Engineering in Ancient Rome
Ancient Romans engineered structural marvels that have stood the test of time. Though the structures that they built, like roads and bridges, took some inspiration from the Greek civilization, the Romans’ enduring success with building continues to influence modern-day engineers and their civil projects. Their aqueduct designs, for example, allowed this ancient society to enjoy running water and plumbing – conveniences that many people today can’t imagine living without! While we can still appreciate standing monuments to the Romans’ engineering feats, like the Colosseum, we can also look at our own cities and see the lasting influence that this society has had on our world.
All Roads Lead to Rome
Much of Roman life centered around the functionality of its well-built roads. Made of concrete that still remains in place today, they played a significant role in supporting commerce in an empire which always sought ways to expand its reach. The Romans planned ahead when building their roads and they were constructed with humps in the center of them so that water could freely flow off of them and protect them from flooding. Road travel was so important to the Romans that they planned and built 29 highways leading to and away from the city.
The Entertainment Capitol of Rome: The Colosseum
Arguably one of the greatest structures attributed to Roman engineering, the famous Colosseum is instantly recognizable to many. Its function was to provide a stadium-like entertainment venue for physical competitions, like mock battles, gladiator games, and cultural exhibitions such as dramatic plays. The Romans made sure the Colosseum had enough space to accommodate anyone who wanted to watch or participate: this hardy stone structure could comfortably fit 50,000 people in it and measured 510 feet wide and 615 feet long. The Colosseum is an incredible example of the Romans’ mastery of creating arches for structural strength and durability. Though parts of the Colosseum have crumbled, the disintegration can be attributed to natural disasters rather than shoddy construction.
Aqueducts: Water in Roman Life
Every civilization needs access to water to survive. The Romans ensured that they’d have enough to support their citizens by building 500 miles of aqueducts. These aqueducts were designed using slopes, channels, and underground tunnels to move fresh water from the hills to the Empire. This water was then deposited into public fountains were citizens could take as much water as they needed. Aqueducts provided citizens with much-needed water to drink, cook, and bathe. They also moved raw sewage and even made it possible for some wealthy households to enjoy running water.
Bridges in Rome
The Romans’ interest in travel and expansion required the use of 900 long and sturdy bridges. Boasting an architectural style that made use of powerful arches and made from durable materials like stone and concrete, these bridges were constructed to withstand punishing weather elements and centuries worth of topographical change. Their arches allowed them to distribute weight and provided the support needed to reach impressive lengths. The largest Roman bridge, the Trajan bridge, was over 62 feet high and 3,700 feet long. Several Roman bridges, such as the Alcántara bridge, still stand today.
The impressive way in which Romans constructed their civil structures influenced more than just the strength and durability of their engineering feats – they also inspired architecture. The revered arch could be found everywhere in ancient Rome and the use of domes allowed Romans the freedom to construct large ceilings and increase usable space within structures. These details could often be found in amphitheaters, atriums, temples, and other public places. In true Roman fashion, structures often featured carvings of battle scenes on walls.
- Romans: Roads and Places – The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) explains how people traveled around Roman Britain.
- The Consular Roads of Rome – Walks Inside Rome provides pictures of what ancient Roman roads look like today and offers images of the monuments that have been preserved among them.
- The Secrets of Ancient Rome’s Buildings – The Smithsonian discusses how concrete contributed to the success and strength of ancient Rome’s buildings and structures.
- Roman Aqueduct Information for Kids – Kids Net details the geographic location of Roman aqueducts and compares them to modern systems, such as one in Los Angeles.
- The Dawn of Plumbing – Kids Discover explains how the creation of Roman aqueducts led to the modernized plumbing systems that we enjoy today.
- Roman Aqueduct Manual – The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) offers kids an easy-to-understand manual for building Roman aqueducts.
- Ancient Roman Architecture – History for Kids explains how the Romans borrowed from the Greeks to create their legendary architecture.
- Art and Architecture in Ancient Rome – Scholastic explains how ancient Roman art and architecture influenced each other.
- Building an Arch – Learn about Roman arches by building one for yourself with this simple activity.
- Sir Dig-a-Lot’s Guide to Ancient Rome – Mocomi offers a fun guide to ancient Roman art and architecture for students.
- 5 Interesting Facts About Arch Bridges – Engineering for Kids explains how arch bridges can trace their history back to the Romans.
- 10 Facts About Ancient Rome – National Geographic Kids offer 10 facts about Rome that made it one of the most significant civilizations in history.
- Build a Roman Fort – National Museums Scotland allow kids to build a virtual Roman fort. These forts were used to house soldiers as they campaigned across lands.
- Colosseum Facts for Kids – Easy Science for Kids offers a list of quick facts about the Colosseum.
- Explore the Colosseum – DK Find Out provides an interactive map of the Colosseum so that kids can explore it using their computer mouses.
- Premier Engineers: 10 Cool Tricks the Romans Taught Us About Building – HowStuffWorks explains how the Romans influenced modern civilizations’ building, structure and roadway designs.
- Online Master of Science in Engineering – University of California Riverside