Architectural styles that were introduced by the classical Greeks and the ancient Romans were impressive due to their giant columns, properly chosen material, and clearly explained functions. Both civilizations added their knowledge, religious beliefs, and personal attitudes to every construction offered. There was a thought that Romans borrowed some ideas and approaches. However, there was also a statement that Romans did not try to borrow something but just to improve their positions using some Greek ideas. In this paper, the Greek Parthenon and the Roman Pantheon will be discussed as the main architectural similarity of the styles, and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus will be compared to the Flavian Amphitheatre, known as the Coliseum, to demonstrate how the religious and social preferences of both nations helped to created amazing buildings the contributions of which remained to be unforgettable.
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Greek culture and preferences penetrated Roman at many different levels, including their entertainment, religion, and social interactions (Freeman 394). However, if the Greeks tried to combine many different styles and approaches in their architecture at the expense of the quality and material, the Romans were eager to use several techniques of the same style to conceal the actual surface, to hide some building shortages, and to demonstrate their advances in technology (Watkin 59). Because the architectural styles of these two cultures were developed at different epochs, the Romans were able to observe the accomplishments of the Greeks, adopted their techniques, and made improvements to achieve a bigger scale. Such a decision should not be defined as a weakness of the Roman architects. It should be used as a good chance to investigate the structures of both cultures and learn from their differences and similarities.
The Greeks liked to use the system to support their interests and beliefs. Therefore, they used columns as one of the best ways to create something big and memorable. Columns were also a frequent attribute in Roman architecture. Still, the Roman purpose of such a choice differed from the one supported in Greece. For example, the Greek Parthenon was created between 447-438 B.C, and the Roman Pantheon was created between 118 and 128 A.D. In addition to the fact that their names sounded in almost the same way, both of them were defined as “the most celebrated architectural monuments of the western world” (Watkin 75).
There were eight columns to support a pediment in both templates which were used as churches during different epochs. Similar religious goals turned out to be another important similarity of these buildings. The Pantheon was created to honor all the gods of Ancient Rome. In its turn, the purpose of the Parthenon was to underline the role of Athena, the Ancient Greek goddess of wisdom and war. The only difference that existed between the Pantheon and the Parthenon was the choice of the style: the Greeks preferred to work with Doric columns, adding the elements of the Ionic style, and the Romans liked Corinthian columns, proving themselves as innovators and technicians who combined newly available materials with old ideas.
In Ancient Greece and Rome, much attention was paid to such issues as recreation, sports, and leisure (El-Harami 168). Therefore, many ancient buildings were created to support people’s interests in sports and theaters and their needs for enough space. Some people may not notice any single difference between such well-known constructions as the Theater of Epidaurus and the Coliseum. However, the observation that the Coliseum was a Roman amphitheater, and the Theater of Epidaurus was a Greek construction was not their only difference. Their similar structural type could be defined as the only evident similarity. Other aspects of the constructions’ analysis could be used to prove the diversity of two architectural styles. For example, the general view of these two structures varied.
The Coliseum had an oval shape with the possibility to have the same level of observation from different places, meaning that the Romans appreciated the equality of people and the necessity to bring people together and offer the same opportunities (El-Harami 173). The Greek building was designed to celebrate people’s power and pride. The U-shaped form of the theater promoted better acoustics so that people could hear what was told to them, not observe what happened there. The Greeks decided to use natural settings to underline the importance of their union with nature. The Romans thought about their comfort and experience. Finally, the evaluation of the material used for the creation of the Coliseum and the Theater of Epidaurus proved how various and competitive the chosen styles were. The Greeks used stone and neglected the importance of concrete to make the construction strong and comfortable. The Romans had to express the existing human power over nature, as well as over other nations around.
In general, the Roman borrowings from Greek architecture have already caused certain discussions and debates. Some people believed that the Romans some ideas from the Greeks, and some researchers wanted to think that the Romans took the best from the past and showed how any architectural improvement should look like. Such constructions as the Parthenon, the Pantheon, the Coliseum, and the Theater of Epidaurus could be used to study two powerful civilizations, the Romans and the Greeks, and their intentions to conserve their interests, preferences, and beliefs for many years.
El-Harami, Jamal. “Entertainment and Recreation in the Classical World – Tourism Products.” Journal of Management and Sustainability, vol. 5, no. 1, 2015, pp. 168-178.
Freeman, Charles. Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Watkin, David. A History of Western Architecture. 6th ed., Laurence King Publishing, 2015.