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Other Buildings Of The Roman Style

( Originally Published 1915 )

So many and so wonderful are the buildings of this style that we cannot do more than mention a few. The baths, or thermae, were the greatest of all in size and splendor, and were fitted up with the greatest luxury. Important parts of some of these remain. Remains of a few private houses and great palaces are still to be seen, and the triumphal arches are the admiration of all travelers.

It has been said that Architecture is the only one of the fine arts that is useful. But some of these structures, such as the triumphal arches, were purely ornamental. These triumphal arches, as has been mentioned before, were built to signalize some great military victory, and at one time there were nearly forty. The chief ones now to be seen at Rome are the Arch of Titus, and the Arch of Constantine. Figure 28 represents the Arch of Constantine. The exterior was always elaborate; done in cut stone, and marble with columns or pilasters. The pilaster was in imitation of a column, but was only a projection from the wall of a flat rectangular form. Above, there was a rich entablature with inscriptions.


In general effect, the most impressive of Roman triumphal arches is the Arch of Constantine, dedicated in A.D. 315. It has three archways. Each front is ornamented with four Corinthian columns, on pedestals, supporting blocks of the entablature, which, with the dies resting on them, themselves in turn, form pedestals for statues.

Above the entablature is a high attic, the central compartment of which bears inscriptions; the others contain reliefs taken from the monument of Trajan. Over the two smaller side arches are four circular medallions showing scenes from Trajan's life. Beneath, there is a narrow band with sculptured scenes from Constantine's campaigns.

In the spandrels of the central arch are carved victories, while in the spandrels of the side arches are river deities and nymphs.

Notice other reliefs on the side walls of the arches. It is upon the reliefs that the claim to excellence of this arch chiefly rests.


This arch is one of the simplest in its scheme, and yet the most effective of the Roman triumphal arches. The capitals of the engaged columns at the angles of the piers are the earliest examples of the Composite order. On the keystones are sculptured an armed female figure and a male divinity holding a cornucopia ; these represent a pair of deities worshiped by the army Virtus (manliness) and Honor (Glory). Notice the reliefs in the passageway. That on the north side portrays Titus in his sacred car; he is crowned by victory, and the horses are held by Rome herself. On the south side we procession approaching an arch represented in perspective. The treasures of the temple of Jerusalem, including the seven branched candlestick and the golden trumpets, are being carried on stretchers. The reliefs of this monument are taken by critics to mark an advance, an epoch, in the history of Art. They show scenes with fidelity and give the illusion of real events in the open air.

We know very little of the lives of architects at the time of Rome. The Emperors (of whom Hadrian was one of the greatest) themselves were active in directing their great buildings.

Vitruvius was a famous Roman architect and military engineer under Caesar and Augustus. His treatise on Architecture, in ten volumes, is the only surviving Roman treatise on the subject.

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