Engineering in Ancient Rome

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.

Roman Architecture

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.