1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Roman Tombs, Forums, Aqueducts, Triumphal Arches

(Part 75)

Roman Tombs, Forums, Aqueducts, Triumphal Arches

Roman Tombs

Some very grand examples of tombs of circular forms remains, as well as many others of great beauty. It must be remembered that with the Romans both burial and cremation were used. The columbaria (vaults lined with small recesses for the urns, which contained the ashes of the dead) present the most ordinary speciments of architectural forms adapted to cremation. The sarcophagus, of which that of the Scipios is the best known example, presents the ordinary form used in connection with burial. But when the family of the deceased was rich or distinguished, the ashes or the sarcophagi were enclosed in buildings of the most magnificent kind. The tomb of Cecilia Metalla, so well known to all by Byron’s beautiful lines in Childe Harold, commencing –

"There is a stern round tower of other days,"

is a bold tower 90 feet in diameter and 62 feet high, so solidly built as to contain only a chamber 19 feet in diameter. Much grander was the mausoleum of Augustus, which has perished. Of the mausoleum of Hadrian the skeleton only remains. But it shows that the base was 170 feet square, supporting a circular edifice 115 feet in diameter. It would seem that this mass, now formed into the castle of St Angelo, and showing the naked brick-work, had, in its glory, two ranges of marble columns and probably a domed roof. From its position on the banks of the Tiber, near the bridge, it must have formed one of the grandest architectural compositions of the Romans.

Roman Forums

At first these great buildings were used for merchants, and were open spaces with porticoes, shops, counting-houses, &c., all round. The best example existing is, perhaps, that of the Forum of Pompeii. In later times these erections expanded into grand architectural ranges of porticoes, with statues, &c. Leading out of them, in various positions, were temples, law courts, theatres, &c. It was in Trajan’s Forum that his famous column was erected.

Roman Aqueducts

The AQUEDUCTS show little of the skill of the architect, but they are very picturesque as they stretch along the Campagna and other places. Across a valley, at Tarragona, one rises to a height of 100 feet, and another, the Pont du Gard, at Nismes [Nîmes], to 180. But they do not reach the level of true architectural beauty, and derive their chief value from their immense length and size. (see AQUEDUCT, pp. 219-221 of the present volume.)

Roman Triumphal Arches

The TRIUMPHAL ARCH is peculiarly Roman, and it is in this form that the arch appears to have been most boldly used as an external feature. The arch is, in fact, the form to which all other parts of the structure are mere decorative adjuncts. The principal examples are the arches of Titus, Severus, Janus, and Constantine at Rome, and that of Trajan at Ancona.

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