Top 20 Exemplary Structures of Ancient Roman Architecture

Ancient Rome has always been known to the world for its military power, architecture, inventions, and the powerful emperors from its early days. It was also renowned for the impressive engineering of Temples, Basilica, Baths, Amphitheaters, Circus, Tombs, Bridges, and Aqueducts. 

The designs of the buildings commonly featured Columns, Arches, Vaults, and Dome. The Romans were dedicated to everything they did or built. Their understanding of engineering and mathematics made it possible to construct the perfect buildings with vast and beautiful structures.

These structures were many times bigger and higher than residents. Here is the list of the top 20 structures of Ancient Roman Architecture that have greatly influenced today’s interior design. 

Where did Ancient Roman Architecture derive the classical designs from?

Ancient Greece heavily influenced Roman Civilization from religion to innovation. Thus, ancient Roman architecture had adopted some elements of classical Greek architecture as an inspiration. Later, Romans developed a unique design and style. 

How was Ancient Roman Architecture spread out of Rome?

During Italian Renaissance in Europe, the revival of classical designs based on Ancient Roman Architecture was actively intact. As a result, the local classical styles developed, including Palladian architecture, Regency architecture, and Georgian architecture. 

These designs were first practiced in English speaking world and then spread across the globe.

What was Ancient Roman Architecture famous for?

Ancient Roman architecture was famous for developing new technologies, including the arch and the dome. The structures of ancient Roman architecture mainly were built of stones, Roman bricks, and concrete.

When was Ancient Roman Architecture developed immensely?

It was developed during the Roman Republic from 509 BC to the 4th century AD. Most surviving buildings based on Ancient Roman Architecture were built before about 100 BC and after about 100 AD.

Did the ancient Roman architects only design structures?

It’s not true. Ancient Roman Architects had designed and built several ancient Roman cities, which remain now as ruins. One of the ancient Roman cities is Baalbek.

20.Roman Theatre of Amman

An image of the Roman Theatre in Amman
An image of the Roman Theatre in Amman
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationAmman, Jordan
Built-in140 AD
Built by/forEmperor Antoninus Pius
Type of structureAmphitheater

Roman Theatre of Amman, located in Amman, dates back to the 2nd Century BC. Amman was initially known as Philadelphia, and it could fit about 6000 spectators.

The theatre was shaped in a large and steeply raked place and was divided into three flat tires. These three tires had seats where rulers sat closest to the action of actors, the military in the middle section, and the general public in the upper off the stage.

The structure had been built facing the north to keep the sun off the spectators. The spectators on the top far from the orchestra could hear the actors easily.

Now, this amphitheater is used as a venue for cultural performance. The Amman Marathon prize ceremony, Amman International Book Fair, and musical concerts, such as the Al-Balad Music Festival, are hosted here.

19.Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arc of Septimius Severus located in Rome, Italy
The Arch of Septimius Severus located in Rome, Italy
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationRome, Italy
Built-in203 AD
Built by/forEmperor Septimius Severus
Type of structureTriumphal arch

The Arch of Septimius Severus is an impressive example of ancient Roman architecture located at the Roman Forum’s northwest end. This triumphal arch has been built with white marble.

It celebrates the two victories of Emperor Septimius Severus with his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, against Parthians in the wars of 194/195 and 197–199. 

The arch is almost 69 feet high, over 75 feet wide, near the Curia Julia, the Senate’s meeting place. Inside, Emperor Septimius Severus is depicted as shaking hands with his sons, whereas Caracalla is carved as a tall young prince.

The building’s charm increases even better with two sets of reliefs inside. The first set has four panels on each face of the attic, whereas the second set includes eight panels into the inner front of the four archways.

People believed that Severus had dreamt of sitting on the horse of Pertinax at this place. So he ordered the construction of the monument at the same place.

18.Roman Baths 

A recent picture of the Roman Baths located in Somerset, England
A recent picture of the Roman Baths located in Somerset, England
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationSomerset, England
Built-in60-70 AD
Built by/forEmperor Claudius
Type of structureBath

Roman Baths were built in the first few decades of Roman Britain during which Aquae Sulis, the city of Bath, was famous for its hot mineral springs.

They were engineered for bathing and relaxing which took over 300 years to complete. All the rooms in the bath featured unique designs and techniques including different temperatures, swimming pools, places to read, exercise, relax, and socialize.

These baths were completely operational until the end of Roman rule in Britain. However, the structures started ruining around the 5th century AD. 

Now the Roman baths are preserved for four facilities: the Roman Temple, the Sacred Spring, the Roman Bath House, and a museum. 

17.Porta Nigra

The fieldside image of Porta Nigra
The fieldside image of Porta Nigra
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationTrier, Germany
Built-in170 AD
Built by/forMarcus Aurelius
Type of structureCity gate

Porta Nigra was the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps registered in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site List. It was amongst the four city gates other including Porta Alba, Porta Media, and Porta Inclyta.

These four gates were mostly used by the Emperors to enter the city until the end of the Roman Era. However, with the end of the Era, the three gates were also destroyed but Porta Nigra was saved and used for other purposes.

In the 11th century, the gate served as the shelter or house for the monk, Simeon. After his death, Porta Nigra was converted into a church. The latter centuries saved the structure through renovation and maintenance measures.

When Napoleon came into power, he dissolved the church authority in the structure in 1803. He ordered his men to restore the previous design of the frame. With continued reconstruction, Porta Nigra became a World Heritage Site in 1986.

16.Mausoleum of Hadrian

The picture of Mausoleum of Hadrian also known as Castel Sant'Angelo
The picture of Mausoleum of Hadrian also known as Castel Sant’Angelo
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationParco Adriano, Rome, Italy
Built-in123–139 AD
Built by/forHadrian
Type of structureMausoleum

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, also known as Castel Sant’Angelo, was the tallest building in entire Rome.

The building was initially built for Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family but was made the burial place of the Antonine emperors. The building was used as a burial for a long period until the reign of Caracalla.

However, it was again converted into a fortress and a castle by the popes during the 5th-century. In 590 AD, the building received its current name, and Pope Gregory the Great established the marble statue of the archangel. 

Throughout the Middle Ages, popes used it as a refuge where Clement VII and Charles V had taken refuge. The part of the structure was also separated for prison at the time.

However, the building is now made a museum and is open to the public.

15.Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus located in Rome, Italy
Arch of Titus located in Rome, Italy
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationRome, Italy
Built-in81 AD
Built by/forEmperor Domitian
Type of structureHonorific arch

Emperor Domitian built the Arch of Titus in 81 AD shortly after the death of his older brother Titus. It commemorates Titus’s official deification and the victory of Titus together with his father, Vespasian, at the First Jewish-Roman War.

The structure provides the general model for several triumphal arches erected after the 16th century. It is 50 feet in height with a width of 14 feet and a depth of 15 feet.

It features panels depicting the victory celebrated in 71 AD after the Romans culminated in the fall of Jerusalem. The main attraction is the depiction of Emperor Titus riding a four-horse chariot with goddess Roma standing in the front, holding the reins of these four horses.

14.Library of Celsus

The front view of the Library of Celsus located in Turkey
The front view of the Library of Celsus located in Turkey
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationSelçuk, Turkey
Built-in135 AD
Built by/forTiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus
Type of structureLibrary

The Library of Celsus was built to honor the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. He was the Roman Consul in 92 AD and became Governor of the Roman province of Asia in 115 AD.

The library was built at his own expense and was completed by his son Consul Gaius Julius Aquila during the reign of Hadrian. However, Celsus could not see its completion, and the final structure was served as a funerary monument for Celsus.

The structure stored 12,000 scrolls, and the interior measured roughly 2,000 square feet. Unfortunately, the interior portion and the books placed inside were destroyed due to the fire in 262.

13.Amphitheater of El Djem

An aerial view of the Amphitheater of El Djem taken in 1986
An aerial view of the Amphitheater of El Djem taken in 1986
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationEl Djem, Tunisia
Built-in238 AD
Built by/forRoman Emperor Gordian III
Type of structureAmphitheater

The Amphitheater of El Djem is another significant architectural work done during the Roman Era. It is the third-largest arenas other two being the Colosseum and the theater of Capua.

This structure has been registered in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 due to its unique features and exceptional engineering.

Unlike other theaters, this one was made in an oval shape and was located in the modern-day city of El Djem, Tunisia. It was a large theater with 486-400 feet dimensions that could accommodate at least 35000 spectators at once.

12.Aqueduct of Segovia

An image of Aqueduct of Segovia, Segovia, Spain
An image of Aqueduct of Segovia, Segovia, Spain
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationProvince of Segovia, Spain
Built-in1st Century AD
Built by/forEither Emperor Domitian, or Nerva, or Trajan
Type of structureRoman aqueduct

The Aqueduct of Segovia is another masterpiece built during the reign of Emperors Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan. It was built around the 1st Century AD and was located in the province of Segovia, Spain.

The Aqueduct was around 2388 feet long and 30 feet high with about 165 arches. It was a massive structure built using over 24000 granite blocks that could hold and carry water 10 miles from the Frio River to Segovia.

The other reason for its popularity was the availability of water to the Romans from its construction until the 20th Century.

11.Pula Arena

A picture of the new old amphitheater located in Pula, Croatia-min
A picture of the new old amphitheater located in Pula, Croatia-min
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationPula, Croatia
Built-in27 BC- 68 AD
Built by/forAugustus
Type of structureRoman amphitheater

Pula Arena is the only surviving Roman amphitheater that has four side towers. It was first constructed as per the order of the Roman Emperor Augustus using timber.

However, the initial structure could not remain the same for a long time. Firstly, the entire structure was transformed into a small stone amphitheater under the order of Emperor Claudius.

It was again enlarged and turned into an arena to entertain the gladiator’s fight by Emperor Vespasian. The whole transformation was completed only during the reign of Titus.

The structure took numerous modifications and renovations throughout its existence. The stones used to build the arena were used to build houses around Pula during the 15th Century.

But, finally, in the 18th Century, the final reconstruction of the theater begun and since then it has been hosting several theatre productions, public meetings, and military ceremonies.

This structure gained its fame for being one of the six largest remaining Roman arenas in the world.

10. Diocletian’s Palace

A recent picture of the Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia
A recent picture of the Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationSplit, Croatia
Built-in4th century AD
Built by/forEmperor Diocletian
Type of structureRoman fort 

Diocletian’s Palace was built when Emperor Diocletian abdicated the Roman throne in 305 AD. The construction of the palace was started in 295 AD and was completed only in 305 AD in a total area of 9800 square feet.

The entire palace was used for two purposes, one being the personal house of Emperor Diocletian and the other half was used for military activities.

However, the Palace remained the imperial fortress after the death of Diocletian. It was used as the shelter by the expelled members of the Emperor’s family. 

During the 7th century, the building was used as a refugee shelter for people from Salona when Avars and Slavs destroyed their houses. Since then, many restaurants, shops, and some homes had been running in the building. 

Today, the remains of the fort carry the historical core of Split, which has been enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

9. Arena of Nimes 

The Arena of Nimes, Nimes, France
The Arena of Nimes, Nimes, France
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationNimes, France
Built-inaround 70 AD
Built by/forRoman citizens
Type of structureAmphitheater

Arena of Nimes, or the Amphitheater of Nimes, was built shortly after the Colosseum of Rome. Today, it is one of the world’s well-preserved Roman amphitheaters. 

The amphitheater is 436 feet long and 328 feet wide, with an arena measuring 223 feet by 125 feet. The outer facade of the structure is 69 feet, along with two stories of 60 arcades. 

In Roman times, the arena could accommodate 24,000 spectators. It had 34 tiers of terraces which were again divided into four self-contained zones.

This structure was built during the reign of Emperor Augustus. But Roman citizens and the gladiators who participated in the fight completed the construction of the building. Thus, it served as a general or public event theatre. 

Today, Arena of Nimes hosts two annual bullfights during the festival of Feria de Nimes. Besides, the building is also used for other public events, such as hosting “The great Roman Games” and many cultural concerts. 

8.Pont du Gard

An image of Pont du Gard located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France
An image of Pont du Gard located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationVers-Pont-du-Gard, France
Built-in1st century AD
Built by/forRoman Empire
Type of structureRoman aqueduct

The Pont du Gard is one of the finest masterpieces of ancient Roman architecture, which is best preserved today. It is also the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges.

It was built in the 1st century to carry water over 31 miles to the Roman colony of Nimes and had a height of 161 feet and crossed the River Gardon. Thus, the name of the aqueduct came as “Pont du Gard,” meaning “Bridge over the Gard.”

The construction of Pont du Gard was under emperor Augustus’ son-in-law, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in around 19 BC.

However, the maintenance of the structure was neglected during the 4th Century though it kept on supplying water until the 9th Century.

7.Maison Carree

The Western side of Maison Carree, Nimes, France
The Western side of Maison Carree, Nimes, France
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationNimes, France
Built-in2 AD
Built by/forGaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar
Type of structureRoman temple

The Maison Carree is an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar. They were the grandsons of the Roman Emperor Augustus and the sons of Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. 

The temple was built in memory of Gaius and Lucius as they both died at a very young age. The structure adopted the Vitruvian architectural style and had the exact model of a Tuscan-style Roman temple.

The temple’s facade contained deep pronaos, which was almost a third of the structure’s length. The Corinthian order was added to elaborate the columns and give them more richness.

In the 4th century AD, the temple transformed into a Christan church and was saved from destruction. Later it turned into a town hall, a stable, and a storehouse. Now, it serves as a museum.

6.Tower of Hercules

A picture of the Tower of Hercules located on Coruna, Galicia, Spain
A picture of the Tower of Hercules located on Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationCoruna, Galicia, Spain
Built-in1st century AD
Built by/forRoman Empire
Type of structureAncient Roman lighthouse

The Tower of Hercules was known as Farum Brigantium until the 20th century. It is an ancient Roman lighthouse on a peninsula about 1.5 miles from the center of A Coruña, Galicia.

The structure is the second tallest lighthouse in Spain, preceding Faro de Chipiona with a total height of 180 feet pointing out to the North Atlantic Coast of Spain.

It was first built in the 1st century AD and rebuilt during the reign of Trajan in 1788. The two towers differed in shape and size as the original tower was shorter as well as wider than the present tower.

The height was increased when the tower went under reconstruction in 1788 and it received a neoclassical restoration and a new 69 feet fourth story.

5.Pantheon

The night view photo of the Pantheon, Rome, Italy
The night view photo of the Pantheon, Rome, Italy
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationRome, Italy
Built-in113–125 AD
Built by/forRoman Emperor Trajan, Hadrian
Type of structureRoman temple

Pantheon, the temple of all gods, was first built as the Roman temple, but since 609 AD, the building has served as the Roman Catholic church.

The present Pantheon that turned into a church, is dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. It is the oldest standing domed building which features the 142 feet oculus and a diameter in the interior circle.

The building includes a large circular portico along with three rows of massive granite Corinthian columns. Besides, its facade is engineered in Corinthian order with sixteen monolithic columns.

Now, the Pantheon dome has become the world’s largest dome made of unreinforced concrete. Pantheon was created almost 2000 years ago, and claiming such credentials is simply amazing.

4.Roman Theatre of Orange

A photo of the Roman Theatre of Orange
A photo of the Roman Theatre of Orange
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationOrange, Vaucluse, France
Built-in1st century AD
Built by/forCaesar Augustus
Type of structureRoman Amphitheatre

This UNESCO World Heritage Site certified theatre is under the control of the municipality of Orange. It is also the home of the summer opera festival, the Chorégies d’Orange.

The Theatre of Orange is still in its original size at 338 feet long and 121 feet high. It is one of the largest existing theatres of its kind, accommodating 10,000 spectators. 

Prince of Orange, Maurice of Nassau, tried to destroy the structure in the 7th century but the frequent reconstruction made it possible to survive till now. 

The theatre was built with tires, including gates and an entrance tunnel. The interior was made in such a way that once the spectators entered the building, they could access it from one tire to another easily.

Besides, VIPs such as the municipal councilors occupied the seats of the first three rows to enjoy the actor’s performance. 

Christianity became the official religion after the Western Roman Empire ended in the 4th century. This change in religion caused the theatre to shut down with the official proclamation in AD 391. 

However, it was again opened in the 12th Century to release and showcase religious plays. 

3.Temple of Bacchus

A photo of the Temple of Bacchus
A photo of the Temple of Bacchus
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationBaalbek, Lebanon
Built-in150 AD- 250 AD
Built by/forRoman Emperor Antoninus Pius
Type of structureRoman temple

Baalbek, the ancient Phoenician city was founded around 9000 BC and was located in Lebanon. The city was the home to numerous temples including the Temple of Bacchus, Venus, Mercury, Odeon, and Jupiter.

The Temple of Bacchus is considered one of the grandest Roman temple ruins and the entire world. It has a magnificent ancient Roman architectural design dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine, harvest, theater, and fertility.

Antoninus Pius ordered the construction of the 102 feet tall and 217 by 115 feet Roman temple. It featured 42 Corinthian columns and 9 of which remain upright in position. 

However, the massive temple was damaged in 1759 due to an earthquake. The earthquake damaged numerous other structures, buildings, and houses. Luckily the temple of Bacchus was reconstructed soon in between 1898-1903.

The final touch to the reconstruction was done in around 1920 by the Lebanese government. The well-engineered structure was registered in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. in 1920.

2.Arch of Constantine

The night view of the Arch of Constantine, Rome, Italy
The night view of the Arch of Constantine, Rome, Italy
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationRome, Italy
Built-inAD 315
Built by/forRoman Emperor Constantine I
Type of structureTriumphal arch

The Arch of Constantine was built to dedicate to Emperor Constantine the Great. It accommodated the emperor’s victory over Maxentius in AD 312 at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

Roman Senate planned and constructed the Arch of Constantine to celebrate the victory. The structure was built using brick-faced concrete revetted in marble. 

The monument is the largest Roman triumphal arch with dimensions of 69 feet high, 85 feet wide, and 24 feet deep. Also, it includes three bays designed with separate columns. 

1. Colosseum

A recent photo of the Colosseum taken in 2020
A recent photo of the Colosseum taken in 2020
Source: Wikimedia Common
LocationRome, Italy
Built-in70–80 AD
Built by/forEmperors Vespasian, Titus, Domitian
Type of structureAmphitheater

The Colosseum is the largest ancient amphitheater built ever in history. Despite its age, it still survives as the largest standing amphitheater in the world today.

The construction of this amphitheater began during the reign of Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD, and it was completed under Emperor Titus in 80 AD. Later the structure received some modification under Domitian.

The arena was constructed of travertine limestone, tuff, and brick-faced concrete. It could accommodate 50,000 to 80,000 spectators with an average of 65,000 people. 

The structure hosted gladiatorial fights and many public spectacles such as animal hunts, executions, and reenactments of famous battles. It was also used for holding plays based on Roman mythology.

But in medieval times, the Colosseum was stopped for hosting entertainment events. It served for housing, quarters for a religious order, workshops, a fortress, a Christian shrine, and a quarry.

Conclusion

Ancient Roman architecture has offered magnificent structures with marvelous designs. Many of these structures have received space on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

I am amazed at seeing the Roman Baths. What building or structure do you find most impressive apart from the Colosseum? Mention your choice in the comment section. 

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