Archive issues

Author: Arthur Segal   |   Pages: 591–605



During the last three decades of the first century BCE a world empire was built around the Mediterranean Basin. For the first time in the history of nations a multi-national empire was consolidated to contain almost the entire contemporary civilized world. The language spoken in the eastern part of this empire was Greek whereas Latin was primarily the language spoken in most of the western region. During the reign of Augustus an attempt was made to find a common cultural basis that would unify the two parts of the Empire. Among other fields of creativity it was architecture that played a central role in producing a new language of symbols through which the ideology of the Augustan Principate would be disseminated. Architecture was destined to become the main transmitter of symbols that expressed the spirit of the Empire and its universal, world-wide character. Vitruvius was chosen for the task of defining and formulating the ‘architectural manifesto’ of the Augustan period. In the first century BCE there were two basic trends in Roman architecture. One of these was the original Roman trend which grew, crystallized and took shape upon Italian soil. Parallel to this there was another trend which drew its inspiration from Greek architecture in its Hellenistic garb. The three impressive building projects described and analyzed in this article, which were executed in Augustan Rome, clearly indicate that Roman architecture in its continuous development from the days before Augustus, during the Principate and thereafter, proved to be vital and dynamic, but its greatest achievements were the fruits of local, Italian development, while the ‘Classical’ elements within it were merely external and ornamental.



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