From the beginnings of human existence art has been used to depict, glorify, and eternize the cultures of a society. Though the ages of time none have become more world renown than the workings of the Roman civilization; an art form which incorporated the customs of the Etruscans and Greeks to create an individualistic style that appealed to the cultural aesthetics of the time period. Of the various forms of art used by the Romans, the one which most clearly illustrates this is the Roman's architecture, arguably the most influential and impressive use of artistic ideals. By using innovative new materials, establishing new building methods, and absorbing surrounding and past cultural ideologies the Romans were able to leave a legacy of greatness for generations to come.
Roman architecture was undoubtedly eclectic, using different styles from various cultures across Europe. The earliest buildings focused mainly on the styles of the Etruscans, the people who populated large areas of Italy before the rise of the Roman civilization. These techniques were with the use of simple arches for strength and sparing the amount of stone used during construction. The structures were formed on top of platforms, or podiums, and commonly had deep porches with only one stairway gaining access to the platform. After gaining knowledge from Greek builders, these structures added various styles of columns which created a more aesthetic image of the Roman edifices found in the main city areas. One such structure which clearly depicts the combination of Etruscan and Greek architecture is the Temple of Portunus, which mixes ionic and engaged columns on a building with a deep porch constructed on top of a large podium. Various government and religious buildings in Roman cities were constructed in a similar fashion. Along with the adoption of architectural design from past cultures, the Romans used artistic ideals from civilizations neighboring the boarders of the empire which were gained while on campaigns to gain territories. Once such advancement was the mosaic, another Greek method which decorated stone buildings with colorful chips mixed into the concrete. Even with use of simple aesthetically appealing workings on the outside of buildings, "there was much more emphasis on the interior space and decoration than on the appearance of the exterior." (Ramage, 52) The appearance of the interior was commonly improved with the addition of various other forms of art such as paintings and sculptures. While the civilization of ancient Italy used ethnocentrism in politics and government, they incorporated various cultures into their artistic creations.
The most influential adaptation of the Etruscan architecture to the Roman world was that of the arch. While it underwent advancements, the arch was the most efficient way to shape structures. Commonly used in buildings, the arch had another important role in Roman culture. It was vital in the creation of various Roman aqueducts because "The arch itself has the functional appeal of great strength, coupled with the relatively spare requirement for building materials, in relation to its size." (Ramage, 94) This was a great benefit since the aqueducts stretched long distances over wide valleys and deep gorges. Although difficult, the architectural patterns of these allowed for aesthetic achievement. With proportionate arches per level, such as one arch on the first level being the same distance as three arches on the second level, "the rhythm set up by the long rows of arches is satisfying and beautiful at the same time." (Ramage, 94) Although most arches were used with a physical purpose, various arches were designed and constructed for intellectual and social purposes.
Some structures such as extravagant arches allowed Roman leaders to symbolize ideas and reflect on past events with the use of artwork through architecture. One of the most famous of these is the Arch of...