—the method of construction—which had an important bearing upon the architecture of Rome, and which was radically different from that employed by the Greeks.
The Romans, as a nation, possessed little artistic feeling ; but they were an inventive, and a thoroughly practical, people, and they had an unrivalled knowledge of construction and of the use of materials. In the earliest periods of their history their buildings were constructed of solid masonry ; but, before the first century B.C., the use of an artificial material came into vogue, by means of which it was possible to employ unskilled labor to a vast extent, and in the erection of every class of building ; it became possible, with this, to build, not only on a vast scale, but at once cheaply and speedily. This material was concrete.
Concrete is an artificial conglomerate made by mixing together lime or cement, sand, water, and gravel or small stones. The lime, in its moist state, absorbs carbonic acid from the air and turns into carbonate of lime, or limestone, which, coming into contact with the sand and stones, sets and forms a solid mass as hard as stone. In the buildings of the Romans this material was employed far more extensively than any other; indeed, without concrete, it is safe to say that it would have been impossible for the constructors to have carried out so successfully the gigantic undertakings which, down to the present day, remain the wonder of the "eternal city."
The Roman concrete was exceptionally strong ; one of its chief ingredients was a volcanic product called pozzolana (from Pozzuoli, where it has al-ways been largely obtained), which, when broken up and incorporated with the lime, made a natural cement of extraordinary strength and hardness. From the first century B.C. onwards, this con-glomerate was extensively employed in the construction of almost every building of ancient Rome. Brickwork or masonry was used merely as a facing for the concrete mass. The boast of Augustus—recorded by Suetonius—that he found Rome brick and left it marble must therefore not be interpreted too literally. Under his auspices the city witnessed a period of great splendor and marble was extensively used: many of the temples and other structures of the Augustan age were built solidly of the finest marble; but the majority of the works of this and the later periods were nothing more than concrete piles, hid-den behind a veneer of marble or brickwork.
The visitor among the ruins of ancient Rome, who sees walls, apparently of fine brickwork, on all sides, finds it difficult to realize that bricks were never used constructionally. Yet careful examination discloses the fact that even the thinnest walls were merely cased with bricks and filled in with concrete. The great domed Pantheon is a glaring example of a concrete mass posing as a brick structure. Externally the wall presents a solid face of brickwork, in which tiers and arcades of brick arches are arranged, as though concentrating the weight upon piers ; yet the arches are, structurally, of no value whatever, for the brickwork of which they consist forms merely a casing of 4 or 5 inches, upon a solid concrete wall 20 feet thick.
We see, then, that the constructive methods of the Romans differed in most essential points from those of the Greeks. In the Greek's building every part did the work which it was sup-posed to do, and which it appeared to do ; never was there any attempt at deception. " Beauty is truth " formed part of his artistic creed, and he had a horror of deceit in any form. The Roman, on the other hand, openly reveled in it. Of the Roman it may be said that, as regards his architecture, he absolutely could not tell the truth—"splendide mendax," he was gloriously untruthful. But, like many evil-doers, he prospered, and, by his new methods, was able to build quickly and on a grand scale. " He went in," says Ruskin, " for a cheap and easy way of doing that whose difficulty was its chief honor," and was enabled, by means of his inventive genius, to greatly en-large the scope of the architecture which had been handed down to him from the Greeks. In his hands the art was not confined to the building of temples, but was applied to new forms and adapted, in an original and daring manner, to the varied requirements of the people. Palaces, amphitheatres, baths, triumphal arches, basilicas, all on a scale of unparalleled magnificence, sprang up on every side, all presenting new problems in design and construction, which the Roman builders never shirked, but at once undertook to solve, and upon which they speedily stamped their individuality.
Out of the three orders of Greece and the Etruscan models were evolved five Roman orders :-
1. The Tuscan, a rudimentary Doric form borrowed from the Etruscans. The column was sturdy and stood upon a base; the entablature was simple and with-out triglyphs.
2. The Doric, which retained the triglyphs. This column also had a base, and was frequently made smooth, without flutings.
3. The Ionic, very similar to the Greek order, but having a less rich capital, with smaller volutes.
4. The Corinthian, the favorite order with the Romans, in whose hands it developed into the most beautiful feature of their architecture.
5. The Composite, a poor attempt at an improvement, in which the Ionic volutes were combined with the lower portion of the Corinthian acanthus capital.
We saw that the story of architecture in Greece was told almost entirely by her temples. This was not the case in Rome: temple building was not the strong point with the Romans—though in the time of Augustus the city must have been well supplied with them—and very few remains now exist.
The illustration shows the plan of an early temple of the Ionic order, the so-called temple of Fortuna Virilis (correctly, of Fors Fortuna). There is some uncertainty regarding the date of this building, but it probably belongs to the early part of the first century B.C. As Professor Middle-ton points out, the date, in this and in other cases, may be approximately ascertained by an examination of the materials used in the construction. In the early period the only stone used by the Romans was "tufa," a soft volcanic stone which could be easily dressed, even with bronze tools. A somewhat harder volcanic stone, "peperino," then came into use, and, at a later period, "travertine," which was more durable, and harder to work. Travertine was sparingly used before the first century B.C. In the temple of Fortuna Virilis the columns of the portico and the "engaged" columns ranged round the cell walls are of travertine; the remainder of the work is built in tufa.
The temple stood upon a lofty podium, or base, so that a flight of steps in front was required to give access to the higher floor level. The cell is short and wide, and is divided by piers which help to carry the roof. The portico is inordinately deep, and, ranging with its side columns, we see a series of " engaged " columns—i.e. half-columns applied to the face of the wall as purely decorative features. From the earliest period of Roman building the column was not so important a feature in their architecture as it was with the Greeks; and, as the arch and vault came into use, it began to lose its significance, and gradually became little more than a decorative accessory, tacked on to the structural part of the design.
The details of the temple of Fortuna Virilis were thoroughly Greek in their character, and were probably executed by Greek artists; while the square cell and the deep portico are elements in the design due to Etruscan influence.
Greek artists were probably responsible for the details of two circular temples of this early period—the so-called temples of Vesta at Rome and at Tivoli. In each of these the circular cell was surrounded by a peristyle of twenty Corinthian columns, with capitals of great beauty.
As might be expected, we find that, through-out the earlier period, when much of the designing was in trusted to Greek architects, the buildings of Rome were characterized by simplicity and purity of style; but the increasing splendor of the empire was soon reflected in its architecture, which culminated in the reign of Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14), the golden age of art and of literature. This period produced the finest, though by no means the most colossal, of the works of Rome, for Augustus employed the best of Greek sculptors, who helped to some extent to revive the glories of ancient Greek architecture. Moreover, his artists and workmen were kept busy, for during this emperor's reign were built no less than twelve temples, including those of Castor and Pollux, of Jupiter Tonans on the Capitol, and of Mars Ultor; in addition to these works he restored or helped to complete more than eighty others, and numerous secular buildings.
Rome contains comparatively few temple re-mains, for a reason to be mentioned later. The most striking are the three noble Corinthian columns of the temple of Castor and Pollux (about A.D. 6), for a long time considered to be the re-mains of the temple of Jupiter Stator, which stand up among the ruins of the Forum. The quarries of Mount Pentelicus, near Athens, provided the marble, and Greek architects undoubtedly furnished the design and the details, which are among the finest to be found in Rome.
Most of the buildings of Rome were utilitarian, and even the temples appear to have been useful for purposes other than of worship. The temple of Castor and Pollux, for example, served as an office for checking weights and measures, for many bronze weights exist with the inscription "ex ad: Castor:" showing that they had been examined and verified in the temple.
It has been mentioned that the Romans excelled in the art of construction, and that the materials used by them were of the most enduring kind. How comes it, then, that, of the colossal and numerous buildings erected at this period, so few remain to-day, even in a fragmentary state?
The disappearance of the old monuments may be accounted for in two ways. Firstly, by the wanton destruction, at the hands of successive emperors, of the works of their predecessors. Each new ruler, either as a bid for popularity or in his own selfish interests, endeavored to surpass, in magnificence, everything that had been done by those before him, and in these efforts at self-aggrandizement the existing buildings were treated with scant respect. When Nero, for ex-ample, wished to carry out an extensive scheme which he had prepared for the rebuilding of a portion of the city, he cleared a site by means of the great fire of Rome, and was thus enabled to proceed with the works, building, amongst other monuments, that vast and wonderful palace, the " Golden House of Nero," the most lavish and costly structure that Rome had seen. A few years later Vespasian, in his turn, wishing to please the people by the construction of extensive baths and his huge amphitheatre, the Colosseum, concluded that the site of Nero's great palace was the most eligible for his purpose. Without delay, down came the greater portion of the Golden House, in order to provide a space for the new buildings.
Secondly, as Christianity spread in Rome, the temples—representing the old Pagan religion—were not only neglected, but were, in many in-stances, destroyed, the materials being reused in the construction of new buildings. This state of affairs lasted for centuries. The marble temple of Castor and Pollux, to take an example, was, during this period, almost carried away piecemeal. Michael Angelo used a portion of one column for the pedestal upon which was set the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius; another portion was made into the marble statue of Jonah in the church of S. Maria del Popolo. The great Basilica Julia, in the Forum, another Augustan building, was used as a marble quarry in the Middle Ages ; the greater part of the structure was carried away for building purposes, and the remainder was burnt into lime on the spot. In the course of some excavations, three lime-kilns were found in this building.
Vandalism has often gone hand in hand with civilization. " The excavators of the sixteenth century have done more harm to the antiquities," says Signor Lanciani, " than all the barbarians of the Middle Ages." When Charles V. visited Rome in 1536, the Pope, wishing to honor him as the avenger of Christianity, arranged that he should pass successively beneath the triumphal arches of Titus, Constantine, and Severus. With this object, says Rabelais, who was an eye-witness, " they demolished more than 200 houses, and razed three or four churches level with the ground."
Small wonder, then, that for the finest example of a typical Roman temple we have to go out of Rome, and indeed out of Italy, to the Maison Carree, at Nimes, in France. This temple differs very little, in the arrangement of its parts, from the temple of Fortuna Virilis, to which we have previously referred. In each case the edifice rests upon a raised podium, requiring a flight of steps in the front for access to the floor. The portico is deep in proportion to its width, and the walls of the cell are decorated with engaged columns, which range with the free columns of the portico.
After the Augustan ages, as wealth continued to pour into Rome, the magnificence of the city increased, for the Romans' method was, in the words of Pliny, "to take everywhere what they thought worth taking," and the buildings of the period were the natural outcome of the increasing licence and prodigality of the times. A typical building was the Flavian amphitheatre, better known, from its vast proportions, as the Colosseum, begun by the first of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian, in A.D. 70.
For the Greeks' form of amusement—dramatic representation—the Romans cared little; but they were passionately fond of gladiatorial shows and contests. Wherever a Roman settlement existed —in Britain, in Gaul, or in the mother country—traces are found of these amphitheatres. As would be expected, Rome claimed the most gigantic of them all.
The Colosseum was built in the form of a vast ellipse, 610 feet long, 510 feet wide, and 180 feet high. In the centre, communicating with the 'wild beasts' dens, was the arena in which the gladiatorial contests and spectacles were held; around this, rows of seats, rising in tiers, gave accommodation to 80,000 spectators, who were partially protected from the sun's rays by a huge awning. The structure was built almost entirely of concrete, faced with stone, and was skillfully planned to allow the whole audience a clear view of the arena. On the exterior the three lower stories formed continuous arcades of semi-circular arched openings, eighty in number. In front of the piers which separated the openings were engaged columns, used, after the Roman manner, as decorative accessories ; the Tuscan order in the lowest story, the Ionic in the second, and the Corinthian in the third. The fourth story, consisting of an almost unbroken wall divided by Corinthian pilasters, was added, or rebuilt, in the third century. It served to support the masts, fixed round the building in a series of corbels, from which the great awning was stretched.
The vast scale upon which the Colosseum is built renders it one of the most imposing ruins of the world; but, apart from its skilful construction, it had little architectural merit. The exterior, with its endless repetition of arches and useless columns, was monotonous. Such a building, persistently devoted to the most brutal con-tests, was a typical product of Roman civilization. For more than 300 years it was the scene of bloody contests of gladiators and prisoners, and echoed with the multitude's loud-roared applause As man was slaughtered by his fellow-man, until the year A.D. 403, when the better feeling of the people was aroused by the self-sacrifice of a monk named Telemachus. His story is the one redeeming feature in the long history of the Colosseum. In order to protest against the wan-ton cruelty, the monk rushed on to the arena, and fell a victim to the rage of the spectators; but the moral effect was such that human slaughter in the arena was discontinued.
Huge as was the Colosseum, there was another building devoted to Roman "sports "—the Circus Maximus—which far surpassed it. No vast building in Rome has vanished so completely as has this great circus; from its mass, no doubt, "pal-aces, half cities, have been reared," for almost every vestige has disappeared, so that its very name is hardly recalled by the visitor to the sights of modern Rome. From comparatively small beginnings in the time of the Tarquins, the Circus Maximus gradually developed until, after its restoration by the Emperor Claudius, it held, according to Pliny, no less than 250,000 spectators. Additional splendor was added by Trajan, under whom the vast building was wholly covered, inside and out, with white marble, relieved with brilliant mosaics, Oriental marble columns, and statuary. " It must then," says Professor Middleton, " from its crowd of works of art, its immense size, and the splendor of its materials, have been, on the whole, the most magnificent building in the world." In the fourth century it covered an area more than four times that of the Colosseum, and accommodated—according to records—the almost incredible number of 485,000 spectators.
Triumphal arches, in commemoration of victories, were striking features in Roman design. In the second century A.D. the city contained no less than thirty-eight. Of the few that remain, the arch of Titus, erected A.D. 71-80, to commemorate the conquest of Jerusalem, is best known for its fine proportion and the excellence of its details. The arch of Septimius Severus (A.D. 203) in the Forum, and that of Constantine (A.D. 330), are left as examples of the later work. The latter, though built at a period when Roman art was most degraded, contains some excellent sculptures and details. This is explained by the fact that the marble columns and entablatures, the sculptured panels (representing Trajan's victories), and the colossal statues of Dacian captives, are of much earlier date, for they were taken from the arch and forum of Trajan—another illustration of the ruthless manner in which the emperors destroyed the works of their predecessors. At a later date one of the fine columns of black Numidian marble was carried off for use in the church of S. John Lateran, where it now stands.
The upper story (called the attic), which—as in the arch of Constantine—was frequently added above the main cornice, is a feature of Roman architecture. The purely decorative purpose of the columns is shown by the fact that, in order to give them the appearance of supporting something, it has been necessary to break out the cornice and entablature over each capital. In this special case, the great statues they support afford an excuse for the presence of the columns; but in many examples of Roman work the uselessness of the column is too apparent.
In adapting the Greek orders to an arched system of construction, the Romans fell into some strange errors.
They appeared not to understand that the arch took the place of the architrave as the supporting member; it seemed to them that the column was not complete without its entablature, so that it became the custom to insert a square piece of entablature between the column and the arch or vault—an illogical piece of construction, which was revived by the builders of the Renaissance, and is in evidence in the work of the present day.
Under the Flavian emperors, towards the end of the first century, art in Rome was at a very low ebb, although buildings of colossal extent were erected by these rulers to please the taste and catch the votes of the populace. Under Hadrian, however (A.D. 117-138), there was a great revival of taste, not in Rome only, but in the provinces, and especially at Athens, where the emperor rebuilt part of the city, and completed the great temple of Jupiter Olympius, begun 300 years before.
To Hadrian's time belongs the great circular Pantheon, one of the noblest of all buildings of ancient Rome, built upon the site of an earlier rectangular temple erected by Agrippa; the portico was, indeed, rebuilt from the materials of the older temple, and has Agrippa's inscription upon its frieze. The great dome—of almost exactly the same diameter as S. Peter's, though apparently much vaster—is composed of a mass of concrete, and affords a striking illustration of the value of that material to a nation of builders like the Romans. The construction of a dome of such magnitude—but built up of separate blocks of masonry, exerting lateral thrusts—was a problem which was to exercise the minds of master- builders many hundreds of years later. In a con- crete structure, however, such as the Pantheon, the dome and vaults exercise no lateral thrust; the concrete becomes consolidated into a rigid mass, which rests upon the walls like a solid lid. This is a point which should be thoroughly grasped by the student, for it enables him to un- derstand why the Romans, in constructing their huge vaulted roofs, were able to dispense with the buttress—so necessary to the builders of later days—and to carry their massive vaulting upon simple walls.
Light was admitted to the Pantheon in an impressive manner by means of a circular opening, 30 feet in diameter, at the top of the dome. "There is," says Fergusson, "a grandeur and a simplicity in the proportions of this great temple that render it still one of the very finest and most sublime interiors in the world. It possesses, moreover, one other element of architectural sublimity in having a single window, and that placed high up in the building. I know of no other temples which possess this feature, except the great rock-cut Buddhist basilicas of India. That one great eye opening upon heaven is by far the noblest conception for lighting a building to be found in Europe."
The interior of the dome is "coffered "—i.e. divided into deep panels, which were originally gilt. The exterior is less imposing, though, in its best days, when the lower portion of the walls was encased in marble, the pediment and attic filled with bronze statuary, and the roof covered with bronze gilt tiles, few buildings surpassed the Pantheon in magnificence.
Space will permit only of a passing reference to the thermae, or colossal baths, which were, at one period, the most conspicuous feature of Roman architecture, and the most remarkable of all buildings in magnitude and splendor. These vast structures, which comprised public and private baths of all kinds, gymnasia, libraries, theatres, lecture-halls, all fitted up more lavishly than the most luxurious of modern clubs, were built simply as bribes by the emperors, one after the other, to secure the vote and favour of the people. The earlier baths—of Agrippa, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, and others—have almost entirely disappeared ; two only, of the later emperors, re-main in a sufficiently perfect condition to allow a restoration to be made with any degree of certainty.
The baths of Caracalla (A.D. 211) covered a site little less than a quarter of a mile square, and now form the most extensive mass of ruins in Rome, though they suffered much, in the sixteenth century, at the hands of Pope Paul III., who carried off vast quantities of the material for use in the construction of the Farnese Palace.
The baths of Diocletian, built a century later, were probably still vaster ; the grand hall, 340 feet long—restored by Michael Angelo, but still retaining the original columns and vaulting—now forms the church of S. Maria degli Angeli.
We have made no mention yet of another type of building in Rome, which was destined to exert very considerable influence upon the architecture of succeeding ages. Rome was a great commercial centre, and the public business of the city, commercial and judicial, occupied the attention of the people far more than did their religious affairs. This business was transacted in large, lofty buildings called basilicas, which served the purpose of halls of justice as well as commercial exchanges. A special interest attaches to them from the fact that they served as models for the first places of worship built by the early Christians of Rome, and that they thus became the recognized type for churches built for Christian worship. Compared with other Roman structures, they were slightly built ; and as the materials of the old basilican halls were found to he exceedingly useful for the construction of the new churches, extensive use was made of these ancient buildings for this purpose, so that few re-mains of the old basilicas of pagan Rome exist. The fate of the great Basilica Julia, in the Forum, has already been referred to ; the remains of the Basilica Ulpia, erected by Trajan (A.D. 115), may still be seen in Trajan's forum, adjoining his column.
In the plan of this building we have a great hall, 360 feet long by 18o feet wide, consisting of a wide, lofty central nave, flanked by double aisles with lower roofs. At one end is a semi-circular recess, or apse, called the tribune, round which, upon a raised dais, were the seats for the magistrates, or assessors, the central seat, at a higher level than the others, being set apart for the chief magistrate who presided over the business.
The roof of the basilica was usually of wood, with the nave portion considerably higher than that over the aisles, so as to allow the introduction of a clerestory wall and windows above the columns. In the Ulpian basilica the nave was probably open and only the side aisles roofed.
It was not until the time of Constantine that vaulted construction was applied to the basilicas. This emperor completed the building which had been begun by Maxentius near the Roman forum, now called the basilica of Constantine. In front of this hall was a narthex, or porch—extending the whole width of the building—which gave access to the main entrance, while a side entrance led from the Via Sacra. Opposite each doorway was an apse for the accommodation of the magisterial bench. The one existing aisle, spanned by three massive concrete vaults, affords the visitor of the present day an excellent opportunity for studying the Roman methods of building in concrete. Further reference will be made to the old basilicas when we are dealing with early Christian architecture in the next chapter.
Of the private houses or homes of the Romans there are few remains in Rome itself, with the exception of the so-called house of Livia on the Palatine hill, a well-preserved specimen, with excellent wall-paintings. Typical examples of domestic architecture are found in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum,. which were destroyed —or, rather, buried—by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
In the House of Pansa, at Pompeii, many of the rooms (marked s) facing the street were used as shops, and were quite separate from the mansion. The front door opened directly from the street into a small lobby (L), which led to the atrium—a courtyard, roofed over round the sides, but open to the sky in the centre. Under this central opening was a tank, the compluvium, which collected the rain-water. Three rooms at the end of the court, the tablinum and the aloe, were used for storing the family archives. By the side of these apartments a passage led to the more private portion of the house. Here, we find, is a larger court, uncovered in the centre as before —the peristylium —the roof of which was supported, in the houses of the wealthy, by rows of columns (peristyles) of the finest marble. Leading off this is the dining-room (triclinium), a most important room in the house of the old Roman, who sometimes had two or three, so that he could vary the aspect according to the time of the year and the state of his digestion. The other family rooms were grouped round the peristyle, while the bakery, kitchen, and offices completed the establishment.
The walls of the interior were decorated with marble slabs or with fantastic paintings, Pompeian decoration," as it is called, from the fact that we have been made familiar with it from the well-preserved walls of Pompeii, though it was probably in general use among the Romans of the period. In this decorative scheme the wall-spaces were divided into darkly colored panels by means of attenuated painted columns; in the centre of the panels graceful and highly finished human figures or architectural and perspective views were introduced. Frequently the plinth, or lower portion of the wall, was painted a very dark color, almost black ; above this, a deep red or brown was used, occasionally blue or yellow. The figure treatment and the general system of deco-ration suggest a Greek origin : it is probable—though the theory must be always speculative—that the houses of the Romans, as preserved to us at Pompeii, were in all general features very similar to those of the Greeks of the earlier period. Mr. Petrie's recent remarkable discovery in Egypt, however, enables us to trace back the Pompeian plan to a still more remote date, for his excavations of the village of Kahun, built for the over-seers and the workmen of the Illahun Pyramid, have disclosed the plans of a number of large houses arranged upon a plan strikingly similar to those of Pompeii.
We have now completed the short story of the two great styles—Greek and Roman—comprising what is known as "classical architecture." The histories of the two are inseparable, yet they differ strangely—the refined, truthful, exquisitely pro-portioned work of the Greeks, and the vast, magnificent, daring undertakings of the Romans. " The Greek," says Ruskin, " rules over the arts to this day, and will for ever, because he sought not for beauty, not first for passion, or for invention, but for Rightness." For this quality in their architecture the Romans cared not a rap; nor was their national life, which their architecture reflected, overburdened with the sense of it. While they were under the influence of Greece, before vice and the love of luxury had fully possessed the people, Roman art progressed. But as wealth poured into Rome, and her people lived dissolutely upon the spoils of the conquered nations, her architecture became more and more debased, and its story differed little from that of Rome herself -
First freedom, and then glory,—when that fails, Wealth, vice, corruption,—barbarism at last.