Humanities in Ancient Rome

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Humanities in Ancient Rome
2-14-2013
T-TR 12:30-1:45
Mathis

Ancient Rome was a turning point in history. It is considered by many to be one of the most important and influential societies to ever dominate Earth. At Rome’s peak in the history of civilization, one could not go anywhere from Spain to Saudi Arabia without being influenced in some way or another by the empire. Over the twelve centuries of Rome’s existence, it produced hundreds upon thousands of architects, musicians, playwrights, actors, sculptures and many other artists of all kinds. Arguably though, Rome is most known for its stunning architecture, classic sculptures and beautiful paintings.

The architecture of ancient Rome was born out of necessity rather than for beauty. Rome was the most populated city of its time and was more populated than any city ever up until that point. At its height, it was the home to approximately one million people, with some researchers reporting populations up to 18 million. Comparatively, it was about the size of London during the beginning of the 19th century. This large population created the need of efficient buildings that could be made fast and made to house many at a time. The necessity for these types of houses became the birth of the modern day apartments, known then as “Insulate.” These structures were built exclusively for large scale housing and, much like the apartments we know of in this day and age could reach stunning heights. However, these buildings were not known for their stability and would often collapse in on themselves, catch on fire and were just generally unhealthy. However, Roman architects met the needs of their residents on many other occasions.

A great example of architects meeting the requirements of a massive population was Rome’s stunning sanitation system. They created massive, beautiful public baths, known as “thermae” as well as indoor plumbing and complex sewer systems. One of the most particularly famous bath houses is called the Baths of Diocletian. The Baths of Diocletian were considered to be the greatest bath house ever created in the entire Ancient Roman Empire and its beauty and grandeur still shock and awe visitors to this day. It was dedicating in 306 AD and it took approximately eight years to build. Although many baths created in Rome were similar in design, the Baths of Diocletian were exceptional by the sheer size of the building. The baths are approximately 120,000 sq. meters in size and could hold upwards of 3000 citizens at any given point in time. Bath houses like these were especially important to Roman citizens because this is where a large portion of the citizens would go to get fresh water and to clean themselves since many of them, save for the extremely rich, did not have water running directly into their houses.

The baths are indeed an amazing part of Roman architecture, but how did these massive bathing houses get the water that made them so important to Roman society? The answer is another remarkable Roman architecture feet; the aqueducts. The aqueducts were used to constantly bring and circulate water through Roman cities and towns from places far away. They worked by wonderful architecture ingenuity. They used only gravity to move the water into and out of towns. The architects would build these aqueducts down a slight, constant, descending gradient. The first Roman aqueduct simply supplied water to a fountain built by the cattle-market. However, by the beginning of the 3rd century, eleven aqueducts had been created that flowed directly to the city to sustain Rome’s outstanding population.

The insulate, bathhouses and aqueducts are all well-known architectural features of Ancient Rome, but pinnacle of the art of Roman architecture came in the form of the most popular building in the city; the Colosseum. The construction on this building started in 72 AD and was finished by 80 AD. It was capable of seating approximately 50,000 visitors and was...
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