What have the Romans ever done for us? Well, one of the things the ancient Romans are most famous for is their architecture. They brought a lot of new ideas to architecture including the arch, the baked brick, and the use of cement and concrete. The fact that many ancient Roman monuments are still standing is evidence of how good Roman architecture really was.
According to an inscription, the Roman Theatre of Merida was built in 16 BC by order of Agrippa, a general and friend of emperor Augustus. The ancient theatre could house up to 6,000 spectators. In later centuries the theater underwent several restorations which introduced new architectonic elements and decorations. The structure was restored to the current state in the 1960s-1970s.
The marble Arch of Caracalla, right in the middle of Volubilis, was erected in 211 AD in honor of the Emperor Caracalla and his mother, Julia Domna. The arch is surmounted by a bronze chariot and with its Corinthian columns remains an impressive Roman monument.
The Arch of Caracalla was built in 216 AD in honor of Emperor Caracalla and his parents Julia Domna and Severe Septime. The arch was dismantled by the Duc d’Orleans in 1839, ready to be shipped to Paris, but when the duke died 3 years later the project was abandoned. The arch was reconstructed in 1922.
Located in northwestern Spain, Lugo is the only city in Europe to be surrounded by completely intact Roman walls. The walls reach a height of 10 to 15 meters (30-50 feet) along a circuit ringed with 71 towers. The walk along the top is continuous round the circuit, and features ten gates.
Les Ferreres Aqueduct (also known as Pont del Diable meaning Devil’s Bridge) was built to take water from the Francoli water 15 kilometers (9 miles) south to the city of Tarragona. It probably dates from the time of Augustus, the first ruler of the Roman Empire. The aqueduct has a maximum height of 27 meter and a length of 249 meter. It was composed by 25 upper arches and 11 lower arches.
The Baths of Caracalla were Roman public baths, or thermae, built in Rome between AD 212 and 216, during the reign of the Emperor Caracalla. The complex of buildings was more a leisure centre than just a series of baths. Besides being able to hold an estimated 1,600 bathers, it also featured a public library and a wrestling school. The baths remained in use until the 6th century when the complex was sacked by the Ostrogoths during the Gothic War, destroying the hydraulic installations.
The Valens Aqueduct was completed in the year 368 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Valens, whose name it bears. It was merely one of the terminal points of a system of ancient aqueducts and canals – which eventually reached over 250 kilometers (155 miles) in total length, the longest such system of Antiquity. The Valens Aqueduct was restored by several Ottoman Sultans and was still the major water-providing system of medieval Constantinople.
The Roman Theater of Amman was built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century AD. It is cut into the hillside and oriented north to keep the sun off the spectators. The theater was built on three tiers: the rulers, sat closest to the action, the military had the middle section, and the general public sat on the highest section. Although far from the stage, even there the actors could be clearly heard, owing to the steepness of the theater.
Lucius Septimius Severus was a Roman Emperor born in Leptis Magna who reigned 193 until his death in 211. The citizens of Leptis probably started the construction immediately after their fellow citizen had become emperor. The central scene on the arch shows the emperor shaking hands with his sons, Caracalla and Geta. Caracalla is shown as a tall young man and this offers a clue for the moment of completion of the arch, probably in the early 200’s.
Arch of Titus in Rome was constructed in 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’ victory in the Sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Arch of Titus has provided the general model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the 16th century including the Arc de Triomphe.
In 25 BC Side became part of the Roman province Galatia and prospered through its trade in olive oil and slaves. The roman ruins of Side that are in fairly good condition today include a temple, city gate and an ancient theater which could seat about 15,000 to 20,000 people.
Timgad was a Roman colonial town in North Africa founded by the Emperor Trajan around 100 AD. At the west end of the town rises a 12 meter (39 feet) high arch, called Trajan’s Arch which was partially restored in 1900. The chief material used in building the arch was sandstone.
Dougga is sometimes called “the best-preserved Roman small town in North Africa”. Amongst the most famous Roman monuments at the site are a Punic-Libyan mausoleum, the theatre and the capitol. The capitol is a Roman temple from the 2nd century CE, principally dedicated to the three most important Roman gods: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
Sabratha’s was established around 500 BC as a Phoenician trading-post and reched its peak under Roman rules as a coastal outlet for the products of the African hinterland. The Theatre of Sabratha was built in the 2n century AD. The Roman structure appears largely intact owing to its reconstruction by Italian archaeologists in the 1930s. The theatre had 25 entrances and could seat approximately 5,000 spectators.
The Pyramid of Cestius in Rome was built around 18 BC – 12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius Epulo. It is of brick-faced concrete covered with white carrara marble. It is assumed that the monument was modeled on the true pyramids in Nubia, which Rome attacked in 23 BC, as opposed to the much less steeply-pointed Egyptian pyramids.
Dedicated to Helios, the Roman god of the sun, the Garni temple was built by the Armenian King Trdates I in the 1st century AD. The construction was probably funded with money the king received from the Roman Emperor Nero in exchange for military support against the Parthian empire. Unlike other Greco-Roman temples, it is made of basalt. In 1679 an earthquake completely destroyed the ancient Roman temple and it lay in ruins until its reconstruction in the 1970s.
The Temple of Augustus is the only remaining structure from the original Roman forum in Pula. Dedicated to the first Roman emperor, Augustus, it was probably built during the emperor’s lifetime at some point between 2 BC and his death in AD 14. Under Byzantine rule, the temple was converted into a church and was later used as a granary. It suffered considerable damage during WWII when the temple was hit by a bomb. Consequently, much of the monument was rebuilt since that time.
The Roman amphitheater of Leptis Magna dates from 56 AD and lies about a kilometer east of the city center. It was capable of seating 16,000 spectators. Unlike most Roman amphitheaters, it is built below the ground.
Jerash is an ancient city that was Roman province of Arabia. The Romans ensured security and peace in this area which enabled its people to achieve great prosperity. Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. The Arch of Hadrian was built to celebrate his visit. This triumphal arch was intended to become the main Southern gate to the city but the expansion plans were never completed.
The Roman Baths are a must-see tourist attraction in the English city of Bath. A temple was constructed in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex, which are fueled by England’s only mineral hot springs, was gradually built up over the next 300 years. The water that flows through the Roman Baths is considered unsafe for bathing, partly because it passes through the still-functioning original lead pipes and because of the significant danger of infectious diseases. In 1979 a girl swimming in the restored bath swallowed some of the source water, and died five days later from amoebic meningitis.
Situated next to the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine was erected in 315 AD to commemorate Emperor Constantine I’s victory over Emperor Maxentius. The battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. According to chroniclers, Constantine had a vision that God promised victory if his army daubed the sign of the cross on their shields.
The Porta Nigra is a large Roman city gate in Trier, built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. It was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened color of its stone. The original Roman name has not been preserved.
Sbeitla (or Sufetula) is a fairly well preserved Roman city in the mid west of Tunisia. The city contains a vast almost square forum paved with stone slabs and surrounded by a wall. The forum has a gateway on one side and three Roman temples on the opposite side. Instead of constructing only one temple dedicated to the three most important Roman gods, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, the inhabitants of Sbeitla built separate temples for each one.
The Rotunda of Galerius is now the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Georgios, better known as the Church of the Rotunda (or simply The Rotunda). The cylindrical structure was built in 306 on the orders of the tetrarch Galerius. It was either intended to be his mausoleum or somewhat more likely as a temple. The Rotunda has a diameter of 24.5 meters (80 feet). Its walls are more than 6 meters (20 feet) thick, which is one reason why it has withstood Thessaloniki’s earthquakes. A flat brick dome, 30 meters (98 feet) high at the peak, crowns the cylindrical structure.
Crossing the Tagus River at Alcántara in Spain, the Alcántara Bridge is a masterpiece of ancient Roman bridge building. The bridge was built between 104 and 106 by an order of the Roman Emperor Trajan in 98 AD, who is honored by a triumphal arch in the center of the bridge and a small temple at one end. The Alcántara Bridge has taken more damage from war than from the elements. The Moors destroyed the smallest arch on one side while the second arch on the other side was destroyed by the Spanish to stop the Portuguese.
The Roman Theater of Orange is a well preserved theatre build in the 1st century AD for watching theatrical performances. After the Roman Empire declined the theatre was closed by official edict in 391 AD as the Church opposed what it regarded as uncivilized spectacles. The ancient theatre was restored in the 19th century and today it is home of the summer opera festival, the Chorégies d’Orange.
The white marble Arch of Septimius Severus at the northeast end of the Roman Forum was built in 203 AD to commemorate the victories against the Parthians of Emperor Severus and his two sons. After the death of Severus, his sons Caracalla and Geta were initially joint emperors until Caracalla had Geta assassinated in 212 AD. Geta’s memorials were destroyed and inscriptions referring to him were removed from the triumphal arch.
Located at the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome’s seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the sea. Ostia is famous for the ancient apartment buildings (insula) that are very well preserved. These buildings can be explored to one story in height, with narrow stairways and corridors leading to small rooms. There are also the remains of more wealthy houses, such as the House of Cupid and Pysche, with very rich marble decorations.
Ephesus was once famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which was destroyed by a mob led by the archbishop of Constantinople in 401 AD. Some of the structures can still be seen however including the impressive Great Theater. This large theatre, which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators, was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times it was also used for gladiator fights.
Located in north-western Spain, The Tower of Hercules is an ancient Roman lighthouse thought to be modeled after the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria. The tower has been in constant use since the 2nd century and considered to be the oldest existing lighthouse in the world. Originally it was constructed with an ascending ramp encircling its sides, for oxen to bring cartloads of wood to keep the light fueled at night. In 1788 the original 34 meters (112 feet), 3 story tower was given a neoclassical restoration, including a new 21 meters (69 feet) fourth story.
The nearly unique oval Forum at Jerash is surrounded by a fine colonnade, a long colonnaded street, two theatres (the Large South Theatre and smaller North Theatre), two baths, a scattering of small temples and an almost complete circuit of city walls. Most of these monuments were built by donations of the city’s wealthy citizens.
Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Romans to protect their colony Britannia from the tribes in Scotland. It stretches for 117 kilometers (73 miles) across the north of England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Construction started in 122 AD following a visit by Roman Emperor Hadrian, and was largely completed within six years. The wall was garrisoned by around 9,000 soldiers, including infantry and cavalry. Today only stretches of this famous wall are still visible.
The theatre of Aspendos was build in 155 AD during the rule of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and could seat between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators. Because the stage area was later used as a caravanserai (a roadside inn) in Seljuk times, it was continuously repaired and maintained. Thus, the Aspendos Theatre has been able to survive to this days without losing almost any of its original qualities.
Curia Julia is the third Senate House in ancient Rome. Construction was started in 44 BC when Julius Caesar replaced Faustus Cornelius Sulla’s reconstructed Curia Cornelia, which itself had replaced the Curia Hostilia. The work, however, was interrupted by Caesar’s assassination and was eventually finished by Caesar’s successor Augustus in 29 BC. The Roman building has been restored several times since then. From 284 to 305, the Curia was rebuilt by Emperor Diocletian. It is the remnants of Diocletian’s building that stands today.
Maison Carrée, located in Nimes was built in 16 BC by the Roman General Marcus Vipanius Agrippa, and was dedicated to his two sons who both died young. It is one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. The Maison Carrée owes its exceptional state of preservation to the fact that it was transformed to a Christan church in the 4th century, saving it from destruction. It has also been a town hall, a stable, a storehouse, and finally a museum.
Bosra was conquered by the Romans in 106 AD who made it the capital of their Arabia province. The theatre of Bosra was built in the 2nd century AD and could seat up to 15,000 people. Because a fortress was built around the theatre by the Ayyubids it is now one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world.
Villa Romana del Casale is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century. The villa contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world. The most famous mosaic is the “the bikini girls” which depicts women performing sports including weight-lifting, discus throwing, running and ball-games.
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant’Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Rome, initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Hadrian’s ashes were placed here a year after his death in 138, together with those of his wife Sabina, and his first adopted son. Following this, the remains of succeeding emperors were also placed here, the last recorded deposition being Caracalla in 217. The monument was later used as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum.
The city of Ephesus was once famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which was destroyed by a mob led by the archbishop of Constantinople in 401 AD. Some of the structures can still be seen however including the Great Theater and the Library of Celsus. The library was built around 125 AD to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus, the governor of Asia. The façade was carefully reconstructed in the 1970s to its present splendid state from the original pieces.
The Roman Arena is one of the most popular tourist attraction in the city of Arles. It was built around the 1st century BC and was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators on three tiers. From 1830 until the present day the arena has been used for hosting bullfights, which the Romans certainly would have approved as it is only slightly less brutal as the chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles they themselves enjoyed.
Built at the end of the 1st century AD to seat 24,000 spectators, the Arena of Nîmes was one of the biggest Roman amphitheaters in Gaul. During the middle ages a fortified palace was built within the amphitheater. Later a small neighborhood developed within its confines, complete with 700 inhabitants and two chapels. In 1863 the arena was remodeled to serve as a bullring and today it host two annual bullfights as well as other other public events.
For centuries Palmyra was an important and wealthy city located along the caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria. There is much to see at the site today, including the huge Temple of Bel, the monumental arch and the colonnade that once consisted of 1,500 Corinthian columns.
Probably built around 50 AD, the Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the best-preserved Roman monuments on the Iberian Peninsula. The ancient aqueduct carries water 16 km (10 miles) from the Frío River to Segovia and was built of some 24,000 massive granite blocks without the use of mortar. The above ground portion is 728 meters (2,388 feet) long and consists of 165 arches more than 9 meters (30 feet) high. It is the foremost symbol of Segovia and still provided water to the city in the 20th century.
The amphitheater in Pula is the sixth largest surviving Roman arena and one of the best preserved ancient Roman monuments in Croatia. The Pula Arena was built around the 1st century AD and could seat over 26,000 spectators. In the 15th century many stones were taken from the amphitheater to build houses and other structures around Pula, but fortunately this practice was stopped before the whole structure was destroyed. Today it is used to host a variety of festivals and performances during the summer months.
The Verona Arena is the world’s third-largest amphitheater to survive from Roman antiquity. It’s outer ring of white and pink limestone was almost completely destroyed during a major earthquake in 1117 but the inner part is still amazingly well preserved. The Verona Arena was built in 30 AD and could host 30,000 spectators. The Roman amphitheater has been used continuously throughout the centuries to host shows and games: gladiator fights during Roman times, tournaments in the Middle Ages and from the 18th century until the present day the arena is the setting for Verona’s spectacular opera performances.
Diocletian’s Palace lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast and was built by the Roman emperor Diocletian in preparation for his retirement. Weakened by illness, Diocletian left the imperial office on May 1, 305, and became the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate the position. He lived out his retirement in his palace tending to his vegetable gardens. His palace went on to become the core of the modern day city of Split. As the world’s most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in Mediterranean heritage.
The Roman amphitheater of El Djem is the third largest arena in the world, after Rome’s Colosseum and the ruined theater of Capua. El Djem The amphitheater was built in the early 3rd century AD capable of seating 35,000 spectators. The structure remained in a good state until the 17th century when stones from the arena were used for building the nearby village of El Djem and transported to the Great Mosque in Kairouan. More recently and less destructive it was used for filming some of the scenes from the Oscar winning film Gladiator.
The Pont du Gard (literally bridge of the Gard ) is an aqueduct in the South of France constructed by the Roman Empire. It was originally part of a 50 km (31 miles) canal supplying fresh water to the Roman city of Nimes. The aqueduct was constructed entirely without the use of mortar. The aqueduct’s stones – some of which weigh up to 6 tons – were precisely cut to fit perfectly together eliminating the need for mortar. From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the aqueduct was used as a conventional bridge to facilitate foot traffic across the river.
On August 24, 79 AD, the volcano Vesuvius erupted, covering the nearby town Pompeii with ash and soil, and subsequently preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. Everything from jars and tables to paintings and people were frozen in time. Its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of people living two thousand years ago.
One of the best preserved Roman buildings, The Pantheon was built in 126 AD as a temple for all the Roman gods. The temple has served as a Roman Catholic Church since the 7th century. The Pantheon consists of a large circular portico with three ranks of huge granite Corinthian columns. The portico opens into a rotunda which is topped with a concrete dome with a central opening: the oculus. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
Baalbek, also called Heliopolis, is a spectacular archaeological site in northeastern Lebanon. From the 1st century BC and over a period of two centuries, the Romans built three temples here: Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus. Created to be the largest temple in the Roman empire, the temple of Jupiter was lined by 54 massive granite columns each each of which were 21 meters (70 feet) tall. Only 6 of these titanic columns remain standing but even they are incredibly impressive. The best preserved temple at the site is the Temple of Bacchus built in 150 AD.
The Colosseum in Rome is the largest and most famous monument in the Roman world. The construction of the amphitheater was started by emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in 72 AD and was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD. During the Colosseum’s opening ceremonies, spectacles were held for 100 days in which 5,000 of animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed. The Colosseum was capable of holding some 50,000 spectators who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances.