Perhaps more than other aspect of Roman culture, the study of architecture is affected by two preconceptions, the first resulting from its durability, the second from later attitudes. First, because buildings appear as a solid and visible legacy of Roman culture, it is assumed that Romans themselves clearly recognised the meaning of architecture. Yet, within a short time-span, two ancient writers, Varro and Vitruvius, presented different views. Vitruvius, the more fortunate in transmission, was ambivalent about the definition of ‘architecture’, calling it first a compound of aesthetic concepts – organisation, layout, good rhythm, symmetry, correctness, and allocation; but, a chapter later, a combination of scientific domains – building, mechanics, and orology. For Varro, architecture was one of nine ‘disciplines’; his lost treatise can hardly have contained such technicalities or defined ‘architecture’ so comfortably within the parameters of the modern academic subject. This article explores past debates on Roman architecture, including one concerning archaeology and architectural history; form and function as well as utility and ornament of Roman buildings; public architecture and private building; and centre and periphery.
Yaron Z. Eliav
This article discusses Roman public bathhouses, which provided a wide range of services that included swimming pools, saunas, and meeting rooms. It looks at the technology and cultural facets that were present in the bathhouses. It then describes the facilities, the social encounters that occurred, and the statues that were displayed there. The article also studies the supposed hostility of the Jews toward the bathhouses, the issue of nudity, the potential hazards, and the wide dissemination of Roman baths.
A recent thought concerning Aegean prehistoric figurines was penned by Colin Renfrew. The trajectory of Renfrew's scholarship parallels the trends in the study of Aegean Bronze Age figurines. In 1969, he produced the typological sequence of Early Cycladic figurines. After the establishment of typologies and chronologies, scholars have searched for interpretations based on certain criteria, and then they questioned whether the archaeological record preserves any clues to help uncover the meaning figurines had for their makers and owners. Before discussing the intricate problem of meaning, this article describes the archaeological evidence, the various types of figurines—Helladic, Minoan, and Cycladic—and their excavated contexts. It also considers methodologies of interpretation from different points of view: religion, identity, and context in archaeology.
Anne P. Chapin
Pictorial painting in fresco is a defining characteristic of Aegean culture, yet the art form presents numerous challenges to modern study. Prehistoric frescoes are durable but fragile, and as little as five to ten percent of any given composition may survive to the present day. Attempts to restore the original appearance of such fragmentary paintings often result in errors or overly imaginative reconstructions. Dating frescoes to specific phases of prehistory is also difficult. Fresco fragments are often found in secondary contexts, and mixed stratigraphy and/or scant documentation of excavations often obscure the dating of surviving frescoes. In the absence of written history, however, the pictorial imagery preserved on frescoes provides crucial information about the social practices and beliefs of the prehistoric Minoan, Cycladic, and Mycenaean civilizations of the Aegean. This article on Aegean wall painting focuses on recent scholarship.
Frederick A. Cooper
This article provides information on domestic and utilitarian architecture. The organization of this article intentionally follows the section topics typical of a modern engineering and construction book. It rests on the proposition that construction theory, especially the mechanics of building materials and aseismic design constituted the starting point for Greek architectural design. The aim is to show the existence of an ancient scientific approach through juxtaposition of the evidence for Greek practice with pertinent excerpts from contemporary engineering construction handbooks. The Greek architectural design, business, art, and the profession of Greek architecture are described. The Greek architect's treatment of peristyle and cella as two separate entities follows a logic consistent with the overall aseismic design of a building. The building materials in Greek engineering include lime-based substances, baked clay architectural units, iron, lead, bronze, stone, and wood. Furthermore, the article discusses the fire protection engineering in Greek architecture.
Charles Brian Rose
Deciphering the language of imagery used by the Romans requires an examination of all components of material culture, whether or not we would classify them as ‘art’. We often ask ‘what is “Roman” in Roman art, but a more appropriate question would be what is “art” in Roman art?’ This article examines issues related to Roman self-representation, focusing primarily on political and religious imagery of the late Republic and Empire, but touching on all visual media and most geographic regions. It highlights the fundamental ambiguity of Roman iconography as well as the problems in comprehension encountered both by the Roman viewer and the modern scholar. The article begins with the issue of space and time: how the Romans indicated the extent of the empire that they controlled, and how they expressed its unlimited duration. The most prominent element that shifted between the realms of politics and religion in the Roman Empire was the arch, which had begun to serve as a symbol of triumph by the first century
This article assesses the impact of innovation on Roman society. It starts from a critical engagement with past debate about technological progress, which over the past decades has been too strongly focused on economic growth, and a re-appreciation of the literary evidence for innovation, which points to a culture in which technological knowledge and invention were thought to matter. Then, it highlights two areas where the uptake of technology had a direct impact on everyday life: material culture, where the emergence of glass-blowing, a proliferation of metal-working, and innovation in pottery-production changed the nature and amount of artefacts by which people surrounded themselves, and construction, where building techniques using opus caementicium, arches and standardized building materials revolutionized urban and rural landscapes. A concluding discussion highlights the role of integration of the Mediterranean under Roman rule in making innovation possible, and the role of consumer demand in bringing it about.
Jewelry, usually designating both gold and silver work, is undoubtedly one of the most significant classes among the so-called small finds in the prehistoric Aegean. The corpus of finds is especially rich between these two extremes in all periods of development and in the various areas of expansion of Aegean cultures, the Cycladic islands, Crete, western Asia Minor, and the Greek mainland. Two important finds deserve special attention: the famous “bee pendant” from the necropolis of Chrysolakkos at Malia and the so-called Aegina treasure in the British Museum. The Malia pendant, which is dated to late Prepalatial or Protopalatial times, is another masterpiece of craftsmanship, with a highly skilful use of granulation, a sophisticated composition, and a likely symbolic meaning that has inspired many comments—beginning with the identification of the insects—bees, hornets, or wasps.
This article concentrates on the roads and bridges of the Italian peninsula. The Via Appia represented the affirmation of a rational design. Its design can be compared to that of modern Italian autostradas. The major Roman roads in Italy and their design and layout are discussed. Also, the construction and paving of Via Ostiense, Via Salaria, Via Domitiana, and gravel roads are reported. It is noted that a real technical revolution started with the construction of bridges in mixed materials, beginning with Domitian's bridge over the Volturno, which inaugurated the use of arcades with brick arches. Out of the many routes that made up the Roman road system, three can be pointed out as well-known, diverse examples of the technology: the Via Domitia in Gaul, the Via Egnatia that crosses the Balkans, and the caravan road from Aleppo to the Euphrates.
This article attempts to define comprehensively the technical framework and the principle configurations of land transport across the Greco-Roman world. The capacities that animals offer with respect to carrying and dragging burdens were considerable and were well known from the Neolithic era onward. General categories of portage and harnessed transport are described. The capability for transport is in practice more a capacity for organizing means of transport than of technological limitations. In the Greco-Roman world transport in all its forms took part in all the surrounding economic systems, satisfying the demands made of it without any particular handicap. The Greek and Roman cultures had at their disposal a technical capacity for land transport that was real and varied, even innovative, inscribing its own rhythms and inflections on the long-term patterns of preindustrial societies.