The application of the Roman arches dates back to the Cloaca Maxima, and may have been of Etrurian invention. Some maintain that Archimedes of Sicily was the inventor of the arch; but to whoever the glory of the invention is due, it is certain that the Romans were the first of European nations to make a practical application of its great qualities.
Use of Roman Arches
Roman arches enabled the ancient Romans to rear vast edifices with the humblest materials, to build bridges, aqueducts, sewers, amphitheatres, and triumphal arches, as well as temples and palaces. The merits of the Roman arches have never been lost sight of by succeeding generations, and it is an essential element in the magnificent Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Its application extends to domes and cupolas, to floors and corridors and roofs, and to various other parts of buildings where economy of material and labor is desired. It was applied extensively to doorways and windows, and is an ornament as well as a utility.
Roman Arches in the Colosseum
The Building of the Colosseum was strongly influenced by the combination of two of their great inventions - concrete and vaulted arches. Concrete was a a recent invention and the Romans were still learning how to use it, they did not know how strong it was or long it would last. The Romans cautiously combined concrete together with stone. Concrete was made by mixing a strong volcanic material (called pazzolana) with rubble, sand and a mixture of limestone. The Colosseum had four tiers. The ceilings of the passages and corridors which circled the arena on each tier consisted of vaulted arches made of concrete but the supports the vaulted arches rested on were made of strong, heavy limestone. The Vaulted arches made the ceilings much stronger than a flat ceiling would have been. Vaulted arches made of concrete added strength to the building without adding excessive weight. Without concrete and vaulted Roman arches, the Colosseum could not have been built.
Roman Arches made of Brick
The most imposing forms of Roman architecture may be traced to a knowledge of the properties of the arch, and as brick was more extensively used than any other material, the Roman arches were invaluable. The imperial palace on Mount Palatine, the Pantheon (except its portico and internal columns), the temples of Peace, of Venus and Rome, and of Minerva Medica, were all made of brick.
So were the great baths of Titus, Caracalla, and Diocletian, the villa of Hadrian, the city walls, the villa of Mecaenas at Tivoli, and most of the palaces of the nobility,although, like many of the temples, they were faced with stone. The Colosseum was of travertine, a cheap white limestone, and faced with marble. It was another custom to stucco the surface of brick walls, as favorable to decorations.
Roman Arches Architecture
In consequence of the invention of the arch, the Romans erected a greater variety of fine structures than either the Greeks or Egyptians, whose public edifices were chiefly confined to temples. The arch entered into almost every structure, public or private, and superseded the use of long stone-beams, which were necessary in the Grecian temples, as also of wooden timbers, in the use of which the Romans were not skilled, and which do not really pertain to architecture: an imposing edifice must always be constructed of stone or brick. Roman Arches - the greatest invention ever made in architecture.
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