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IDES 310 – Notes from Janet: Rome

This week we visit the Roman Empire: Architecture, Art, and Furnishings. The videos I’ve selected will overlap here and there, reinforcing the information from your reading. 

We begin with a short video regarding the Etruscans who borrowed from the Egyptians and Greeks. This gives a basic foundation to the coming development of the Roman architecture. Pay particular attention to the maps provided to see the vast spread of the Roman Empire and the consistent style that was repeated/carried to all areas of the empire. If you have had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe you have no-doubt marveled at the Roman ruins outside of Rome. Everything built outside of Rome followed the same building plans. Often materials were substituted with materials natural to the area, but materials were also brought to the area. Note the previous Egyptian and Greek columns that are incorporated throughout with the new Roman counterparts: the Tuscan and Composite orders.

The gift of the arch, vault and domes are all created to the Romans and many examples still stand today. Surpassing the original Etruscan concrete, the Romans incorporate volcanic ash (pozzolana) which adds strength and permanence to their new-and-improved concrete. This along with bricks the vault, barrel vault and groin vault are created. These materials source together create all building types throughout the empire. From temples, to baths, secular buildings and homes, these same materials were manipulated to suit the space or aqueduct.

The House of the Vettii in Pompeii, Italy, is a wonderful living museum of the Roman house. Please pay attention to the layout of spaces in your textbook. You will also view the beautiful and colorful wall frescoes painted in trompel’oeil style.These paintings provide information about the lifestyle of the inhabitants. Furnishings common to the time do not survive but are reflected in the frescoes. Mosaics are another grand source for furnishings and day-to-day pieces that did not survive the passage of time. (Watch for bikini reference to the gymnasium mosaic)

The Pantheon is an incredible structure with an amazing interior space. My neck is still affected from by initial visit in the early 1980s. I’ve frequented 6x over the years and noticed something different each visit, or at least viewed it in a different or more appreciative way. The columns, the pediments over the niches to the graduating sizes of the coffered ceilings are impressive. The oculus streams daylight and oft times rain. Depending on the time of day and season affects the lighting. The marble floors are spectacular.

The Roman aqueducts, parts of them, can be seen throughout the empire, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia. You can’t miss them as they are appreciatively, Roman.

May Romans lived in housing very similar to our modern day apartment complexes. Often built storied (4-5 levels) they allowed. Heating, running water and braziers for cooking were common. In fact, apartment complex type fires often wiped out an entire complex. The kitchen brazier being the source. Check out this link for Roman fast-food.


Roman interiors were beautiful. They were colorful, and presented a comfortable lifestyle. The frescoes painted on wainscoted walls and reflected the rooms use. The furnishings of the time were chairs, beds/couches, small tables with details of brass candelabra for lighting. Like the Greeks and Egyptians, fabrics were mostly made of linen and cotton.

The Roman basilica was a secular building used for large gatherings of patrons. The Basilica of Maxentius (Rome) Please read (scroll through all photos) and watch 4 minute video.


As we go forward the basilica will move out of secular category and into church/religion use.

Enjoy this week – and if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Rome or any part of the Roman empire – add it to your bucket list and save your pennies.

NEXT WEEK – test on EGYPT-GREEK-ROMAN. It will be taken from textbook readings and videos. Picture/matching, motif identification, orders of architecture, furnishings.


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